John 15:7-8 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
This passage is in the list of readings because the overall theme is God’s Provision, and this is one of the most blanket promises in the whole Bible. At the same time, it is quite problematical, because our experience doesn’t seem to line up with it. I think the problem comes in our grasp of what it means to be in Christ and His words to be in us. My father wrote his doctoral dissertation on the use of in Christ in the New Testament, but he told me that he didn’t understand it at all until after he had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit after he was already a missionary in Japan, PhD in hand. There is a world of difference between theory and experience in a lot of things, and in nothing more than in this. We tend to focus on “ask whatever you wish,” instead of “remaining,” and that drops us out of the spiritual into the material, with all our fleshly desires. The chapter as a whole seems to me to focus on obedience and bearing fruit. It is only logical that we will bear fruit – produce the desired outcome – if we follow directions. We are like a total novice in the cockpit of an airplane when the pilot has suddenly been incapacitated. We are only going to have the desired outcome – getting the plane safely landed – if we listen very carefully and obediently to the person on the radio who gives us instructions. That’s what “letting Jesus’ words remain in us” is all about. Obedience is what makes us disciples.
These words are as strict to me as they are to anyone else. I grew up in a home that was steeped in the Bible and I have a lot of it in my heart and mind, but the question remains of how much I am being obedient to what I know. James 1:22 has long been key in my personal walk of faith, because I have discovered how adept I am at deceiving myself. Like my father, I have discovered that the only way to remain in Christ is to allow His Spirit to fill and remain in me. In my experience (and I think that of every other believer) I leak, so I’m not to be satisfied with an episode of being filled. Grammatically speaking, Ephesians 5:18 might be better rendered as, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be continuously filled with the Spirit.” When I am in full intimacy with my Lord, I can indeed ask anything. I remember an incident several years ago when I was having a rather intense prayer time and I felt the Lord ask me, “What would you like?” I asked for the salvation of a particular person, and within a couple of weeks that person had indeed committed themselves to Jesus and asked for baptism. That’s the kind of fruit the Father is seeking for His glory. The question for me then becomes, why have I not born more? Rather than seeking the fruit as such, I need to seek obedience, remaining in my Lord so that His words and His Spirit may remain in me. If I will do that, the fruit will come.
Father, thank You for this Word of correction and encouragement. May I be fully obedient to it, abiding fully and consistently in Christ, so that all of Your plans for me may be fulfilled, for Your glory alone. Thank You. Hallelujah!