John 15:1-17 (Four)
I wonder if we have plumbed the depths of the truth that without Jesus there is nothing. Maybe I am just getting old, but the longer I live in Christ the more I see that life is about knowing him. Everything else has its place, but the fundamental purpose of life is to know Jesus. How easily we obscure the truth that Jesus is the life-giving vine, he is the source and I am the receiver who shows the life of God to others.
Of course, the truth that without Jesus we can nothing, has a flip-side that is quite remarkable. I can do all things through Christ who gives me life, who gives me strength, who gives me my all. I wonder what the ‘all things’ are. I wonder what Jesus would want to do through me. As I find out in the days that lie ahead, Lord keep me ever mindful of the reality that without you I can do nothing; keep me ever mindful of the reality that I can do all things through you.
I must agree with Richard Foster as he writes ‘Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.’ As Lloyd-Jones said many years ago, ‘The main trouble in the church today – and I am speaking of evangelical churches in particular at this point – is the appalling superficiality.’ It hasn’t got any better since his day, and it has surely got much worse.
And we wonder why the world takes no heed of the church. Yes, the world is living on a diet of superficiality and fashion, but the point is this – the church is eating from the same menu while it weakly claims to be different from the world. The warnings of this were sounded many years ago by people like A W Tozer and C S Lewis, but we dismissed them as extremists instead of hearing them as prophets; now we have reaped what we have sown.
Jesus does not say that those who do not remain in him are branches that are thrown into the fire and burned, he says that such people are like branches that are thrown into the fire and burned. When a branch is cut off from the source of life that is the vine, withering and dying is the inevitable result – if the situation is allowed to continue. There is not inevitability about this.
Surely this is a clear word to Jesus’ disciples to look out for those who are withering, to watch for those who have been cut off from the source of life – and to graft them back into the vine that is Jesus. Jesus speaks of withered and broken branches being thrown into the fire and then he immediately says, ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.’ Jesus modelled this in his restoration of Peter, and he told Peter to do exactly the same for others.
Jesus wants us to bear much fruit – fruit that will last – and fruit is for others to eat and receive nourishment and life. Over and over again in this passage Jesus returns to the same theme – love one another. The natural result of a love for Jesus is a love for one another. The natural result of a love for Jesus is doing what Jesus did. The natural result of a love for Jesus is being Jesus to others. The healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick need Jesus.