John 15: I Don’t Know if This Ends
The first sermon I preached during my first job in ministry was from John 15.
8 months later,
the last sermon I preached during my first job in ministry was from John 15.
That was 7 years ago. And since then, I’ve learned a lot about why I am in love with Jesus’ words here. One unique characteristic about this chapter is it’s all exposition. 27 verses of Jesus’ gentle voice talking to his disciples without interruption.
In the first 17 verses, he is talking about vines and branches that bear fruit. God the gardener, Jesus the vine, and you and I the branches. God the Father prunes (or cleans) the branches that bear fruit so they will be more fruitful.
Fruit only comes if it remains part of the vine. If you are apart from the vine, Jesus says you can’t do anything.
Jesus uses the words “abide in me,” as a key part of his gentle leading. This is a statement about staying with, being faithful to, and continuing on. He makes the promise for a second time that whatever one asks will be done for the person who sets their will and mind on Him.
Why does Jesus offer this? For the bearing of fruit, for the proof of discipleship, and for fullness of joy. The greatest demonstration that one is abiding is in obeying this command: love one another as I have loved you. V. 13 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The paradigm Jesus is describing is one that loses itself for the love of others. He’s saying, “lay down you for them, and my promise is that in doing so you will find inexpressible amounts of joy.” It echoes Hebrews 12:2 when it says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What this tells me is: Abiding in the vine (Jesus) as the branches (us) means that it would be difficult or impossible to spot where the vine ends and the branch begins. The separation is imperceptible because we would be one in the same. It’s the divine union of the marriage of Christ and Church.
But do I permit God that access? Do I willingly submit every desire, every fiber, every ill-motive or pure motive to my Father and wholeheartedly trust?
Jesus has been pressing me on this question relentlessly when I am listening. All the struggles and sins that God has made me aware of in this season all come back to trust and fighting the impulse that I can do it myself.
I’ve been reflecting on my journey in ministry a lot lately, because in 2018 I have never seen God more intimately active in my life than in the moments in which I have laid myself down over the past year. I have never felt the pendulum swing so much between uncertainty/fear and confidence in what Jesus is calling me to. And I have been overjoyed in the moments God has nudged me along the way.
For me the same answer has come up to the questions that I and others have asked me regarding my next step of faith. It is: “I don’t know, but yes (or no).”
I don’t know what I am doing in the clearest sense, but I do know what God the Father is doing and that has been the
I’ve had to resist what I think I want or think is best or sufficient in the moment. But abiding is not fighting for what you want, it’s trusting in who you have and who you were made to be.
This gives us courage to endure the second portion of chapter 15, the hatred that comes as a result of living your life vastly different from the majority of the world. The spiritual assault that is waged against the ones who walk in love is great which is why God gave the Holy Spirit as the Helper.
But I’ve chosen not to write about the hatred from others at this time. Because to be tangled up in the hatred of others or self-hatred is destructive and not a great posture to live from. It might be a motivator to keep going but it is not what supplies joy.
Joy is what I want to be tangled up in, and I don’t want it to end!