In the last six months, how many times have you heard someone wishing that things would just get back to normal? Even believers who attend church regularly are wishing that things would return to the way they were in January of 2020.
But what was normal?
For many normal was couched in passivity and many of us didn’t have to face the real problems in society because we were pacified by sport and entertainment.
Even in the church, many were attending a worship service once or twice a month out of tradition, or simply for a sense of wellbeing. The church was a segment of culture that was simply another part of “normal”.
But since March, many things have changed. Many of society’s challenges have been exposed and everyone has had to make some difficult choices.
In John 15, we read some of the most powerful teachings of Jesus. Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit. In fact, verse 8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus.
But what does it mean to abide? The dictionary says that to abide is to remain firm, fixed, or unwavering. Another dictionary explanation says, “to endure without wavering”. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.
Psalm 91 has come to mean so much in this season, where again we read about the security of abiding in Him.
He who dwells in
the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the
Lord, “My refuge and
my God, in whom I trust.”
In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.
The promise that we quickly grab hold of is found in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
But I would encourage you to read this promise in the context of the entire chapter. The desire of every believer (branch) should be to bear fruit as we read in the very next verse, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer, for the glory of God the Father. So, are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?
This promise is repeated by Jesus in verse 16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? Are we praying for peace and prosperity? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.
The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 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.”
These branches that are thrown into the fire, were at one time attached to the vine. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of peace and comfort. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of personal blessing and cultural acceptance. However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine. There was attachment without abiding.
I believe that we are beginning to see the pruning process in the Church. The Father, the Vinedresser, is removing the branches that are not abiding in the vine, the branches that are not producing fruit.
What does it mean to produce fruit? The Bible is clear that the followers of Jesus are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34), a sacrificial and selfless love.
Abiding in Jesus, being used by him to produce fruit is what we are created for. It is the essence of worship. The natural by-product of living a life committed to being used by God, is joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
How about praying a prayer that God will always answer affirmatively? Join me in praying for opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Join me in praying for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in these uncertain times.
Are you abiding in the vine?