“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Read: John 15:1-11
Before you read further (or look down and see the answer), spend a couple minutes talking about man’s purpose. Why was mankind created? What is our ultimate purpose?
When you have a purpose and fulfill it, how do you feel? You feel joyful, satisfied, and fulfilled. There is nothing better than setting out to do something and accomplishing it, especially if it comes through hard work and effort. If this is true, imagine then how it feels to accomplish a purpose that was built into your DNA by God. It would be the most joyous, soul-satisfying thing to do, even if it came at a great physical cost. That would be the way to live, and in John 15:1-11, Jesus not only tells us what kind of life that is, but how we can live it.
The world offers many things that it claims will satisfy us and regularly instructs on the best ways to live. Being famous, having a giant home, having a great paying job, having a loving family, doing well in school to get a good job, having a lot of friends, being well-respected at work or school—the list can go on and on. None of those things are wrong or sinful, and they can, in fact, be avenues through which you can achieve the joyful status described above—but only if those things are serving the purpose you were created for. The above possessions and experiences cannot be the chief thing that you are striving for in order to find satisfaction in life, because you will end up disappointed and ultimately unfulfilled (consider Solomon’s conclusions about a life lived apart from God in Ecclesiastes).
So then, how can we live the most fulfilling lives? In Isaiah 43:6-7, when speaking about Israel’s salvation, God says: “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” When we read through the Bible, mankind’s purpose is clear. We were made to worship and glorify our great and holy and magnificent God. That’s why Paul commands us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). That is why those other things above have to be secondary. If you are seeking those things just for themselves, they ultimately will not satisfy you, and when you finally get them, you will immediately be looking for the next thing to satisfy you. However, if they are pursued with this ultimate goal and purpose in mind—for the glory of God—you will be fulfilled (see also Matt 6:33).
This is the life that Jesus describes in John 15. He is the true vine. Where Israel failed, Christ succeeds. He is the life-giving, unique, necessary vine that feeds and nourishes his branches to produce wonderful fruit that pleases and glorifies the great vinedresser, God the Father. The branches are his disciples, whether in name only and bearing no fruit, or his true disciples that bear fruit and are lovingly pruned to bear more fruit. The fruit is obedience to Christ that flows from a love for him. The ones who do not have a love for Christ will live just like that. They will bear no fruit, and though they may have claimed to be ‘in Christ’ in this life, they will eventually be removed from the vine, wither, and on the last day be cast into the final judgement by God himself. On the other side, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (v. 8). There it is. The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and prove to be Christ’s disciples.
But that is easier said than done. How do we do that? Our minds and fallen instincts instantly go to work. “I have to produce this much fruit today. I have to be this obedient to prove my worth to God and show that I’m a disciple of Christ.” That is not what Jesus is saying, and that is not the most joyous life you can live. That, in fact, is the most soul-crushing life you can live, because if it was all about your productivity and works, you would never produce enough. No, that is why I said earlier that this fruit is an obedience that flows from a love for Christ.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.John 15:5-10
The believer’s fruit—their obedience to Christ that glorifies the Father—is entirely reliant and founded upon the love of Christ. His perfect love for us and our love for him and the Father and the Spirit. Yes, we work. We have to abide. We have to remain and stay in the love of Christ, which is proven and shown in our obedience to his commands. But Christ does and has done the heavy lifting. He died for us, he reconciled us to the Father, and he’s given us his Spirit who has put a love for Christ and righteousness and good in our hearts (Rom 5:1-11). Jesus concludes, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Do you see the connection? First, we must be in Christ, for a lone branch cannot bear fruit on its own. We must be connected to the life-giving vine. Then we abide in his love, which overflows into a desire to live according to his Word. It is that life of faith—that fruit that is produced—that glorifies and pleases the Father. And it is that kind of life, no matter what we may experience in this fallen world, that will bring us ultimate joy and satisfaction. Not the joy of the world, but the very joy of the eternal Son of God.
Discuss and Pray Together: With a Christian friend or family member, discuss what fruit you may be seeing in each other’s lives and encourage one another with ways in which you all can abide in the love of Christ together. What areas might need pruning? Finish by praying to the Vinedresser, that he would continue pruning and would make (or continue to make) your life and household one of divine joy.