John 15:5, 8 – I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing… Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Jesus’ instruction to his disciples focused on being rightly related in three areas: to Jesus (15:1-10), to others (15:11-17), and to the world (15:18-16:4). Each relationship had a specific responsibility as well. A disciple relates rightly to Jesus by “abiding” in him (15:4), to others by loving one another (15:12), and to the world by testifying of Jesus (15:27). There are those who profess Christ but many who do not possess Jesus (15:5). These relationships will distinguish disciples as people who seek to glorify God by continuing in loving obedience to Jesus’ commandments (15:8). Let’s examine these three relational distinctions of Jesus’s followers.
God the Father is the “gardener” who cultivates and protections the vine, Jesus, so that fruit will be produced(15:2-6). The fruit are disciples; thus disciples remain connected to Jesus in order to experience his life-giving power that, in turn, produces more disciples to the glory of God. There are some who profess to be Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and will be judged. To “abide” in this context means to continue in believing, loving obedience to Jesus (15:9-10).
Jesus gave a vital command to his followers: they must have mutual love (15:12, 17). Christ’s example of sacrificial service is the standard. Christians grow by caring for and nurturing one another. Jesus died for those who would obey him (15:13-14). We, too, can be called the friends of God by keeping his commandments and serving one another (15:15-17). Jesus opened up himself to his disciples by revealing the mind of God. We can nurture one another in faith and love by encouraging one another to know, believe, and obey the will of God in revealed in the Scriptures. To do so requires us to demonstrate care and compassion to one another, something in which pride interferes. Pride causes contention. Pride causes division. Pride leads to bitterness and hatred. Disciples find ways to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) by living the virtuous Beatitudes of the kingdom to reconcile, repair, and restore relationships.
Friendship with God results in the invocation of the world’s wrath (15:18-19). Though such hostility may be surprising, Christians are fundamentally distinct from unbelievers in the world. A believer has left the kingdom of darkness and entered the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13). Believers have joy, purpose, hope, and love that are different from the world. Truth is the standard of life. Yet believers will face hostility because of that truth just as did Jesus (15:20-26). Our mission in the face of hostility is to testify of Jesus Christ (15:27). As Christians witness to the world the Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin, judgment, and righteousness (16:7-10) so they may be saved.
Disciples are rightly related to Jesus by abiding in him. Can you honestly say that you practice the daily disciple of denying your self-centered desires so you can demonstrate far-reaching obedience to Jesus Christ? Disciples must draw out the life of Christ so that they can experience the abundant grace to glorify God by making more disciples. If you are not interested in these things then perhaps you are merely professing to be a Christian. Repent of your sinful mistrust in your self-centered religion and put your full, unreserved confidence in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
Disciples are rightly related to others by disallowing pride to cause contentions in order to freely encourage others to know, believe, and obey the will of God. Prideful opinions and contentious perspectives distance you from others in harmful ways. Disciples must lovingly create a community of mutual love to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Perhaps you are provoking someone, but not to have a greater view of God or to deeper love of others. Check your motives and actions. Repent of pride. Commit to loving others, as did Jesus.
Disciples are rightly related to the world by being a witness for Jesus Christ. If truth is the standard of your life then you will be compelled to share that truth. You will constrain your relationship with unbelievers to ensure you focus on helping them see their greatest need, which is to be saved by Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We are Christ’s ambassadors who are empowered by the Spirit to testify of his work and will. Share the Gospel. Give them a tract or outreach card. Invite people to worship with you. Lead them to Christ. Show them that Jesus is the way.
Disciples are people who seek to glorify God by continuing in loving obedience to Jesus’ commandments (15:8). There are those who profess Christ but many who do not possess Christ. Are you a disciple?