Sermon by the Primate of Nigeria: Abiding in Christ. God’s panacea in an unstable world. John 15:1-8

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INTRODUCTION: Jesus Christ confronts us with one of the great teachings of Who He is and the necessity to believe and remain attached in Him. He points out the necessity of “Abiding” in Him as we see in verses 4-7. The crux of Abiding is Relationship with God in Christ Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit in our walk with God and with the people around us. We posit that we live in a world that is constantly in flux, always changing and in most times trials and challenges confront us. These affect our faith and walk with God. In John 15:1-8; Jesus prescribes the Panacea   or God’s Divine solution to all the maladies of human life. God’s healing and help for all times is in Jesus Christ. This Divine solution was potent in the past generations and the Sovereign God has power to help us in our present world and its complex challenges. Therefore, remaining in Christ, depending and focusing on Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of our life and faith, and living in obedience to His Word will enable us be and do what God desires of humanity. This has the power to impact on human societal issues because the power of transformation in lives is the power of fruitfulness. Abiding in Christ is premised on:

[a] The Sovereignty of God over all things: Jesus states clearly saying “I AM THE TRUE VINE AND MY FATHER IS THE VINEDRESSER”[3]. The Husbandman or the Vinedresser is to be understood as the owner, the care giver and the one who determines whatever will happen in every season. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator, Owner and sustainer of all that exist. He is Eternal and excellence and all power belongs to Him and He has dominion in the affairs of the peoples.  He orders the events of the world. His Sovereign power is expressed as King David acknowledged;

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and majesty; for all that is heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honour come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all”[4]

The relationship between Jesus and the Father was such that he was in total dependence and willingness to do the will of the Father. There was always mutual honour in the Godhead. Jesus did what the Father was doing and spoke the Words of the Father. When He taught the Disciples to pray, it was addressed to the Father with all the passion and desire that His will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven. This same passionate relationship which determines who we are and what we do is what Jesus desires of all who believe in Him.

[b] The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: Jesus pointed to Who He is when He said “I am the True Vine”. He uses one of the very outstanding metaphors of the Scriptures and in one of the I AM sayings. The I AM sayings reveal the uniqueness of Jesus, His Divinity and Salvific work and Lordship.  Whatever the Vine stands for is fulfilled in Christ. Just as in John 14:6; the uniqueness of Jesus as the very source of Life, Nurture and ability to bear fruit is clearly stated. There is no alternative to Jesus Christ. He is not one of the sources of life and sustainability, He is the only true Source. The same truth is expressed when Jesus said to the woman at the well thus “If you knew the gift of God, and who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water”[5] Jesus takes it beyond the surface or physical to the spiritual connection that activates the power of God. what Jesus wants us to know was also expressed by Prophet Isaiah when He said “Listen to me, you who follow after righteousness, you that seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and the hole of pit from which you were dug”[6] when we learn to depend and draw from Jesus Christ just as God called out Abraham and Sarah alone and blessed them in the same way He will bless and increase the person who trusts in Christ the true Vine.

[c] The Indispensability of Jesus Christ is so clearly expressed because He said “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. …He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing”[7] The necessity of the believers to depend and remain attached and draw from the Lord Jesus Christ is evident. The Church or individual cannot do much or go far without Jesus Christ. The life of the Christian is intrinsically connected to Christ just as Jesus is connected to the Father. Whenever anyone thinks that he can do or achieve anything without God such a person should know that, that is the very beginning of failure.

[d] The Power of the Word of God and its impact on the people. Given the context of our lives and the challenges that confront humanity in this 21st Century, it is evident that the lasting solution is only found in God, in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God carries His power and Life. It is the instrument of Divine operations in human life and conditions. The success and fruitfulness that God reckons with is based on His Word. The power to resist the alluring of the world and the storms that come with it can only be supplied by God through His Word. God’s solution and Panacea for the trials and challenges of life and of the world is only available in Christ Jesus and the His Word. Believers run a great risk when they conform to the standards and fashions of the world. The Church loses its radiance and power to preserve and be the conscience of the Society the moment she follows the dictates of the world, her cultures and practices. No human authority, sage or collection of Princes can equate or over-rule the will of God and the authority of the Word of God in things pertaining to our salvation, life, leadership and practices of the Church. Article 21 states that

… for as much as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God, they err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.[8]

There is a limit to what humans can impose in the things of God. Therefore, we all must acknowledge our inadequacies and humbly allow God and His Word to order and guide our lives and the Church of God. It is then we shall bear fruits that will count with God. Let us then look intently at Jesus as the True Vine and the necessity to abide in Him.

 THE VINE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT:

The Vine is a unique plant that has a flexible stem, a climber that is supported while growing. The stem has rough surface with dry back. There are other crops that are climbers but the Bible uses the Vine to refer to the Grape-Vine or Vineyard. The Bible speaks of some trees and plants such as the Olive, Fig and Grape-Vine as major cash crops of the Ancient Near Eastern people and also as the symbol of the Fertility of the Promise Land[9]. These fruit trees stand for the inheritance and possessions that God gave Israel such as we see in Deuteronomy 6:11 “…houses full of all goods, which you did not fill…. vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant when you have eaten and are full”.  As such Vineyard [“Kerem”] and the practice of growing the Vines or Viticulture was widely practiced in Canaan even before Israel settled in the Promise Land. From the time of Israel’s occupation till the time of Jesus the cultivation of the Vine as a source of economic sustainability was already established. But there are other references to the Vineyard and wall paintings found in a tomb at Thebes in Egypt dating from 1400 BC which chronicled the process of wine making and storage from the grape-vines.[10]

The first mention of the Vineyard in the Bible was in Genesis 9:20-21 where Noah cultivated and processed the Vine into wine. It was evident that the fruits of the Vine or Grapevines were processed and fermented to produce Wine. When Abram defeated Chedoriaomer and the Kings who were with him and freed his nephew, Lot and the people who were taken captive, “Then Melchhizedek king of Salem brought out bread and Wine; he was the priest of God, Most High…”[11] The report of the spies who spied out the Promise land were sent out at the time of the season of the first ripe grapes[12] and they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes, they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranate and figs..”[13] This was an evidence of the richness of the land of Promise. The Bible has detailed account as to what is required in growing the vines and Vineyard as we see in Isaiah 5:1-7.

The Vineyards are mostly located in the Hillside, plains and Valleys. There are places that have become renown for the Vineyards such as the valley of Eschcol, [Grape Cluster], valley of Sorek in the Philistine plain, the region of En-Gedi but it was evident that Judah was renowned for its Vineyards[14]. This may be reflected in the blessing Jacob gave to Judah which was also a Messianic prophecy, saying:

Judah, you are He whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a Lion’s whelp….and as a Lion who shall arouse Him? The Scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the Lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people Binding His donkey to the Vine, and His Donkey’s colt to the choice Vine, He washed His garments in wine, and His clothes in the Blood of Grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and His teeth whiter than milk.[15]

Vineyards are great sources of economic investments. Vineyards are so important that the owner of the Vineyard and his workers may be resident in the Vineyard because of the value attached to it and intensity of the work. As such everything about the Vine requires intensive care from cultivation to processing.

Most importantly God spoke of Israel as His “Choice Vine”. The Prophets depicted Israel as God’s Vine. Prophet Isaiah sang a Hymn of God’s dealings with Israel in the song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7. In it God chose Israel as a well-beloved Vineyard which he planted on a very fruitful hill. He dug up the stones, planted it with a choice vine stock. He fenced it with walls and built Watchtowers to protect it from animals and thieves. He built Winepress to process the grapes and during the Harvest. The Owner of the Vineyard “expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes”, the consequence of not bringing forth the good fruit expected by God was lack of care and pruning, disaster and severe judgement. The conclusion was that “for the Vineyard of the LORD of Host is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help [wailing]. Again the Psalmist speaking of God’s dealing with Israel said “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land….why have you broken down her hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit…”[16].

When the Vineyard becomes unproductive it would be abandoned and the consequence would be that the plants would dry. The dry Vines then become firewood to be burnt. It is amazing that only a fruitful Vine can enjoy care and be profitable. According to Ezekiel 15:1-8; God decried the unfruitfulness of Israel and warned of the severe consequence that would follow. The live wood of Vine was not fit for any furniture talk less of the dried Vine wood. “Instead, it is thrown into the fire for fuel….is it useful for any work?”[17]

 THE VINE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:  In the Gospels we see that some of the Parables of Jesus were on the Vineyards, Grapevines and the produce of Vine. These Parables were about fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus spoke of the Vineyard owner who came looking for the fruit of the Fig and Vineyard continually for three years. He wanted the Vineyard to be uprooted and destroyed but the Vineyard Keeper pleaded for another year to nurture and manure the Vine with the hope that it will bear fruit. The Vineyard owner gave it a second chance. This is the mercy and grace that God gives to His people that they may bring forth fruit that He desires. In His Parable of the New Wine in the old wine skin [container], Jesus teaches of the character of the New life in Him that is vibrant and impactful which cannot be in the contained in the old life of sin.

In Matthew 20:1-16; Jesus teaches on the Kingdom Labourers and the Reward from the Lord of the Harvest. The Harvest of the Vineyard is enormous and demands many labourers and Harvest force engaging the Harvest at different times. The owner and rewarder is the Lord who will reward each labourer as He deems fit and according to his work. There is no room for envy, complain and attack for what God gives to His servants. God is just in all His dealings with His servants. “So the last will be first and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen”[18]. In the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen in Matthew 21:33-41, Jesus depicted the rejection of the Jews and of the world towards Him. The Wicked Vinedressers were dubious, fraudulent, and rebellious against the Owner of the Vineyard. Such that “When the Vintage time drew near, he sent servants to the Vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the Vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another…. At last he sent His son”. The rebellion against His authority was so bitter that they conspired and killed the Son and Heir.

The consequences of the mismanagement of the Vineyard and Kingdom work, is a swift judgement from God the Owner of the Vineyard just as the judgement on the Vineyard that is unproductive. The Missional and Eschatological significance of the Vineyard must be taken very seriously.   Whatever is spoken of the Vine, Vineyard and fruitfulness in the Old Testament and the implications of the Parables and teachings of the New Testament, find their true meaning and fulfilment in Jesus Christ and in relation to Him. This culminated understanding is in our text in John 15:1- 16.

ABIDING IN JESUS: THE TRUE VINE: The understanding of the Vine is not just the plant bearing juicy fruit but of  that all that the Vine stands for are personified in Christ Jesus. This we see in His earthly life and ministry as He went about doing good and healing all who were sick and oppressed, He is the Bread of Life and the Word of Life [Sacramental]. He is the New Life and the New Wine. He is indispensable in our walk with God and living to please God. Jesus Christ is the source of water and nourishment that will make the believers to be fruitful. The strength of the Teaching of Jesus is in the Word He used repeatedly in verse 4-9 which is “ABIDE”. It is a verb used of a place metaphorically for God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Believers are to remain, continue to stay in God, His Word and the quality of His character in love, faith and hope even in times of affliction. “Abide” “Mone” can also mean to “endure”, stand and when it is strengthened it means continuing in perseverance. It is good to note that “Hupomone” which literally means “to remain under” signifies “to remain in a place instead of leaving it  or “to persevere unto the end”[19] Jesus is demanding persistent loyalty to His Person and Teachings from every Believer in Christ. The abiding or remaining attached to Jesus demands that we persevere continually holding to Him especially in times of trial and challenges that seek to sever us from following Him.

If we are to abide in Him as a branch in the Vine, then there is much to be learnt from the Vine, because much care is given to the nursery, planting and nurturing of the plant. The stem and branches are carefully guided to spread out or not. The pruning of the branches are necessary for them to bring forth the buds and tender branches that in turn bear the tender grapes. Every tender branch that bears fruit is very precious to the Vinedresser. Every fruit, no matter how small or few, counts. Indeed, a small branch with fruit is considered more precious than a long branch that has no fruit, such branch without fruit is cut off in order to allow the branches to maximize the nutrients for the fruit. Pruning is very key in the care for the grapevines. This understanding thrusts us into the conditions that necessitate Abiding and the benefits or otherwise of abiding steadfastly in Christ Jesus.

CONDITIONS NECESSITATING ABIDING IN CHRIST: THE UNSTABLE WORLD: 

Our Text falls within the last Discourse of Jesus as He faces Jerusalem, the impending betrayal, suffering and death. Jesus also saw the victory and triumph over sin, the devil and the forces of evil and the world. He saw the glory that was laid up for Him. He saw the life and contentions of all who believe in Him and the attacks of the world and Satan to abort the fruitfulness of His dominion. The turning point of the antagonism and determination to eliminate Jesus Christ was the restoration of Lazarus from the dead in John 11. It was such that the Jewish leadership sought to kill Jesus as a way of preventing the Romans from taking over their place and Nation. Such that Caiaphas said “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one Man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish”[20]. Here we see the vicarious death of Jesus Christ fulfilling Isaiah 53 and the testimony of John the Baptist that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. One Man for all Nations.

In John 12 we see the predictions concerning the death of Jesus in the anointing at Bethany and the fact that His death shall bring about greater harvest, the purpose of His coming and the time for the Father to be glorified will be through the death of Jesus Christ. In chapters 13 to 18 Jesus spent more time with His Disciples teaching and instructing them on the events that would come, His death, Resurrection, Ascension and glorification, and the coming of the Holy Spirit and His indispensable presence and work in the Believers, the Eternal Hope, Home and expectations of the Believers, the certainty of Jesus accomplished the work of salvation and the power of God and His Word in safeguarding and empowering the Believers in Christ who were called out of the world. The believers will face the hatred and antagonism of the world. The Mission of the Church is in the context of hatred and attacks of the world. Jesus did not mince words in instructing His Disciples that the context of their new life, Missions and witnessing to Him was dangerous and treasonous. The world in which the Church exists is an unstable world and an environment of hatred, persecution and whose systems are in contradiction to the will and purpose of the Sovereign God.

When the New Testament speaks of the world, two words are of particular interest, namely, “kosmos and aion”. Kosmos bears several meanings such as [a] the physical Earth as distinguished from Heaven and its order. [b] it also means the Human race to whom Jesus came to save. By His coming into the world Jesus is the light of the world. [c] The world can mean the Gentiles as distinguished from the Jews, a world that is under the rule of the Gentile gods, system and rebellion and as such needs to be reconciled to God. Kosmos/ world is the present condition of human affairs in alienation from and opposition to God.[21] This world has the capacity to corrupt, it hates God and its works are evil; it has its own spirit that is distinct from the Holy Spirit; and Galatians 4:3 states that when we were children or have not known the Lord Jesus Christ, we were in bondage under the elements of the world. Jesus speaks of the prince of this world which is Satan. [d] the world also refers to the sum of the temporal possessions or material possessions or mammon that seek to control the hearts and lives of people that demand equal devotion as should be given to the Living God. Aion simply means “age” or “period of time” which is marked by spiritual or moral characteristics. It is also translated as “World”[22].

This age or world has its own ways and wisdom[23] and sometimes the sons of this age outwit the children of light[24]. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus talks of the ‘cares’ of this world. There is a fashion of this world to which Believers in Christ should not be conformed to. This world is temporal and will pass away. The Scripture admonishes us “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust [the consuming desire] of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – is not of the Father but of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”[25]

The worldly system and operations are continually running in contrast to what God desires for humanity. Let it be known that this world and all in it were created and sustained by the power of the Living God. And as the God of order and intelligence, this physical, social, political and spiritual laws of the world are derived from the God Almighty. The worldly system may be hijacked by the human operators but ultimate accountability shall be to God. Whenever the Godly ethical, moral and spiritual laws and guidelines are violated, humanity has always been brought to heinous wickedness that always threaten our very existence.

The 21st Century has witnessed both the wonders of the scientific and technological advancement but also the chaos of eroding moral and spiritual standards set by God. Our Postmodern world is in rebellion against the living God and His Word, just because humanity has rebelled against the absolute guide and authority from God.  The heresy confronting the Church of God is seen in the promotion of rebellion against the Authority of the Word of God and the lifestyle that accords to His Word. We are facing the Postmodern promotion of the new ethics and morality in which the popular culture and the choices of the individual or subculture determines the way of life of the people, rather than the age-long guidance of God. These have given rise to Homosexuality, Lesbianism, Bestiality and other sexual immorality that are ravaging our generation. These practices are out-rightly condemned by God and the Holy Bible.

In our context in Nigeria, belial and mammon, greed and corruption have eaten deep into the fabrics of the society. Some people have seen religion as a means to wealth and self-assertion. Religion and tribalism are greatly exploited in our Nation. False Prophets and False Teachers abound with their demonic teachings that oppose the Truth of the Word of God. A situation in which “the end justifies the means” and “Might is Right”, we see increase in wickedness, oppression and corruption both in the Secular and Religious spheres as the enthronement of ungodliness of our time.

There are character traits that are common to the world such as “hidden things of shame, walking in craftiness, and deceitfulness”[26] Coercion and manipulation characterize the ways of the world. Sometimes, as leaders in the Church, we deploy such tactics and approach that are clearly unspiritual and carnal, in order to achieve our selfish goals. These are seen as smartness or ability to maneuver people and situations. These may be seen as wisdom and the end result is quarrel and bitter rivalry and “political correctness”. James admonishes and we need to heed

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown by those who make peace[27].

Pride and unhealthy rivalry manifest worldliness very clearly. Humility and consideration for the well-being of others and more so the good of all is often not considered in our dealings. The pride of life and human dominance are veiled manifestation of fear of loss of control. The remedy is having the mind of Christ, humility and surrendering to His Lordship. The Scripture demands of us “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded….Humble yourself in the sight of the LORD, and He will lift you up.”[28]

When the mind is transformed indeed our perception must change, and further be radically changed. The Apostle Paul locates the increasing compromises of Godly standards to perception. He admonishes “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”[29] It is often very difficult to accept thought and ideas that contradict our viewpoint or perception. When God spoke to Zerubbabel that ultimately brute force is not the way that God accomplishes His work, it would sound foolish. But this is the wisdom taught by the Holy Spirit. Worldly demonstration of power and authority is in brute force. But God works by His Spirit to touching hearts and lives so as to perceive the workings of God.

THE ABIDING THAT BRINGS FRUITFULNESS:

In John 15:1-8 we see the Design of God to bringing His children into His Fullness. This fullness comes by Abiding in Christ, In His Word, through pruning, care and flourishing leading unto Fruitfulness. The abiding Jesus speaks of is necessitated by the context of our lives in an unstable world. Daily we face trials, challenges and inexplicable ordeals. Jesus demands that we must endure and remain steadfast and not be moved from our Hope in Him. We must endure loneliness and abandonment, loss and confusion, sometimes doubt and fear. In the midst of all these, Jesus calls us to focus on Him and follow Him. The Hymn writer puts it aptly

Jesus calls us over the tumult, of our life’s wild, restless sea; Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, Follow Me!!!” In our joys and in our sorrows, Days of toil and hours of ease, Still He calls, in cares and pleasures, “Christian, love Me more than these!!!”.

 [1] Abiding in Jesus Christ: Jesus makes it clear that for His Disciples to inherit the mansions and home which He has gone to prepare as He promised in John 14:1-4, they need to remain attached to Him. Jesus is the Vine and the believers are the branches and God the Father is the Vine dresser or gardener. The gardener will take away any branch that is not useful and fruitful, the essence is to maximize the intake of nutrients. The branch can only draw nutrients from the mother stem, Jesus is the Stem of the plant. He is indispensable for the existence and  fruitfulness of the believer. We are not like the parasite plant growing on the tree. No, we are but the natural or grafted branch. Jesus said Abide in Me and I in you for without Me you can do nothing which also requires our abiding in the Word of God as the source of nourishment and nurture for the soul and life of the believer.

The Hymn Writer expressed this aptly in the hymn:

I could not do without Thee,  I cannot stand alone, I have no strength or goodness, No wisdom of my own: But Thou, beloved Saviour, Art all in all to me; And weakness will be power, if leaning hard on Thee[30]

 Separation from Jesus will mean dryness and the consequence of being cut off from the source of water, nutrients and life. Jesus spoke of one of the fundamental faults leading many people away from abiding in Christ, the issue of covetousness, greed and materialism which are rooted in selfishness. In the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21 Jesus depicts the attitude of the Fool. “The Fool has said in his heart there is no God or the fool lives as though there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good”[31]. The rich man was a fool because he excluded God in his estimations and everything was simply about himself. Sin corrupts the soul, intents and body, attitudes and actions of the person. It is the rejection to submit to God, sin is a rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Abiding in Christ is a total and continuous surrender of our hearts, desires and wills or aspiration to the judgement and scrutiny of God, His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding in the Word of God: Jesus deepened the meaning and effect of the Word of God as given by the Moses, the Prophets in the Psalms and the other Wisdom Writings of the Old Testament. Jesus taught us the essence of the Commandments of God, He fulfills the Scripture. Jesus says that the Word which He speaks are spiritual and carry life and power. It is rooted in God. He said “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. [32]” Mere legalism breads death, but the Word of God when received in Faith and activated by the Holy Spirit gives life to the spirit, soul and body. It enlightens our understanding, guides our thoughts, informs our heart and will and moves us to actions that are in consonance with the Will and purpose of God.

God gives us His Word as a source of nurturing, sustenance, correction, manual for instruction in righteousness and to equip the believer for every good work. It is the Word of Life and Healing and light to our path in life. It is the weapon for spiritual warfare. We need to cherish and feed from the Word of God, the Bible. Whenever we are in God’s presence just being with Jesus we receive the Word and guidance from Him. The essence of Jesus drawing us to himself in salvation is actually to impact and impart our lives. He wants to carry out His Divine workmanship of transforming worthless persons into instruments of His work and service, shaping and fashioning the people He redeemed into conformity with His own image.[33]

The effective tool in transformation is the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit deploys in “Pruning” and “washing”. This is a process that God does so lovingly in His children and servants. St. Paul expressed it thus “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”[34] The cleansing and conforming of the believer and the Church are essential factors in fruitfulness.

Abiding in Christ and His Word is at the very heart of Fruitfulness and service to God. Spending time with God and His Word is the place to receive from God the revelation of His plans and purpose. This was demonstrated by Jesus thus, “Jesus appointed the twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach”[35] Abiding in Christ and His Word is the source of life and nourishment. We need to spend time in prayer, worship and study of the Word of God as our intentional act of obedience and following the Lord Jesus Christ. This we need to do in personal quiet time, in family altar and the corporate Worship and Study of the Word. This is what characterized the life of the earliest believers in Acts 2:42-47, these are the fundamentals of being the Church of God. Abiding in Christ and His Word is rooted in obedience of the individual and the corporate Body of Christ to the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.

[2] Pruning by the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit lives and works in the believer helping us to conform to the Image of Christ, teaching us the mind of Christ;[36] and leading us in the way of the Lord. He empowers us to do what God wants us do. But it is not much of doing than of being. God is more interested in who we are becoming than in what we are doing. The power to become in Christ is through the working of the Holy Spirit. This process is called Pruning, the act of cutting off outgrowths and branches that are not helpful for the Vine. God has the master plan of what He is making out of us, just as in Jeremiah 18; at the potter’s wheel. God is fashioning branches and vessels for the Master’s use. Pruning comes by the searching and exposure to the Word as in Heb 4:11-13. It may come through discipline and correction by the Word. Our Church is due for the Discipline of the Word and the Holy Spirit.  Purging and cleansing of the Lord is a way of making the body be in good health so as to be productive. In which area of life will the pruning knife or purging by God be? God wants to give us a new lease of life if we  let Him do it, it may be our heart, mind, our stomach or hands and legs.[37]

[3] Flourishing in the fertile soil: The Vine requires much water and manure. When any tree grows in a rich soil it flourishes. It produces much green lives that would not wither. What is this flourishing that will bring us to the fullness and perfection and completeness? It is Faith. Jere 17:5-8 “Cursed is the man whose trust is in man and whose boast is in the flesh… but blessed is then man who trusts in the LORD.  Psalm 1 shows us factors that can promote flouring in faith. Ezekiel 47:7-12 exposes the work of the Holy Spirit and the workings of faith. The Healing water from the Altar, the gradual and increasing power that nurtures, the begetting of life and mission as the fishes and fishermen along the bank, the trees which leaves are for healing and fruits for food.[38] Faith without work is dead: James 2:14-17. Be ushered into the fullness of Christ.

There is also a flourishing that has much leaves but no fruit:  this we see in Matt 21:18-22. Jesus saw the fig tree by the road side and went in search of the fruits but found nothing. God comes looking for fruit in the Church that looks so flamboyant and found nothing. Such tree is in the danger of being cursed. The lesson from the fig tree is Faith. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive”. Brethren, flourish in the prevailing faith like Abraham, be desperate in trusting God. Romans 4:16-22. Abraham dared believe God for the promise even when it looked impossible verses 18 to 22. Standing in faith you stand in right relationship with God. You can never be wrong trusting God, His Word and promises. Faith makes you flourish in God and have victory over the world as 1John 5:4-5. Brethren, let us walk into our completeness in Christ Jesus.

BENEFITS OF ABIDING IN CHRIST:

FRUITFULNESS:  This is the major focus in the teaching of Jesus and expresses the expectation of God of all His creation. Bearing fruit is what God has fashioned every one of us for. It is the evidence of remaining in Christ. It brings glory to God and it is the proof of our Discipleship and persevering in Him.

ACCESS INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD: One of the great gifts that gives to His people is His very presence. It is the presence of God that distinguishes God’s people. God’s presence is like a protective shield over His people. It is God’s glory and covering. But sin, disobedience and rebellion can make God withdraw His presence and so His glory and covering. The consequence of that is disaster and anarchy. Abiding in Christ is the guaranty for seamless access into the presence of God. King David expressed the joy of this access to God’s presence thus; “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[39] It is a hunger and desire in the heart of every servant and child of God. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.” [Psalm 27:4]. The result of being in God’s presence is that He will protect, preserve and secure and fight for you. Jesus prayed “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father keep through Your Name those You have given Me, that they may be one as we are…”[40]

ASSURANCE OF ANSWER TO PRAYERS: Jesus assures us that the benefit of abiding in Him is that whatever we shall ask the Father in His Name that we shall receive. Therefore, the assurance of God’s response to prayers is given. When we abide in Christ and have a closer walk with God, there is the tendency that God will reveal His eternal plans and purpose to all who walk with Him. We shall understand His purpose and as such pray for His will to be done. And even when it is not working the way we desire, like Jesus we shall be willing to surrender to His Divine will. This confidence and assurance emboldens the servants of God in such a way that no matter the challenges around us or whatever the world may throw at us, we shall weather the storms of life.

EMPOWERMENT FOR MISSION AND ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S PURPOSE: As grafted scion, every servant of God draws nutrients from the very source of life which is Jesus. As such the life and purpose and thirst for the salvation of souls and power to overcome the alluring of the world shall be given. The heart of the LORD beats for Mission and impactful obedient based Discipleship. Jesus longs for the reconciliation of the world which He loved and died for.  “I have given them Your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is Truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

GOD IS GLORIFIED: In all His Earthly Ministry and works of signs and wonders, the aim of Jesus was to do the Father’s will, speak the Words of the Father and glorify the Father both by His life and even more by His death and resurrection. The Apostles lived the life of self-emptying or Kenosis such that the glory of God mattered more to them than their own humiliation and suffering. The focus of the servants of God who stood in the times of reformation of the Church was geared towards the Glory of God. It was such that their driving energy was “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria”. [Martin Luther]. When a person abides in Christ, the out-flow of such life will be to glorify God. In seeking to glorify God, one is bound to encounter suffering. The focus of the early Apostles was summed up in what Paul said: “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him, if we deny Him, He also will deny us, if we are faithless, he will remain faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”[41] This is the Integrity of God.  If we glorify God now we shall share in His glory that shall be revealed.

ASSURANCE OF ETERNITY WITH CHRIST:  Abiding in Christ has a way of stirring up the longing to be with Christ just as Jesus longed to be with the Father. Jesus desired that all who serve Him with spend eternity with Him and be where He Himself is[42]. In that High Priestly prayer of Jesus, He said “Father I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world”[43] It is Eschatological.

THE FRUITFULNESS THAT GOD DESIRES: 

Bearing Fruit: What is the use of a fruit tree to grow big and bear no fruit, it has only wasted the soil, manure, space and time. Jesus gave the parable of the fruitless vine representing old Israel even as the gardener pleaded for time to manure and water it. God, the Gardener, is searching for fruit. May He find fruit in us all. Fruitfulness is the end of a process that cannot be short circuited. It is a product of what we are made of and what is inside of us. Who are you is a question that probes what we are made of. Jesus said a good tree will produce good fruit and a bad tree will produce bad fruit. Again every tree produces its own kind of fruit, a mango tree cannot produce oranges. The product of abiding, pruning and flourishing is fruitfulness. The fruit that God is expecting from us;

[a] The Fruit of Repentance: Matt 3:7-10, when John the Baptist saw the many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him he demanded for the fruits that befit repentance. People make mockery of being born again because some people claim to have repented but their life do not show that they have met Jesus Christ, 2Cor5:17.

[b] Fruit of Christian Character as Matt 7:15-20 “By their fruits you will know them” and not by their miracles or gifts or even position occupied in the Church. In 21-23 a dreadful Scripture when all is done Jesus speaks those words of condemnation and rejection, “I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness”. Faith without character erodes everything and makes powerless the Cross of Christ. When a Christian is devoid of Christ like character, it amounts to denial of Jesus[44]. It is the pattern of false prophets and teachers. Jude called them clouds that do not bring rain. The character and likeness/image of Christ must be in us. There is need Bishops, clergy and lay leaders, like Paul the Apostle to desire and for us to travail until Christ is formed in the people.

[c] The Fruit of the Spirit which is the evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer’s life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4 are for service in the Body of Christ. Every member of the Body of Christ whoever that has repented and believed, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit at his/her confirmation has received at least one gift. There is the need for the Pastors, that is the Bishops and Clergy to serve God in teaching and stirring up the gifts that the Holy Spirit has deposited in every member so that they may be equipped for the work of Ministry. The Ministry or service in the Church is for every member of the Church. These Gifts of God is for the Ministry and Ministrations of the Church. We must desire the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The more excellent endowment given to be desired is the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit. Gal 5:22-23 enumerates it such as, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law. These are products of the presence, pruning and working of the Holy Spirit in every believer. The fruit of the Spirit is given by God as security for our calling and election in Christ Jesus.

[d] The Fruit of Soul Winning is a harvest that is so precious to God. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. It is a harvest into the eternal barn in Heaven. Mission is the heartbeat of God and the main Task of the Church. In John 4:34-38, Jesus witnessed to and won the Samaritan woman at the well. She too went and called others to Jesus. When Andrew found Jesus, “he first found his own brother Simon, and said to him “We have found the Messiah” and he brought him to Jesus[45]. Jesus said witnessing to the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, this is His food, His heart’s desire and the purpose of HIS coming. He sent out the Twelve Apostles and the seventy-two for Mission, He gave the Church the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16: 16-18. There is great eternal reward for bringing converts to Christ Jesus. The crown of righteousness and the shining as the Stars of heaven. Daniel 12:3 states “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever”.  Jesus said that He called us that we may bear fruit and that our fruit may last or abide in Him. The way to bear the fruit that will abide is through Discipleship as in Matthew 28:18-20. Any Christian or Church that wants to be relevant to God and His Kingdom must make God’s priority his/their priority. To seek first, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness then God will prove Himself.

God desires that we live in the fullness of life and operate optimally in the perfection in Christ Jesus. he has a Desire for us which of good and not of evil, to give you a hope and to bring you to an expected end. God has also prepared a design as the vine so that He will be glorified.

 VINE AS REPRESENTATION OF SALVATION, KINGDOM MISSION AND HARVEST:  A vineyard is so important that a man who had planted a vineyard can be exempted from military service according to Deuteronomy 20:6. The Vine supplied fruits, raisins and processed for wine. No doubt it was an industry that employed much labour. The time of harvest is considered a time of blessing and joy. In the end of time God will visit this world with judgement. Apostle Paul expounded on the place of Israel as God’s chosen people and the reality of the seeming present exclusion from the righteousness and salvation that comes by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As he recounted the privileges of the

Israelites to whom pertain the Adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises, of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, Who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”[46]

 God in His Sovereignty excluded the Israelites so that He will accomplish the Mystery of the Vine in the salvation of the Gentiles. The Salvation of the Gentiles is in fulfilment of the prophecy of Hosea thus “I will call them My people, who were not My people and her beloved, who was not beloved”[47] God has shown mercy and favour to the Gentiles, in order to provoke a righteous jealousy that will make the remnants of Israel to come to Christ.  “For if their cast away is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”[48]  Halleluiah!!! God will surely restore the remnant of Israel and that gives us the hope that God will restore as many people as will repent and return to Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the True Vine and we are the branches. And this is by the grace and mercy of God and requires that we remain and abide in Christ. It requires that we be humbly and totally dependent on God. God broke off the original branches in order to graft the Gentiles into the True Vine, such that we have become partakers with the children of Abraham in the promises and covenant blessings of God. As the Scripture says

And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.[49]

This brings out clearly the necessity for us to abide in that which God did for us in Christ. We were grafted into the true Vine and we draw benefits of the Eternal Life.

God is saying to us that we must “Take Heed to ourselves”. There is a note of caution “Be careful and do not be puffed up”. The fact that we were preferred to others, or succeeded where some failed or are better off than others is by the mercy and help of God. Let us hear the Word of God: “You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in”. Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore, consider the goodness and the severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off…”[50] Jesus the “True Vine” will harvest and rapture the saints who remain in Him in spite of the trials, sufferings and persecutions of the world. They shall be harvested into the Eternal Barn. The fruit of the Mission, in doing the will of the Father and finishing His work, is in this ‘white and ready’ Harvest of souls. Jesus talks of the task of harvesting souls and gathering fruit for Eternal Life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.[51]

VINE AS SYMBOL OF GOD’S JUDGEMENT: In declaring that He is the “True Vine” it implies that there is the “false vine” just as there is the “wild Vine” or grapes”.  In Revelations the Scripture states “Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgement” so the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and the blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.[52]” The Winepress is a place of processing the grapevines harvested from the Vineyard.

The flip side of this Eternal harvest in God’s Vineyard is the harvest of the “Vines of the Earth”. These are evil clusters that are ripe for harvest of God’s judgement. The clusters of the Vines of the Earth will be crushed in the Winepress of judgement and their blood will flow. This is one of the hard and frightening messages that looks cruel. But surely the judgement of God will come upon evil and wickedness.

The Scripture clearly paints the picture of the eschatological judgement of God on the Vines of the Earth, 

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death[53]

It is important that we know that unless we are mindful of the necessity and certainty of the judgement of God, we may never see our desperate need for God’s mercy.  As we talk of Vineyard, Grapevine and the Vine, it is necessary to know that the Scriptures presents God’s judgement with the imagery of the Vine. The unfruitful branch is cut off and withers to be burnt in fire. The unfruitful Vineyard will have its hedge removed, the water and manure will cease and eventually will be left to be devoured. The unfaithful Vineyard owner will be dispossessed and his labour be eaten by the enemy. These are severe consequences of unfaithfulness to God.

 THE CAUSES OF NOT ABIDING AND UNFRUITFULNESS:

Satan, the wicked one and the prince of this world: The great enemy of God and God’s people is the Devil, the wicked one, that old serpent. He comes to attack, plunder and destroy. He steals the Word and instructions of God and exchanges the Truth with pride, lies and deceits and makes us not to remain in Christ and therefore unfruitful.

 Persecution and tribulations: these tend to shake people to the foundation of their confidence. When the people who are more resourced and stronger or who have evil intension rise up against you it is always a challenge remaining focused and abiding. Many people tend to give up the pursuit of truth just to have respite and continue with life or join the stronger and popular side rather than suffer for the sake of Truth and that which will serve for the good of all. Often the strong and influential pursue their personal agenda and drive to control people and system for their own benefit at all cost. They afflict pain and suffering on others including calumny in order to get their way. Affliction is an instrument of aborting the intentions of people. Not many people will endure suffering, affliction and pains to defend the Truth and good. Compromise is a currency in worldly dealing.

 Thorns of the cares of this world: One would have expected that Jesus would have called trials and pains “thorns”. In Matthew 13:22, He calls worry/cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches “thorns”. The sharper weapon and deeper impact on the soul, integrity and character of any person comes from things that make one dispose of what makes him a distinguished personality. Perseverance or endurance is a manly virtue. The ability not to sell one’s birth-right for a pot  of porridge or soup just like Esau is the great resistance. The deceit and pride of position, material possession and fleshly pleasures are easy weapons that abort the fruit that comes from Christ. Balaam the Greedy Prophet failed to bring curses upon Israel, but he showed King Balak the subtle weapon of sexual sin and idol worship as more lethal weapons that could destroy God’s people. It worked in the wilderness against Israel in the wilderness and it is a lethal weapon against us in our earthly journey.

 Impact of false Teachers and Prophets: The spiritual, material and social impact and gains from our walk with God can easily be aborted by distortion of the Sound Doctrine. The way that leads to life is winding and narrow and not many people go through it. Falsehood is popular and flashy and has alluring power. It is cheaper than Truth but ends in bitter disappointment, pain and shame. God gives the best at the end and sometimes when you have had terrible challenges. Resisting false teachings and deceitful enticement is the sure way to bear Godly fruit but it is painful and costly.

 Wickedness, laziness and evil perception against God and His Kingdom: The enemy attacks the root of fruitfulness by attacking Godly character, mind-set, understanding and perception. In its place ungodly attitudes take control. When a person’s life is taken over by evil perception and wickedness, such person cannot bear fruit and because he has made the flesh his source of strength, he will not abide in God.

 Unforgiveness and rivalry: Unhealthy sentiments will breed bitterness against people. Unhealthy rivalry may give temporal success and achievements but the goal is the promotion of selfishness. When people don’t forgive they are bound to be hurting and a hurting soul cannot bear fruit that will last to eternity. A liberal soul grows fat, is set free to become and do what God has designed him for. Unforgiveness and bitterness create rivalry and therefore unfruitfulness. Evil heart of unbelief, murmuring and complaints: Worldly lust and idol worship and defilement of the spirit and body are sources of unfruitfulness and makes a person not to abide in Christ and in the Word of God.

 THE CONSEQUENCE OF NOT ABIDING AND UNFRUITFULNESS:

Danger of being Cut off the Vine and source of Life:  Jesus warned that anyone who does not abide in Him and therefore cannot bear fruit will be cut off from the Vine. The danger of being severed or separated from the source of life and joy, peace and help of God hangs over every choice to live without God. God in His sovereign power chooses to show His benevolence on all. He makes the rain to fall on both good and evil. It is possible to enjoy the good things of life and yet not know the Lord of Life. The value of the salvation of soul outweighs the pleasures of life. Jesus said “what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul”[54]. The greatest danger of not abiding in Christ is that one is spiritually dead and separated from God, the source of True life.

 Dry and be burnt in fire and Eternal Consequence: As we are living in the dispensation of the grace of God instant judgement is withheld. But yet the wicked must surely be punished. The more painful severance is the Eternal judgement and condemnation. The severe judgement of God is coming; therefore we persuade people to repent and be forgiven and be reconciled to God.

 Lot’s wife and escape from the worldliness:  We should learn the lesson from the fate of Lot’s wife. Worldliness and attachment to things has a way of enslaving people to self-annihilation and extinction. The consequence of not abiding in Christ and the Word of God is that one perishes with the world and passes away with it. Refuse to end with the world, instead be determined to enter the commonwealth of God, the eternal glory that shall be revealed at the coming of Christ and the transformation of our lowly bodies to becoming like His glorious body.

 God’s disapproval and curse and the anger of God: There may be the possibility of putting on leaves and yet have to fruit. Appearance can sometimes be deceitful. When we are religious but lack the character and abiding obedience following we stand the danger of being disapproved by God. People may hail us but the most important is the approval of God.

 The land that receives rain but fails to produce fruit is at the danger of being cursed: God desires fruitfulness. There are many parables of Jesus that show that God is interested in our success, making gains and bearing fruit. The purpose of God’s endowments is for spiritual, material and social gains that are morally acceptable to God and for the good of humanity. One can make impact without defrauding others or being oppressive or deceitful. When God blesses us with unusual connection, blessings and provisions He expects us to bear fruit and if we fail, such stand the danger of being cursed and unprofitable.

 A timely warning for the Saints of the Loss of Eternal Inheritance like the Israel that came out of Egypt: The teaching of Jesus on the True Vine is a timely warning for the Saints of our time so that we shall learn from the Israel of old who came out of Egypt. The danger of being overtaken in the wilderness by the influence of the mixed multitude who never knew the God of Israel, or by the misleading of Religious leaders like Aaron who made the Golden Calf and made Israel to celebrate Idols rather than the true God, or by grumbling and scheming and complaining against the leadership instead of obedience, or be like Korah and his men who rebelled against Moses. If God did not condone the sin of Israel and viewed sin as wickedness and rebellion against God and His Word, then this just God will not allow our wickedness and rebellion go unpunished.

 THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE THEME FOR THE CHURCH AND NATION:

The Necessity for Individual Assurance of Salvation and Abiding: The first issue that “Abiding in Christ” brings to the fore is, our relationship with Christ and one another. Jesus desires that every believer be faithful and remain in Him, in obedience and diligent fellowship. This comes by true conversion and sincerity in faith and obedience in Christ. The individual’s assurance of forgiveness of sin and salvation of the soul through faith in Christ Jesus the True Vine is very essential. This faith is an experience and encounter with the Living God that makes us to willingly surrender our will to God to obey Him and keep His Word. It is a journey and does not end till death. It means that every day we must renew our loyalty to Christ and diligently follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is true for every Believer no matter how young or old or how long one has been in the Church.

The Growing and Fruitfulness in Life: The branch of the Vine can only grow and bear fruit and be an integral part of the True Vine so long as it remains in the tree. It can only remain as it draws nutrients from the Vine. Spiritual Growth and fruitfulness comes when there is a spiritual hunger and desire to know the Lord the more and grow deeper in our walk with God. Growth comes by the study of the Word of God, obedience and practice of faith, Prayer, spiritual exercise of fasting and deliberate steps in sanctifying one’s life and practice of love and sacrificial service to God and humanity. Growth comes also through trials of life and faith, for when we endure trials and are helped by God, we learn and grow.

The Fundamental place of Discipleship in the Ministry of the Church: The Anglican Church is rooted in Pastoral and Nurturing in faith as her way to Ministry. Every Minister is first a Pastor then an Evangelist, Prophet, Teacher etc. The practice of Ministry and Liturgy is such that the Family is the focal point. The spiritual needs of the person from birth till death are covered. Where the children, young people and new converts and enquirers or catechumen are involved, then nurturing in faith through teaching and pastoral guidance is central to our ministry. To this end Discipleship and the Teaching Ministry of the Church must be rediscovered and intentionally given critical attention. Discipleship is the means of grooming, nurturing and pruning in faith through the intentional study of the Word of God. When we fail to do so our members will be “tossed to and fro carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”[55] of our time. Let us return to the Teaching Ministry of the Church through intentional Discipleship.

Need to Contend for the Faith:  When Jude wrote that short but powerful Epistle and pleaded that the Saints should contend for the Faith delivered or handed over to them, it was in a situation of compromise of the Truth, and danger of watering down the Doctrine and tenets of the Faith in Christ Jesus. Contending for the faith calls for standing out of the crowd and choosing to be true and loyal to God than to men. Obviously contending for the Faith calls for separation and division. Paul admonishes us that there is no fellowship between light and darkness and between the Temple of God and Belial. In the essentials of our faith there must be unity among believers in Christ Jesus. There must be clarity as to where we stand and hold on to. God desires that we walk worthy of the calling with which He called us, in humility, gentleness, patience in relating with one another and maintaining the bond of peace which the Holy Spirit gives. This is radically different from following the dictates of culture, popular opinions, and fashions of the world.

 National Restoration:  The predicaments around us breed fear, deceit, decline, loss and death. In the midst all these, God calls us to return to Him the source of life in repentance. His promise is that He will restore to us whatever the locusts have eaten up and recover all that was lost. Peace and gentle consideration of others have eluded us in Nigeria. God has the panacea to our malady and anarchy, it the peace that this world cannot give which is in Christ Jesus. The Word of God has the power to transform the individual and turn such a person into the Instrument that God would use to transform the Church and Society. The Church must engage the Society where we live and Minister. We need a National Rebirth. The paralysis that is confronting our people and the nation is that we are getting numbed by the constant killings such that the abnormal is becoming normal. Secondly, we are tired, confused and not knowing how to respond to the evil happening around us. Often the response of Prayer and righteous anger against the wickedness being perpetrated is weak. Nigeria is gradually relapsing to coma and stupor. God wants to awaken our consciousness to the possibilities that He alone can bring into our situation. Thus the shout of Heaven is “Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of My people?”.  God will heal our people, the Church and our Nation. God will surely heal our traumatized people, purge the Church of worldliness and refocus her leadership in the things of God’s Kingdom, Righteousness and hear the Voice of the oppressed; He will heal our Nation and deliver our land from power of Hades has unleashed upon the people.

 Stability as Essential for the Future of Church and Nation:  Peace, Justice and Equity are essential ingredients for a growing and prospering Nation and people. Wherever these are lacking there is bound to be a discord. The noise of discontent is very loud in our National life which has been occasioned by insecurity, outright disregard of the principles and policies laid down for fairness in the polity. The shielding and preference for a particular group or tribe and their interest over and against other people groups and interests is the root of agitations in Nigeria. The agitations of some people for self-determination in an independent nation as ours is a cry for fairness and inclusiveness. It is a warning sign that the fundamentals of our unity have been eroded. The leadership of the nation need to listen to the citizens and strive for Stability. As a family, Church or nation the greatest danger is the internal divisions and sectional interests that can so easily bring down the nation or Church. This Church and Nation belongs to all of us. We need to engage each other and be considerate in dealing with every citizen. Agitators have a right of self-expression but it must be done within the ambits of the law and the context of abiding in the whole or stem. Not many branches can survive when separated from the main stem.  Agitations must not cost the lives of the citizens or infringe on their freedom to move around and engage in their lawful businesses. Let us remain in one and build up together. We are better off abiding as one. The Church and nation need spiritual, liturgical, moral, social, and political unity and abiding together to make good progress, grow together and bear much fruit for the benefit of all.

THE MINISTERIAL FOCUS: 

In Defense of the Gospel:  The Church of Nigeria [Anglican Communion] in this end time is calling for the defense of the Gospel. We are totally committed to contending for the faith once for all delivered to the Saints. Together with all Bishops, Clergy and Laity we shall stand against the Revisionist trange doctrines that deny the Authority of the Word of God, the Bible and its power to order and guide our lives and practice. We will continue to uphold the Orthodox faith in Christ Jesus, the Authority of the Scripture and the Anglican Heritage as we have received it. We shall not yield to the shrewd or subtle appeal of the Church of England or The Episcopal Church (TEC) in America/Canada or their agents to compromise the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Family Focused Ministry: Our Ministry will have special focus on building healthy Christian Marriages and Family life as a means of building a healthy Church and nation. We shall uphold the teachings of the Bible on Marriage and Family life, and the Resolution 1.10 of 1998 Lambeth Conference which states that “In view of the teaching of the Scripture [the Bishops] uphold faithfulness in Marriage between a man and a woman in…