Lessons from the Vine (Part 3)

grapes on trunk photography

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”  John 15:8

There is no such thing as a useless believer.  Christians do works of service, for God and for others, as the expression of their faith.  Theologically, you can’t opt for salvation without service anymore than grape branches can change their genetic code.  Practically, Jesus wants us to take the theology we learn into the street and enjoy doing the things that people attached to Jesus do. . . things like little bursts of worship when we see beauty and blessings in our life, things like hugging hurting people (well, when we’re past covid-19, I guess) and helping those who have needs.  Connected to Jesus, the Vine, Christians bear fruit.  That doesn’t make them Christians; that demonstrates that they are Christians.  What we do to please God doesn’t make him love us; we do these things because he loves us.

Some people want to define Christians by what they don’t do, a whole list of bad behaviors.  Jesus defined his followers by what they do; and what they do is inspired and characterized by love.  God’s love for us results in a corresponding love for him and for others.  Directed toward God, that love is worship – hymns in a church or praise in our hearts, confessing a creed or testimony to a friend.  Directed toward others, that love is encouragement for the distressed and celebrating with the blessed, giving food to the hungry and giving suggestions to the wealthy, holding hands in hospice care and reminding the grieving of the eternal life won by Jesus.  Just two chapters earlier in John, Jesus told his disciples: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Our purpose in life is to glorify our heavenly Father, to make him happy, make him look good.  Come to think of it, two chapters later in John’s Gospel, Jesus said that his purpose was to glorify his Father.  Because we didn’t, he had to.  Because he did that for us, we can now do it freely, joyfully.  Scripture says that at God’s right hand there is pleasure forevermore and that we will serve him day and night.  We don’t have to wait till heaven to understand that our greatest pleasure is serving our God.

Did it ever occur to you that God finds pleasure just watching you try to sing a new hymn or praise song….no different than the pleasure a parent gets watching a small child take her first toddling steps?  God gets satisfaction from your awkward efforts at witnessing to others, just as a mother smiles when her little boy brings her a bouquet of dandelions.  But God enjoys watching his children grow up.  Jesus said it twice: we glorify our Father by bearing much fruit.

PRAYER: Be glorified, Father, in our humble efforts to worship, to witness, to love and to serve.  Because Jesus lived and died for us, we seek your help to live for him, for as he said: without him we can do nothing.  Amen.

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