We arrive at our theme verse for Mission FifteenFive. It communicates a number of ideas that should be at the heart of our way of life and mission into the world (Jn 17:18). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones would often emphasize, we must understand the basics, the foundational concepts, before we hurry on about what we must do. People can be very results or success oriented, and so they immerse themselves into methods or programs. But first we need to begin with thoughts and ideas—and with the most important relationship!
Our Lord restates the illustration about our union with him (John 15:5). “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He wants us to know who and what he is. John uses seven of these “I am” statements in the Gospel of John to tell us the good news about Jesus. He is the life-giver to every branch; we are dependent on him. Every follower of Jesus has this spiritually organic connection to his or her Lord. Stop and think about this. (Did you?) Let this truth fill your mind and permeate your affections. Those who are connected to Christ by faith share in the powerful life of our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord (cf. Romans 7:4-6; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 1:21; etc.) We should cultivate thoughts of our vital link with such a powerful Lord.
Our Lord emphasizes the truth of union and communion with him. “The one remaining in me and I in him this one bears much fruit.” While Christ lives in every branch connected to him, each branch must stay connected to Christ. If we don’t, then we can fall into what I call “the Colossian drift” (Colossians 2:18-23). Besides being in a very precarious position, such a person cannot produce true spiritual fruit. But here, Jesus wants us to lay hold of what can happen in our lives. We can produce “much fruit” for the honor of God. Those who know Jesus Christ want to see his vitality active and productive. We want to show all aspects of godliness, because the purpose of branches being connected to the vine is bear spiritual fruit. When Sharon and I have planted gardens, we have expected the plants to bear fruit or vegetables according to their kind. Any that didn’t were weeded out, because they had no use in the garden. The Lord tells us that he desires “much fruit” from our lives. The good news is that by remaining in Jesus, we will see much fruit appear.
Jesus points out the necessity of dependence on him, “because apart from me you are not able to do anything.” This happens in practice though prayer. Many like to quote Philippians 4:13 as the positive side to what Jesus says here. That is fine, as long as they do not think that the mere quotation of the verse is reliance on Jesus Christ. Our dependence must be personal, conscious, and deliberate. Jesus sets forth a walk of faith in which we rely on him constantly—in the family, with friends, at work, in the gathering of believers, and when we are alone with God. However, we often disagree with Jesus in the way we live, because we act like we can do things without him. Lord Jesus, how much we need your word to change us, not merely in a few activities and our choice of phrases that sound more spiritual to others. Lord, we want to depend on you continually. May all our days evidence our trust in you!
Grace and peace,