I have a great word today for tired, guilty, duty-filled Christians that feel like, I really love God, but I'm really tired with all the stuff that I'm supposed to do as a Christian.
I want to take you back to the joy of your salvation, and that's today. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. Chip's our Bible teacher for this daily discipleship program motivating Christians to live like Christians. I'm Dave Druey, and after hearing Chip's words just then, you may be thinking, something about my life just isn't working. Well, in just a minute, Chip tells us that in order to get some significant traction in our faith, we've got to realize Christianity is built on one important idea, relationship.
To learn more about what that looks like in your day-to-day life, keep listening after this message for Chip's application. With that, let's join Chip for his message, It's All About Relationship, from John chapter 15. I'll never forget my very first deep experience, I will call it, with John 15. My earlier years, I had a lot of drivenness in my personality, and those of you who are thinking, man, if that was in your earlier years, you know, wonder what happened now.
But I was. I was real passionate, but I was passionate, but my zeal didn't catch up with my knowledge. And so I was leading a campus ministry at the time, I was in graduate school, I was teaching graduate school, and doing a little coaching on the side. You know, I tried to keep my life kind of full.
And I got to the point where I literally, I mean, physically, emotionally, just burned out. And I had one of those times where we had these, what we called them a rally, and there was a campus across from a large old kind of Victorian home, and the bricklayer who discipled me, we came to town, we walked around the campus, we claimed a passage out of Ezra, and we literally walked over the campus and prayed for all the buildings, we didn't know a soul, and we went there, Fairmont State campus, and we said, Lord, we want you to develop a disciple making ministry on this campus. I'd come to Christ right before college, and the third day where I went to school, this bricklayer introduced himself, and he said, would you like to grow in Christ?
I was a brand new Christian, and I didn't know any better, so I said, well, yes. And so he says, well, why don't you come to my house Thursday night, and I'll teach you what I know. And he says, we have a little get together. And when he said little get together, he wasn't exaggerating. There were three of us there.
The fullback on the football team, some girl that I didn't know, and me. Four years later, we had dug out the basement of his house, we had propped it up so that we could keep the structure up, and we built a room for about 150 college students, because that's how many were meeting on Thursday night underneath his house. We had 250 to 300 college students in Bible study, and we saw people come to Christ every week. I was a brand new believer. I just thought this was normal. I thought that memorizing three verses a week, getting up and having a quiet time, talking with God, learning the Bible and being a disciple and a disciple maker was the norm. I didn't grow up in a Bible believing church.
This was my first experience with Christianity. And so when Dave the bricklayer said, you know something, this is going great. Our dream is to have one of these on all 16 state campuses. And Othello and his wife went to one campus. There was a group for this campus. So when I graduated, I moved down to Fairmont with Dave, and we prayed for this campus.
And this was the dream. Well, Dave was a pretty sharp cookie. And what he realized was that leaders don't get developed unless they get rope. But you need enough rope so you grow, but not enough to hang you.
But there's a real fine line. And so, Dave, things got going, and I went up on campus and started sharing Christ. And, you know, we did all kind of things like take a survey.
Are you interested in studying the Bible? And I'd pass them out and talk with people, play basketball, did whatever I could where I found affinity groups. And pretty soon, little by little, we'd have three, four, then 10, then 15, then pretty soon his living room was full.
Then after a while, we took the furniture out of his living room, and we would pile, and we would sit like this in the living room on the floor. And Dave gradually got out of the picture, and so I did all the teaching there. Coaching, teaching at the time, and then I sort of did this on the side. Well, I'm getting up early in the morning. I'm spending time with God. I'm teaching.
I'm in graduate school. I'm leading this ministry. And it's Thursday night, and it's about 5.30. And all the college students are coming over at 7, and I'm supposed to speak. Now, those of you that have ever spoken or ever had kind of spiritual responsibility and ever hit one of those, I mean, walls, you have nothing to say. It is a terrifying feeling. It's terrifying enough just getting in front of people, but it's a terrifying feeling when you think you have something to say, and you're really prepared, and you can't wait to say it.
It's really terrifying when you get a blank. And it's 5.30, and I don't have anything to say, and I don't know what to do. And I'm crying out to God, and I'm praying. You ever have one of those times where, you know, you pray, and you know, like if there was a ceiling like three inches over your head, you're sure it's hitting, and you're going nowhere? And I remember finding literally a closet or a corner, and it was dark, and I got a tiny little light, and I shut the door, and I literally crawled in it, and I just said, God, something about how I'm living my life isn't right. I mean, I was doing a lot for God. I had a lot of energy going in multiple directions, but my emotional and spiritual battery were getting lower and lower and lower. And I remember just opening up the Bible, and I don't suggest this is how God speaks to you on a normal basis.
Okay, this is, you know, you'll end up liking, you know, Zephaniah and say, God, it didn't work for me, Chip. This just happened to be one of those times. And the pages open to John 15. And I read through John 15 once, and I thought, you know, there's something here. And then I read through John 15 again, and I thought there's something here. And then I read it out loud, and I listened to the words, and I imagined these early disciples and all the pressure and all the stress and all their fears and realized this is the very last thing Jesus ever says to them. And then I read John 15 again.
And as you read through John 15, you find there's some interesting imagery in it. It's the image of a vineyard, and it's the image of God the Father being the vine dresser or the gardener. And then you have the trellis, and on the trellis, then you really have the trunk. And then from the trunk, you have the core vine where the life goes through, and then you have branches that hang down. And those of you that have ever been in a vineyard probably know much more about this than I do. But as you study carefully what goes on in a vineyard, you realize that lots happens. If the branches get too close to the ground, they get dirty, and they can't get the sunlight, and so they need to be lifted up.
And they'll often be lifted up, and they'll be tied. At other times, they start growing, and there's leaves everywhere, and you have to go in and prune just like you would a tree so that the energy and the life source doesn't go to all the leaves, but it goes to building up of the fruit. And as I was sitting there in that closet, I was reading it over, reading it over, and I realized that I was really missing the boat in the Christian life. See, it feels so much like love when you do, quote, a lot for God, and people give you a lot of strokes, and they tell you how wonderful you are, that you can go on little sleep, you can get priorities out of line, and you can be busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, really busy, busy, busy Christians that are not very fruitful.
Because the only way you can produce fruit that lasts is when your heart and your life and your relationship with Jesus is your first priority, and He is producing supernatural fruit through you. And as I read over John 15 probably another four or five times, I realized I didn't have anything to say because I was not connected to the vine. Was I a Christian? Of course. Was I even reading the Bible? Of course. Was I praying as best I could?
Yes, but at a superficial level. As soon as I had to get a little bit honest, as soon as it got real hard, I was so busy, I never had time to pray deeply to be still and know that He was God. And I remember going to that rally that night, and I taught on John 15, and it was more of a confession than it was a teaching, and I just shared my experience, and we walked through the text, and that became the foundation for literally the next future of my life in ministry, and I decided I don't know what I'm going to do, but I don't think getting busy for God is the goal. I think my relationship with Christ, my own personal devotional life, my own heart has to be the number one priority if I'm going to bear much fruit. And before we walk into the text, we ought to ask ourselves, what's fruit?
I mean, what do you mean by that? Well, in Galatians 5, we know that the fruit of the Spirit, what the Spirit produces is love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. We also know that Jesus uses the term fruit when He talks about people coming to Christ and impact and the kingdom expanding, and we know from this passage that when He talks about fruit, whatever fruit is, it's what glorifies God. But if you pull it back from the theological realm, fruit, honestly, whether it's on a branch or whether it's on a tree or whether it's on a plant that's vegetables, fruit is the thing that the tree was designed to produce.
I mean, no one looks at an apple tree and looks at huge limbs and it's 40 feet tall and has absolutely no apples and say, no, there's a great apple tree. The goal, if you're a farmer, is what? The fruit. And I want to remind you as a fellow believer, God's goal for your life is not your business, not your activity, not what you do for Him, but it's fruit. It's impact. It's that your life, your heart, your character is supernaturally transformed in such a way that people actually see Christ in you. Remember early in Acts, Peter and John are out preaching Acts chapter 4, I think it's about verse 13, and the religious leaders said they recognize these men as being with Jesus because even though they were uneducated and untrained, they had this power and this boldness and this wisdom. See, God wants to produce in you what you don't have in yourself. And the way it happens is abiding. Open your Bibles or if you're there, let's walk through the text, but I want you to notice key words even before I get there. No fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit is the progression.
Key word, if you're in the NIV, it's remain, remain, remain, remain, remain. If you're in the New American Standard or King James, it's abide, abide, abide, abide, abide. And then as you come to the end, the goal, verse 8, is that you glorify God and it all begins with your relationship with Him. Let's walk through the text and let's talk about how you move from no fruit to much fruit.
I am the vine and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch of me that does not bear fruit, he takes away and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it that it may bear more fruit. And then he says to his disciples, you are already clean because of the word which I've spoken to you. Put a little line under this phrase, every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away. Interesting Greek word, takes away. Actually the NIV says cuts off. Not a good translation.
Dwight Pentecost does an extremely good job in his book talking about the life and words of Jesus. And this word is used multiple times in the New Testament. It can mean take away, but it's not take away as in chopping off, it means take away as in lifting up. Notice, this is not, this is not, many people have used this passage to read like this. I am the vine and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, in other words you're not making a difference for Christ, your life isn't changing, he cuts off or takes away.
He kicks you out of the family. Nothing could be further from the truth. What's it say? It's every branch in me. He's talking to who? Not the world, he's talking to his closest disciples. And Judas has already left the room. If you are a Christian and you are not bearing fruit, your life is not reflecting the life of Christ. God is not using you to impact his kingdom. You are caught up with you.
We've all been there, right? Your priorities, your energy, your time, the fact of the matter is you don't read the Bible hardly at all. You don't pray deeply at all. Your morality does not line up with what you say you believe. You are not producing fruit. In fact, there would be little evidence to convict you if a courtroom said, are you a Christian?
Not a lot of evidence, but you're really in the family. How does God respond? How does he produce fruit?
He takes away. Literally, you're one of those branches that's down in the dirt. You're one of those branches that's not getting any sunlight.
And what would happen is the dust would cover the branch and it can't produce any fruit. And so what Jesus is saying is the vine dresser, if he's going to lift up the branch, they will either tie it or pull it up and stick it so it gets off the ground and they'll wipe off the leaves. This is a picture of what God does for every child at some time in your life.
It's called discipline. Jot down next to this verse in your Bible, Hebrews chapter 12, 5 through 11. The scripture says that when you're a legitimate son or legitimate daughter, there will be times in your life, because you're like me and you're like all of Israel and you're like the rest of the people in scripture, that God will let you know this is what I want you to do and for whatever reason, fear, anxiety, unwillingness, flat out rebellion, you say, no, I'm not going to do it. I'm going to live my own way. Hey, I know this relationship is wrong, but I'm going to live this way. I know you want me to do this with my time, but I'm going to do it this way. I know my money belongs over here, but I'm going to do it this way. I know I need to step in and confront my child, but it's going to be too painful. I'm going to do it this way.
I know I need to tell the truth on every sales transaction, but I'm going to do it this way. When you know what's right and are not doing it, when you're not in the scriptures, when you're not praying from the heart, you're not bearing fruit, God will lift you up. And what he'll do is he will bring circumstances and people and adversity into your life to brush off the dust off your leaves and he will do it lovingly and he will lift you up and then he'll tie you in a place where you can get sunlight so you can begin to produce fruit. And if you study Hebrews 5 there, Hebrews 12, 5-11, he says that every son who's legitimate will be disciplined. In fact, one of the evidences that you're really in God's family is when you get a little discipline. But notice in that passage if you're there, it's out of love.
He summarizes it in verse 11, he says all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, yet those who have been trained by it afterwards it yields a peaceful, ready for our word, fruit of righteousness. Jesus is saying to his disciples just before he leaves, there's times in your life when you're not going to bear fruit. And when you don't bear fruit, I love you so much, I'm going to come tenderly and I'm going to lift you up. And that means you're going to lie and you may be cheating and you may have misplaced priorities.
I'm not just going to back away and say, well, you know, forget you. Those who are genuine believers, he will begin to exert pressure in your life and in my life because he loves you so much until you cry uncle. When there is no fruit, God will enter you into a school of discipline.
And he will do it through your finances, he will do it through your kids, he'll do it in your marriage, he'll do it through your relationship, he will do it through your work. And here's what it says over and over and over. You know, you might jot down 1 Corinthians 11.
This isn't something new. In the early church, it got so bad that there was a group of people who they came and they had these agape or these love feasts where they would celebrate the Lord's Supper and have a big worship service. People were actually getting drunk in the worship services and some were coming early and they wouldn't share their food with the people that report. The Apostle Paul at the end of that chapter will say, because of that lack of fruit, the lack of evidence, the lack of relationship, some are sick and some are dying prematurely. See, God loves us and he's telling his followers, I'm committed to you producing fruit.
Love, peace, impact, and transformation. If you don't, he says, I'm going to lift you up. Now he says to these fellows, you're already clean because of the word I've spoken to you.
I mean, you are in vital relationship with me right now. Now he says, well, how do you continue that? Abide in me, remain. The word means to hear God's word for the purpose of putting it into practice.
That's what that's all abide means. I understand what it is. I'm going to act on it and do what I know.
My heart is his. I'm responsive to the Spirit's prompting. I'm taking in spiritual nourishment. I'm giving back worship. I'm responding to what God shows me.
In my house is the way it works. There's times I don't even know what's wrong. And I'll just kind of look at Teresa and I'll say, maybe it's just body language or maybe I said something, but what I can feel is we're not really connected. To abide means you're connected. It doesn't mean everything's always going great.
It doesn't mean you have ooey gooey feelings all the time, but it means you're on the same page. What he says here is abide in me and I abide in you. As the branch, here's a fact, cannot bear fruit of itself unless you abide in me, so neither can you unless you abide in me. Then he says, I am the vine.
I'm the source. You are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears notice much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing. And to study this carefully, we move from lifting up to a branch that's bearing fruit.
What does he do? He prunes it. Now some of you understand about pruning. I'm not real agricultural, as you could probably tell. But Teresa will tell you that when I prune, man, I go nuts. We have a fruitless mulberry tree in our backyard. I don't know if you know how these trees, they're like weeds that have trunks. And they grow over and they get so big and they lean over on the house and then they start breaking and so, you know, the neighbors really don't like the leaves in their yard. And about every two years, Teresa will say something like, you know, we really need to address this.
And so I say, okay. And I get the saw out and I mean, when I get done, it looks like it's been butchered. In fact, it got so bad, we had a pro come in a couple of times. And when he did it, it looked like we just had a stub with about four or five little things. And I thought, I thought I was bad. This guy must be nuts.
In three months, it was completely covered with greenery. Pruning is God moving into your life and cutting away superficial priorities and anything you're trusting in other than Him that is decreasing the level of relationship and abiding in your heart and life. Chip will join us here in studio with his application in just a minute.
You've been listening to the first part of his message, It's All About Relationship. In this series, you'll learn practical ways to live out your faith, to move out from under the guilt of performance-based religion, and to begin experiencing the freedom and power of Christ's life in you. Now, if you long to enjoy the peace of really knowing God, let me encourage you to check out the resources for this series by going to LivingOnTheEdge.org. That's LivingOnTheEdge.org.
App listeners, tap Special Offers. Well, Chip, at Living on the Edge, we say it all the time, we exist to help Christians live like Christians. Well, that's a great line and all, but let me ask you, what does that look like in real life? Well, Dave, I can tell you in a sentence it looks like a Romans 12 Christian. If you study Romans 12 or what we call true spirituality, there's five relationships, five biblical expectations, and it answers the five biggest questions in a person's life. How do you give God what he wants the most? How to get the very best from God? How to come to grips with the real you?
How to get connected and authentic community? And how to overcome evil with good? The new daily discipleship with Chip, True Spirituality, will walk people through becoming a Christian who lives like a Christian. It's not a Bible study. It's not a teaching time. It's me mentoring individuals who say, I want to be an authentic follower of Christ.
I'm not sure how. Chip, will you meet with me? And my answer is, yes, I will.
I'll never talk more than 10 minutes. You're going to learn to study the Bible in Romans 12. You'll learn to hear God's voice.
You'll develop the habit of meeting with him regularly, and you can learn for yourself from God what it means to be a Christian who actually lives like a Christian. Perfect? No. Authentic?
Yes. I hope you join me. Well, we're so excited to share with you this new daily discipleship with Chip, True Spirituality, based in Romans chapter 12. Our heart behind this video series is to really help you dive into God's word and discover how to more intentionally live out your faith. For 17 days, you and Chip will walk through what true spirituality looks like and how you can put these truths into practice. If you're looking for the next step along your faith journey, let me encourage you to be a part of daily discipleship with Chip, True Spirituality. You can sign up for this study right now, and when you do, we'll send you our friend Lance Witt's devotional based on Romans 12 called, Leave Ordinary Behind at No Cost. Sign up now while this offer lasts by going to livingontheedge.org or by calling 888-333-6003. That's 888-333-6003, or go to livingontheedge.org. App listeners, just tap discipleship.
Now here's Chip with his application. As you listen to today's program, I hope one singular thought came to your mind. Maybe I'm not looking at life the way God does. Maybe all these difficulties and all this pain and all this struggle, maybe it's not about me measuring up or maybe it's not that I'm a bad person. Maybe God actually is pruning my life. You know, sometimes I think we've bought into a very subtle American Christianity that says, if I read my Bible, pray, if we're married, be kind to our wife, love our kids, give the first portion of our money, that somehow out the other end is going to be a happy life, a great marriage, our kids turning out right, good health, and promotions in our job.
And no one ever says that, but it's almost like a little formula. If I do the right things, then good things will happen in my life. And the fact of the matter is, Jesus teaches in this abiding relationship that there are going to be times when you're doing everything right, when you are walking with Him, when you are praying, you're loving your wife, you're being the best dad you know how, you're being the best wife you know how. And things will not get better, they'll get worse.
The wheels will fall off. There'll be pressure economically and with your health. Don't presume that God is down on you. Don't presume that things are wrong. Maybe consider He's pruning you. Maybe you are so precious that He wants to bear not just some fruit, but much fruit and then more fruit. And the way God does that is through the painful process called pruning. So right now today, before you go on, would you have a little conversation with God and say, Lord, would you help me see my circumstances through your eyes?
Would you help me see if this is discipline and there is something wrong? Or would you help me see that it's the loving pruning of my Heavenly Father wanting to make me more like Christ? Just before we close, I want to thank each of you who's making this program possible through your generous giving. 100% of your gifts are going directly to the ministry to help Christians really live like Christians.
Now, if you found CIP's teaching helpful, but you're not yet on the team, would you consider doing that today? To donate, just go to livingontheedge.org, tap donate on the app, or give us a call at 888-333-6003. And let me thank you in advance for whatever the Lord leads you to do. Well, until next time, for everyone here, this is Dave Drouie saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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