John 15:10

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”-John 15:10

Once again, Jesus returned to “commandments.” When we drift toward legalism, we think, “Phew! Just give me something to do,” but when we recall our freedom, we think “Wait, I thought that in Christ, I am free to do whatever I please.” For many of us, talk of commands stirs up all sorts of feelings, expectations, and emotions.

Perhaps you didn’t realize that Jesus gave any commandments, but in reality he gave dozens. You might be thinking, “I can’t even remember the 10 commandments, much less keep them. What am I supposed to do with dozens?” However, remember that Jesus boiled the commands down into something much easier to remember, though implementation remains challenging: love one another. A couple of times in the upper room, he told the disciples to love. Earlier, he had told them that they were to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves (Mk. 12:30).

What commandments should we keep? We are to love. I have been thinking of this recently in terms of a 360 degree love—up, down, in, and out. In fact, I made up an acronym to help me remember: LUDIO. Our operating system as Christians is to love. When we love, we uphold Christ’s commandments.

Jesus, you commanded me to love God and love others. Although simple in principle, in reality, loving is one of the hardest things. I cannot love apart from your Spirit’s work in me. Thank you that you have promised he would always be working. Amen.

John 15:9

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”-John 15:9

What a breathtaking truth! The love between the Father and Son is ever flowing perfection. The Trinity has eternally delighted in one another. Their divine dance is eternally full of joy and complete commitment to one another, so much so that they are truly one. There is a constant, interpenetrating flow between them.

Jesus not only reflected upon the love that exists between him and the Father, but said to the disciples, “As much as the Father has loved me, which is infinite and perfect, that is how much I love you.” The Father delights in the Son and the Son delights in his disciples. The Father is pleased with the Son and the Son is pleased with the disciples. The Father lives in perfect union with the Son and the Son lives in perfect union with us. These are astounding truths.  

Then Jesus said to them, “Abide in my unending love for you. Don’t wander away from it. Stay put. Your completeness is found right here in me.”

Jesus, it is a miraculous thing that you love me as the Father’s loves you. My finite mind cannot grasp this infinite truth. Help me to live in the reality of what I can understand today as you stretch the borders of my mind even further to live in your love for all eternity. Amen.

John 15:8

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”-John 15:8

What did Jesus mean by fruit bearing? One common evangelical understanding is that to bear fruit means to win converts for Christ, but if that were true, would the converts then be fruit or branches? It seems more accurate that bearing fruit has to do with developing the character of Jesus. When we look at the context surrounding verse 15:8, love is primary. First and foremost, Jesus called us to grow in love by pouring into others and seeking to be his hands, feet, and heart. Fruitful people grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal 5:22-23).

Jesus, I want to bring glory to the Father by how I live, but every day, I fall short. Help me to become more like you, day by day. Amen.

John 15:7

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”-John 15:7

Like John 14:14, I wonder if this verse has confused a lot of Christians. We wonder what Jesus meant when he told his disciples “whatever you wish, it will be done.” As children, we would ask God for big things, like “Let me fly.” As grown-ups, we still ask for big things, but our requests reflect our maturing. “Please let my daughter stay clean and find her way back to you, God.” Sometimes, it is hard to know which of these requests seems more improbable.

As sincere believers, how are we to make sense of what appear to be unanswered prayers? We could choose to believe that our faith was not strong enough to grant our requests and that if we were “better” Christians, God would answer. We might even question if we are true believers, but what if we are missing the big idea by focusing on only one part of that verse?

Jesus was still talking about abiding and about how we are connected to him and he gives us life. When we begin to see and understand that Christ’s life in us is essential to who we are, it changes us. When we truly see that we are imbued with Christ, our prayers begin to reflect his heart and those prayers he will always grant.

Jesus, I sometimes find it hard to pray, because I am focused on my fleshly desires rather than your heart. Let my life be in harmony with yours, fully aware of my union with you. Let your purposes become my purposes. Amen.

John 15:6

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”-John 15:6

At face value, this is a scary verse. It is hard to read it and not come away with questions about what Jesus meant. Was he talking about non-believers being sent to hell? Or maybe, he was talking about believers who were not doing enough for the kingdom. Regardless, considering this verse by itself can move us back to fear-based faith. We live in fear of disappointing God, the vinedresser, so that no matter how well we are living, we remain aware of persistent sinfulness, and wonder “who then can be saved?”

But we must avoid the unfortunate habit of plucking a verse out of context. In verse 3, Jesus had said, “already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” We must lose not sight of the hope in verse 3. If it is true that we already clean, what was Jesus saying in verse 6? Was he telling the disciples that they needed to perform or be cast out of the kingdom? I don’t think so. I think we remain connected to the vine simply by knowing we belong to God. God will ultimately burn up our fruitless works. Like silver, exposed to fire, the silver remains while the impurities are burned up and removed.

God sees your value. You are precious to him. You are valuable because of how he made you, yet because of his love, he will not be afraid to burn away the impurities that taint your life.

Jesus, I am fully aware that I do not meet your perfect standard. My indwelling sin is toxic to my soul. In your mercy, you continue to prune the diseased parts and bring me to a place of wholeness and health. Amen.

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.”-John 15:5

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself wandering aimlessly like a sheep, seeking after my own way. I mindlessly pursue temptations and interests, arguments and distractions. When I finally look up, I wonder how I have ended up so far from God. As the old hymn says, we believers are “prone to wander” (Robinson, 1757).

When we think about sheep, this makes sense, but how does a branch wander off? It can’t.  A branch stays connected to the vine unless a gardener comes and removes it or it dies; it cannot simply choose to leave.

We haven’t broken free from the vine, rather, we have forgotten that we are connected to it and that we receive our nourishment from it. I think Jesus is reminding us that we are already in him. God’s life is currently flowing into us by his Spirit through the vine, Jesus. What we must do is pay attention and remember our connection.

Jesus, when I lose focus, it is so easy for me to worry and to chase after unholy pursuits. Help me to remember, moment by moment, that I am in you and you are in me and that my life flows from you. Amen.

John 15:4

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”-John 15:4

Abiding is a central theme of John 15. Between verses 4 and 10, the word abide appears nine times. So what does it mean to abide? Abiding has to do with sticking with something. Abiding does not necessarily suggest action, but rather staying put. In other words, to abide is to persevere. When Jesus told his disciples to abide, he was telling them, “Remain in me. Stay connected to the true vine. That is your purpose.”

The image of the vine and branches is important because no one imagines a branch getting fed up with the vine and walking away, thinking that it can do better on its own. In order to remain healthy and produce fruit, the branch must simply to remain connected to the vine.

The opening part of 15:4, “Abide in me and I in you,” points to our union with Christ. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. The reality of our union with him shapes everything about us. Do we allow it to inform how we view our salvation and sanctification? Each of us, if we profess Christ, are called to remain connected to Jesus, the true vine. We are called to remember our union with him.

Jesus, you told me, through your word, about the necessity of remaining connected with you, but so often, I try to go off on my own. Help me to understand that branches cannot survive apart from the vine. If I am removed from you, I will die. Help me, by your Holy Spirit, to abide in you as you abide in me. Amen.

John 15:3

“Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”-John 15:3

I wonder what the mood was in the room when Jesus spoke these words. He had just told the disciples that every branch that does not bear fruit, the Father takes away. Were they thinking to themselves, “I wonder if Jesus is talking about me?” They were raised under the old covenant, so they understood their righteousness to be about how well they obeyed the rules. When they broke the rules, the scribes, priests, and Pharisees were there to let them know. When their rabbi, Jesus, said that fruitless branches would be taken away, how many of them I wondered, “Am I bearing enough fruit for the kingdom? Am I living radically enough for Jesus?”

If we are honest, many of us ask the same question, don’t we? “Am I evangelizing enough, praying enough, and living up to the standards Jesus set for me? What if I am cut away?”

Then Jesus said these words, “Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”  Listen…we do not justify ourselves. We cannot make ourselves right with God. All we are able to bring is our brokenness and sin. Our purity and salvation are found in what Jesus already accomplished on our behalf.

Jesus, thank you for your saving work. So often, it is hard for me to trust that my salvation is not based on my works, but upon your finished work. Teach me to place my confidence, today and every day, in your death and resurrection and to live by faith in what you have done for me. Amen.

John 15:2

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”-John 15:2

The love of God flows through Christ to his people. The vinedresser cares for both vine and branches. Continuing his metaphor, Jesus differentiated between fruitless and fruitful vines. The fruitless parts are cut away by the Father. God is always purifying, moving his people toward righteousness. When our lives are out of step with his kingdom purposes, or when we claim to be Christian in name only, but there is no real heart change, God prunes us. True branches are pruned so that they will bear more fruit. Pruning can be a painful process, but as God cuts away our self-centeredness, he is preparing us for love.

Jesus, you are the true vine. All life flows through you. You tell me that as I am sanctified in you, I will experience pain and hardship, a part of the Father’s holy pruning. Teach me to trust that process, despite its discomfort. Amen.

John 15:1

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”-John 15:1

At the end of chapter 14, Jesus said to his disciples, “Rise let us go from here.” They had eaten dinner, and were still talking together in the upper room, but now chapter 15 opens act II. They were headed to the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the way, he would continue his instruction.

“I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus was particularly good at using metaphors. It makes me wonder if, as they were walking, Jesus spotted a vine and took it as an opportunity to teach the disciples.

He frequently used agricultural imagery. I suspect that the further removed we are from our farming roots, the more we miss what Jesus was saying. In a technological world, life is much more predictable and efficient. Machines are more consistent than plants. Even when they are genetically modified, plants are still living organisms. Growth is not immediate and plants remain susceptible to disease, injury, and death.

As chapter 15 opens, Jesus described the Father as a vinedresser, one who tends plants and makes sure they grow. He described himself as the true vine, the one from who all life flows. He wanted us to see how much our lives depend upon him.

Jesus, I love your organic metaphors. They help me to understand that my growth is not fast, but it does happen when I remain connected to you, the true vine. Prune me, in your mercy, but leave me connected to you. Amen.