In my recent blogs I’ve been blogging about the importance of being fruitful branches for the Lord Jesus Christ. Over and over again in the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus makes it clear that His desire is that you and I “bear much fruit” for the glory of God (cp.v.2,6,8). But I believe Jesus also instructs us in this upper room discourse about the most effective way to be fruitful branches. Let’s look at some of the verses that I believe would indicate to us how we can be the most fruitful Christians. In John 13 we read Jesus’s words when he says, “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”, (v.34-35 NIV). Jesus says that this is a new commandment. But this command is taught in the Old Testament, so in what way is this a new commandment? First of all it is the commandment of our Master and as such it should occupy the highest position on our priority list. It is also backed up by the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember these words by Jesus in the upper room discourse are his last charge to his disciples just hours before His arrest and crucifixion. The thing that Jesus dwells on the most and stresses throughout this whole discourse is the importance of love, beginning with His example of kneeling down and washing the disciple’s feet (John 13). Love is a very special and important grace but Jesus also demonstrates for us by His example the importance of us loving one another. Love is more than a Christian notion that should fill our heads but it should be practiced in our lives and especially in our engagements with one another in the body of Christ. The only charge which Jesus’s enemies could ever make stick against Him was “this man receives sinners”. If that was true about Jesus, shouldn’t it also be true about us? According to Jesus’s words in verse 35 our reputation as disciples of Jesus Christ is at stake in how we care for one another in the body of Christ. Love is to be the only badge by which the church of Christ is to be known. The most important commandment for a Christian is not to witness, though that’s very important, or to serve but to love our fellow believers. The principle of self-denial and gratitude to Christ is the standard that is set before us.
As we look at Scriptures along the same line we read in John 15 Jesus’s words – “My commandment is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this,that he lay down his life for his friends. This is my commandment: love each other”, (v.12,13,17 NIV). How is it possible for us to love as Christ loved? Surely that is a tall order beyond our ability. Especially in light of the fact that the Greek word here “agapeo” speaks of a supernatural love that is seeking the highest good for the object of one’s affection. But if Jesus commanded us to love as He loved will He not also empower us to do so? Christ loved us with a sacrificial love, He laid down his life so that you and I could have eternal life. We won’t necessarily be called to lay down our lives physically for one another, though on the battlefield this may happen. But we are to practice sacrificial love by listening, by helping, by encouraging and by giving. Each branch in the vine is possessed by the same sap, that being the love of Christ flowing in and through our lives. We don’t deserve it and we certainly didn’t merit it and yet that sap of Christ’s love should flow out of our lives into the lives of those around us. Jesus also talks about obedience in this passage. We prove our obedience to Jesus as His disciples by our love for one another. John was so impressed with this theme of love that it also becomes a major part of all of his own writings and he is in fact remembered as the disciple of love. He states in the third chapter of his first letter – “This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we are to lay down our lives for our brothers”, (1 John 4:11,16 NIV). Loving one another is the greatest commandment in order to bear witness for Jesus Christ. Tradition states that when John was an old man and could no longer stand he would be carried in before the congregation and would simply say, “love one another”. The Christmas season gives us multi-opportunities to love one another and to enter into each other’s lives in the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. From our Angel Tree ministry on Saturday, the two Christmas programs this weekend, to the movie night next Saturday and to the Christmas Eve candlelighting service all of these afford us the opportunity to enter into each other’s lives in a loving way. Let us be fruitful branches for the Lord Jesus Christ who truly care for and about one another.
All praise to our great Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo