“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. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:1-17).
I’ve been pondering something lately: Why do I seem to feel so close to God at times, yet other times He feels so far away? Why do I have joy sometimes, when I just put on a good face at other times?
The Spirit led me to these verses from John 15 this week, and it seems as if my questions were clearly answered.
First, verse 5 says, “IF a man remains in me and I in him…” then he will
- Bear much fruit (verse 5). We can read elsewhere in the Bible that bearing fruit is a sign that we have repented of our sin (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is a complete reversal or change of mind. We can recognize believers who have repented of their sin because their new actions are obvious to all (Matthew 7:16-20). Fruit is defined as good works (Colossians 1:10).
- Ask whatever he wishes (verse 7). Some people seem to have their prayers answered, while others’ prayers go no farther than the ceiling. This verse seems to guarantee that God will give us whatever we wish (Greek thelo, #2309, to wish for, desire, prefer, or delight in).
- Have joy (verse 11). This joy is a calm delight or cheerfulness (Greek chara, #5479).
This seems to me like the ultimate wish list of any believer. Who wouldn’t want to always do what is right? Who wouldn’t want to be able to have all her prayers answered? Who wouldn’t want to live a cheerful life of calm and delight? It all seems too good to be true.
(I certainly haven’t arrived at this! I’m just delivering the mail as written in the letter of God’s Word.)
I think I can see why I don’t always have these characteristics in my life. Verse 5 makes it clear: I must remain in Him, and He must remain in me.
In other words, I can’t bear the fruit of good works unless I remain in Him and He remains in me. I can’t have my prayers answered unless I remain in Him and He remains in me. I can’t have joy unless I remain in Him and He remains in me.
The opposite of this is also true — in a scary way! If I don’t remain in Him and He in me,
- I will be able to do nothing of any value in my life!
- God will not hear my prayer!
- I will be miserably unhappy!
I see two parts to this conditional promise:
- I must remain in Him.
- He must remain in me.
Thankfully, these verses spell out what this means, so that I don’t have to guess. (God’s Word always does this, I’m happy to report!)
How He Remains in Me
“If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you…“ (John 15:5, 7).
By comparing these verses, I can see that Jesus’ remaining in me is the same thing as His words remaining in me.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).
But this is really practical!
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So if I want Him to remain in me, His Words (“All Scripture”) must remain in me.
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful“ (Joshua 1:8).
How to Remain in Him
“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” (John 15:9-10).
It’s not enough to just let the Word of God remain in me. It’s not enough to just know what God says. In order to remain in Him, I must actually do what He says, by obeying His commands.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does“ (James 1:22-25).
Exactly what are Jesus’ commands? Jesus tells us what He means:
- “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). To love fellow believers, the other members of God’s family, is what Jesus asks us to do. I hear many ideas of exactly what it means to love others, but the Law of God gives clear direction on how to do this. Jesus clarifies that this is what He is talking about when He says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Again, “all Scripture” will tell us how to love others, beginning with the “law” of God in Genesis to Deuteronomy, continuing through all the Old Testament, with examples and clarification in the writings of the apostles.
- “You are my friends if you do what I command… everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15). As Jesus equates Himself with His heavenly Father, we see that everything the Father has ever commanded is also the command of His Son. God’s commands to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, to the Israelites, and to Jesus’ disciples are the same commands He gives to us!
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).
So I think I’ve answered my question. If I don’t seem to possess the power to do good, it’s because I either don’t have God’s Word in me, or I’ve chosen not to obey God’s commands. If I don’t have joy or answers to prayer, it’s because I’m not taking the Word of God seriously, enough to do what it says.
It’s simple. Do I believe it?
P.S. Some more posts on this topic: