Only your own personal, living connection to Christ results in new life. Not a ceremonial, or genetic connection.

If you are truly a Christian, one distinguishing mark that will be in your life is that you are connected to Christ. That sounds very obvious, but take a look at John chapter 15. Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches" (v. 5). Sometimes, we get an inflated idea of our importance. We think, "I'm a special messenger of God." But we're just branches from the vine. 

The branches of a grapevine are utterly useless once they are dead. The only thing they are used for is kindling to start a fire. A branch has no value unless it is connected to the vine. That's when life flows through it, and if it's planted in good soil, it will bring life to others. Your life takes on real, lasting significance only as long as you're connected to Christ. Otherwise, you and I are worthless.

And what I mean is, it has to be a personal connection. Only your own personal connection to Christ results in new life. Jesus says, "If you abide in Me, I'll abide in you." And He repeats the word "fruit" six times in this passage. So the connection must be personal and it has to be fruitful; that is, it has to have the evidence of new life.

Some people think all they need is a ceremonial connection. When you ask them about their connection with Christ, they talk about being baptized as a baby, or their christening, or their confirmation. They will name the rituals they've been through, not a personal connection.

It also can't just be a genetic connection. The Jews traced their heritage back to Moses and Abraham, and they boasted of their genetic connection to their forefathers. A person today might say, "I was raised in a Christian home. My grandpa was a preacher, my mother prayed for two hours every day," etc.

And just as John the Baptist told the Jews, "Do not think to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father," our connection to God must be more than heritage or religious rituals.

In Luke 20, Jesus' parable of the vineyard was a warning to the Jews against trusting in their ceremonies and heritage. It wasn't enough. Today, many people still try to do this. They really don't want to surrender their lives to God, but they'll allow a little bit of God to come in: "I'll put God here on this shelf so I can manage Him." It's never a total commitment. It's just, "I'll attend church every now and then, especially Christmas and Easter, and I'll sing the songs to You. But I don't want to get too close."

Wilbur Rees wrote about it this way: "I would like to buy three dollars' worth of God please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine." That's not "abiding in Him," and it certainly won't produce any fruit!

So abide in Him -- really abide -- and receive the nourishment, intimacy and fruitfulness that only He can provide!


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