Abiding in Christ — Chapter 06

Chapter 6

Abiding And Service

 

Scripture for Meditation: John 15:4-5

In this chapter we want to look at the relationship between abiding in Christ and our service for the Lord. Service is the fruit of our hands.  We want to keep in mind that in John 15, Christ is the Vine and we are the branches. Fruit is the natural result of abiding in the Vine.

 

Fruit Comes in Many Varieties

In Romans 7:4 Paul says, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”  We began this study by noticing how Paul relates Jesus’ death and His resurrection to us.  When we became a Christian (when we first put our faith in Him), we died with Christ and we were also raised as a new creature.  That changes everything.  Paul tells us here that when we died with Christ, we also died to the Law.  We died to the legalistic way of living.  This passages states that we died so that we can be married to another, to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our new relationship.  We are married to Him.  In John 15 we are the branches on the Vine.  It speaks of that close, intimate, personal relationship with Christ.  Paul tells us at the end of verse four what the purpose of that relationship is.  We are married to Christ so that we should bring forth fruit unto God.  We always hear the expression “we are saved to serve.”  Well, not entirely.  We are saved to bring forth fruit.  Not all service (the works of our hands) is necessarily spiritual fruit. Not all fruit necessarily appears as outward service (Gal. 5:22-23).  Fruit is primarily inward, Christlike character.

In the very next verse, Romans 7:5, Paul says, “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit…”  This is obviously not good, spiritual fruit. It is rotten fruit, the fruit of death, the fruit of the flesh.  As believers, we are all producing something in our lives.  We are building on the foundation. Our building materials are wood, hay and stubble (worthless), or they are gold, silver, and precious stones– something quite valuable!  The illustration Jesus gives in John 15 also speaks of either good or rotten fruit, which is good for nothing but burning.  It is either the fruit of the Spirit or it is the fruit of the flesh.

In Philippians 1 Paul states that his goal in life is to produce fruit for the Lord.  In Philippians 1:20 Paul says, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”  It does not matter what kind of circumstances we are facing; God’s purpose for us is that Christ be magnified in our bodies.  He dwells within us, if we are saved.  Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Our life is no longer our own.  We died to self, and now Jesus Christ is our life.  He writes in Philippians 1:22, “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.”  Paul was in a quandary whether to remain on Earth (alive physically and serving God with his hands) or to go to be with Christ in Heaven.  He says that if he stayed and continued to serve the Lord with his hands that would be considered fruit, the fruit of his labor.  How does that fruit come about?  Well, he told us in the previous verses the reason spiritual fruit is produced in our lives.  It is when Christ is our life.  Real fruit is produced when Christ is being magnified through the yielded members of our body.  Every one of us, if we are born again, is producing fruit.  Read Galatians 5:22-23.  Either we produce the works of the flesh (and what miserable fruit is it!) or we produce the fruit of the Spirit (“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”).

Sometimes our friends misunderstand us.  Paul experienced that very same thing often in his ministry.  In I Corinthians 4:5, Paul said to the Corinthians, who were misjudging and wrongly accusing him, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man [every believer–at the bema seat] have praise of God.”  There were some things that Paul had to do and say as an apostle (stern rebukes, warnings, etc.) that were misunderstood by believers.  Paul refers to his attitude towards them as the hidden things of the heart. Nobody could see his heart attitude, his intentions, or his motives – except God and Paul.  Paul knew that he spoke out of love, even though people often put a wrong construction on his words.  Men observed Paul’s ministry and wrongly assumed that they saw rotten fruit.  They wrongly assumed that when Paul exerted his authority it was because he was proud and egotistical.  They hurled all kinds of accusations at him.  Paul knew that when he stood before the Lord, he would be exonerated because there were no evil motives or intentions in his heart.  That is what Paul longed for.  Even though men misjudged his words and his works, he knew that he would be exonerated at the judgment seat of Christ.  So too, God will one day give us all a proper evaluation of the fruit of our lives.  Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the only fruit inspector that counts.  Spiritual fruit is not always visible to men.  Sometimes we think we see things in the lives of others, but we can be deceived.  We are not well equipped to judge others.  We do not know anybody’s heart. God does, however, and He will one day inspect the fruit in each believer’s life. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Read II Timothy 2:5. “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”  If a man is working for God, even if he is striving hard to produce fruit, real fruit is not always produced by those labors. God says that it is not fruit unless he strives according to the rules, striving lawfully according to the Bible. There are times when we think we see fruit in someone.  Lots of things seem to be getting done–people are busy–but it does not necessarily mean that it is genuine, spiritual fruit.  Remember what Jesus said, “for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5), nothing of any value.  Men can build lots of things.  Men can get involved in lots of activities, but those efforts are not crowned, (it is not honored by God) unless it is done according to the Scriptures.

Remember when David brought back the Ark of the Covenant? (See II Sam. 6.)  He brought it to Jerusalem so that God would be worshipped.  When they came back with the Ark, men were singing, dancing, and praising God.  There was joy in their hearts.  They were doing it for God.  What was God’s reaction?  He struck Uzzah dead!  They were doing a good thing, but they did not do it the right way.  They were not crowned by the Lord.  God was not happy with their efforts.  It is very possible for us to be involved in lots of religious activity, and even do it in the name of Jesus.  We might even see the apparent results.  However, the results of our efforts are not fruit unless the source of it all was a close, obedient, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the Vine.  For “without me ye can do nothing.”

 

Fruit Is the Result of the Branch “Abiding” in the Vine

Fruit, the labor and character for which we are going to be judged, is the result of abiding in Christ.  Some fruit is open and evident, the works of our hands, the physical things that people can see.  That is all going to be judged.  Also, there is inner, invisible fruit: Christlike character, motives, intentions, and the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is growing in us when we demonstrate love, joy, peace, gentleness, and longsuffering.  This also is fruit that is not always easily seen by others, but God sees it.  If it is fruit, (if it is realfruit), it has to be the result of abiding in Christ.  In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”  Unless we have a close personal communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort we put into our religious activity, it is worth nothing.  It is wood, hay and stubble.  It is not the fruit of the Spirit.  No real fruit will ever be produced apart from abiding in the Vine.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  It is possible to do lots of work for God, to work our fingers to the bone.  We can sing a beautiful solo in church, but that does not mean it necessarily was motivated by a personal relationship with Christ.  It could stem from a “here I am, aren’t I great” attitude.  It is possible to preach a wonderful sermon, but that does not necessarily mean it stems from a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It could be done for selfish reasons.  Sadly in recent years we have seen too many examples of this from the televangelists.  Men who have been involved in what seem to be very fruitful ministries with lots of people getting saved, lots of buildings going up, and lots of activity taking place in the name of God, only to discover down the road that they had been living in sin all along.  None of it was built on a close personal relationship to Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).  You can build buildings.  You can sing songs.  You can preach sermons.  You can teach a Sunday school class.  Oh, we can do lots of things, but there is no fruit unless it stems from an abiding relationship to Christ.  If that is not the case, then it is the fruit of the flesh.  It is possible for us as believers to harbor sin in our hearts for years.  Maybe we are cheating the IRS and nobody knows… We come to church with a big smile and a nice suit.  We appear to be a pretty good Christian.  God knows what we are doing on our tax forms.  Maybe we come to church and we look pretty much like everyone else, yet we have not spent any time in prayer.  We have spent no time reading the Bible and no time communing with the Lord.  Yet, we might be a busy beaver in the church.  Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5), nothing of any value to God.  There is no fruit in those labors–not one tiny bit.  Notice in John 15:4, Jesus said the branch “cannot bear fruit.”  That word “cannot” means that we are not able.  It does not matter how hard we try or how sincere we are. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.  That is a hard lesson to learn.  We cannot abide in Christ unless our heart is right with God and one another.  Sin separates.  If our hearts are not right, then there is no abiding.  If there is no abiding, no matter how hard we work for God, it is worth nothing.

We repeat Jesus’ words at the end of John 15:5, “without me ye can do nothing.”  It does not mean we cannot be busy.  It does not mean a lot of activity cannot take place.  It does not mean we cannot serve in the local church.  It does not even mean that we cannot produce anything.  Maybe some good things will come from that activity.  But, when God looks down on such a life, there is no fruit at all apart from Christ.

We look out over Christendom today and we see lots of activity, lots of events taking place, but it does not mean it is spiritual fruit.  Even in this local church we can run programs; we can conduct evangelistic services; we can start churches and ministries and all kinds of things, but if it does not stem from a personal heart relationship to the Lord, there is no fruit.  There is nothing of any value.  Remember what we looked at earlier.  How does God judge the works of the flesh?  Paul says, “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).  God is only glorified when our labors for Him stem from a relationship to Christ.  You see that is what Christianity is.  It is not doing, doing, doing.  It is not activity, activity, activity.  Christianity is a relationship to Christ.  It is personal.  It is close.  It is intimate.  It is abiding resting in Him moment by moment.  Apart from the personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, everything we do is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.  Men may stand in awe of all that was accomplished in the flesh, but in God’s sight, it is wood, hay and stubble.

It is pretty humbling when we discover God’s method of producing fruit.  Notice also in John 15:5, Jesus says, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”  On the one hand, apart from the Vine we can do nothing of any value to God.  We can be busy and do things, but it is of no value spiritually. On the other hand, when we abide in Christ, (when our sin is confessed and our hearts are right with the Lord), Jesus says that not only will we produce fruit, but we will produce much fruit.  I am encouraged by this.  Jesus is not talking to Paul and all the apostles and all the important people.  This verse was not written just for the D. L. Moodys and the Spurgeons and the John Knoxes of the world.  It was written for all of us, you and me!  If we do that very simple thing, (keeping our heart relationship to Christ right), then Jesus Christ will bear much fruit through our lives and our ministries.  That does not mean that we are going to lead thousands to the Lord.  That does not mean we are going to establish mission boards.  That does not mean we are going to make it into the Christian hall of fame or anything like that.  In fact, it does not even mean that anyone will see or acknowledge the fruit that is being borne.  And, you know, it does not even matter if other people do not see it.  God does. Christlike character is being produced in us!  That is the ultimate work God is doing in our lives today.  He is making us more like the Lord Jesus Christ.  Consider that humble believer who walks into church and is barely noticed. Perhaps he never gets elected to any of the committees or never gets voted in as a church officer.  It may be revealed at the bema seat that that believer has borne more fruit than anyone would have imagined!

God does not judge fruit the way we do. Matthew 6:1-4 says, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”  There is something important that the Lord wants to communicate to us in this section.  Good works, (the fruit of our hands, the fruit of our ministries) are not something that ought to be done with the sounding of a trumpet to get everybody’s attention.  Hey, look at me!  The godly believer, who is dead in Christ and who reckons himself to be dead, is out for the glory of Christ, not self.  To him, Christ is everything. He is not going to be sounding a trumpet so people will see how great he is.  He is not going to tell everyone how much he reads the Bible, how long he prays, how much he gives, or how many good deeds he has done.  He does it in secret.  Maybe nobody knows what he does in secret, but God.  Ultimately He is the only one that matters.

For fruit to be genuine, it has to arise out of a close personal relationship to Jesus Christ.  Everything else, no matter how much we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how sincere we are, if it is done apart from Christ, is the work of the flesh and is all going to be burned up.  Abiding in the Vine and spending time with Jesus Christ has an effect on us!  It cannot help but have an effect on us.  Spending time communing with Him, fellowshipping with the Lord we love changes us–from glory to glory!  That is what spiritual growth is all about.  Christ is being formed is us. His life is being manifested in and through us.  We are being conformed more and more into His image–less of self, and more of Christ.  That is a life long process.

 

Fruit Is the Product of the Vine, Not the Branch

Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that fruit is a product of the Vine, not the branch.  It is only from the Vine, the Lord Jesus Christ, that divine life and power flow through us, as we yield to Him and abide in Him.  It is the life and nutrients from the Vine that produces real fruit.  That is why Jesus stressed over and over again in John 15 that the responsibility of the branch is not to produce fruit.  The responsibility of the branch is to abide in the Vine.  I love that because it takes all the pressure off self, does it not?  We are not under the gun to produce, produce, produce.  Rather, we are to abide in Christ.  Our job is to abide in Him thus allow God to work in and through us.  We can really rest in the Lord, for the production of fruit is His work.  We can wait upon Him, for fruit is borne in His time.  If it takes a whole lifetime to produce the kind of fruit He wants, so be it.  Let God be God.  Not only does it take all the pressure off, it also changes my whole outlook and focus.  I am no longer focused on all the things I have to do and all the chores I have to get done. Take your eyes off of all those busy, busy activities and put your eyes on Christ. We need to learn that our will is nothing and His will is everything. Then, it is no longer I, but Christ. I am no longer absorbed with my own self, with my own problems, my own struggles, and my own desire to get things done.  I can truly rest in Him. He is Lord.

Once we learn to quit struggling and trying to produce fruit on our own, something supernatural takes place.  In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ” and Paul probably thought in the back of his mind, Good, Saul is dead!  Praise the Lord. “I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Paul saw himself in the Vine, abiding in the Vine.  He was reckoning himself to be dead.  He was crucified, yet the life of the Vine was flowing through him.  As he lived, it was in fact, Christ living His marvelous resurrected life through a yielded Paul.  Do you know what the end of that life is?  Fruit!  That is something worthwhile from eternity’s perspective.  Christ’s life flows through us and manifests itself through us.  Do you know what is going to be manifested?  His love for the Father.  How much does Jesus Christ love His heavenly Father?  How can you put it into words?  Infinity!  When we are yielded to Him it is His love that is going to be manifested through us.  We are going to love God in a way that we could never love Him on our own, apart from Christ.

When we are yielded and abiding in the Vine we are going to have Christ’s love for the lost.  Too often we hear of believers who are badgered, almost bludgeoned by preachers to get out there and save souls!  Very often the implication is that we have to go out and do something and try to produce fruit on our own.  It results in frustration because Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing.”  Rather than badger believers to get out there and produce, I would much rather encourage us to draw closer to Christ.  Love Him more.  Yield to Him more.  Do you know what is going to happen when we are surrendered and yielded to Him, and our hearts are right with Jesus Christ?  We are going to be more like Him.  And, Jesus went about seeking to save the lost.  That was on His mind all the time.  If we are yielded to Him, His love for the lost is going to be manifested through us.  Self does not love the lost that much.  Self loves self.  But when we reckon self to be dead, and we abide in Christ, His love for the lost is going to be manifested through us.  Do you want more evangelistic zeal?  Open your Bible and learn to love the Lord Jesus with all your heart!

How about love for the brethren?  Right after explaining the important relationship of the branch abiding in the Vine, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”  We might wish that Jesus stopped in the middle of this and said, “Love one another” (period).  But instead He said, “love one another, as I have loved you.”  This is how men will know a genuine disciple: they love one another.  To love the brethren as Christ loves us is not always an easy thing to do.  Self does not love the brethren that much.  Self loves self.  But, when we are yielded, when we reckon self to be dead and alive unto God and yield and surrender to Him, His love for other people will be manifested through us.

I heard a wonderful illustration years ago in a marriage class.  The speaker drew a picture of a triangle with God on the top.  The wife was down on the bottom of one side of the triangle, and the husband on the bottom on the other end.  This husband and wife were butting heads and having a hard time getting along.  His point was that instead of trying to work out all the tiny little details (and they will never ALL be worked out in this life), concentrate on the One above.  As the husband and wife grow closer to God on the top of that triangle, they will be getting closer to each other!  What a perfect illustration of how we ought to be seeking God first in our lives.  In our relationship one to another, if Christ is first and we are seeking to please Him, and are abiding in Him, then we will be drawn closer to each other too! God will be working in us.  Not only so, but when we are yielded to the Vine, Christ’s willingness to serve others will be manifested in our lives. He left Heaven to become a servant of men and to die the awful death of the cross.  He did it all because He loved us.  It was the ultimate expression of selfless service for others.  When He was here on Earth, washing the disciples’ feet, guess who was present?  Judas.  Self does not like to serve others.  Self likes to be served.

If you or I attempt to do this in the flesh instead of abiding in Christ, we will be like that withering branch trying to produce fruit.  Just try to produce this kind of fruit–selfless service.  It will be the most frustrating, unhappy experience of your life.  At the end of it all we are going to say, “After all I did for them, look at what I get in return.”  Do you see self right in the center of that?  Was that act of service done selflessly or were you doing it for something in return?  When we are yielded to the Lord and are resting in Him, it does not mean we are going to be lazy.  Read Acts 10:38.  There Luke said of the Lord Jesus, He went about everywhere doing good (deeds).  Resting and abiding in Christ, and spending time in communion and fellowship with Him, will make us like Him.  It does not mean we sit in the corner and read our Bible and pray all day and never do anything.  Rather, this kind of abiding is going to make us like the Lord Jesus Christ.  He never ceased from doing good works.  When self attempts to produce good works on our own, it will produce nothing but frustration and weariness.  You see, here is an important principle: on our own, doing good works, (trying to be good), is never a substitute for abiding in Christ.  Religious activity does not equal fellowship and it certainly is no substitute for communion.

In II Corinthians 4:10 Paul says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”  What an amazing thought.  The life of the resurrected and glorified Savior is to be manifested in our physical body!  In II Corinthians 4:11 he says, “For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” Paul gloried in even the worst of circumstances.  He saw them as opportunities for Christ to be manifested through a yielded body.   We are members of the body of Christ, channels of His life, channels of His love, channels of His goodness, His forgiveness, His tender heartedness–channels only, but channels.  Spiritual growth never, ever occurs by means of self attempting to defeat sin on its own.  It never occurs by self trying to improve itself.  God has never called self to muster up enough personal strength to live the Christian life.  On the contrary, our goal is not to build self up. Our goal is to reckon self to be dead.  By faith we are to believe our old self-life is dead, and live that way, so that Christ is everything to us.  Self does not have what it takes to love the lost the way God loves them.  Self just does not have what it takes to forgive as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us.  Self does not have what it takes to conquer anger and lust and bitterness and resentment.  Self cannot possibly selflessly serve others.  Spiritual growth comes in only one way–abiding in Christ.  Surrender.  Yield to Him, and when that is the case, the excellency of the power is of God and not of us.

There are two views men might take.  When we do not see enough results in our labors, the flesh says, work harder; dig in deeper; do more, more activity.  The flesh loves activity… more pressure to produce.

The view of the Spirit is this: if we are not seeing enough fruit in our lives, if we are not seeing results in our ministry, then maybe we need to rest more!  Maybe we need to draw closer to Christ, the Vine.  Perhaps that’s the problem.  Maybe we need to learn more of what it means to abide in Him and to allow Him to work in us.   D. L. Moody used to say, “I have so much to do today I’ll have to spend twice as much time in prayer.”  Is that the way we usually look at life?  What God wants is a constant attitude of not I but Christ.  That is a selfless humble attitude.  When the flesh goes to work, self is exalted.  When God works in us, self is abased and Christ is exalted. The branch that hangs down the lowest is the one most laden with fruit.

 

Fruit Attempted by the Flesh and by the Spirit

We have a perfect example in the Bible of two individuals who were trying to produce fruit, trying to serve God.  But they approached it in two very different manners.  Do you know what happens when the flesh tries to produce good fruit?  Even with the best of intentions, it ends up producing rotten fruit, for in the flesh dwells no good thing. In the flesh, we can try to get involved in many activities for God–thinking that the more we do, the busier we are, the more spiritual we are.  Wrong!  Very often when we are busy doing so many things for God we can easily become disgruntled and frustrated at other people.  (How come they are not helping me?)  We look down at other people, and then pride sets in.  (Look, I am doing all the work around here!)  Then we can become resentful. (Boy, nobody else has any love; nobody else has any zeal around here.  I am doing it all, and no one appreciates it.)  Eventually we are going to be judgmental, and finally we are going to be burned out and quit.  Here is the most bazaar thing of all–in an attempt to produce fruit, we are actually taken away from the Vine.  This is entirely illogical spiritually… but it happens all too often!

Fruit bearing ought to be the result of resting in the Vine.  Let us look at a passage in Luke 10.  Starting in verse 38 we read, “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, [with her complaints] and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”  Here are two women.  Mary was concerned with abiding, sitting, remaining, resting at the feet of the Lord Jesus and communing with Him.  Martha was busy, hectic and stirred up over doing – cleaning the house and cooking the meal.  It says in verse 40 that Martha was “cumbered.”  That word means to be drawn apart, to be torn in every direction.  And, she was cumbered about serving.  She was trying to produce fruit for Jesus, and her intentions were good. It did not result in rest, but rather it resulted in anxiety.  Her ministry was for Jesus, but there was no joy in it.  Is not there joy in serving Jesus?  Is not that the song we sing?  That is not necessarily so – not when we do it in the flesh like Martha was evidently doing. Her motives were good.  She wanted to serve the Lord. Service is good, but her service caused her stomach to be tied in knots.  She was cumbered about and not only so, but she was serving and doing all these things for Jesus on her own.  Notice the attitude she demonstrated toward her sister.  She began to judge her sister.  Lord, look at her.  She is doing nothing.  I am doing all the work and she is sitting down.  Bitterness set into Martha’s heart.  She had the “poor me” attitude.  In addition, she even dared to accuse Jesus.  She said, Lord don’t you care?  She began to question if He cared for her or not.  Here was a branch broken away from the Vine trying to produce fruit on its own.  She was becoming worried and anxious, cumbered, torn into different directions.  She began to be judgmental against her sister who was not working as hard.  She even pointed an accusatory finger toward the Lord!  She was separated from the Vine.  It says in verse 41 that she was careful or anxious.

You see something was missing in Martha’s ministry–communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ.  He was not given the preeminence at this moment!  Jesus was kindly pointing out to Martha that her service for Him did not arise from a close, personal, intimate fellowship and communion with Him.  That was what was missing.  She was busy.  She was doing for Jesus, but she did not spend any time with Jesus.

Now on the other hand we see Mary communing with the Lord.  Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, a position of resting.  She was not running around like a chicken with her head cut off.  She was resting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His Word, communing with Him.  Relationship was most important to her, not activity!  She chose to abide with Christ.  When a branch abides on the Vine, the life and strength of the Vine flows through that branch.  The end result eventually will be real fruit.  If Mary spent time communing with the Lord Jesus, loving Him, talking to Him, fellowshipping with Him, then of course if He asked her to serve Him she would.  That service would be based on relationship.

In John 12, we have another account of this woman, Mary, when Jesus came to her house.  Do you know what John tells us about Mary, the one that spent time at Jesus’ feet, resting, communing, and fellowshipping with Him… the one with whom relationship was everything? When Jesus came to her house the next time, she took out a most valuable bottle of ointment and poured it on His feet.  She washed His feet with this precious ointment and the sweetness of the aroma filled the house.  Jesus was so impressed with her service that He told the disciples that wherever the gospel is preached, this story was to be told as a memorial of her.

Communion and fellowship always result in service and real fruit.  Busyness on Martha’s part resulted in doing lots of things.  The dinner did get cooked, but it was done in bitterness and a judgmental spirit.  Mary’s fellowship and communion resulted in service and it did not fill the house with bitterness.  It filled the house with sweetness.  Communing with Christ and abiding in Him results in selfless, sacrificial service.  It results in a sweet smelling savor that is a blessing to everybody involved, and it produces the joy of the Lord.  That is what service ought to be about.

If we want to produce fruit, what is our responsibility?  Do not say, get out there and do it!  If we want to produce fruit, we have to work first and foremost on our relationship to Jesus Christ.  This is Christianity.  Fruit may take longer.  It may take our whole life to produce the kind of fruit God wants in our lives.  Be willing to rest in the Lord and wait upon Him.  Our nature is to want to see so many things done now or even sooner!  We need to be more like Mary.  Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  It is our choice.  Abide in Christ and bring forth much fruit or try to do it on our own, and produce anxiety, bitterness and frustration.  Does it not make sense to abide in Him?