Well hello there and welcome to a new week, fresh off the shelf of Heaven. A new week means a change of voice on these Foundations podcasts, and this week you’ve got me, Dave, reading the scriptures and offering a short thought for each day. I know that we’ll be blessed this week as we open the Bible together. Thanks to Casey for last week; we’ll pick up the narrative in John 15.
John dedicates a huge chunk of his Gospel to the traditional Holy week narrative, the time between Jesus arriving triumphantly in Jerusalem and Him rising from the grave that He was laid in after being crucified. We’re in the middle of that now, in chapter 15. Now, John uses a slightly different timeline for events to the other Gospel writers, perhaps to highlight the symbolism that surrounded every move Jesus made. We don’t need to go into that this week though, as all the passages we will look at come on one evening, where Jesus is talking at length with His disciples before spending time in prayer to ready Himself for the ordeal to come. It is that ordeal that sets the tone for these chapters. Jesus is in a serious, even sombre mood. This is, after all, merely hours before He is to die. This is His hour of need, His lowest ebb.
What then can we learn from Jesus during this time? He’s bound to be sharing pretty pivotal stuff in His last few hours with the disciples. Well, each day this week we’ll hear a passage that reminds us what living the Jesus life is all about. Each day we’ll have a reminder of the ways that following Jesus shapes our worldview, our outlook on life.
We start today with John 15:1-17. Verses 1 and 4 say this: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
The call from this passage is clear. We are to remain in God. What does that mean? Well it means several things. It means to keep within God’s laws. It means to live the way that Jesus lived, not in terms of specific fashion styles or meal choices, but in priorities, in characteristics. Living a life love, of compassion, of truth. Sharing His habits, daily prayer, being in community.
Some Bibles use the word ‘abide’ instead of ‘remain’. To rest in God. To allow Him to prune our lives of things that will not help us grow. The really encouraging thing here though is that the passage says remain in me as I remain in you. This isn’t all about whether we can cling on to Jesus through all life throws at us. This is a promise, as long as we are open to Him, Jesus lives in us through the power of The Holy Spirit. This word remain assumes a beginning, God has come into our lives, but it doesn’t have an end. Jesus is saying His presence will continue to be in our lives, He’s offering the chance to permanently become part of His incredible family.
Along with this incredible invitation of identity, Jesus offers a purpose. This concept of bearing fruit, our life being a life that produces good things for us and the people around us.
I was in Kids Church a few weeks ago and we were talking about the fruits of the Spirit that God produces in us. The book of Galatians tells us that this fruit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I know at least three different songs to remember that list from my time leading Kids Church but I won’t repeat them now, as when I did the other week one child thought the song was so uncool they branded it ‘disgusting’. And yes they did actually look disgusted with it! It’s a good job Jack, our current Kids Leader, is far cooler than I am!
The passage tells us that if we remain, abide in God then He will produce this fruit in our lives. Let’s start the week with the simple question, where can we see God producing fruit in our lives? Where have we found ourselves being generous or putting other people first? God is moving in our lives and when we recognise that, we can start to come to the bigger questions that will come up later this week with a new perspective. That God is with us, that He is for us, and that He is at work in our lives.
Father, thank you for this new week. Thank you that you are with us and for us. Help us to remain in you, coming to you daily with that simple prayer of come, Holy Spirit, you are welcome in my life. Amen.
READING: John 15:1-17
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: love each other.