John 15

Today we’re reading John 15.

This section, John 13-16 records the final extended teaching Jesus gave to his disciples before his death. Here in chapter 15, Jesus told the disciples that they would bear fruit for him (vv. 1-17), be persecuted because of him (vv. 18-25), and testify for him (vv. 26-27). Each of these is demanding. However, Jesus does not command any of them. Instead, he describes them as products of being “in him.” If disciples “remain in me,” Jesus said, “you will bear much fruit” (v. 5b). Likewise, the world would persecute them “because of my name” (v. 21b) and they would testify “for you have been with me from the beginning.” So Jesus does not command us to do these things. Rather, his command is “remain in me” and all these things will flow out of that.

So what does remaining in Jesus mean? It means to keep believing in him, to maintain our faith in him and continue following him as Lord. This is another way of describing the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. That doctrine teaches that all those who are genuinely saved will continue from the time of their salvation until the end of their lives in faith and good works. Anyone who does not “remain in Jesus” then, goes to hell (v. 6). That person’s attachment to Jesus was superficial not genuine.

If you belong to Jesus, then, it will show in your life. Not every branch has the same level of fruitfulness but all the branches bear some fruit. Do you see the evidence of Christ’s work in your life? is there spiritual growth in your life so that you know Christ better and trust in him more now than in the past? This is a fulfillment of Christ’s promise in this passage. We can’t produce spiritual fruit on our own because “apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5b). Cultivate your connection to Christ by faith, then, and God will work on your life (“he prunes” v. 2) and through your life to make fruit through you for his glory.

Philemon

Read the book of Philemon.

This is yet another of Paul’s prison letters as we saw in verse 1, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ….” Verses 1b-2 tell us the recipients of this letter who were, “Philemon… Apphia [almost certainly Philemon’s wife] our sister and Archippus [possibly the son of Philemon and Apphia].” When we take this mention of Archippus and compare it to Colossians 4:17, “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord’’ we begin to see that Philemon lived in Colossae.

This family was not the only recipient of this letter, however, for the last part of verse 2 says, “…and the church that meets in your home.” Although Paul has a couple of big, generous things to ask of Philemon, he did not want his requests to overwhelm the people too much.

In verses 4-7, Paul described his prayers for Philemon and the others. Then, in verses 8-19, Paul got to the core of the letter–to ask Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus (vv. 17-19).

After he forgave Onesimus, Paul then wanted Philemon to free Onesiumus so that he could serve with Paul.

But the verse that intrigues me in this chapter is verse 6: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” Paul considered Philemon a partner because of his faithful giving to God’s work (v. 7). But here in verse 6 Paul prayed for a spiritual benefit to come to Philemon. That benefit was that the “partnernership with us… in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” In other words, Paul wanted Philemon’s financial support and prayer investment to strengthen Philemon’s faith. He wanted Philemon to know God better as a result of his “partnership” with Paul’s ministry.

Have you ever considered that serving the Lord and giving to his work could actually be good for you, spiritually? Not only do others benefit from this kind of “partnership” but YOU benefit from it because it “deepens your understanding” of Christ and his mission.

So I have to ask, What is your level of spiritual growth? Did it peak when you were called to be saved or is it growing? If you feel that you are stuck and not growing, then you need to find a place to serve. Serving Christ, investing in his kingdom, is helpful to your spiritual life. So, find a place to serve if you don’t have now already and watch how your understanding of God, his goals, and his people grow as a result.