“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”
In today’s Scripture reading, our Lord is telling us that He is the vine and God the Father is the vinedresser. And He tells us that we are the branches attached to this vine. The Lord also said here that God the Father removes and discards every branch that does not bear fruit, while He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it may bear even more fruit. The Lord is pleased by the branches that bear much fruit.
A fruit tree does not have the luxury of choosing whether to bear fruit or not. Every fruit tree must bear fruit, for that is its reason of being. A fruit tree that does not bear any fruit is completely useless. Such trees are good for nothing except for firewood.
Let’s think about some kinds of fruit trees such as pear trees, apple trees and vines. Is there any use for these trees other than harvesting fruit from them? Can you build a house with pear trees? Can you use apple trees or vines as construction materials? No, fruit trees are useful because of the fruits they bear; they are completely useless as construction materials. Compared to other trees, they have too many forking branches, and because all the nutrients go to the fruit, the trunk itself is too weak to support the weight of a building. In particular, apple trees and pear trees are so weak that sometimes the branch itself breaks off if it bears too much fruit. So the orchard farmer prunes the branches when the fruit tree blossoms or begins to bear fruit.
The Lord said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). The Father, who is the vinedresser cultivates the vine. He cuts off the branches that do not bear any fruit, and He prunes the branches that bear fruit so that they would bear even better fruit. This passage implies that the fruit of the Spirit is absolutely indispensable to everyone born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. In other words, once you are born again, you don’t have a choice whether to bear the fruit of the Spirit or not. You cannot lead your life of faith as a spectator watching far away, nor can you sit idle, but instead, you must bear abundant fruit as a healthy fruit tree does.
Is it okay for you not to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit even as you say that you’ve been born again through this gospel and claim to be leading your life of faith in this gospel? No, this is not acceptable. You must bear the fruit of the soul. In other words, you must give birth to spiritual children by preaching the gospel. Even if you don’t preach yourself, you must at least be united with God’s Church and participate in its work of saving the lost souls through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. You have the duty to counsel them and teach them by their side so that they would listen to the Word and accept it by faith. And once they are saved, you must nurture them so that they would grow and mature appropriately. You also have to support the newly born-again souls so that they may also bear spiritual fruit. That is how the fruit of the Spirit is born.
Just as every fruit tree is supposed to bear fruit; it makes no sense for any believer to lead a life of faith without bearing any fruit. Perhaps some believers have succumbed to self-complacency thinking that everything is just fine since they themselves have received the remission of sins and will therefore go to Heaven, but it’s immensely frustrating for me whenever I see such believers who are so insensitive to the need to bear fruit. It’s even more saddening that there are some believers who think that since they have received the remission of sins from God, all that matters now is that they get blessed for the remainder of their lives, and also think that they are not suitable for bearing fruit. If there is anyone here who thinks, “I just want to attend church and do my own thing. It should be good enough that I attend church regularly; I don’t have to bear that much fruit,” this person must turn his heart around right now.
The Lord Is the Vine, and God the Father Is the Vinedresser
God said t if any vine branch does not bear fruit, it becomes a useless branch, and therefore the vinedresser will cut it off. In contrast, if a branch bears fruit, the vinedresser will not spare his labor to cleanse it and prune it so that it would bear even more fruit. Therefore, in our lives of faith we must set our purpose on bearing spiritual fruit. Now that we have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we are leading our lives of faith united with the Church, and this is done to bear fruit.
How can we bear fruit then? Of course, some of you may be skeptical of your ability to bear fruit and ask, “What can I do on my own? What can I accomplish by myself, when I can barely take care of myself?” It’s quite possible for you to think in this way. But when the Lord told us to abide in Him, He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As those who are born again of water and the Spirit, we are the branches of the vine. So long as we abide in the vine of the Lord and the Lord abides in us, we can bear much fruit even without trying to achieve something by ourselves. As God helps us to bear abundant fruit effortlessly, all that we have to do is just abide in the vine.
What then does it mean to abide in the vine? The vine here refers to the Lord as well as God’s Church. Put differently, leading your life of faith inside God’s Church is none other than abiding in the vine. What does it mean to abide in the Lord then? You have been saved and born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but what does it really mean for you to abide in the Lord, and what does it mean not to abide in the Lord? What exactly is meant by abiding in the Lord? The Lord said that whoever abides in Him bears much fruit, but what does this really mean? Such questions are particularly relevant to the righteous who have just recently received the remission of sins.
Our Lord said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Abiding in the Lord means uniting yourself with the Lord. Uniting yourself with the Lord, in turn means accepting His Word into your heart exactly as it is, and believing in this Word exactly as it is. This is the very faith by which we abide in the Lord after being born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. If we believe in the Word of God, then this means we are abiding in the Lord. It’s because we believe in God’s Word that faith springs forth in us, and it’s because we believe that everything will come to pass according to this Word that we will inherit the Kingdom of God on account of this faith. Therefore, by our faith in God we come to pray to Him; by this faith our prayers are answered by God; and by this faith we come to bear abundant fruit naturally. That is why the Lord said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
Therefore, as we believe in Jesus and we have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit; so for us to abide in the Lord we must know what the Lord said in the Bible. All our thoughts and decisions must be based on this Word, and we must lead our lives of faith according to this Word. Unless we have God’s Word in us, we will just live in whatever way we want based on our own standards, oblivious to the fact that we should all abide in the Lord.
The Word the Lord spoke to us was written by God’s servants over a span of one thousand and several hundred years. The Lord put together all the Word of God into a single volume of the Bible and gave it to us. Therefore, it is by believing in this Word that we can come into the Lord, abide and live in Him, and bear abundant fruit as well. That is why whoever is born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit by believing in Jesus must hold onto the Word of God and believe in it unwaveringly. Herein lies the reason why we should believe in the Word of God.
The Word of God says that any branch that does not bear fruit will be cut off. It also says that branches that wither, though attached to the vine, will be gathered and burned. This explains to us what will happen to us if we fail to bear fruit in our lives of faith. The branches that do not bear fruit are naturally useless, and so you should have no problem understanding why they are cut off. What then is meant by the branches that wither despite being attached to the vine? When a branch withers despite being attached to the vine, it’s because the branch is not supplied with enough nutrients from the roots. In other words, it’s because the branch does not get a continuous supply of spiritual nutrients from Jesus and His Word. For all those born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, their spiritual food is none other than the Word. If you are not supplied with this Word, your soul is bound to wither, just as your body withers when you don’t have enough food. Such withered branches can be used only as firewood, along with the branches that don’t bear fruit.
Our Lives of Faith Will Be Over If We Don’t Bear Any Fruit
The purpose for which we lead our lives of faith is to bear fruit. It’s also ultimately to bear more fruit of the soul that we serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit in our lives of faith. In other words, it’s to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Everything we do, from evangelizing to preaching the Word, leading our lives of faith, coming to the Church to listen to the Word, and growing our faith, is done to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s invariably to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit that we live out our faith. The life of faith is not lived purposelessly, but it’s lived to rise up to the challenge by faith and bear even more fruit of the soul. None other than this, to rise up to the challenge and bear spiritual fruit, is what the life of faith is all about.
As I said, your life of faith is all about bearing spiritual fruit by believing in the Word of God. If you are leading a dry and dull life of faith and aimlessly wasting away every day without any purpose, then you cannot bear any fruit even if you abide in the vine—that is, no matter how long you lead your life of faith. Whenever you hear the Word spoken to the Church by the Holy Spirit, you must listen attentively to and learn from what God is saying to you, what He is teaching you, and what He is asking you to do.
When you read the Bible by yourself, you can understand what the passages mean because you have the Holy Spirit in you. It’s because the Holy Spirit brings understanding to you. Instead of just reading the Bible pointlessly, you hold in your heart the passages that you read; as a result you come to have faith the size of a mustard seed; and in turn, this little faith achieves amazing results, even moving a mountain. The power of faith is that astonishing.
For that reason, your life of faith must be centered on the Word of God, and those who stand on this Word of God firmly in their lives of faith are infallibly bound to abide in the vine and bear abundant fruit. This is an absolutely assured outcome. Even if you don’t want to bear any fruit, so long as you are firmly attached to the vine, you will absorb and imbibe the nutrients coming from its roots, and therefore you will bear fruit naturally. Whoever abides in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and believes in the Word of God will invariably blossom and bear fruit like this. This will happen without fail. And that is why all of us must lead our lives of faith centered on the Word. You cannot bear any fruit unless your life of faith is based on the Word. How can anyone bear any fruit by himself? How can you bear any fruit all on your own without believing in and holding onto the Word of God? It’s impossible.
False Fruit Is More Prevalent in the So-Called “Orthodox” Churches
A while ago, a great deal of commotion was stirred up in Korea due to the rise of various cults and heresies. So religious leaders in Korea got together and held a formal convention to address the problem, discussing the meaning of religion and the appropriate relationship between the state and religion. Someone representing the Christian community argued in that convention that the purpose of religion was to benefit its followers and encourage them to do good deeds to bring harmony with others, so that non-believers would also come to believe. He wasn’t clear about his points, but remained rather vague and tenuous. After droning on for a while, he eventually said, “Simply put, religion is not just about one’s individual beliefs and life of faith, but it is about fostering harmony in the nation. Religion contributes to the harmony of the human race, compels its followers to love their neighbors and do good deeds, and helps them to improve themselves to become better and kinder people. That is the purpose of religion and its fruit.”
This man also had a few blunt words to say about orthodox Christianity and heresy, as he argued in the convention: “There are many heresies in Christianity. These heresies are extremely detrimental, as they cause a great deal of social confusion. So the government should give us the administrative authority to root out heresies. Even though we want to eradicate them, there is no way we can achieve this as we don’t have any coercive power. That’s why we are having so much difficulty trying to root out heresies. The state should therefore give us administrative jurisdiction over heresies with enough teeth to eradicate them all.”
But Korea has various religions. Broadly speaking, there are Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Cheondogyo (an indigenous religion of Korea), but each of these religions has numerous sects. The convention was attended by representatives from each religion, and they all presented for 10 to 15 minutes. A professor from a Buddhist university came to represent Buddhism, while Christianity was represented by a professor from a Baptist Seminary. The Baptist professor dichotomized Christianity into two camps, and saying that orthodox Christianity alone was good and heresies were bad, he argued that all these heresies had to be eradicated. He then added that to achieve this, the state should give orthodox Christian churches a strong administrative authority.
This was followed by the professor from the Buddhist university. He spoke of various problems generated by religion. He argued that although most mainstream religions assert they are immune from the corruption found in heresies, in reality these long-established denominations and sects claiming to be orthodox actually have the most serious problems. He pointed out that the so-called “orthodox” religions cloak themselves in hypocrisy as a whitewashed grave, and that the religious practitioners recognized for their “orthodoxy” are in fact most problematic. Even though this professor was a Buddhist, he must have thought about this issue for a long time, as he hit the nail on the head. That’s because just as he pointed out, orthodox religionists are even more likely to practice evil than heretics.
Then the professor representing Buddhism said, “The problem with orthodox religions is that they embellish themselves before everyone.” According to him, the most orthodox was the most problematic. And he drew an example from Buddhism to make his point. There was a time in Korea when Buddhism was so corrupt that it was rotten to its core, and coincidentally, the nation was also facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. Yet even as the fate of the nation hung in the most precarious balance, the Buddhist leaders at that time were obsessed with building ever larger and ever more extravagant temples, worsening the plight of the people. In a time of national decay, the state-sponsored religion is usually the most decadent, and it must have been such a time of religious corruption and national decline.
Korean churches top the ranking when it comes to the size of church buildings and membership. A while ago, two major newspapers in Korea ran articles on the ten largest churches in the world, and the five largest churches were all located in Korea. Competing to build a larger and more extravagant church building is one of the defining characteristics of the so-called “orthodox” churches in Korea.
It’s said that Indians practice their religion looking toward the next world. Not only Indians, but most religious practitioners all over the world also look toward the next world, practicing their religion to have a better afterlife.
In contrast, Koreans are more interested in the present than the future or the next world. So every religion that was introduced from outside, whether it’s Buddhism or Confucianism, failed in Korea. Since Koreans are interested in the present prosperity whereas religion emphasizes the next world, it’s a forgone conclusion that such religions would have been rejected as unrealistic. So, every foreign religion, including Christianity, had to change its orientation to emphasize temporal prosperity in order to appeal to the Korean people, as they wanted to fulfill their desires in their present lives. In the end, religion colluded with such people. Rather than teaching about the next world, it emphasized the prosperity of the present—that is, it preached that its followers would all prosper in this present world, claiming that their business would flourish, they would find the perfect spouse, their children would gain admission to the university of their choice, and so on. Only then did people who were uninterested in religion begin to flock to temples and churches, and in this way, having colluded with the present world, religion embarked on its road to corruption.
Buddhism is not alone to suffer from this problem. Christianity is also corrupt. Christianity too, has abandoned its original evangelical calling of the water and the Spirit and colluded with the greed of the people. Amongst the many Christian denominations, the so-called “orthodox” denominations are particularly more corrupt. That’s because these self-acclaimed “orthodox” churches have also colluded with those who seeks only present prosperity. Religion was supposed to make people think about the problem of the soul and look toward the next world, that is, Heaven. It should have solved the problem of the soul for them and guided them so that they would go to Heaven. However, far from leading people to this direction, religious leaders focused on the current problems of the present that everyone wants to solve. So they only taught them how they could receive more blessings in the present world, and as a result, religion ended up being corrupted. This is what the Buddhist representative spoke of so pointedly.
The man representing Christianity had said that orthodox Christianity was wonderful and it was just the heresies that were problematic, and so mainstream churches should obtain jurisdiction over the heresies to eradicate them. Another man from Buddhism then said that the so-called “orthodox” religious practitioners were the ones causing the most serious problem as they were all corrupted, and that among them, the most problematic were the religious leaders. He said, “Religious corruption stems from the collusion that these religious leaders have made with the desires of the mass, and in Korea, corruption is particularly worse because people demand only the prosperity of the present.”
There are many denominations in Korea, but among them, one specific denomination has swept across the Korean Christian community in the last half century. This influential denomination is built on just one single passage: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2). This denomination deceives people by preaching that all the fleshly problems they face would be solved away if they just believe in Christianity. Even though this denomination sprang up the last compared to other denominations, it has swept across Christian communities in Korea like wild fire. The churches of this denomination stir up all kinds of rackets during the worship service, mobilizing every musical instrument, and its members scream out like there is no tomorrow, shouting out, “Lord, bless me! Fill me with the Holy Spirit!” Caught up in this own emotional excitement, these members are taken advantage of to elicit donations, and these donations are then spent to build a magnificent church building. It doesn’t take that long before a giant and extraordinarily lavish church building is finished, perhaps just a year. Instead of ministering the church by faith, it is run strategically and calculatingly. The leaders of this denomination emphasize faith as a means to obtain material blessings in the present, teaching that one will receive many temporal blessings if he just believes in Jesus and attends their church, and they constantly incite their congregation to donate much money promising blessings in return. I’m sure that some of you know which church I am speaking of here; it’s the one that demands money from the congregation all the time. When the members of this denomination don’t have enough money, they even take out a bank loan just so that they can make offerings.
Not too long ago, it became almost a fad for many Christians in Korea to give as much offerings as possible, misinterpreting and misquoting a passage from the Book of Malachi to emphasize tithing. This passage is found in Malachi 3:8-10:
“‘Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,’
Says the LORD of hosts,
‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.’”
The truth is, in the days of Malachi the hearts of the people of Israel had left God. So they had forgotten all about God in their lives, no longer giving a tithe nor any offering, and that is why they were rebuked like this; God said here that they had robbed Him. But there sprang forth some pastors who, not understanding the context of this passage and its real meaning began to preach that if one gave a tithe, he would be blessed exponentially. They went as far as saying that if one offered half of his income instead of just a tenth, this person would receive far more blessings. Many Christians went wild over this teaching, for they all wanted to be rich. So they offered a lot of donations as though it were a fad. But all such teachings have no biblical foundation at all.
Right now, the gospel of the water and the Spirit is not received that well in Korea. No matter how passionately we preach this gospel, the response has been rather cool to say the least, rendering our effort in vain. Most Korean Christians refuse to even listen to us, saying that the gospel of the water and the Spirit is not taught in their church or by their pastor. They should at least listen to what the Bible says about the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but they shut their ears and just insist that their own denomination is orthodox and take a great deal of pride in this. Such banal things are all that they like, giving no heed to God and His true gospel.
Even secular people know that Christianity in Korea is in serious decline because its leaders have colluded with the desires of the mass. This must be corrected. To recall the religious convention that I told you about earlier; why do you think it was held? The government sponsored this convention to prevent the kind of social confusion that occurred toward the end of 1999 instigated by doomsday cults claiming that the world was coming to its end. In that convention, some religious leaders even curried favor with the government, saying that they would do something about this problem if the government gave them the authority to rein in heresies. Of course, there were others who forthrightly pointed out that religion should not be governed by the state. Some people were even up in arms over the very fact such a convention was sponsored by the government, saying that this threatened freedom of religion. What do you think about this? What’s clear is that when the chips are down, religion is religion, and should remain so.
What did our Lord say in today’s Scripture reading? He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). The Lord told us to abide in Him. It’s not so difficult to abide in the Lord. You just have to listen to the written Word of God with your ears, read it with your eyes, and believe in it and hold onto it with your heart. That is how you abide in the Lord, and that is the way you should lead your life of faith. Moreover, if you hold onto this Word, the Lord will come into you. You will then receive the remission of sins. If you believe in God’s Word, the Lord will abide in you, and you will also abide in the Lord. That is how you can unite yourself with the Lord, walk with Him, and bear abundant fruit. Just as the Lord said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), it is by believing in the Word of God that you can come into the Lord, and it is also by believing in the Word of God that you can bear abundant fruit.
Your Life of Faith Is Led to Bear Much Spiritual Fruit
Is it not to bear spiritual fruit that you are living out your faith? Is the life of faith about whitewashing your outside appearance or gaining superficial biblical knowledge? If you speak eloquently like a professional speaker or a politician does this mean then that you are living out your faith? Can you say that you are living out your faith well if you are just polite and humble? Or is a godly life of faith led if you just scream out the name of the Lord like a mad person? If this is not true either, then should you fast while praying until you starve to death to live out your faith? What about trying to enrich yourself by any means possible? Is this the way to lead your life of faith? Absolutely not! The life of faith is led as the vine bears fruit.
That the vine bears fruit means that it bears ‘spiritual fruit’—that is, it bears the fruit of saving lives. Vine branches are very weak. When you cut them across the stem, you will see that they are empty inside. They are also very thin, no thicker than a finger, and so they burn and become ash easily. Yet such thin and hollow branches bear ripe and tasty grapes for everyone to enjoy. If you look at the vine itself, it has little that’s attractive, but because the vine bears wonderful fruit, people treasure it, and the vinedresser takes good care of it.
Our lives of faith are like this vine bearing fruit. Just as a vine that does not bear any fruit is completely useless and has no value, a life of faith that does not bear fruit is also meaningless. A fruitful life of faith is our purpose, and it is also the right life of faith. That is why all of us must bear fruit in our lives.
Does any vine bear fruit all of a sudden? Even without taking care of the vine, do you see grapes hanging on the vine when you walk to the vineyard the next day? No, of course not. To bear grapes, the branches absorb all the nutrients coming from the trunk of the vine throughout the year. They blossom when the spring comes, and then they begin to bear tiny grapes. These tiny grapes are then nourished with nutrients to grow, until they become fully ripe grapes. The vine spends all its energy to bear fruit. That is how the branches bear such ripe and wonderful grapes.
Just as the branches spend all their energy to bear fruit, so must we also devote all our energy and effort to live out our faith. We don’t necessary save a soul right away on the very day we meet him. To save even one soul, we should have prepared our faith beforehand. Our faith grows while we read and listen to the Word of God, and only when our own faith has grown sufficiently can we finally meet our goal of bearing fruit. That is the life of life the Bible speaks of.
What then will happen to the branches that don’t bear any fruit? Such fruitless branches are useless, and therefore the vinedresser will cut them off. Let’s say that some branches of the vine sprouted, blossomed, and bore fruit for the first time. Then the branches next to them should also sprout, blossom and bear fruit. But what if a branch does not bear any fruit despite having blossomed, and just hangs there? The vinedresser will see that it’s a fruitless branch and cut it off without any hesitation. The vinedresser knows exactly what kind of branch is a fruitless branch. He will not hesitate to cut off such withered branches and throw them all into the fire to be brunt.
We must live with a purpose, to bear spiritual fruit in our lives of faith, so that God would not cut us off and throw us into the fire. Would our Lord be pleased if we don’t bear fruit? No, absolutely not! That is why the Lord said that He would cut off and throw away any branch that does not bear fruit. This is what the Bible says to us, and this Word is the truth.
Through today’s Scripture passage, the Lord painted an overall picture of our lives of faith. It’s then worthwhile for you to consider here if you are a fruitless branch that will soon be cut off. I’m sure you know the answer to this yourself. Some of you may say dismissively, “What do you mean I should bear fruit? It’s such a headache! It should be good enough that I am attending church.” But you must all have the right purpose when attending church.
Are you attending church just to receive the gift of speaking in tongues or the gift of healing etc, so that you can heal anyone just by laying your hands on him? Do you wish you had this gift of healing like someone you know claims to have? But just because someone claims to have such power and builds a prayer center to draw people in, does it really mean that this person has born spiritual fruit? No, that’s not the case.
You must serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit the Lord gave us, and unite yourself with the work of the Church, and participate in this work of saving other souls that have not been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This is what pleases the Lord, and it is also how we bear fruit in our everyday life. You don’t have to work hard all by yourself or get involved directly in the ministry; if you are faithful to the task that has been entrusted to you, then you will become a cherished branch that bears fruit.
In a factory, some people run the machines while others work on nothing but design. Likewise, the areas that we are working in the Church are different for each of us. For a factory to run smoothly, it needs people with various expertise, from those who design the product to those who make the product according to the design, those who package the finished goods, and those who market and sell the goods. In a similar vein, we too must work in various ways in the Church with the talent given to each one of us, and only then can the Church grow appropriately. Regarding this, the Bible says the following in Romans 12:4-8:
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Each of Us Has a Task to Carry out in God’s Church
It’s according to the God-given talent that we should work. Living in unity like this for the gospel of the water and the Spirit is how we bear fruit in our everyday lives. What then can we do to bear this fruit of the gospel? And what kind of work can we carry out? You will come to know this as a matter of course once you begin to live in the Church and being united with it. The Holy Spirit dwelling in you will make you realize it, and you will find out what it is that you can do united with the Church and how you can carry out your task. When you thus carry out God’s work faithfully, in due time, God will entrust you with even more work, and you will be able to carry out every task by the God-given strength. Like this, if you abide in the vine, you will be able to continue to absorb nutrients and bear good fruit. And in doing so, you will be taken care of and loved by the Lord.
Once a branch bears fruit, it will bud new sprouts, and when the new sprouts are carefully nurtured, they will bear yet more fruit. Like this, when we preach the gospel to someone new, this person will receive the remission of sins to become a new branch, and when we nurture this new soul, he will in turn preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to other souls as well. This cycle repeats itself. And that’s why those who first believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit are so important, as they are the channels through which nutrients are supplied to the souls that have newly received the remission of sins. When you absorb nutrients from the roots, not only do you grow on these nutrients yourself, but you also feed them to the new spouts attached to you. When this process repeats itself, the branches can easily obtain nutrients just by abiding in the vine, and they will not only bear increasingly more abundant fruit, but they will also stem out into new branches. That is how the vine grows to its full potential. Like this, the predecessors of faith must continue to supply the food of faith to those who are following in their footsteps. It’s the predecessors of faith that must supply the power of faith to all the following believers.
As long as we bear fruit in our lives, the Lord will take care of us. If we fall ill, the Lord will heal us completely and protect us so that we may resume growing again. However, if we don’t bear any fruit, then the Lord will cut us off for being useless. We must therefore work ceaselessly and tirelessly until the day the Lord returns. We must continue to absorb nutrients, share them and expand our branches. That is why none of us can afford to say, “I am so sick and tired of all this work! I’ve worked enough; I want to quit now!”
In reality, there is nothing that we do by ourselves. That’s because we work not by our own strength, but by the new strength the Lord gives us. All that we have to do is just abide in the vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. So long as we believe in the Word of God, the Lord will renew our strength to bear fruit, and therefore just by abiding in the Lord, we can bear fruit as a matter of course. In this way we have born fruit ceaselessly year after year to offer it to the Lord. The vine bears grapes and offers them to the vinedresser every year. Only then is this vine kept. Otherwise the Lord will cut down the whole branches and burn them. Such branched have no use other than as firewood; they cannot even be used as fertilizer.
What all of us must remember clearly is that the life of faith is led to bear spiritual fruit. Whatever we do, and however our circumstances may be, we must live to bear fruit. Do not fall into despair and think, “I just can’t do anything under the current circumstances!” Instead, pray to God. You will then be strengthened through your prayers. If you can preach the gospel, then by all means preach; if, on the other hand, your circumstances make it impossible for you to preach the gospel, look for another way to serve the Lord. If you can provide leadership, stand in front; if you think you can serve the Lord better from behind, then stand back and support the ministry from behind. That is how you bear spiritual fruit in your life. And therein lies the purpose of your life.
It will be disastrous if you succumb to self-complacency and think, “Since I’ve received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, everything is just fine!” The Bible makes it clear that if you do not serve the Lord and fail to bear fruit even after being born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you will be appointed your portion with the hypocrites (Matthew 24:51). The Lord considers a fruitless believer as someone not born again. Such people will end up turning even more wicked than a sinner. If anyone does not live out his faith even as he knows that bearing spiritual fruit is the right thing to do, and does not share what he has to share with others, then this person is not only wicked, but he is the worse than even sinners.
If there is one thing that you and I must grasp clearly in our lives of faith is this: Our lives of faith are led for the sole purpose of bearing spiritual fruit. The Lord left us here on this earth to this day instead of taking us away so that we would bear fruit. It’s to save other people’s souls that He placed us on this earth and made us serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Remember this clearly in your heart, and bear fruit accordingly.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. But, in our Church we don’t observe such holidays, and instead we celebrate just Christmas once a year. We don’t observe any other holidays because that’s what hypocritical Christians do. Regardless of holidays, we simply work hard by faith to bear even more spiritual fruit always, we pray all the time, and we serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit diligently. We live like this because bearing even more spiritual fruit is what our lives are all about, and this by itself is the Truth. That’s why we are not doing anything special today to celebrate Thanksgiving. We should be always thankful to God, and so what’s the point of thanking Him especially just this one day? It’s always those who don’t thank the Lord in everyday life that heap up all kinds of fruits and other harvests and perform religious rituals on a day like this. Just a while ago I watched on a Christian TV network people worshipping with a heap of fruits piled up, and I’m sure that these offerings solicited to prepare for this worship service were considerable. What do these misguided Christians do with all those offerings which was raked in? Are they not busy building a giant church building? This is exactly what the so-called “orthodox” churches do. If it were up to us, we would have spent the money to print and share our books so that we may save even just one more soul.
I hope and pray that none of us will ever be cut off from the vine of the Lord. The Lord made it clear that if we just do what benefits our own flesh instead of working to bear the fruit of the Spirit, He will cut us off. Once the Lord cuts us off, our lives of faith will be over. Everything is finished the moment God cuts us off by saying to us, “You are useless and completely hopeless.”
Those who are cut off by God cannot live out their faith and have no choice but to live in the world. Even though they may still think for a while that they have been saved, this thought will also wither away soon. They will then lose all their joy and live a wretched life. In some extreme cases, they will even end up in a mental hospital. That’s because they will find no satisfaction in life. We should never allow such things to happen to us. And to ensure this, we must fully understand the purpose for our lives of faith, and live out our faith to bear fruit.
Our Lord said, “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). Jesus, who is equal to God the Father also kept the Father’s commandments. God the Father commanded Jesus to be baptized by John the Baptist to blot out all the sins of the human race in our place, and because Jesus obeyed this commandment, He could stand at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. We too must keep His commandments. What are these commandments then? Do they just refer to the Ten Commandments? No, every decree of God is a commandment. What commandments has God given us then? He commanded us to love the Lord and fear God. Since we were born by God, it is only a matter of course that we should believe in God and fear Him. This is only natural. It’s God who loved us. So if we also love the Lord and put on His love, we will be able to bear abundant fruit in our lives.
I sincerely hope and pray that none of us is ever are cut off by God. I pray that such a tragedy won’t happen to any of us. Even now, I am saying these things because I earnestly do not want any of us to face this outcome. Yet even though I admonish everyone like this from the bottom of my heart, there still will be some people cut off. But no matter what happens, even if you find yourself so lacking that you can’t do anything at all, you should never leave the Church or give up serving the Lord in your life. That’s because this is tantamount to your own death and destruction.
Although we each have too many shortcomings, the Lord will continue to strengthen all of us. He will give us the strength and blessings to serve Him. So all that you have to do is just abide in the tree of the Lord and serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit faithfully in your life. But what will happen to us if we don’t serve the Lord? He will cut us off. The very moment this happens, all the blessings will be cut off, the healthy will fall ill and perish, and trouble will constantly besiege those who have never known any. This is what the Lord is teaching us through today’s Scripture passage.
You may then think, “Well, how can God cut us off when He has saved us through the gospel of the water and the Spirit? This makes no sense!” However, my fellow believers, a fruitless believer is completely useless to the Lord, just as a fruitless branch is completely useless to the vinedresser. This is not something we ourselves set up, but it’s something determined by the Lord. Therefore, this warning applies to all of us equally, irrespective of our place in the Church. So I ask you to always abide in the Lord no matter what, even if you have many shortcomings. And I admonish you to believe that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. That’s what I believe. If God blesses me with the strength, the opportunity and the time to do whatever must be done, then I can do anything and everything. And I do in fact carry out everything that must be done.
Why is this so? That’s because there is nothing I can do unless I do the work of the Lord. The Lord has given me the strength and the time to serve the gospel, and so whose loss would it be if I did not serve the gospel? It would be my own loss. That is why, for you and I to receive the blessing of bearing fruit, we must also unite ourselves with the Church, and whenever we listen to the Word of God, we should never regard it as man’s word. Every Word of the Scriptures must be heard as the Word of God, and whenever we read the Bible, we must believe that it is God’s Word and hold onto it steadfast. Once you hold onto this Word, you have heavenly life inside you even if your faith is so tiny that it’s hardly visible, and therefore you will achieve great things just by hanging onto the Word with your heart. Though your faith may be feeble, God can still accomplish great achievements through you on account of this tiny faith of yours that is as small as a mustard seed. You will be able to do everything God promised in the Bible. That is why you must lead your life of faith to bear fruit.
You may have all kinds of excuses to justify why you are not bearing any fruit, but there is no excuse when it comes to God’s work. The Word of God is given to everyone equally. If you can’t reach any understanding individually when you read the Bible by yourself, then you must listen to the sermons preached in God’s Church. Listening to these sermons is absolutely indispensable for your faith to grow. That is why we have appointed many preachers in the Church. We did this so that you would be able to listen to all the Word of God you want even when I am absent.
All of us must live out our faith to bear fruit, and all of us must devote our every energy to this purpose. This may be only too obvious, but I hope and pray that you would all will latch on to this, believe it with your heart, and lead your life of faith accordingly to bear abundant fruit. I believe that the Lord commanded us this because that is what we must all do without fail.