Posts Tagged With: ministry

Abiding in the Vine: IV. Bearing Fruit

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:5–8; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

A grape vine bearing fruit. Image via pxhere.com.

As mentioned several times previously, the branch’s purpose is to bear fruit. When the vinedresser is trimming and pruning the vine, he looks for fruit: perhaps some buds or blossoms, growing fruit, surrounded by lush leaves. If these are lacking, there is a problem with the branch.

Fruit’s purpose is to impart life. Fruit contains seeds which, when scattered, can grow to become new plants which will themselves produce fruit.

The Christian is called to bear fruit (John 15:2, 5, 8; Galatians 5:22-23), and that fruit should impart life. The mature Christian imparts the life of Christ within him to others. We may do this in several ways. These are the key ways in which we abide in Christ and exhibit His fruit to others.

The first is by partaking of His Word and sharing it with others. Read and study the Bible daily. Meditate on it. Reflect on it. Let Jesus’ words abide in you.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

Believing in Jesus and loving Him go hand-in-hand. If we love Him and believe He is Who He says He is, we will want to do the things He commands us to do. We will want to know His will for our lives and the lives of those we care about.

As we know more of God’s will and word, we will want to share it with others. We will share it with those who do not know Him, offering the chance to receive salvation through Christ.

We should also share it with those who are already saved. While evangelism gets all the attention in many churches, there is a need for the gifts of encouragement and edification in the body of Christ. One of the bishops in my denomination has a reputation for greeting people by asking, “What is God saying to you these days?” Instead of “How are you?” (generating a generic “OK”) or “What’s up?” (generating the almost-as-meaningless “Not much, how about you?”), this greeting demands a thoughtful response. If you meet him in a church setting, be prepared to answer. God is always speaking. If you are reading His Word, you should be able to hear Him. You will have an answer for anyone who says “What is God saying?” You may even have an exciting insight you discovered by reading God’s Word that other believers need to hear.

The second way we abide in Christ and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit is by participating in worship. Praise Him, not only in church, but throughout the day. Turn off your car stereo and sing some praise songs on the way to work. Real worship experiences God and acknowledges His presence wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

Finally, we abide in Christ and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit by performing His work. Use your gifts and talents to minister to others. There is a real temptation in some churches to think we are not really ministering if we do not preach, teach, or sing. However, there are numerous ways to share the love of Jesus: Bringing food to a needy family; providing free childcare for a single mother; using your talents and hobbies to help others.

If we are seriously committed to abiding in the vine, we will do all three. We will read God’s Word, worship Him, and serve Him and His people with our gifts and talents. As we do these things, the fruit of the Spirit will grow in our lives, and that fruit will overflow into the lives of others. The fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us to be shared with others and impart God’s life into the hearts of those around us.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Abiding in the Vine, Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ministry and Motives—John 12:1–8

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

—John 12:1–8, NASB

mary annointing jesus feet clipart

Image from clipartfest.com

Which is the most important ministry on this list? (a) Emotional worship; (b) hospitality ministry (serving food to guests); or (c) feeding the poor? My first choice would usually be (c). The church needs to share God’s love with the world. I would normally put (a) at the bottom of the list: Too many people seek only an emotional high from their religion.

However, as John 12:1–8 shows us, maybe the question is not so simple. Why do we do the things we do? Motives matter. Why we do things is usually more important than what we do. If our motives are consistent with the will of God and are pure, even if our efforts are headed in the wrong direction, we can be guided onto the correct path. If our motives are selfish and impure, even good efforts can fall astray.

In John 12:1–8, we see a contrast of motives. Mary and Martha were two devoted followers of Jesus. They were sisters with very different personalities. I have written previously about how they reflected the “two sides of discipleship.” Mary was a worshipper, one who preferred to spend time at Jesus’ feet, hearing His teaching and worshipping Him. Martha was a “doer,” always eager to serve (and perhaps a little too anxious about it). Luke 10:38–42 shares that story.

Luke’s story occurred earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Now, just a short time before Jesus’ crucifixion (perhaps little more than a day or two before He would enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday), He had dinner with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. It must have been a big celebration, since Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the grave.

Martha celebrated as she knew best: Let’s have a party with lots of food! We will have a banquet to celebrate Lazarus’ return from the dead. I can imagine her returning to the table repeatedly, bringing more food for Jesus, Lazarus, and the rest of their guests (including the 12 apostles).

In the midst of the celebration, Mary brought something different. Martha probably hoped Mary would bring some roasted lamb or bread, but instead, she brought a pound of expensive perfume and started wiping it all over Jesus’ feet. We can only wonder why she chose to make such an extravagant spectacle. A pound of aromatic oil, worth one year’s wages for a common laborer, drenched Jesus’ feet.

Mary was motivated by gratitude. Jesus had raised her brother from the grave. More than that, she knew Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness. The other Gospels point out that she had a reputation as a sinner (see, e.g., Matthew 26:6-13). Others would remind Mary about her past, but she knew that Jesus offered her a future where her previous sins did not matter.

Mary felt that only her best would be appropriate for Jesus. She was willing to make an extravagant sacrifice to show her love and gratitude to Him. What about us? Do we give Jesus our best? Are we willing to surrender our most treasured possessions for His glory? Are we willing to surrender our reputation or popularity for His sake?

If Mary was motivated by gratitude, Judas Iscariot had different motives. His logic sounded reasonable. After all, a year’s wages could feed a lot of hungry people. Why pour all of this oil on one guy’s feet when it could be used to gather food for countless widows, orphans, and handicapped persons?

Yet, Judas’ motives were in the wrong place. Judas was motivated by money. Perhaps the other disciples saw his financial expertise early in the ministry and persuaded Jesus to make him the treasurer of their group. Unfortunately, that was misplaced trust. Judas would pocket a few denarii at times for his own purposes. Even now, he was not really concerned about the poor. He wanted to make himself look good to Jesus, and was disappointed that he missed an opportunity to profit from one of his good-sounding ideas.

This would be a turning point in the lives of Judas Iscariot and Jesus. After Jesus corrected him, Judas decided to betray Jesus. (See Matthew 26:14.) After three years of friendship and discipleship, Judas would sell Jesus out. What about us? Do we try to promote our own agendas at Jesus’ expense? Will we put things, projects, or ideas ahead of Him? Even good ideas, project, ministries, and activities can become dangerous when we place them ahead of worshipping Jesus.

Not long thereafter (maybe about one week later), Jesus would meet with His disciples for a final meal together. As Mary had washed Jesus’ feet with her perfume and tears, and dried them with her hair, Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet with water and dry them with a towel that He wore around His waist. He would describe it as an illustration of how we serve one another, thereby tying Mary’s worship with every other ministry we can do in His name. Shortly thereafter, Judas would leave the meal in pursuit of 30 silver pieces. The man who verbalized a scheme to feed the poor would commit suicide, and his money would go to help the poor by providing a burial place for them.

Motives matter. For Judas Iscariot, wrong motives led him on the path to the grave.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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