Using the analogy of a vine, Jesus explained what a true Christian is: he is a person who, as a result of being joined to Jesus, produces fruit. Fruit, of course, represents the good things that we do. It includes our actions, attitudes, words and answers to our prayers. We can only produce that fruit if we are connected with Jesus.
Notice how Jesus emphasized fruitfulness, stressing its great importance. Whether a person produces fruit is what determines his eternal destination. Those who don't produce fruit are like worthless branches on the grapevine---and they are destined to be burnt by fire, spending eternity in hell. God prunes those who do produce fruit so they may become more fruitful.
If you've believed in Jesus, then you are already producing some fruit. But God will not be satisfied until you are just like Jesus. So, like a gardener who prunes his grapevine so it might produce more fruit, God will work with us, cutting off what is displeasing to Him. He is dedicated to our spiritual growth.
Our job, according to Christ's command, is to remain in Him (see John 15:4). To "remain in Jesus" means to continue to believe that He is the Son of God and thus continue to follow and obey Him. If we will remain in Him, He'll remain in us and we'll produce much fruit.
Jesus also instructed His followers to remain in His love (see John 15:9). That's the same thing as remaining in Him, because the proof of a person's remaining in Jesus' love is the same proof as that of a person's remaining in Jesus: his obedience. In today's reading, Jesus stressed the importance of our obeying His commandment to love one another. He expects us to love one another just as He loves us. He literally laid down His life for us, and wants us to give sacrificially of ourselves to one another. John wrote, "Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions" (1 John 3:18). Have you demonstrated your love for a fellow Christian recently?
Q. Jesus talked about the branch that was cut off from the vine because it wasn't bearing fruit. Does this prove that a person can be joined to Christ but produce no fruit?
A. As with every parable and comparison, we must be careful about searching for significance in every detail, because at some point, the similarities in the comparison end. We shouldn't necessarily conclude, just because the fruitless branch was connected to the vine, that it's possible for a person who doesn't produce fruit to be connected to Christ. That might be reading more into His analogy than Jesus intended. The way a person becomes connected to Jesus is by faith, and the Bible tells us that "faith without works is dead" (see James 2:26, NASB). For that reason, it seems unlikely that Jesus was trying to teach that a person can be joined to Him yet remain fruitless. In fact, Jesus said that fruitlessness is what results in being cut off from the vine.
Q. For those who do remain in Him, Jesus has given tremendous promises regarding their prayers. He said, "But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!" (John 15:7). Does that mean we could ask for all our enemies to be killed in car crashes on the same day?
A. People who remain in Jesus and who allow Jesus' words to remain in them would never make such a prayer request, because Jesus said in another place that we should bless our enemies and pray for them, not against them! We can pray with assurance for anything that God has promised us in His word, and we should only want to pray for what is His will.
Application: Jesus is our Lord and Master, but He's not a distant master who only cares about our obedience and doesn't care about us. He's our Friend. But don't forget that He's only our Friend if He's first our Master and Lord. Jesus plainly said that those who obey Him are His Friends (see John 15:14). Too many people want Jesus as their friend but not their Lord. But Jesus does not offer such a relationship to anyone.
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