“They’ve been so faithful to the Lord!”

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I’ve heard this at countless retirement parties, funerals, and tributes to people.  Admittedly, there have been times when I didn’t even realize the person was a Jesus follower until that statement.  So, it makes you wonder what they mean by “faithful.”

Perhaps they meant, “they showed up for church services!”
Maybe they meant, “they voted a certain way!”
Maybe they meant, “they were very sweet and nice!”

But “faithful to the Lord”? 
Scripture gives us a different definition of “faithful.”

The section we’re in so far in John 15 is Jesus’ metaphor about His Father as the gardener, Jesus as the vine, and us (His disciples) as the branches.  As we live in the vineyard of the Father, He prunes it—us—to make us exceeding successful for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of the Father.

Jesus continues in John 15:4-5:

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. 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 15:4-5
New International Version

We understand these verses intellectually.  There’s no hidden meaning.  He is the vine; we are the branches.  The branches’ job is to produce fruit.  We are incapable of producing fruit by ourselves.

This is why it is so imperative that we “remain in” Him.  But intellectual understanding is not enough.  Scripture demands life-change.  We do not sit back and go, “wow!  I really agree with that,” and move on unchanged.

There is a mutual indwelling happening here: Jesus is in us, and we are in Jesus.  This relationship is the very foundation of the ability to produce fruit.  Let’s turn this around. What happens to our production in the vineyard if we operate without this mutual indwelling?   Jesus says in verse 5, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

I’m a pastor with a congregation.  I love the Church.  I love the mission Jesus has given us.  But…there are social organizations going by the name of “church” that are not connected to the vine. 

They produce motion but do not produce movement.  There is no ground gained for the cause of the Kingdom.  If the saints are not being strengthened, causing the lost to come to Christ, there is a problem in that part of the vineyard.

Congregations who are producing for the Kingdom of God are suddenly not concerned with numbers for the sake of numbers or avoiding numbers for the sake of staying “us four and no more”.  Instead, we are concerned for numbers for the sake of souls saved, lives changed, marriages healed, relationships restored, the outcast welcomed, the poor being helped, the dirty getting cleaned, the hungry fed, and the naked provided clothing.

When the church—when we!—get serious about producing in the vineyard, our world turns upside-down!  We vote, speak, witness, and fight differently.  We are never promised the same outcomes as our brothers and sisters, but if we are obedient to the ways of God, the fruit will be inevitable and unavoidable. 

When our spiritual walk is deepened, we “bear much fruit”—we produce for the sake of the Kingdom.  You are not here on earth only to breathe His air and take up space.  You are here to pick up the Sword of the Word of God and the Shield of Faith and fight the enemy for the souls of humanity!

God has made a sizable investment in you, dear Christian.  He bought you with the blood of His Son, and He expects a return on this investment.  Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Gut check time: if we want to be considered “faithful to the Lord,” it means we are productive for His Kingdom.  It means we’re producing fruit for Him.  It means people are coming to faith and growing in their faith because of our lives.

How’s your produce for Him?

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