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.—John 15:5
We have traded the vine for the assembly line, the natural for the manufactured, the living for the artificial. This is true of the saints both corporately and individually.
The church in America largely doesn’t abide in the vine; she maintains the assembly line. Pragmatism drives the line. Statistics and numbers are the measurement of success. How many people? How many baptisms? How much money? How many churches planted? How many missionaries sent out? Programs, Advertising, events, the liturgy, style, methodology, and even the teaching are all shaped and developed, not strictly in accord with the Scriptures, but in service to this business-model goal of success.
I’m afraid that a whole lot of the activity of the American church is an attempt to get fruit without abiding in the vine. We can do it more efficiently with the assembly line. The word doesn’t abide in us; His commands are not obeyed. We irrigate with spontaneous baptisms, we cultivate with worldly methodologies, we fertilize by appealing to the flesh, and we grow using artificial lights. But for all this efficiency, I’m afraid it will be shown that we have far more tares than wheat.
Individually we don’t fare any better. We’ve tried to baptize the world’s ideas of success. Jesus comes like a supplement to our diet plan. When it comes to our work, our marriages, our homes, our children, our aspirations and goals—it’s not necessarily that we’re running after inherently evil things, but we’re running after good things as though they were god, all while asking God’s blessing on our idolatry. Rather than tapping our life into the vine, we’re trying to tap the vine into our life. We want to be successful and efficient and productive at a number of things, and we try to graft the vine into them to give them life. Rather than Jesus making us fruitful for the kingdom, we want Jesus to make our kingdoms fruitful.
Ask yourself, which of these triads characterize the life of the church in general in these days and which of these characterize your life: busyness, efficiency, and success or industry (as in good hard work), faithfulness, and fruitfulness? There is nothing intrinsically evil about being busy, being efficient, or being successful, but when these categories dominate our thoughts and drive our behavior, then I believe something is seriously wrong. Kevin DeYoung explains,
“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls. If only we could make time for an appointment.”
Saints, perhaps this is that much needed appointment for you. Perhaps you need to repent right now of chasing after a worldly idea of success and by faith abide in the vine right now that you may be truly fruitful. If thoughts of busyness, efficiency, and success dominate your life such that they rob you of life, you are doing it wrong. Set your hearts instead on industry (working heartily unto the Lord), faithfulness, fruitfulness. And set your hearts on them in this way: remember that faithfulness is your lot and fruitfulness is God’s. The admonition of this passage is not “be fruitful,” but “abide.” And the result of such abiding, is joy.