John 15:1-17 (Three)
I am who I am and I will be what I will be because of Jesus. How essential for me that I remain in him; for, if I do not remain in him, I immediately forget who I am and what I will be. Jesus became what I was that I might become what he is. I will be with God, I will be like God; but I will not be God. If I remain in Jesus, I am who I am and I will be what I will be. But more: I will do what I will do.
For if I remain in Jesus, I will bear much fruit. Fact. This is not to be prayed about, this is not to be asked for; it is not a promise, but rather bearing much fruit is the certain result of remaining in Jesus. And what is fruit for? Eating. Eating by others. So that others can be nourished through my relationship with God. And they will taste and see that the Lord is good. They will eat his body and drink his blood.
This remaining in Jesus is not something I do in the sense of activity, but it does require effort and commitment from me if I am to truly remain in him and not just look as if I am remaining in him. My roots of remaining (abiding) must go deep into Jesus so that I draw deeply from him, so that I am properly rooted and established in love. The life that others see may look like me, and, in one sense, it may be me; but the life in me is the life of Jesus. Only in him is my life filled with good things. Only in him can I nourish others. Only in him can true relationship be demonstrated. Only in him can I know true friendship.
As I remain in Jesus, he remains in me! The Christ in me is my hope of glory. This is astonishing in its implications, but most astonishing of all is the depth of relationship that Jesus wants to have with me! There was a time when I didn’t want anything to do with me, and yet Jesus wants to remain in me. Truly this is a remarkable partnership, co-heirs together by his grace. One thing is for sure – Jesus didn’t do this because of what he could gain from me. And, I astonish myself here, I am not remaining in Jesus because of what I can gain from him, though I will gain much; I am remaining in him because he who is altogether lovely in himself loves me for me. Why? I cannot explain that, but it is true.
And the result of this mutual remaining is that the fruit of the Holy Spirit grows in me and feeds and nourishes others. The result of this mutual remaining is that God entrusts people to me so that I may feed and encourage them. The result of this mutual remaining is that people entrust themselves to me so that I may care for them, that I may spread my wings over them and protect them. All because of remaining, all because of abiding.
The gardener cleans us so that we will be even more fruitful. This is fascinating, and, in many ways, is the opposite of what many Christians actually believe. When God cleans – prunes, disciplines – he does so with an eye to the future, not to the past. God cleans for the benefit of what is to come, not because of what is in the past.
Now, this is important because it highlights a significant truth that we need to grasp. It is this. God cleans us not because of sin but because of love. This is vital, because this is at the heart of what it means to have a living and vital relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son. So much of what passes for discipleship in these days is actually sin-focused, but God is not sin-focused. God cleans because of his love that wants us to be better than we are now – to be even more fruitful in bearing a fruit that will last. God is cleaning us that we might have treasure in heaven.
I believe that Jesus is modelling discipleship here, for he tells his disciples, ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ Jesus is not referring to one word, but his consistent speaking of God’s word to the disciples, training them to live in relationship with God. Jesus did not focus on sin with his disciples, but continually taught them and showed them relationship. This is life – to know the living and true God, and Jesus the Christ whom he sent.
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. This naturally speaks of the fact that, apart from the vine, we have no life, no being, no existence. Yet it is a quite remarkable thing for Jesus to say. It is a fact that when the vine is bearing fruit, the fruit on the branches obscures the vine that actually brings the fruit. People may look at us and think that it is we who are bearing fruit, and so it is; but we are not the source of the fruit, Jesus is.