“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11
Jesus intends that we live in his joy and that we experience it to the full.
Jesus taught that he is the true vine and we the branches so that we be able to live in his joy and that our joy be full.
So, what’s the “secret sauce” that gets us to this place of joy?
It is very simple, but maybe not so easy. Jesus’ analogy is a vine and branches and fruit bearing. It’s not hard to understand. Branches get their nourishment from the vine that in turn produces fruit.
Since Jesus says he is the true vine and we are the branches, it is clear that we are to draw our lives from him. He is the source. Here is where the hard part comes in. We are used to earning our way in this life. And we should work hard. But, we can’t earn life from God. It is given by grace.
It is love that motivates us to draw our life from God. We love God because he first loved us. Note the priority. Jesus ties love and obedience to his commands together. Our natural bent is to assume that if we obey his commands then we prove our love and he will love us. Wrong.
Obedience to God’s commands flows out of God’s love; his love for us and responsively our love for him. Jesus said that the flow goes like this: The Father loved the Son, the Son loves us, so live in his love. By living in his love, we will keep his commandments just as Jesus, living in the Father’s love, keeps his commandments.
We get it backward, naturally. We have a default setting that says we are to obey to be loved. We need to hit the reset button to, “because God loves me I want to keep his commandments and live in his love.” His gracious love doesn’t take obedience to God’s commandments out of our lives; it just puts it in the proper light. Obedience is fruit, not cause.
What is the fruit that we are to bear? The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These come from walking in the Spirit which is essentially the same as abiding in Christ; drawing our life from God. We certainly don’t do a good job of producing these characteristics on our own, at least I don’t, and I’ve learned that I am not that different from other people.
Conclusion: God loves us, as a response to his love, we obey his commands and draw our life from God. This is a grace based relationship of the fullness of life with God. The reason Jesus taught us about this is so his joy can be in us, and our joy can be full. This is a big deal. His purpose in teaching us about abiding in Christ and bearing the fruit of that relationship is so we can know joy, real joy, his joy and that it will be full in us. This joy is one of the amazing products of the gospel. God loves us and provides us with joy in abundance that is not determined by, nor dependant on, our life circumstances.
Revel in his love. Revel in his joy.