John 15:1-17 (spring AD 30, Thursday evening of Passion Week)
The connection between love, obedience and the presence of God was hammered home in our last reading, and in this section Jesus pointed out what is at stake: our eternal destiny and joy.
Us being with God now, and his being with us now, is not a lifestyle choice. Rather, it is what distinguishes those who will be with God (in heaven) forever and those who will be without him (in hell) forever.
If something is attached to a vine, that doesn’t make it part of the vine. If a vine is grafted in to a vine, then the connection will thrive. If what is grafted in is NOT a vine, then it will not bear fruit, and will be cut off because it’s in the wrong place. Similarly, if you attach yourself to the name of God or his church, and you are not a Christian, you will be “cut off” (v.2), because your fruitlessness betrays that you are not a Christian. You can’t identify into a relationship when you reject the bases of that relationship.
What is “fruit”? See verses nine to ten, and the previous reading: bearing fruit is keeping God’s commands. That means a repentant life and a growth in holiness, becoming more like God as you share the gospel so that others will come to know Him. You will do certain things less or not at all. Other things you will do more; in particular, loving other people (fellow-Christians especially, as they are your family).
Jesus added that the reason he told his disciples to live like this was “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (v.12), through living a life of love for each other.
So many of the motivations and encouragements we see in Scripture depend entirely on our intentional feelings about God. That is, the actions God commands are meant to come from an attitude that impels those actions. Indeed, without those attitudes, the actions are essentially meaningless.
What it does it do for you, to imagine that Jesus could find joy in your life (v.11)? Our living for God doesn’t come from meditating on how angry God is at our sin – we should be angry enough about that ourselves and God, on the other hand, has forgotten our sins. But we are invited to push towards giving Christ joy through the way we live, knowing that by bringing joy to Christ we will be full of his joy ourselves. A circle of joy.
Bearing fruit for God is the reason he chose you and saved you, it is the source of your joy and demonstrates that you are a Christian. It’s not a performance standard to worry about, but a direction to follow, in full security, knowing that you belong to God and he belongs to you.