From the President

In the houses I’ve lived in over the years, I’ve been blessed to have or live near apple, cherry, apricot, orange and lemon trees. During that time, I’ve never seen a branch that bore fruit while lying on the ground, disconnected from the trunk. It just didn’t happen. And when a branch had fallen, you simply picked it up and threw it out. Its fruit-bearing days were over.

Jesus was the master of the word picture. He talked about fruitfulness with His disciples and used the analogy of the vine and the branches. In John 15:8, He said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” In that chapter, He told us — His disciples — how we could be the fruitful people He wanted us to be. The key verse: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (15:4).

As believers, we desire to please our Lord. We want to be obedient to what He says. Consequently, we want our lives to bear fruit. But how do we “remain”? Jesus kindly gives us some direction:

“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” (15:10). Obedience is not easy. We’re all wayward. But we’ve been given the Holy Spirit to enable us to do what we cannot do on our own. Obedience fits into that category. To me obedience requires a very proactive stance. It’s getting up in the morning and confessing to the Lord that we want to be obedient to Him and serve Him. We ask Him to help us be aware of what He wants us to do and to give us the power to do what He says. We’re aware of our actions throughout the day, and when we fail we immediately confess that failure to Jesus and move on. Bill Bright, who founded Campus Crusade for Christ, called it “spiritual breathing.” We exhale our confession; we inhale God’s forgiveness.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (15:12). Consistently loving others is as tough as being obedient. Again, it’s a Holy Spirit thing. Only the Spirit can enable us to love others as we should. To understand how better to love, we must study Jesus. He was the true expression of grace and truth. His love was not sweet and syrupy. He extended grace but was also honest and confrontational. In situation after situation, He put others first. We are called to do the same.

There are two other ways to remain.

Don’t begrudge the pruning process in our lives. Jesus explains that “every branch that does bear fruit He prunes.” Pruning is different than being cut off. Pruning leads to greater fruitfulness. So when we get clipped, let’s submit to the pruning instead of fighting back.

Spend time with Jesus. As long as I’ve followed Christ, I can’t get away from the fact that a regular daily time with Him is so important. Whether you call it a quiet time, daily devotions, etc., it’s simply time alone with Him. Public worship is also an important part of the remaining process. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus calls all of us to a life of fruitfulness. The fruit we produce will be different from the fruit of others.

Regardless, the process is the same. Remain in Him!