Intionally seeking a relationship with God through studying Scripture yields spiritual growth and fruit.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”—John 15:5
In this passage in John, Jesus calls His disciples to commit to an ongoing relationship. Christ’s message is extremely clear that within this dependent relationship the disciples will bear fruit. Without this relationship, the disciples will accomplish nothing.
We often find ourselves in the same place as the disciples. Though they stood face to face with Jesus, their relationship with Him was about to change forever because He would soon go to the cross. Even after the resurrection, they would no longer walk with Him in the same way.
The disciples once sat at the feet of Jesus and saw Him perform great miracles in person, but they quickly learned that they would need to remain in the Word and be led by the Spirit in order to grow in an ongoing relationship with the risen Christ.
As a pastor, I have been close to many parishioners as we lived in the same town and served alongside each other. When one of us moved away and we no longer saw each other face to face, our relationship suddenly changed. To continue on as close friends, we would have to begin to communicate differently and with intentionality to keep up a relationship. Sometimes I have wondered if it is possible to have a deep relationship with a person that I don’t see every day.
Jesus wants a deep relationship with each of us, but that relationship takes intentionality. Therefore, we must be people of prayer and people engaged in the Scripture. To remain a constant student of the Bible takes passion and steadfastness. As we study the Bible, we quickly realize that a single class could never teach us all we need to know. We learn over time that the relationship we have with Christ is long-term and comes with the price of deep commitment. As we open up the lines of communication through prayer and study of the Bible, God begins to lead us to a new understanding of the biblical texts.
Through the consistent study of Scripture, we learn new information that drives our curiosity about God.
Engaging in a challenging Bible study at church may cause us to ask new theological questions of the Bible. Attending a leadership summit may encourage us to seek new forms of wisdom from God. A trip to the Holy Land with a small group may encourage us to dive into studying the social and cultural factors of some of our favorite Bible texts. The Bible studies that we do call us deeper into a relationship with God and cause us to ask more questions of ourselves about how the biblical texts relate to our lives.
New dimensions of life’s journey may encourage us to seek more in the biblical text. We raise new questions as we encounter new turns in our relationship with God. Having a child may encourage new parents to turn to the Bible with questions about parenting and training up a child. High school graduates may begin to seek wisdom from God in regard to their future careers and relationships. At every turn in our lives, the Bible has wisdom, and our journey as students of the Bible continues.
Each time we encounter God in a new way through the Bible, we are invited into a deeper and more substantial relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit leads us toward new applications of the biblical texts, giving us discernment and wisdom as we go (Heb. 4:12). When Scripture comes alive in our hearts and minds, God gives us a passion and a desire for more of His Word, so we may apply it to our lives and enjoy the fruit of our relationship with Him.
When we become lifelong students of the Bible, we are more prepared to fight off temptations and hold true to our convictions. We will be more prepared to focus on making our heart one with Christ and reflecting Christ to the world. A consistent engagement with the Bible awakens our gifts and invites us to use them to make an eternal Kingdom impact, even in the midst of changing circumstances. When we consistently seek to be students of the Bible, we strengthen our branches to bear more fruit and become good stewards of our bodies, hearts, and lives.
We never graduate from the type of relationship described in John 15. As those who remain in the Word, we are always learning, always growing, and always being stretched in new ways to produce fruit. This type of intentional relationship invites us to fall in love with God all over again and leads us to ask new questions of the Bible. We are then able to engage more fully with the Word of God, realizing that even as we mature, we will never truly finish our study of the Bible.
Jen Willard is youth pastor at Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene in Sherwood, Arkansas.
Holiness Today, Jul/Aug 2019