I’m no gardener. The last time I tried to grow anything was for a junior high science fair project that I’m still trying to erase from memory.
Though Better Homes and Gardens will never feature my writing in an article entitled something like “5 Tips for a Bountiful Garden,” I still know enough about plants to identify the healthy, fruit-bearing ones from the struggling, dying ones.
Jesus’ words in John 15 have been on my mind lately as I’ve been studying what it means to be a fruitful Christian. Verse 16 tells us that Christ’s purpose in choosing His elect was that they would bear fruit. If that’s the reason He chose us, growing in Christ and producing spiritual fruit should be one of our main concerns.
How do we produce this fruit? Christ tells us, “I am the True Vine… 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” (15:1, 4).
The ESV Study Bible defines abiding with Christ as “to continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience, and joy.” I like this definition not only because it’s concise and practical but also because it makes a great outline.
I want you to think of a person with whom you have a close relationship (a spouse, friend, parent, etc.). This person is likely someone whom you trust deeply. You’ve spent significant time, shared different experiences, and had meaningful conversations with them. Time and again, they’ve proven themselves to be the people in your life that genuinely care and desire the best for you.
Christian, Jesus is such a Friend for you.
If Jesus was willing to die for you, how much more willing will He be to lead you, protect you, and provide for you? He has already proven His great love for you on the cross (15:13), and He knows you more intimately than anyone. He desires your ultimate good and knows how to bring it about (Romans 8:28). The believer who knows God through daily abiding with Him can’t help but trust Him (Psalm 9:10).
Can anyone here honestly say that they don’t need to work on their prayer life? No? I can’t either.
Most consistent church-goers have heard 1 Thessalonians 5:17 quoted hundreds of times. “Pray without ceasing.” Even though we’ve listened to countless sermons on the topic, we still don’t pray that way. Why? We drastically underestimate the power of prayer.
Jesus makes a promise in John 15:7 that should encourage us to come boldly before the throne of grace. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Now, before you take this verse and start praying over this year’s Christmas list, let me clarify.
There’s that small but important word “if” in this verse. Jesus makes one stipulation–“IF you abide in me, and my words abide in you.” Abiding in Jesus’ words means choosing to obey His commands and trust what He has said. When someone makes this choice, his desires align with Christ’s desires and will. Since God always acts according to His perfect will, when He works, He thereby grants the believer’s request.
So continue to bring your requests before “him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), confident His will is best.
In a recent Sunday evening service, my pastor, who happened to be preaching on John 15, said, “Loves does not spring from obedience; obedience springs from love.” (Find the sermon here.)
When you care for someone, your eagerness to please them results in willing obedience. Jesus confirms this in John 15:10-11: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
The greatest command He has given us is to love others, and this is done “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). The world should be able to identify Christians by our genuine care for all who cross our paths (John 11:35).
Everyone wants this last one, but it’s impossible to obtain on our own. John 15:11 reveals the source of joy–obedience to God.
To the unbeliever reading this, thinking, “Well, stink,” it’s time you accept the truth. Yes, you may experience temporal happiness as a part of common grace, but lasting, satisfying joy will only ever come from pursuing Christ with an obedient heart.
If you’re a believer who’s daily abiding and delighting in your Lord, awesome! Through God’s grace, keep up the good work and stay faithful.
But for the ones for whom I wrote this post–the Christians who’ve lost their joy–I encourage to evaluate your spiritual crop. Can these characteristics describe your devotional life? Which one(s) of these are lacking? Trust God, pray without ceasing, obey His commands, and find joyful satisfaction in Him.
When we abide in the True Vine, He takes our barren branches and produces a bountiful harvest of heavenly fruit.