Fruit Club

John 15: 16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.

I, just like every other minister of the gospel, revel in sharing the Good News. Everyone wants to hear how Jesus’ life and sacrifice will improve the quality of their lives. We are living in an age of self-interest almost to the point of self-absorption. What this means for ministers is that the message people want to hear is how Jesus helps them. The question we have attempted to answer is, “What is in Christianity for me?” Today’s verse functionally turns that question on its head because Jesus made it clear, in this statement, that it isn’t all about me. This is an uncomfortable and harsh reality for some of us but for others of you, this is a higher form of truth and reality and one that you embrace avidly.

Too often we get the cart before the horse but if we spend time with this verse, pondering the fullness of its message, we find rich revelation. Jesus makes clear that the Father will do whatever you ask of Him when you approach Him through Jesus. However, that is the second part of the equation. The first part is that He chose you. We all think we chose Jesus, almost like we graced him with our acceptance of him. We fill our salvation with arrogance as if we were some prize worthy of winning. We weren’t. There is nothing in us that makes us worthy of anything EXCEPT the Father’s love for us. His love for us has clothed us in the worthiness that Jesus won for us. The only thing we did was to accept this garment of blessed grace.

Secondly, Jesus points out that there was a reason for choosing us. Sadly, it isn’t because we are so wonderful, wise and beautiful. We have a purpose and he appointed us for this purpose, that we should bear much fruit. There is also a consequence for not fulfilling our purpose. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (the Father) takes away” (John 15: 2).

I want to preach just the part of the verse that says the Father will do everything we ask in Jesus’ name but that would be a miscarriage of my duties to you and to the Father. The truth is what equips you and not just the candy-coated version. When you understand the Father’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice you also appreciate that everything they tell us to do benefits us. Yahweh’s love is pervasive but it is not egotistical nor meant to train you to be a spoiled, arrogant child. He wants to raise you into the vision He has of you as a mature partner in His kingdom.

The natural consequence of bearing good fruit is abundant harvest. People spend many words and thoughts trying to figure out the purpose of life when it has been “hidden” right here in plain sight for thousands of years. Your purpose and mine is to bear good fruit. As we do, the Father multiplies our seeds so that a bountiful crop is always maturing in our back yards. Christianity was never meant to be a “Bless Me” club. It is a service organization. It turns out, though, that the way to the blessings is through service.

I want you blessed and happy. I desire that your basket overflow continually. So, go serve someone else. Think about what others may need or what you could do for them. Start at home and at work. What could you do today for your mother? How about your spouse? Maybe your next door neighbor would love just to have a visit or take your mechanic a glass of tea. Do you have doorman in your building? There are people around you all day who need to see Jesus’ fruit. You are the branches on his vine. Bear much good fruit.

Inextricably Intertwined

John 15: 5

I am the vine, you are the branches.

In yesterday’s Word of the Day I used the words interwoven and intertwined. I want to share with you, today, the basis for those words and why they are relevant to any discussion of Christians and Christian life.

Jesus describes us as branches of himself. That is a really powerful statement if you think about it. In fact, I think you could hang out in John 15 for quite a while gleaning the depth of meaning in it. Today’s verse is also part of the inspiration for the logo for Ivey Ministries. Being a Christian means being a part of Jesus and he being an integral part of you. I imagine an Ivy vine twining itself around a tree. Have you ever attempted to pull the Ivy from the tree? I am sure you found that the Ivy had intertwined itself with the tree. It is not readily removed from the tree. I like to see how the Ivy interlaces itself among the branches of the tree, its leaves comingling with the leaves of the tree. Inevitably the tree and the Ivy become so intertwined that it is hard to tell one from the other. The longer the Ivy abides with the tree, the harder it becomes to extricate it from the tree. There is another verse which eludes to this type of interconnectedness with the Lord. It is Isaiah 40: 31. It is the verse which is on the home page of the Ivey Ministries website. The God’s Word translation reads this way, “The strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed.” I like that translation. Another says, “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength” (Christian Standard Bible). The NIV says that the strength of the Lord is for those who “hope” in the Lord. The reason you see all these variations in the verse is because the word and the idea contained herein is complex and rich in meaning. At its base, one of the keywords in the definition is “intertwined.” This is at the heart of our ministry. I would, therefore, communicate Isaiah 40: 31 this way, “Those who are intertwined with the Lord will renew their strength.”

I would like to help you become so integrated, so intertwined with the Lord that it is difficult to discern where one of you begins and the other ends. In fact, the amalgamation of you and Jesus can be so complete that there is no end to either of you but rather where one of you exists, there, also is the other. Everywhere you go, there is Jesus. Every word you say, Jesus speaks. Wouldn’t that be great? Every thought he has, you hear. Every desire of your heart or his, is shared completely between you. His life and light flow through your veins and strengthens every cell of your body and illuminates your mind. You will understand the deep things of God and see beyond the constraints of humanity. There is an entire universe for you and Jesus to share and explore together with no bonds to restrain you. When you hear me talking about intertwining, this is what I am thinking of. This is the vision and the goal.

Abiding in the Vine

John 15: 5

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

I referred to this verse yesterday but just reading it filled me with such revelation and joy that I want to share with you. There is so much in this little verse. I certainly cannot cover it all in one Word of the Day. Let’s just look at two aspects. First, have you thoroughly considered “he who abides in Me?” What does abide mean? I think we understand this to mean to “dwell in.” Another definition is to remain in one place or state. We talk about abiding in Jesus and his abiding in us but it is hard to really wrap your head around. This abiding Jesus is talking about bespeaks a continuity. It isn’t characterized by one minute in him and then next off in our own world apart from him. This abiding in him and he in us is a deep integration of two souls, who are of one mind and one purpose. It isn’t the flitty affair of new love. It is the entrenched devotion of life long lovers. He who abides in Jesus and in whom Jesus abides is enmeshed with Jesus. There is no retreat from him. Everywhere you go, there he is. Your thoughts, dreams, songs and conversation keep revolving back to him. He is literally, rather than figuratively, “in you” and you are not only “in him” but also into him. You are interested in his thoughts and his ways. He is part of you such that there is no longer a means by which to separate the two of you. I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Then I really like this bit about “apart from Me you can do nothing.” At first blush it sounds a bit rude and may affect my ego. The other side of the coin is so amazing though. If, I can do no thing apart from him but I have done something successfully then isn’t it true that I must have done that thing with him? Now, how exciting is that? You have worked with Jesus because you have been successful. The really exciting part is that now you know how to create more success. Do everything you wish to be successful in with him. Endeavor to be “in him” as you work, play, raise your children. Confer with him not daily, but rather moment by moment. What was that email you were about to send? Wait, what does the Holy Spirit have to say about it. Is there better sentence structure, additional thoughts, praise for the recipient? Maybe he wants you to copy someone else or perhaps not send it at all. What about that meeting this afternoon? What does that look like if you are in him and he in you? Perhaps you even think you will work an extra hour and you hear his voice gently leading you to spending that hour reading a novel.

Whatever plans you have today, I guarantee they will all go better if you will do them with him. Maybe we all need to ask the Father what “in him” means to Him. I am convinced that He can, and will, show us even deeper meaning. The one part that is very clear is that the branches cannot survive apart from the vine. I would have you note, however, that the vine does not produce the fruit but rather the branches. This is a partnership of the most intimate kind. There is no end to which we can immerse ourselves in him, or even to allow him to take up residence in us. I hope this verse, this picturesque speech from Jesus will continue to minister life to you.