Chosen and Appointed

“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.  This I command you, that you love one another” (Jn 15:16-17).

We know that Jesus chose each of His disciples.  We have several of their stories when Jesus called them from their tax collector’s booth or fresh off of their fishing boat.  But did you know that Jesus also chose you?

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and to the church of the Thessalonians, he wrote “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (II Thess 2:13).

God chose you.   And He also accounted for your faith in that choice.  Yes, your faith makes a difference.  God chose you and your faith mattered.  Can both of these be true?  “For by grace (God’s choice and total gift) you have been saved through faith (your choice to believe); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).  You have been called out and saved by God’s grace through your faith.

Now this verse goes beyond this initial calling.  After you were chosen; after you believed and became part of God’s family, you were also appointed.  What post or responsibility were you appointed to?  You were appointed to “go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain.”  Or put another way, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).

You were created for good works.  You were created for bearing good fruit.  As a son or daughter of the Father, this is in your new life DNA.  Jesus could see down the tunnel of time and see you bearing good fruit.  How could He be so sure?  Because Christ is the one producing the fruit in you.  It is part and parcel with being a believer.  It is who you are as a branch connected to the true vine who is living His life and producing His fruit in you.

And answered prayer, seen here for the fourth time in this upper room message, will be part of the fruit-bearing experience.  God will hear and answer our prayers.

Finally, we have what will become one of the greatest commandments in the New Testament; “that you love one another”.  Jesus started our discourse with this commandment (Jn 13:34-35) and repeats it here in this chapter in verses 12 and 17.

The theme of these verses regarding your appointment to God’s family (by believing in Christ) and loving one another is carried on throughout the New Testament letters.  John, for example returns to this very summary in his later letters.  “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us” (I Jn 3:23).  Yes, you have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit, the sweetest of which is to truly love one another.

Love, Friendship, and Knowing the Father

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends, if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:12-15).

Here Jesus repeats His commandment that we are to love one another.  And the standard for that love is “just as I have loved you.”  We are to love as Jesus loves.  Now, your first thought might be, “That is an impossible standard.”  Is it?  After all, in the truest sense, it is not you or I who are doing the loving.

A consistent theme in Jesus’ message here in the upper room has been, “I, Christ, will be in you.  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, is coming to dwell in you.”  When we love one another, who is doing the loving?  Christ is the one loving our brothers and sisters because Christ is living His resurrected life in us.  We have all we need inside to love “just as I have loved you.”

Jesus modeled love to the most sacrificial level possible.  He demonstrated the “greatest love” by giving His life for us; we who He now calls His friends.  Sacrificial love is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching throughout the gospels.  Loving our enemies.  Being generous to those who cannot pay us back.  Do not look for a return on your love investment.  Give your love away unattached to a condition.  This is sacrificial love.

In addition to laying down His life for us, His friends, Jesus also lives out His friendship with us by letting us in on His plans.  Jesus reminds us that the slave has no idea of what the master is doing.  But we are no longer slaves.  We are Jesus’ friends.  And He wants us to know what He is doing.

Let this idea sink in for a minute.  “ALL things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  How much is ALL things?  The scope of this is incredible.  All that Jesus has revealed in the gospels; all of His plans and promises that He explained were His way of telling His followers, now His friends, exactly what He is doing in the world.

Please take this to heart.  In Jesus – in His character, actions, and words – we have ALL we need to know about the Father.  There is no big mystery about God that is hidden that we somehow need to uncover; somehow need to figure out.  No, God in His generosity and love toward us has revealed everything about Himself that we need to know.

Are there mysteries about God still out there?  Of course, there are.  But absolutely none that we need to know in order to believe His gospel message and live the life He has chosen for us as His new creation, His beloved child.  Jesus has revealed to us everything we need to know about the Father.  Listen to the Son.

Joy Abundant and Overflowing

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also 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.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn 15:8-11).

Again we see the vital link between loving Jesus and keeping His commandments.  Just look at all the love in this passage.  “The Father has loved Me.”  “I have also loved you.”  “Abide in My love.”  “You will abide in My love.”  “I abide in His [the Father’s] love.”

All this love and abiding is only made possible by our connection to the Vine; our union with Jesus.  And by the Vine living His life through the branches, we experience the same quality of love that exists between the Father and the Son.  This exact love is now living in us.  Are we going to cooperate with His love?

It is this deep love filling our new hearts that will energize us to obey His commandments.  His ways (written upon our hearts; Heb 10:16) will become our new normal (See Love, Obedience, and Our New Normal).  His commandments will not be burdensome (I Jn 5:3), and we will find rest (Matt 11:28) even as we enter the yoke with Jesus and obey His instruction.

What is new in this passage is the “where” that all this love, abiding, and obeying is leading to.  It is taking us to a life of joy; joy that is abundant and overflowing.  Jesus is saying that everything He has told the disciples up to this point …

  • about loving one another,
  • about preparing a place for them in heaven,
  • about being the way, the truth, and the life,
  • about knowing the Father,
  • about doing “greater works”,
  • about asking in the name of Jesus,
  • about love and obedience,
  • about the promise and coming of the Helper [Paracletos],
  • about Christ in you,
  • about His promise of peace,
  • about the True Vine and the branches,
  • about abiding in, loving, and obeying Him,

… have all been pointing to joy.  How do we capture this joy?  How do we participate in its overflowing abundance?  What is required from us?

What is required of us is very simple.  We have to believe.  Every one of these bullet points is a true promise from Christ.  And if we believe His words, if we believe in Jesus, if we believe all that He said is true – no matter what circumstance we face – we will truly tap into a joy that is abundant and overflowing!

Bearing Much Fruit

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.  By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (Jn 15:6-8).

“If anyone does not abide in Me” refers to those who do not have a faith connection to Jesus.  These are the lost.  As a believer, you never have to worry about becoming a dried up branch to be tossed in the fire.  Your future as a branch connected to the vine is secure.  The fire imagery in these verses takes us back to the parable of the wheat and the weeds and the end of the age.

In that story from Matthew chapter 13, we hear the sower say, “Allow both the wheat and the weeds to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’ ” (Mt 13:30).  Jesus later in the chapter identifies the harvest as the end of the age, the wheat as God’s children, and the weeds as the sons of the evil one.  Coming back to John 15, these “branches” sent to the fire – those who “do not abide in Christ” – were never united by faith to the True Vine.

This is why in our last post we could say that “abiding in Christ” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options.  It was accomplished when you embraced the gospel and were grafted into the True Vine.  “Abiding in Christ” is not an imperative to do, but a promise to believe.

Next, Jesus returns to the theme of answered prayer.  This verse starts with another reference to our two-part union with Christ; we abide in Christ and His words abide in us.  There is no practical difference between Jesus’ words abiding in us and His personal indwelling.  Jesus, as the Word itself, is the living embodiment of His teaching.

And the promise of answered prayer is the same as in John 14:13; a promise tied to God’s glory being displayed in the answer.  Additionally, there appears to be a link between our answered prayer and our bearing fruit.  Could it be that God’s answers to our prayers will be part and parcel of our experience of love, joy, peace, and the other fruits of His life in us?

The word “prove” that closes our passage can be troublesome.  Uh-oh, are we on the hot seat having to show a certain amount of fruit-bearing to be called a disciple?  Do we have to “prove” our allegiance by how much fruit we bring to the table?

No, I think the flow of fruit is more natural than that.  Just as Jesus said the world will be able to identify us as true believers based on our love for each other (Jn 13:35), here we see the same concept.  We will demonstrate that we are indeed Christ-followers when we abide in Him … He abides in us … He is glorified in our answered prayers … and we bear fruit in His kingdom.

Abiding in Christ

“Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  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” (Jn 15:4-5).

“Abide in Me, and I in you” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options.  We, as true believers, are always abiding in Christ and He is always abiding in us.  We cannot choose to disconnect from the vine.  Only the farmer can remove a branch.  A branch cannot remove itself.  And God, the farmer, has promised to never cut us off from the vine.  (“I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” [Jn 10:28].)  When you embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, you became a child of God, a branch permanently attached to the True Vine.  A Vine who is living His life through the branch.

This hearkens to Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”  Christ, the true vine, by virtue of our unbreakable connection to Him, is living His life through us.

This is why our passage can end with, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Jesus did not say we will do less or not accomplish as much … no, He said we can do NOTHING apart from Him.  We will not bear little fruit apart from Him; we will bear NO fruit apart from Him.  Why?  Because Christ is our life.  Our life is no longer our own, a branch trying to live on its own.  We belong to Jesus, and praise be to God that Jesus is living His life through us.

So with Christ having secured our abiding, is there nothing for us to do?  What is our role in our abiding?  I think the best word to describe it is  “cooperating”.  We can hinder the abiding.  We can hinder the fruit.  By asking us to continue to abide in Christ, Jesus is asking us to cooperate with what He is already doing in our heart.

There is a difference between producing fruit and bearing fruit.  God has already produced the fruit of the Spirit in us by giving us His Spirit.  We are not required to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  They are already ours by virtue of the Spirit within.  But bearing fruit?  That is another story.

We have the choice to bear or show or demonstrate the fruit inside or suppress it in sin.  Paul makes the choice clear in Romans chapter 6.  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:12-14).

The choice is ours.  Our abiding can never be taken away.  You are forever secure in Christ.  But your cooperation, your bearing the fruit of the Spirit, your loving one another, your serving one another, your walking in your righteous identity … is a choice that rests in your lap.  But it is a choice for good that you have the power to make, “For sin shall not be master over you!”  May you feel the literal life flow of being connected and cooperating with the True Vine.