Jesus’ way changes the world as we abide in His love and joy

WEDNESDAY, MAY 2
John 15:9-17

The joy and love which are characteristics of those who are the Lord’s have the effect of transforming our world

9  “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.

“Remain in My love” – a parallel, but not identical,  statement to “remain in Me” or “abide in Me”, v.4.

10 If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.

“If you keep…” – a condition. Doing what Jesus said to do is important and the key to knowing His abiding presence and the security of His love. Jesus, fully God but also fully man, stuck closely to His Father’s instructions and intentions in His human life.

11 I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

“My joy…in you” – a defining characteristic of Christian believers is their joy, the joy of Jesus which is the same as the joy of the Spirit of Jesus. Obeying Jesus is not, as is sometimes supposed, drudgery, John 1:4, John 5:2-3.

“Complete” – our joy in a fallen world flickers in an uncertain way which the Holy Spirit’s joy makes into a secure connection.

12-13  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

“Love each other”, John 13:34.

As I have loved you” – Jesus demonstrated a depth of love that was sacrificial in a final sense. He calls us to love others beyond what is polite, expected and convenient, but showing His love even when it costs us to do so. We can’t claim to love God without showing love that extends beyond ourselves, 1 John 4:11-21.

14-17  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 so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.

“If you do what I command” – this is not about formality, discipline and duty in the way the language may suggest. What characterises Jesus’ friends is that they seek to grow more like Him and be found doing more of what Jesus Himself did. Appointed to bear “fruit that will last” is broadly about showing Jesus to the world through our changed hearts and attitudes, which itself attracts God’s provision.

“I have called you friends” – a rabbi’s disciples were seen in a relationship of bond-service, but Jesus’ disciples are in a bond of friendship. This is a key to the way the kingdom of God operates – through people and relationships.

For further study, the OT prophets foresaw an era of people of joy, Isaiah 25:9, 35:10, 51:3, 61:10, Zeph. 3:14-17, Zech. 9:9

Application

We are on a mission to transform a selfish and love-deficient world by demonstrating a new way of relating. First of all, we learn this within the fellowship of the church, but quickly we join Jesus on His mission, letting His love and joy, in us by His Holy Spirit, spill out to bless others. This is showing an unbelieving world what God is really like, and it is what Jesus called “fruit that will last”.

It doesn’t just happen – we have to work at it a bit. And we will find the enemy is ever active in making relationships difficult, wherever he can find a foothold to get in. Then, “remaining in His love” gets more costly. We find ourselves having to lay down parts of our life – being right, having what’s fair, letting go of what is ours – and trusting God for the outcome.

That is what Jesus did. It was His way of life and He says it is ours, too, as His “commanded” followers. But as we do, His love for us becomes more keenly felt, the joy that carries us through kicks in and we are reminded that we are not just followers, but teamed up with Him as his friends.

For reflection and discussion

Think of a time when you came to a decision to let go of something in life to do what was right by Jesus. How difficult was it at the time, and looking back, what did you gain by doing what was right?

The test of whether we can live in the world and abide in Jesus

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25
John 15:1-8

Jesus speaks of the disciples’ need to remain in close relationship with Him by the Holy Spirit who is yet to be given

1-2  “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.

“I am the true vine” – There are varieties of vine we grow on our walls, which are decorative but not fruit-bearing. A grape variety will produce a lot of leafy growth, and some dead wood, that needs regular cutting back.

3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

There is a word play with the same word being used for our two words, pruning or cleaning.

The pruning or cleaning happens by the Word of God, which confronts sin while encouraging holiness. Jesus’ words of God as the Word of God is a pruning process for them that also grows them spiritually in the right way.
The word of God preached in the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, has the same cathartic and also growth-encouraging effect on us now.

For further study, read Ephesians 5:26-27; Titus 3:5.

4 Remain in Me, as I also 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.

4  “Remain in Me” – Or in many version “abide in Me”. This has to be read together with Jesus’ promise that He would not leave them alone, John 14:15-18. His remaining in them became reality as He returned to them in the Person of the Holy Spirit. We as present-day disciples of Jesus keep close and personal fellowship with Jesus through prayerful reading and responding to His speaking to us as the Word in the Bible. Jesus “remains in us” through our inviting the Holy Spirit to empower us, and so inspire and enable us to produce ‘fruit’ of love and joy and good works that pleases the Father.

5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.

5  The life of the Spirit of Christ in a believer or disciple is evident to everybody by being life-giving to all around. We can be believers and consider ourselves disciples without growing or producing anything particularly life-giving. Apart from Jesus – and that means apart from the influence of the Spirit of Jesus – we can’t produce what He calls fruit, which inspires others.

6 If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Those who know Jesus but do not obey Him, rejecting the need to walk with Jesus in life John 14:6, are condemning themselves. Those remaining of the Twelve will soon reflect on the example of Judas Iscariot.

7-8 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.

7  “It will be done for you” – Those who keep that close spiritual connection through Word and Spirit will be asking what Jesus Himself in the flesh would be asking – or what the Enthroned heavenly Jesus is having them ask

Application

Remaining in Jesus, in a world which demands our attention from every direction, is a challenge.

It’s an impossible challenge, both to grasp and to carry out – unless we view this from a post-resurrection, post-Pentecost perspective. Jesus was talking to his close disciples during the last week of His life, and coaching them for the imminent time when it would all change. He was saying “Remain in Me” knowing that He was going, and “if My words remain in you” knowing that they would forget much of it in the shock that was to come.

However, also to come was the impartation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a very personal experience, bringing to life Jesus’ words earlier in this discourse. At that time He said that the Father would send the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of what He had taught and be their teacher in explaining it, John 14:23-26.

However we understand the need to be part of the vine – part of the Body of Christ, connected spiritually, our desire for independence submitted to Jesus, willing for Him to take some things from us for us to grow more fruitful – it doesn’t happen apart from an awareness of God’s Spirit and our openness to let Him work in us. Apart from Jesus – a spiritual encounter for us – we can do nothing of His kingdom purpose. And the things we insist on doing without Him will inevitably reflect our own empires.

For reflection and discussion

How would you explain in your own words, to a new Christian or someone exploring the faith, what Jesus meant when He said: “Remain (or abide) in Me and let me abide in you…”