A fruitful Christian walk requires abiding only, completely in Christ

What does it mean to be fruitful? How — as Christians and as Alabama Baptists — can we be fruitful? Those questions were at the center of this year’s Alabama Baptist State Convention. The convention, held at Eastern Shore Baptist Church, Daphne, focused on the fruitful ministries of Alabama Baptists and how everyone can be a fruitful follower of Christ.

Annel Robayna, who focuses on Hispanic ministry and church planting as an associate in the office of associational missions and church planting at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, preached from John 15:5 on abiding in Christ. 

“Abiding in Christ means to remain,” Robayna said. “You are not a visitor who leaves — you remain, you come, you stay, you walk, you do life. It’s a life commitment. It demands your all.”

Abiding in Christ is a holy pursuit of Jesus, a constant chasing after the will of God, Robayna said. But that’s not where it ends.  

“We abide in Jesus and He says, ‘I abide in you,’” he said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship.”

Christians should be pursuing an encounter with God, waiting in expectation for Him, Robayna said.

“Every morning He dresses in holiness and righteousness and we are to dress in praise and worship,” he said. 

And why is abiding in Christ so important for fruitful gospel ministry?

“Abiding is the only way to do anything meaningful for the kingdom of God,” Robayna explained. “There is no other alternative. We either abide or everything else we’ve done makes no sense.”

Abiding in Christ changes people, Robayna said. 

“Abiding is a humbling, knee-bending, life-changing experience to be in the presence of God.”

It changed him

“God in His mercy and sovereignty and grace made me aware of His presence. And that changed things. He took over. He started leading the way,” he said.

Abiding in Christ opens the door to opportunities and experiences that should shape the Christian walk, he said.

“When you abide in Christ and Him in you — those two things you cannot separate — three things are offered to you: an invitation to behold, an invitation to become and an invitation to belong.”

Of the invitation to behold, Robayna said, “Are you amazed at God? Are you beholding? When you see Him doing incredible things are you saying, ‘That is the God I serve?’ That is the God I believe in.”

The invitation to become occurs because you cannot abide in Christ and stay the same, Robayna said. “Let go of your time, let go of your agenda and become someone who waits on God.”

Finally, when we abide in Christ we receive an invitation to belong.

“If you have placed your faith in our Savior you belong — you belong on your knees, you belong on your face in front of your Creator. That’s home for you and me.”

Jarman Leatherwood, pastor of House of Hope and Restoration, Huntsville, built on Robayna’s thoughts. 

 “What happens when God looks at the picture of His Church? Does He swell up with joy and say we look just like our Father?” he asked. “We are called to be fruitful in a society that is in moral decay. How do we become fruitful?”

Leatherwood offered three keys to answer that question.

First, we must have a relationship with Him.

“It is possible that we’ve been building God’s church according to our standard and not God’s standards,” he said. If we’re going to be fruitful our first priority must be our relationship with God.”

Second, we must remain connected to Him. Leatherwood told a story of the Statue of Liberty burning bright during a New York City blackout because the statue draws its power from New Jersey. Christians likewise must draw their power from a source that’s “out of this world,” Leatherwood said.  “We must burn so bright that people come running to see what’s lighting us up.”

Lastly, we must go and do as Him. 

“Why is there passion behind what we do? Because we are in the business of trying to reach broken men,” Leatherwood said. “No matter where you are, the name of Jesus works. No matter what language you say it in, the name still works.” 

Opening up the final session of the convention annual meeting Ben Stubblefield, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, discussed the final phrase of John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

“We are in the business of raising dead people to life,” Stubblefield said. “Our gospel is a resurrection power that we have no control over. Without Him we can do nothing.”

We are not kings, governors or rulers of God’s kingdom, he said. “We are priests and stewards.”

Stubblefield spoke on three things believers cannot do apart from Christ.

‘With Him’

First, we cannot save.

Jesus is the new vine. In the new covenant being a member of Jesus’ family is all that is required for salvation. Nothing more, nothing less.

“You can have the perfect religious pedigree, you can know the Awana verses, you can vote conservatively, and you have just as much right to inherit the kingdom of God as the Muslim jihadist on his way to Mecca,” Stubblefield said. 

Second, we cannot grow. 

“You’ll never yield fruit apart from Christ,” he said. “Jesus is enough. Without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can do everything. God could not love you more because we are connected through Jesus’ vine. And He will never love you less. It is enough that Jesus died for you and me.”

‘There with us’

And finally, without Christ we cannot go. 

According to Stubblefield, many churches want the reputation of being alive more than they want Him.

“What is the promised land without the promised One? What is the land of milk and honey without the God of that land?” Stubblefield asked. “We’ve got to want the Lord right there with us.” (Jessica Ingram)