The Lord Jesus led me to read John 15 (Select vv. ESV).
Are you in a true relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you genuinely saved from your sins, and bound for heaven? How do you know this? How can you be sure? What did Jesus Christ have to say on this subject?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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… 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.” Vv. 1-2, 6
Here our relationship with Jesus Christ is compared to that of a vine and branches, which come forth from the vine. Jesus Christ is the true vine, i.e. he is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. He is the only way to God the Father and to heaven. We cannot be in relationship with Almighty God apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
If we are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, we are one of these branches. We are in the vine. Nonetheless, if we want to remain in Christ, in relationship with him, then certain things must be a part of that relationship. There are requirements for us for sustaining that relationship with Christ, not in our flesh, and not to earn our salvation, but to continue to be in him, and to have the hope of eternal life with God and heaven as our eternal home.
In other words, the Christian life is not the result of a one-time experience. We must be believing (presently) in him if we want to have eternal life. We must be walking (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh. And, to be in fellowship with him, we must be walking in obedience to him. Also, daily, by the Spirit, we must be putting sinful deeds to death (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 John 2:3-6; Jn. 3:16).
Also, we must be bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. This fruit is the yield, the outgrowth or the result of abiding in the vine. It has to do with what our lives produce, i.e. it has to do with this walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, and with putting sinful practices to death, by the Spirit. This is the evidence, in other words, that genuine faith in Christ exists in our lives, that it is ongoing, enduring and persevering.
For, if we are fruitless, and there is no evidence of continuous, enduring faith in Jesus Christ, a walk in the Spirit, love for our Lord, surrender to his will, obedience to his commands, and death to sin and living to righteousness, then we will be cut off from the vine and we will not have the hope of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment and of fire. A saved life, in other words, is one that continues in faith and fellowship with Christ and which bears evidence that such a relationship truly exists (See: Jn. 8:31-32; Rom. 11:17-24; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:6, 14-15).
Yet, if we do bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and we are walking according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, then we can expect to be pruned (disciplined) in order that we might bear more fruit (cf. Heb. 12).
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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… By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples… 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.” Vv. 3-5, 8, 10
Speaking to those of us who have been cleansed of our sins, who have died with Christ to sin and are living with Christ to his righteousness, we are to abide in him. Apart from him, we can do nothing. We cannot bear fruit for his kingdom if we do not abide in the vine. And, we can’t even abide in the vine apart from him, his power, and his strength. So, how do we do this?
To abide in Christ means to stay, to remain, to continue, to endure and to last in him to the end. But, this isn’t about just claiming Christianity as your religion or Christ as your Savior. This is about living Christ, his life, and his Word day in and day out, spending time with him daily in his Word, and then walking in obedience to the truth which he shows us. This is not about sinless perfection, either, (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it is about not living our lives according to our sinful flesh, but living them to please God.
We are proven to be true followers of Jesus Christ, or not, by how we live our lives, either for ourselves, for sin, and in accordance with the world, or for Christ, his Word, for holiness and righteousness. Our fruit is what is seen, what is evidenced in our lives that makes a statement that we are true followers of Christ, much the same as an apple on an apple tree is evidence that the tree is an apple tree and that it is not a pear tree.
Obedience to our Lord’s commands, i.e. to his teachings, his instructions to us, is also part of that fruit. Again, this is not speaking of sinless perfection, otherwise Christ would not have had to die for our sins, but it is speaking of a walk of obedience, in and of the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit. If we say we have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness (in sin), we are liars. If we say we love God, but we don’t do what he says, we are liars, too.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” Vv. 18-21
So, why does the world hate us? Why, even, do many who call themselves followers of Christ hate us? It should not be because we are wicked and rebellious, or because we are mean and hateful ourselves. They should hate us because we are not of the world. And, this is why many professing Christians will hate us, too, because they are of the world, and we are not.
The closer we grow in fellowship with the Lord, the more we should find ourselves not comfortable with worldly practices, and the more set apart from the world we should become, because we are being conformed to Christ’s likeness. This is what it means to be holy as God is holy.
So, if the world and the worldly church loves us, and considers us one of them, and includes us, then what does that say about us? Perhaps it says we are still of the world, at least in some respects. So, we should examine our hearts, our lifestyles, and our activities, as well as our thoughts, speech and actions, and see whether or not they (i.e. we) are of this world, or if they are of Christ and his eternal kingdom.
If we are truly following Jesus Christ with our lives, and if we are living our lives separate from the world (from worldliness), and if we are walking according to the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh, we will be opposed by the worldly, which includes worldly Christians. We have to remember here that Jesus’ fiercest opponents were not the people out in the world, but they were the religious, and even the leaders or rulers within the temple of God. My fiercest opponents have also been professors of faith in Jesus Christ who are living worldly lives.
Yet, we should not let this discourage us. In fact, we should give praise to God that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of his name, and for the sake of the gospel. And, we should rejoice in our sufferings, and keep on keeping on in following him in obedience. For, God may use our sufferings to touch other lives for Jesus Christ, so don’t ever give up!
Songs in the Night / An Original Work / December 18, 2013
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
And the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84
Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.
I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!
Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.
I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!
Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.
Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!
Saturday, December 9, 2017, 4:59 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for these encouraging, inspiring, and convicting words from John 15. Thank you for saving me from my sins, and for giving me new life in you! Amen!