Fruitful Through Love: John 15:1-17

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As we continue moving through the last things Jesus tells His disciples on the night of His arrest, Jesus shifts focus from obedience, which we talked about in the last episode, and onto a new word-picture. It’s likely this new word picture and the idea Jesus wants to teach us is connected with everything we’ve talked about so far in these last few podcast episodes.

Let’s read the next portion of Jesus’ teaching, and discover the next big ideas He wants to share with His followers. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Jesus continued sharing, saying:

“I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch joined to me that does not bear fruit. He trims every branch that does bear fruit. Then it will bear even more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain joined to me, just as I also remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me. If you don’t remain joined to me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and dries up. Branches like those are picked up. They are thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain joined to me and my words remain in you, ask for anything you wish. And it will be done for you. When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to my Father. It shows that you are my disciples.

Let’s pause here for a moment to focus on what Jesus has just described. In a simple word picture, Jesus tells us that God the Father is like a gardener, Jesus is like a vine, and all of Jesus’ followers are like branches on this vine. However, while this illustration is easy to understand, it gets challenging. Jesus describes God-the-Gardener looking over each branch and trimming the branches that are bearing fruit, and cutting off the branches that are not.

In gardening, this makes perfect sense, but when you or I are represented by branches, the emphasis here is that being fruitful is the only way God will let us stay connected with Jesus. Being connected is one thing, but staying connected is another. This illustration challenges us with the dual ideas that in order to be fruitful in God’s eyes, we must be connected to Jesus, and in order to stay connected to Jesus, we must be fruitful, otherwise God-the-Gardener will cut us off.

Jesus ties this illustration to the illustration about prayer that we focused in on earlier in this conversation with His disciples, and He shares how He is happy to answer prayers and requests of those who are joined to Him, and in this context, those who are joined to Him are those who are being fruitful.

It’s worth pointing out here, before we move forward, that if you don’t believe you are being fruitful in your life, the most important prayer you can pray is one asking for help to be fruitful. I believe God is happy to help Jesus’ followers be fruitful, and this is why we also see God-the-Gardener trimming the branches that are being fruitful. Trimming fruitful branches clears distractions away and it helps focus the branch on its task of bearing fruit.

God touching our lives is not optional. Either He will trim us to help us be more fruitful, or He will cut us off if we are not fruitful. Being fruitful brings glory to God and it shows that we are Jesus’ disciples.

Continuing in verse 9, Jesus switches focus slightly to tell His followers:

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. In the same way, I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that you will have the same joy that I have. I also want your joy to be complete. 12 Here is my command. Love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore. Slaves do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends. I have told you everything I learned from my Father. 16 You did not choose me. Instead, I chose you. I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last. I also appointed you so that the Father will give you what you ask for. He will give you whatever you ask for in my name. 17 Here is my command. Love one another.

Let’s stop reading here and focus on what Jesus has just emphasized. While many commands Jesus gives are important, Jesus tells His followers that the one command they should remember and emphasize above all the others is loving one another.

Yes, love for God is crucial too, but many hateful things are done in the world today through the filter of “loving God”. If we are to accurately represent God to the world, our lives must display a love for all humanity. This means that if you are white, you love those who are black, and it also means that if you are black, you love those who are white. This means that you love everyone from every other racial background, and you love everyone else regardless of who they are. Love starts with God, it was shown through Jesus, and we are called to carry this banner of love forward.

Loving others does not mean we agree with everything they are doing. Jesus did not agree with people who wanted to persist living in sin. However, loving others means that we respect others because God has given them life. Because God has given someone breath, we can trust that He has a plan for them and that He loves them.

Jesus loved people and He called them out of sin.

Jesus had no issue spending time with sinners, because we can read about plenty of examples where He spent time in the homes of a wide variety of people.

Jesus has called His followers to model this love for others, and the example Jesus gives us for love is the love He showed for us, a love that placed humanity ahead of himself.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love others, and when we love others, we are being like Jesus, and we are being obedient and fruitful in the eyes of God.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place Him first in your life. Show that Jesus is first in your life by obeying Jesus’ command to love others. Other faiths demonstrate hostility towards those who don’t believe the same as they do, but Jesus has challenged His followers to show love towards everyone, regardless of who they are. We are to love others because we are representing God’s character, and God loves us so much that Jesus came to die the death we deserved.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow your personal relationship with God even stronger. While getting ideas from other people can be helpful, don’t let your relationship with God depend on someone else’s relationship. Intentionally grow your personal relationship with God through regularly praying and studying the Bible.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 28: During the last conversation Jesus shares with the disciples on the night of His arrest, He describes how we should love each other, and how we are like branches that are connected to Him. Discover the secret to being fruitful and why God has called us to love one another.

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