By Dr. John Jackson
Friends Helping Friends Follow Christ. It is my hope you will be helped to follow Christ…either as someone who needs to cross the line of faith, or someone who has already and needs help in following Him.
John 14 closes with, “Come now, let us leave!” which suggests that the next two chapters may have been spoken on the way to the Garden. It is probable that Christ and His disciples were passing some vineyards. If you can, I’d like you to imagine Christ holding six darts in His hand… Each of the following six darts are aimed at your heart… how you can follow Him…
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:1-11).
1) The source of spiritual life is relationship with Jesus
This passage is not suggesting that in order to “keep saved”; we have to abide in Christ. Our salvation is secured through His action on our behalf. But, to be in dynamic vital union with Him means to have His life flowing through us… that occurs through being in His Word and prayer (v. 7), obey His commandments (v. 10), and keep our lives clean through His Word (vv. 3-4).
2) Healthy branches bear fruit
To be a branch in the Vine means we are united to Christ and share His life. As we abide in Him, His life flows through us and produces fruit. It is possible for the carnal Christian to produce “works,” but only the spiritual Christian can bear lasting fruit. Note that the fruitful branches are “purged” (v. 2—same word as “clean” in v. 3) so that they will bear more fruit. God cleanses us through the Word, chastening us to make us more fruitful, which helps to explain why a dedicated Christian often has to go through suffering. As believers move from producing “fruit” to “more fruit” (v. 2) to “much fruit” (v. 8), they glorify the Father. The evidences of the “abiding life” are: a sense of the Savior’s love (v. 9), obedience to His Word (v. 10), answered prayer (v. 7), and joy (v. 11).
The purpose of Christian living is to bear fruit… being fulfilled means being completely filled up to all God has for you.
There are two kinds of fruit:
- Changed Life (your heart, character, mind, influence)
- Reached Life (your family, friends, sphere of influence)
3) The life of God in us produces the life of God through us
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).
You’ll never experience the Christian life as Christ intended on your own strength. I often use the analogy of three types of watercraft: rowboat, sailboat, and powerboat. If the life of God (the vine, His Spirit) is flowing in you, it will flow through you to bear fruit in your life and in the lives of others.
4) God prunes producing AND non-producing branches
To use v. 6 to teach that a Christian loses his salvation and is burned in hell if he fails to bear fruit is to twist the meaning of the parable. In the first place, such a teaching contradicts the plain teaching of other verses:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
Furthermore, note that the branch Christ speaks of in v. 6 withers after it is cast forth! If this branch pictures a backslidden Christian who loses his salvation, he should “wither” first, then fail to bear fruit, then be cast out. The Christian who fails to abide in Christ becomes like a useless branch, like the salt that loses its taste and is good for nothing.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (I Corinthians 3:11-15).
5. Loving Christ will mean loving His kid
This is the “eleventh commandment,” that we love one another. Certainly the Christian who abides in Christ ought to get along with other believers! Love for the brethren is a mark of a disciple. Now Jesus calls His disciples “friends”. His own death on the cross proved His love for them; now they must prove their love for Him by loving His children. Friends love each other and help each other. The obedience that Christ asks from us is not that of the slave, but of the friend. Because we are His friends and abide in Him, we know His will and share His secrets.