By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator for Student Volunteer Movement 2 – SVM2 – and currently lives among the unreached.
For Fruit that Remains We Must Remain in Him
In verses 1-8 of John 15, we also find the consequences of not giving ourselves faithfully to this lifestyle. Jesus states in verse 6 that, “he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
There are a great many meanings behind this devastating decree. It at least refers to
- professing Christians who are merely religious and who are of no use to God because of lack of intimacy with Christ;
- professing Christians who are hypocrites and at a heart level do not truly follow Christ;
- professing Christians that look good on the outside and may gain some level of influence over other Christians, yet over time, wither away because of neglecting to cultivate the ongoing life in the Vine.
I am not seeking to be critical or judgmental by saying that it appears that much of the visible Body of Christ today can be grouped into these categories. With that in mind we need to be watchful and careful over our own lives as every believer is prone to the same falling short.
Verse 9-17 brings us back to the core of Jesus commands to produce great love and great joy. The abiding lifestyle is the doorway to rightly function in these two inner fruit characteristics. This is because giving ourselves to the abiding lifestyle is the essence of choosing to willingly walk in obedience to God.
Jesus taught us in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You (God the Father), the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The core of our purpose for being alive on this planet is to grow in wholehearted love for God in Christ and to enjoy Him in ever increasing ways.
As we obey Him in these ways, love and joy are supernaturally cultivated within us. As a result we are able to respond to His great calling of loving each other because His power is operating within us enabling us to do so. It is His own example of complete surrender to the will of God even unto death that ignites and inspires us toward such love.
In this way Jesus promises us in verse 16 we will be people who bear much fruit and that it should remain.
Fruit that Lasts
This last piece is significant. Fruit can be produced, fall from a tree and then rot. Whereas Jesus wills us as His hands and feet, alive on the planet in the current generation, to produce fruit that lasts throughout eternity and is not superficial.
This is inner fruit of our characters that does not give up at the first sign of trouble and even though the road to cultivating the likeness of Christ appears hard and fraught with problems, we press on in belief in Jesus promises.
It is outer fruit which endures in the lives we influence and in the nations where we serve. These ones last and stand under the pressure which Jesus highlights in the next portion of the chapter. Churches are growing in their spiritual vitality and in their cooperation with what the Lord is doing in this generation.
It is often difficult to discern in the here and now if fruit we are producing will endure for eternity. This is why it is absolutely critical that we be a people who forsake living as believers content with superficiality in the Lord.
To live superficially is to ensure that those we influence will be weak at best. Instead we want the undergirding power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us as we seek to influence people regarding His Kingdom. This only comes through embracing the practicalities of John 15.
Our great calling is to rise up, cast off every hindrance in our individual lives preventing us from going hard after the abiding lifestyle, and cooperate with divine love and joy energizing our spirits.
Through the rest of the chapter we are given a warning from the Lord Himself. We are not to be surprised or to get off course from the above simply because opposition and persecution arises. As true believers in Christ we will be persecuted just as He was.
We can be tempted to look for logic in people’s persecution of believers other than they have simply rejected Christ and hatred has seared their hearts. The body of Christ is still expected, however, to go on the offensive with reaching out in love even in the midst of persecution from the enemies of God’s Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit undertakes in these times and enables and empowers us to bear powerful witness of Christ in these moments. Why did Jesus talk of such things so often? It was for the explicit purpose preparing His disciples so we would be ready for it when it came.
John 15 & the Student Mission Movement
Being committed to the development of the student mission movement today means we are prepared to face the opposition and persecution. It will inevitably come as thousands and someday even hundreds of thousands of message bearers (alternative term for missionary) go to the front lines of the mission movement filled with the Holy Spirit, infiltrating the devil’s back yard.
If these laborers are not prepared the first sign of problems will make them flee. Instead with knowledge that Jesus has warned us these things would come and that He would be with us in the midst, we are empowered with confidence in the midst of very challenging circumstances.
In our ministries across the student generation at present we can be teaching these John 15 concepts in order to cause young hearts to hunger to be useful in bearing eternal fruit for His Kingdom. This is how the student mission movement is pushed onward.
Every ministry calling its people to the highest levels of commitment to Christ, through walking out the abiding lifestyle, which enables us with supernatural love and joy energizing our spirits and we go into the harvest ready for persecution, deciding beforehand what our response will be when it comes.
This is the high calling of John 15. May we embrace such truths in an increased fashion in our own lives and teach them to as many others as possible.