“I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29). In writing these words to the Christians in Rome, Paul was telling them, “I have no doubt that when I meet you, it will be in the fullest measure of Christ’s blessing.”
The apostle’s words here imply something that every believer must know; that is, there are varying degrees, or measures, of Christ’s blessing. Some believers obtain a full measure of this blessing, which is the goal, of course. Yet other Christians enter into only a small measure of his blessing — but we can all pursue the fullness.
Paul makes it clear that we all have the same access to the Lord: “There is one body and one Spirit … one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). We all have an equal opportunity to obtain his ever-increasing blessing. Indeed, our lives should continually increase in what Paul calls “the blessing of Christ.”
The blessing of Christ means having a life that is pleasing to the Lord. It’s an inner knowing from the Holy Spirit that as God looks on your life, he says, “I’m pleased with you, my child. There is nothing between us to hinder our communion and relationship.”
The writer of Hebrews sums up the fullness of Christ’s blessing this way: “The God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
People who live in this fullness of blessing have about them an aroma of having been with Jesus. Like Paul, they have a divine dissatisfaction with this life, a longing to be in the presence of Christ, a hunger to obtain more and more intimacy with him.
Let us strive to be like these believers — determined to finish our walk of faith and ministry in a way that is pleasing to God.
Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life … I am the living bread which came down from heaven … he who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:35, 51, 57). The image of bread here is important. Our Lord is telling us, “If you come to me, you’ll be nourished. You’ll be attached to me, as a member of my body. Therefore, you’ll receive strength from the life-force that is in me.” Indeed, every member of his body draws strength from a single source: Christ, the head. Everything we need to lead an overcoming life flows to us from him.
This bread is what distinguishes us as members of his body. We are set apart from the rest of humanity because we dine from a single loaf: Jesus Christ. “We all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
The apostle points out, “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5). In other words, we are not just connected to Jesus, our head, but we’re also joined to each other. The fact is, we can’t be connected to him without also being joined to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are knit together not only by our need for Jesus, but by our need for each other. Paul states, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Note the second half of the verse. Even the head can’t say to another member, “I don’t need you.” What an incredible statement. Paul is telling us, “Christ will never say to any member of his body, ‘I have no need of you.’” Our head willingly connects himself to each of us; moreover, he says we’re all important, even necessary, to the functioning of his body.
It is absolutely vital that we gather together in Jesus’ name, for each other’s sake. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are to reach out to one another in love and concern, seek fellowship with others, and support each other in prayer.
No one on earth can place you in ministry. You may be given a diploma by a seminary, ordained by a bishop, or commissioned by a denomination. But Paul reveals the only source of any true call to ministry: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).
What does Paul mean here when he says Jesus enabled him and counted him faithful? Three days after the apostle’s conversion, Christ placed Paul in the ministry — specifically, the ministry of suffering: “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). This is the very ministry Paul refers to when he says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry” (2 Corinthians 4:1). He continues, “As we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” He is talking about the ministry of suffering and he makes it clear that it is a ministry we all possess.
Paul tells us that Christ pledged to remain faithful to him and enable him through all his trials. The Greek word for “enable” means a continual supply of strength. So, Paul is saying, “Jesus promised to give me more than sufficient strength for the journey. He enables me to remain faithful in this ministry and because of him, I won’t faint or give in!”
By his own admission, Paul was not an eloquent speaker. He had cast aside all his worldly training and his own human brilliance. He said he preached through weakness, in fear and trembling. Even Peter said Paul spoke things that were hard to understand (see 2 Peter 3:15-16). His ministry was the outshining of Christ — which was produced in him through great sufferings. This great apostle impacted his age incredibly and continues to impact even our generation by the way he responded to his trials.
Paul often spoke of “Christ in me” by which he meant, “You see a human being standing before you. But God has led me through great trials, and those sufferings have produced in me the character of Christ. That’s what you see shining from my life. Only the faithful enabler can produce this in a life; only he can give his servants a song and a testimony in the midst of every trial.” Hallelujah!
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:1-5).
On Jesus’ final night with his disciples, after they finished supper, he asked them to walk with him so that he could impart one last teaching. “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31). As they walked, Jesus summed up our relationship to him and the Father. The vine is Jesus — the source of all life flowing into us — and we are the branches extending from him. Overseeing all this life-flow is our heavenly Father, the gardener who tends to our growth. Could there be any more serene image of our life in Christ?
Yet, also embedded in this analogy is a different kind of image: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away” (15:2). Many Christians flinch at this verse; nobody likes the thought of being “taken away” by God. This verse is reason enough to cling to a performance-driven religion, a system by which it can be measured whether we’re bearing fruit or not.
Our compassionate, loving Lord, however, is more than a life source to us — he is the life source. Other “vines” may promise life but none contain true life as he does. Christians may seek life from sources that seem good and legitimate — ambition and drive, success and comfort — but these vines in themselves are lifeless. Jesus wants us grafted into him so that we may drink deeply of his abundant life every day.
The vinedresser, our heavenly Father, tends his garden lovingly and perfectly, putting the right things into place to make them grow. But the good vinedresser also prunes — and that can be painful. However, Jesus makes it very clear that as we abide in him, the pruning will bring forth fruit that is glorious and could not have been produced on its own.
Jesus gave his disciples these beautiful, parting words: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11).
The apostle Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, made an extraordinary admission in Romans: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). Notice the key phrases:
The Spirit helps us to do prayer, to get away from the bustle of life and get alone with God. He reveals our critical need of daily grace by contrasting God’s strength with our human frailty. He draws us gently to our Source and helps our hearts to sincerely bow, believe and petition at God’s throne.
Many times, we face situations in life that are quite complicated and we are unsure what we should pray for — there is no obvious right or wrong choice. Maybe an opportunity arises for a short-term mission trip or a rebellious child gets into trouble with the law. What is God’s will in those situations? How should we pray? That is where the Holy Spirit helps us by revealing God’s will and granting us the faith to pray in the right direction.
The prayer of faith moves mountains (Mark 11:23-24; James 5:15). The Spirit alone makes the power of God so real to our inner person that we are enabled to ask, seek, and knock with bold assurance. This is another reason why the deepest truths and secrets of prayer can never be learned by lectures, teaching tapes, or books.
Prayer is learned by praying, and the heart usually learns faster than the head. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Holy Spirit marries prayer and faith together within us, and brings about life-changing results.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.