This past Sunday, a person from my church came up to me about 10 minutes before I was to preach, and wanted to discuss a passage that they had been studying in their personal Bible Study because they felt that they were missing something in their lives that the passage was speaking about. I love discussing passages with people, especially if they are trying to apply the passage to their lives, to improve their walk with Jesus. That’s really what being a disciple is all about. Unfortunately, Sunday mornings right before I preach is not a great time brain function wise for me. I’ve got my sermon on the front of my mind, getting ready to preach God’s word, so I had to decline the discussion at that point, telling them that I would be glad to talk to them about it, just not right that moment. Before we ended that conversation, however, they were able to tell me what passage they were struggling with. The vine and the branches, and not sharing their faith with enough people, is all I got out of it, but now that I’ve had time to focus on it, I think I figured out what they were talking about.
Jesus has a teaching in John 15 (click here) talking about the vine and the branches, and that if you are not part of the vine, then you, as the branch, will be cut off. This person that approached me seems to have such a heart for telling others about Jesus. They always want to find ways to improve their efforts, and I applaud that. The potential problem, however, is that they never seem to see any results, so they feel like a failure. I’ve spent many conversations with this person, trying to encourage them in the fact that they are just to stay faithful, presenting Jesus to others. The results or lack of results really has nothing to do with them. But they stay down on themselves because they feel like they should be doing more. I get that desire. I want to see huge numbers come to Christ, because I know the freedom and the life that awaits them when they do. But it’s not always up to us.
So, I had a little extra time this week, and I thought I would take a look at John 15, and Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branch, to see what it says about the fear of being cut off. There is a lot of good information in this passage, and it is of great value. It is talking about living a life that is in Christ, which does bring to mind telling others about what you have found in Him. But what it is getting at is that your life will change because of your relationship with Him. People will be able to tell you are different just by your actions, in addition to what you say to them.
When I think about changing lives because of Christ, one of Paul’s more famous writings comes to mind. In Galatians 5:13-26 (click here), Paul writes about living by the spirit. In particular, he lists the fruits of the spirit in verses 22, 23. What Jesus is talking about in John 15 is exhibited by the fruits of the spirit being seen in your life as described by Paul. You are responsible for sharing the Gospel, but you are not responsible if that person doesn’t immediately accept it. You are responsible for growing closer to Christ in your life, and help fellow disciples along the path toward a closer relationship with Jesus as well. This doesn’t let you off the hook for never sharing your faith with someone that doesn’t know Him, but their reception to it doesn’t necessarily depend on you.
Still not sure? Look at I Corinthians 3 (click here). Paul is trying to teach the Corinthian church that it doesn’t matter who led each of them to Christ. Those sharing Jesus with others are all doing what God has asked them to do, and sharing the same Gospel, so no one is better off because they accepted Jesus through one preacher or another. But I think Paul has a lot to say to us in the matter of someone’s reception of what we share with them as well. Think about it. Paul says that he planted and Apollos watered, but it was God who made it grow.
In other words, all I’m trying to say is that all you can do is share your faith, and continue to grow closer to God. If those you are trying to witness to listen to you or not, their response is really up to God. Who knows, you may have planted a seed that will later be watered by someone else, and you may never see the result of that work, this side of heaven. But you can see the fruits of the spirit grow in your own life. Those fruits of the spirit grow when you remain in the vine. Keep growing!