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05.12.24 "For a Fruitful Faith" (열매 맺는 신앙을 위하여)

  • "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 (NIV)

  • When Jesus visited Jerusalem with His disciples, He cursed a fig tree that was lush with leaves but bore no fruit, causing it to wither forever. What was He trying to communicate? Indeed, He was criticizing the Pharisees' superficial piety at the time. Religious people, then and now, often display a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5).

  • What does God seek from us today? Indeed, He is not looking for religious zeal but for fruitfulness. Jesus is not interested in nominal Christians; He wants to taste the fruit of a genuine relationship with Him.

  • What is the method Jesus taught us to cultivate a vibrant, fruitful faith?

  • First, abide in Jesus. "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." - John 15:4 (NIV)

  • To abide in Jesus means understanding that like a branch, we can bear no fruit by ourselves. A fragile branch can only produce fruit when it is connected to the tree. Without realizing our complete dependence on God, we will not stay in His presence.

  • My family and I once took our five-year-old son, Chang-seong, to Long Beach. There, we rode the Wonder Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel. At the highest point, I was terrified, but Chang-seong, sleeping peacefully in my arms, was serene. This moment made me realize what it means to be in the safety of a parent's embrace.

  • Do you know where newborns learn their self-worth? Even though they can't speak or think complexly, babies develop self-esteem by seeing their mothers smile at them. Children who experience their mother's warm embrace and smiling face grow up with higher self-esteem, ingrained in their subconscious.

  • Do you remember Zacchaeus? The exceptionally short man who, because of his height, often felt inferior and wore lifts in his shoes. When Jesus passed by, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree just to see Him. Zacchaeus was also a chief tax collector, a role notorious for greed and corruption at that time.

  • However, a significant turning point came into Zacchaeus's life when he encountered Jesus. Jesus stayed at his house, and Zacchaeus, so moved, decided to give half of his wealth to the poor and repay fourfold anyone he had cheated. Hearing this, Jesus declared, "Today salvation has come to this house."

  • Indeed, where Jesus stays, there is a celebration of salvation, unstoppable joy, and freedom. In Jesus, Zacchaeus rediscovered his worth, not because Jesus demanded anything from him but simply by being in the same place at the same time.

  • Zacchaeus might have used his wealth as a shield against the scorn and ridicule of others, compensating for his low self-esteem. But in the presence of Jesus, his broken spirit was healed. His storehouses of deficiency were opened, and his selfishly accumulated wealth became a blessing flowing where God needed it most.

  • All humans have a void only God can fill because we are made in His image. Sin separated us from God, filling that void with fear, loneliness, and selfishness.

  • How do our fear, loneliness, and selfishness disappear? Only by dwelling in God's love. The only way to remove air from a cup is to submerge it in water. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." - 1 John 4:18 (NIV).

  • "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 (NIV)

  • After His resurrection, Jesus entered the room where His disciples were trembling with fear and greeted them with 'Shalom'. Just as God breathed life into the dust during creation, He filled the disciples' fear with His breath, empowering them to spread the resurrection news.

  • Secondly, absorb the life-force of Jesus. A branch must absorb the energy flowing from the tree to bear rich fruit. The healthier the branch, the more fruit it can produce. If we truly abide in God, our longing for His presence will grow.

  • "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." - John 15:11 (NIV)

  • The Trinity invites us into a perfect and eternal relationship, the joy of salvation. This joy isn't a momentary thrill from tasty food or reminiscing about a loved one, which spikes dopamine. This is the joy that enabled Jesus to endure the cross—a joy born from a love so profound that He was willing to sacrifice His life.

  • We must absorb this joy from Jesus, the true vine. It must become ours.

  • "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing." - Psalm 34:8-9 (NIV)

  • To truly savor Jesus, we must draw closer to Him. The closer we are to Jesus, the deeper we understand His mysteries. As a child, I shared sausages and licked melting ice cream with my close friends.

  • Jesus is unlike anyone else; the closer we get, the more wonderful and flavorful He becomes. He invites us into His world, a place of perfect integrity. He wants to reveal all of Himself to us.

  • Pastor Jeebum Park once said, "A healthy vertical relationship is a vertical relationship that has passed through horizontal relationships." If a wife still respects her husband after seeing all aspects of him up close, that husband is truly honorable.

  • South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, compressing centuries of Western economic development into just 50 years. Economists attribute this to the synergy between Korea's Confucian cultural heritage and a focus on efficiency. However, this growth has had its repercussions, such as shoddy constructions like the Sampoong Department Store collapse and the Seongsu Bridge disaster. Moreover, the generation that drove this economic boom experiences more loneliness than ever before, with rising rates of suicide and solitary deaths. Why? Because in its drunken rush for success, Korea skipped over relationships.

  • Not only has Korea experienced rapid economic growth, but also a rapid expansion of the Gospel. Following the Pyongyang Great Revival, churches sprouted like bamboo shoots after rain. From an airplane, Korea is dotted with crosses, with multiple churches in a single commercial building. Yet, the churches remain divided. Adults have built numerous churches, and upon settling, they also experienced a revival of worship. Amidst this fervor, many young people resolved to become missionaries, propelling Korea to become the second-largest missionary-sending country after the USA. However, we cannot overlook the lack of relational depth between worship and missions.

  • This year, we boosted our spiritual vitality through "철인철야: 40 days of pilgrimage exp." This reawakened us from the slumber induced by the pandemic. So, what comes next? I believe that with our expanded spiritual capacity, we must now fill it with intimate relationships within God and our community. After worship, relationships must follow. Dynamic mission work must pass through relationships.

  • If we engage in excessive dedication without a deep relationship with God, it leads to a prosperity-focused faith. We might end up appeasing God to receive blessings, not seeking His face but His hand. Moreover, if a church runs many programs without strong community relationships, the church can become a ministry-focused entity, reducing people to mere tools for tasks. As a result, the faith of the congregation weakens.

  • Venturing into the world without solid relationships is like building a house on sand; accomplishments without deep relationships are equally unstable. Conversely, the stronger and more cohesive our relationships, the better we can withstand the world's challenges, much like an athlete with a strong lower body.

  • Thirdly, we must bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Professor Chang-ok Kim said there are people we like "because of" something, which indicates conditional affection. However, these relationships often do not last. We must love "in spite of" recognizing someone's flaws. A healthy relationship is one where we fill in what the other lacks with our strengths.

  • "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other." - John 15:16-17 (NIV)

  • What does it truly mean when Jesus says anything we ask will be granted? Can staying in Jesus result in winning the lottery? No. Jesus promises to provide everything we need to love one another. Bearing fruit means becoming more like Jesus, and the more we resemble Him, the better disciples we become.

  • Ask for the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. God will surely grant them.

  • "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

  • Don't just aim to be a stylish Christian. While style matters, it's more important to be a Christian who is both stylish and substantive. The closer people get and the more they talk with you, the more they should want to know you. This happens when we first taste God's joy, which comes from abiding in His presence, absorbing His life, and bearing fruit.

<Small Group Questions>

  1. Why do you think relational connectivity is important for the church's vision?

2. When do you feel relationally isolated within the church? Do you notice others feeling this way?

3. What does God want for our small group in terms of community unity?

4. Let's plan a weekend hangout for the small group based on the hobbies of the member who joined the church most recently.


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