Living a Joyful Life
In the opening verses of John 15:1-11, Jesus provides an illustration that some people find difficult to understand. There he says, “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.” Thus, the first thing he says is that every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so that it bears more fruit. To prune a grape vine is to cut off and cut away the dead and dying branches so that new growth may come in. Unless we are talking about our hair or fingernails, cutting off a part of our body is usually painful. In my experience, when God prunes his children, it is usually painful. But he does so that we might bear more fruit.
He goes on to say, “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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Secondly, Jesus tells us that for us to bear much fruit, we must abide in him and he in us. But how do we do that exactly? What does it look like to abide in Christ and for Christ to abide in us? Read on.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Jesus tells us to abide in his love. How do we do that? He then says, “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.” Striving to live in a way that pleases and honors Christ is how we abide in his love—striving to live in obedience to his commandments. But before we are tempted to think this all sounds like too much of a works type of religion, notice why Jesus tells us God prunes us, and that we need to abide and obey. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11). Jesus wants our joy to be full, and he is telling us just how to do that.
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