In John chapter 15, Jesus spoke directly to the needs of His disciples who will believe in Him following His departure. His message touches upon the issue of discipleship which involves clear instructions for how they ought to live and survive among antagonistic Jewish leaders and suspicious Roman authorities. His definition of the Christian experience is often held in sharp contrast to those of our own.
To many of us, the Christian experience is simply about believing the right things about God. Or, it is a matter of living a Christ-like life. However, we often left out the most important aspect which is the mystical, spiritual, and internal dimension. I believe this is precisely what our Lord is talking about when He uses the image of the vine to illustrate the reality of the Christian experience.
How do we know that we are intimately connected to Jesus Christ? Jesus Himself gave us three practical ways.
First, a true disciple must be vitally connected to Jesus and His Word, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you …” (Jn. 15:7a). To abide in His word practically means that Jesus’ words take root in the disciples’ hearts so as to govern their attitudes and actions. It is a growing absorption of Jesus’ teaching that will transform their lives.
Second, because of this growing conformity to Jesus’ teaching, His disciples will be effective in their prayers, since these will be uttered in accordance with God’s will, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15: 7b). Those whose lives are so in harmony with Jesus will find their prayers controlled by His word, and such prayers will be answered and bring added glory to God.
Finally, a true disciple will remain in Jesus’ love (Jn. 15: 9, 10). Here Jesus simply tells them, “Make your dwelling in my love” (v. 9b), that is, “Make my love for you be your very identity”. Who are you? You are those whom Jesus loved. This will always show in their love for one another (Jn. 15:12, 17).
The person who is thus attached to Christ in His Word, prayer and love will inevitably produce more and more fruits. Thus, the issue is not about fruit-bearing itself. It is about whether we are vitally and intimately attached to Jesus Christ, the True Vine.
There is no higher goal for us to strive for than this.
Rev. Mark Tay