In John 15:1-17, Jesus speaks to us about abiding in Him. He draws a beautiful picture of an olive vine with its many branches. We expect to see each branch filled with beautiful fruit but it’s not. Instead, we are confronted with branches that are failing to produce, branches that have the potential to bear fruit, but for some reason they are empty.
He then tells us how the Father, the vinedresser, will inspect each branch for its potential. Any branches that prove itself worth keeping is pruned in the hopes that next year, there will be even more fruit. However, any branches that prove to be past the point of pruning are immediately cut off and cast into the fire.
This story is not difficult until Jesus informs us that Christians are the branches and himself the vine. Suddenly this story gets serious and its consequences frightening. If we are the branches and He is the vine, then perhaps we should take this seriously.
Jesus tells us that the secret to bearing fruit is to stay connected to the vine, to abide in Him. He takes this as far as to say that without abiding in Him we cannot hope to bear fruit. Then reminds us again that the results of disconnecting from the vine are not bearing fruit and if we don’t bear fruit we will be cut off. The outcome for disconnected branches, no matter how great they were or how connected they were in the past, will be cut off and thrown into the fire.
Two questions arise as we read this: first, what is this fruit Jesus is speaking about, and secondly, how can we make sure we are abiding in Him?
I believe Jesus answers these questions in a very straightforward language in verses 9-17. To abide in him is to remain in his love and abiding in his love is spoken of as being obedient to his commandments in verses 9-10. What Jesus means is that love for him and for God is the motivation it takes to abide in him and keep his commandments. Once you love Jesus more than you love self, your obedience will follow. Obedience always follows the heart, not the mind. Then, He expands this idea of love and abiding in him to mean loving others. Specifically, it’s about loving your fellow Christians in the same way that he loves us.
So, what does it mean to abide in Jesus? It’s not simply evangelism nor is it about doing good works for him. Those things have their place in the heart of the faithful Christian. For Jesus, abiding in Him is about learning to love in a radically new way. A love that is focused on God, Jesus Christ, and on the children of God. To abide in Jesus and bear much fruit, is about turning to Him in such a complete way that it changes our very being. A connection to Him that is so pervasive that it goes straight to our heart and changes how we see Him and others.
Are you connected? Are you bearing fruit for Jesus? The stakes are too high to not be sure.