If youâ€™ve read John 15:1-12, youâ€™ve noticed that there are a few key pictures here that Jesus uses: gardener, vine, branches, pruning, fruit. Think about it.
- Who is the vine? Who is the gardener? Who are the branches?
- How are the branches related to the vine?
- What are the branches supposed to do? How do they do that?
- What happens to the branches that donâ€™t bear fruit?
- What happens to the ones that do bear fruit?
Get the picture? Branches that donâ€™t grow fruit are cut off â€“ dead, useless, good only for the fire. Branches that do bear fruit get â€¦ pruned: chopped up a bit by a skillful gardener in a way that makes them healthier. Stronger. More fruitful.
Look at it this way: a branch never goes up to a vine and says: â€œhey, let me be in you!â€ No! The vine always grows the branch first! Jesus always comes to us first and grows new life in us. And since we are â€œbranchesâ€ in his â€œvineâ€ â€“ the question becomes â€¦ (1) how do we remain in him so that we can (2) bear the fruit that he desires?
Check yourself here: what do you think it means to â€œremainâ€ in Jesus? (your translation might instead say â€œabideâ€ or â€œliveâ€). How do we do it?
I had a lot of great answers to this question for years â€“ until I spent time on 15:10. Check it for yourself. Jesus says: you will remain in my love if you â€¦ keep my commands. His words â€œremain in usâ€ when we actually do what he says. Keeping Jesusâ€™ commands is how we remain in him, live in him, stay connected to him! Now what does he command us to do? Read 15:12, 17. (Or if you like emphasis, read John 13:14-15, 34; 14:15, 21, 23, 24 (the opposite), 15:10, 12, 14, 17 plus 1 John 2:5b-6, 3:24 â€¦ get the picture?)
Think with me: as we (1) keep his command to â€œlove one another as he loved us,â€ we (2) â€œremain in himâ€ and (3) he has promised that we will â€œbear fruit.â€ So whatâ€™s the fruit? Itâ€™s what the vine produces. The fruit is that we become the kind of loving person that he is.
Now what is Jesusâ€™ point about our â€œbearing fruit (15:8)?â€Â Our fruit [loving one another] shows the world that we are â€¦ Jesusâ€™ disciples.
Do you see how radically simple and beautiful this is? We get it all so wrong: we think that our job is to do all these good things so that then God then loves us and approves us and lets us remain in him â€“ â€œif I bear fruit then I get to stay in the vine!) â€“ but that is so backwards! God loves us first â€“ as I have loved you, Jesus said â€“ and only then can we really love others and let that love be the evidence that we belong to Jesus, live in him and him in us.
Have you ever paused and thanked God for this? That he has loved us first â€¦ that he makes clear his command to us (love others as he loved us!) â€¦ and that he has promised to live in us.
Ask Jesus to live in and through you so you can love others and they will see that you belong to him. That is a prayer he can and will answer (15:7).
Read John 15:6 again. What does Jesus promise to those of us who try to live our daily lives without (â€œapart fromâ€) him?
Those words really freak me out â€“ because I know that a lot of the time, Iâ€™m trying to make it through the day and really do something, really be something â€¦ without Jesus.
Where I live in Florida, Iâ€™m surrounded by citrus trees: oranges, lemons, mangoes, limes â€“ and those are just my neighbors. I know those branches that are dead or fallen off canâ€™t produce anything. But man do I think I am different; I think I can really get though each day and be something amazing â€¦ apart from Jesus. And what do I hear him say to that? â€œapart from me, you can do nothing.â€ Nothing.
Can I press you on this for a moment? This is the whole point of the Godâ€™s great news: that in Jesus, we are united to God himself! The amazing love and unity that God enjoys in himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is now shared with us in the person of Jesus. Our relationship with God has gone from terribly â€œruinedâ€ to gloriously â€œrestored.â€ We now live in him and he enables us to go through life with him, loving like him.
I think the only way you can tell if you are â€œbearing fruitâ€ (and therefore remaining in Jesus) is to ask yourself: am I becoming a person who loves more â€“ or less? Better yet: do a â€œfruit check.â€ Ask someone who knows you well to give you an honest answer: are you becoming more loving â€“ or less? Are your growing in the peace and joy that love brings?
Live connected to Jesus (remaining in him by keeping his commands) and he lives in and through yâ€™all to love others. And the whole world knows it.
So which will it be? Nothing â€“ or everything?
Live apart from Jesus by neglecting his commands â€¦ and nothing.
Remain in him by keeping his commands â€¦ and everything.
Believe it: as you live today and keep his commands, he is in you, with you, living through your very life.