In a few moments I will again be leading soldiers in the study of Christianity 101, the gospel, the person and work of Christ, and what it means to follow Christ.
Today we are studying John 15. This chapter is filled with metaphors. When the chapter begins, Jesus is speaking of God as triune. He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 ESV).
The first metaphor Jesus uses here is that of himself as the true vine. The second is of the Father as the vinedresser. Then in verse 5, Jesus says that Christians are the branches, a third metaphor. Then in v. 26, Jesus says the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will be sent by the Father and Son, and he will bear witness about Jesus.
It’s all there: Christians are branches, grafted into Christ (the true vine). The Father prunes us so that we would be more fruitful. Pruning can be painful but its aim is good and righteous: Christian fruitfulness.
What are Christians to do? It’s right there in verse 8: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” That means labor, Christian. Work. Work hard in and for the Lord. Enough with foolish bromides like, “Let go and let God.” That Keswickian sentimentality is unbiblical. It is not as if God needed your permission, as if you and I were in charge of salvation. It is not as though we could ever save others. We cannot. People saying “Let go and let God” may be deceiving themselves into a pietism that is actually spiritual indolence.
We are to work hard in proclaiming the truth but God is the only One who converts sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life. Labor hard, yes, but trust the Lord to do what only he can do–regenerate spiritual corpses.
And we need to remember that we are guaranteed suffering. There’s no evading it if we are Christian. Listen to Christ tell us plainly: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 ESV).
It’s so clear: the metaphors of God as triune, the labor that Christians will do, the suffering we are guaranteed, and the Helper who indwells the believer and testifies/bears witness to Christ, and the call to faithfulness/fidelity.
It amazes me each time I go through it all with my guys. It is so clear, so accurate as to human nature, so true to experience. People are the same in each place. The same cold hearts until God gives them new hearts, the same self-referential questions until God gives them new eyes, the same complaints about evil until they see the evil inside their own hearts. God is so patient with us.
May we be faithful to labor, to bear witness to the truth, to embrace our suffering, and know that we’ve a Helper who sustains us throughout. Press on, Christian. Have courage. God is faithful.