The Biblical Focus of a Disciple Part 3: The focus of John 15
The focus of John 15
Now we come to the key that unlocks the door to abundant spiritual fruit! This key opens the door to the changes that we all need in our lives. John 15:4 says: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” John 15:5 says, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:6 says, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:7 says, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” And John 15:10 says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Jesus makes it very clear that the key to any fruit is not striving to produce it in the flesh, but abiding in Christ. I have heard Galatians 5 taught as character traits that we must work diligently to produce in our lives. This approach misses the point of the passage. Galatians 5 was given as a litmus test that reveals the nature of a believer’s walk. Earlier in the same passage, Paul writes that the works of the flesh are the following: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” Paul was showing that there are two ways to walk as a believer. One produces the following actions, while the other produces miraculous/unnatural character. This character is unnatural, because we are born sinners and that indwelling sin nature has defiled every aspect of our person. The Spirit-filled believer grows in Christ-likeness daily and bears the marks of Spirit-filled living, not the works of the flesh. Paul’s point was that these character qualities are the products and evidences of Spirit-filled living, not the means to that ends. This truth does not eliminate striving and discipline in the Christian life, rather it properly focuses and motivates Christian striving and discipline.
So what is the focus of John 15 and Christian striving? Christ commanded His disciples to “abide in Him.” If we know that we are to abide, then what does it mean to abide in Christ? The tense of “abide” in John 15 carries the idea of “make abiding in Christ a way of life;” therefore, abiding in Christ is a way of life in which we cultivate and maintain a vibrant relationship with God through meditating in His Word, obediently responding to what it reveals, communing with Him in prayer, and walking with Him in obedient fellowship. The striving and disciplines of the Christian life are to be focused upon cultivating and maintaining this relationship through: Putting God’s word into our hearts; responding in obedient submission to things God reveals to me about my walk; seeking restoration when I sin against Him; growing in my knowledge of God; learning what kinds of things to pray for; learning how to approach God; worshipping God; and loving Him supremely! As we strive to be disciplined in our walk with God, the fruit of this relationship will be produced by God. The balance is that as I walk with God, He energizes me in that walk, and also does His work in and through me to produce abundant spiritual fruit. What a liberating truth! The Christian life is not a box or list of rules, but growth in a relationship that progressively changes my thinking, and transforms my character and actions to reflect more purely the glory of God in my life. This truth is liberating and transforming! While justification is a position in Christ, sanctification is progressive growth into Christ-likeness through this vibrant walk with God. This righteousness and position that we receive by grace through faith sets us in a relationship with God that we are to grow in from the time of our conversion, forever!
John 17:3 says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Eternal life is not deliverance from eternal damnation, though this is one result of our justification. Eternal life is growth in a real relationship with our Creator and Lord. It is a growing knowledge of God and the joys and blessing that are associated with and flow out of this relationship. Christ prayed in verses 19-26 “That they [those who believe through His word] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” This eternal life that we will grow in and enjoy forever is not simply a future hope, but a present and eternally enduring reality. Though indwelling sin and a sin-cursed world fight to limit the degree of our eternal life experience, it is God’s will that every believer fully experience the joys and fruit of their eternal life today. Believers who walk with God are simply doing the will of God by enjoying eternal life today, and the eternal blessings that are produced as we walk with God. Are you experiencing this abiding relationship and the blessings that flow from it?