Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our personal experiential knowledge of Him and our faith in Him are inseparable. Faith that is purely academic, consisting in nothing more than mental assent with Scriptural principles that may in themselves be sound, is not authentic faith and in times of trial and testing it will eventually fail. A true faith will triumph and abide forever, and it is only present in the hearts of those who know Him, to whom faith is not a requirement nor duty but a privilege.
Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Before we can expect to see the growth of Christian character, fruit and leadership in our lives, we must first encounter God. We must first come to know Jesus inwardly and personally. Anything else is false, external religion and a worthless substitute for Christian reality. Anything else will never satisfy: either us or God. Anything else is of no value.
It is only through our personal union and communion with Jesus that Christian fruit will be produced. As we increase in the knowledge of Him, so will the fruit of our lives increase (2 Pet. 1:3). Only the fruit that is birthed in our fellowship with God will remain (John 15:4-5). Only the works that are built upon the foundation of our personal knowledge of Jesus Christ will endure. Everything else is wood, hay and stubble (1 Cor. 3:11-13). Of everything else God asks, “Who has required this at your hand?” (Is. 1:12)
Some lovers of man’s religion, whose main task in life seems to be to coerce new converts, through the means of guilt and fear, into conforming to externals, may argue that this appears to offer a license to sin and live in unbelief toward God (cf. Gal. 4:29-30; 5:11-12; 6:12-13). To them we reply that the real sin of unbelief is to perpetuate the spawning of “imitation” Christians who have never given themselves to Jesus, who have known very little encounter with God, who have never really “tasted” of the Lord, and whose Christianity consists solely in religious duties and an outward identification with a church and a set of beliefs, ethics and doctrines.
The Lord has not sent us to discourage new Christians and to deceive the world with this falsehood, but to proclaim the Gospel of Truth. And the Gospel is the power of God unto restoration with Himself – nothing more (what could be more?) and nothing less.
God has told us that the Christian life can only be found in Christ Himself. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Why do we not believe Him? When will we cease from our own vain religious labors, and instead direct all our energies toward Him? True Christian character and true Christian leadership will only be produced out of a living, vital, inward union with its Source: Jesus Christ Himself.