“Now that I get it – that is, I believe that God exists and Jesus was who He said He was – how does it really impact my life? I’ve been even going to church. It doesn’t seem to really change things. Should it?” ◊
Gerald told his friend that he’s going to a new church. He said his old church was “good but the sermons were too basic.” He said he wanted to go “a little bit deeper.” His friend asked him if he did any study of the Bible on his own or in a group. Gerald said no, that he was “pretty busy working with his startup company and didn’t have a lot of free time.”
Dale is “a Christian” but admits that it really is not impacting his life very much. Though he says he’s been going to church “religiously” for years, it frankly is merely “a good habit that doesn’t seem to do much more than tie up Sunday mornings for me and my family.” He says “it’s good for the kids and keeps me on the straight and narrow, but that’s about it.”
Jackie admits that she’s trying to be a “good Christian” as a single woman in this go-go marketplace. She’s tried dating sites and has met plenty of guys but no one that has “swept her off her feet.” She’s praying for the right guy and that she’ll be a better Christian with her sporadic quiet times with God and inconsistent church attendance.
We probably know many people like Gerald, Dale and Jackie. They are all around us every day during the work week and at church services every weekend. The good news is they believe in God and understand that Jesus died for their sins and all of that. The challenge is that while they want more, they’re not quite sure how to get it.
The result is frustration and what I’ll call “idle Christianity.” Their faith is not dead, it’s just idling and not in real gear. Sometimes it takes us years, or decades in some cases, to recognize that something is really missing. Something readily available to bring our faith to life and full richness in meaning and purpose.
Isn’t that how it should be? How do we get that?
Personal Discipleship Program?
With good intentions we will often venture on our own Personal Discipleship Program in which we have our own set of rules and guidelines of what our Christianity should look like:
- I should go to church more (but it’s boring sometimes).
- I should sign up for a small group (but they’re not available when I want).
- I should pray more (but I’m too busy).
- I should read the Bible more (but it’s hard to understand).
- I should be a better person (but people drive me crazy).
- I’m actually a good Christian (I’m just inconsistent).
We feel guilty and in our sincere moments of need we come to Jesus and ask for His help and strength so we can live better lives and serve Him more effectively. On this point, author and Christian minister, Ken Boa, says we try to draw from our own accounts rather than rely on His resources. This may sound good, but actually reveals a misguided strategy to live in our own strength, supplemented by a measure of divine assistance. 1
Jesus is Not Meant to Be Our Helper
Boa calls us out in saying that it was never God’s intention to give us a hand in living the Christian life. In fact, He is not our Helper; He should be our very life. Instead of making us stronger, if we walk and abide in Christ, God brings us to the point of weakness so that Christ can be strong in us.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9)
This kind of spiritual devotion is the key to renewing and sustaining the faith passion of our first love (Revelation 2:4). Unless we are diligent, Boa writes, the “flame of our initial love for Christ can quietly diminish, and even the embers can grow cold.”
The John 15 Model – 4 Keys to a Fruitful Life
Jesus gives us the game plan in his Upper Room Discourse where he teaches His Disciples fundamental spiritual themes that they will later need when He is departed from them. In the well known “I am the Vine” passage (John 15:1-15), Jesus claims to be the vine and we believing Christians are the branches. The goal and mission of our life is simple: bear much fruit. In that we bring glory to God and prove to be His disciples.
There are 4 keys to achieve that outcome and have a successful life, no matter what:
- Abide in Jesus – Jesus is our absolute lifeline. Take stock of your full commitment level. Are you ‘all in?’ “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v 4)
- Obey Jesus – Abiding involves obedience. Are you ‘in compliance?’ Are you doing things that are out of sync with God’s ways? Make changes and watch what happens. “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (v 10)
- Love Jesus – While His love springs from obedience, we remain in His love through our love and obedience. Could you say you really love Jesus or is he just a known friend? “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (v 9) “Love each other…” (v 12)
- Know Jesus – Know Jesus like a friend with full personal knowledge. It’s how He sees us. Do you really know Him? How? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then read Acts. Then Paul’s letters. Then talk to Him in prayer. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends…” (v 15)
You see, it’s not just about church attendance or small groups; it’s about obedience and worshiping God with others for encouragement and training in knowing Jesus. It’s not just about quiet times and Bible study; it’s about understanding God/Jesus and developing a private and loving relationship with Him. It’s not about being a good person or a good Christian; it’s about reflecting the love, grace, gentleness, strength, power, and mercy of Jesus Himself as a truly connected, abiding follower of Christ.
With that, one will bear good fruit in a life deemed successful in bringing glory to God.
Are you in a fruit-bearing relationship with God?
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
1. Conformed to His Image, Ken Boa, Zondervan, 2001, p. 190.