In Which We Abide Fruitfully Instead of Vegetating Slothfully
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6
Sloth may seem like an archaic sin in our busy modern world, but our frenzied activity is itself a sign of sloth, which can be defined as a lack of vigor in pursuing God’s name — His character and purposes. In fact, the self-centered pursuit of our own “name” — especially under the guise of religion — is actually the worst kind of sloth! (cf. Matthew 23)
The antidote is to empty ourselves of worldly pursuits so that we become truly hungry for faith, hope, and love. Only when we abandon slothfully seeking our own comfort — which merely results in restlessness — can we experience the divine dynamism and peace that comes from abiding in Him…
Read Proverbs 6. What is the “fruit” of idleness?
We have been to the upper room with John before, studying the Holy Spirit in John 16 and the folly of Judas (vs. the love of Christ) in John 13. This time, we grapple with how to get from beginning a relationship with the Son to manifesting the power of the Spirit:
There are two profound thoughts here. First of all, Christ is the vine — the basis and source of our life. Second, God as Father is responsible for the nurture of that vine.
But since Christ Himself is already perfect, what exactly does the Father need to do?
Apparently, the goal of the Father is to ensure that Christ bears fruit, and He does it by keeping a close watch over the branches. Fruitless branches are cut off, but even fruitful branches are cut back; the word for “prune” is the basis of our word “catharsis” — a painful but necessary cleansing. [C.1]
Which Jesus has already provided for us through His word:
But though we have been cleansed once, that merely intensifies our ongoing need to abide in Him, as branches of His vine:
And as branches, bearing fruit is both our purpose and a sign of our abiding [C.2]:
5“I am the vine, you [are] the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Importantly, there is no middle ground. Either we don’t abide, and are trashed:
6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw [them] into the fire, and they are burned.
Or we abide, and gain authority as sons:
Obviously, this doesn’t mean we can feed the desires of our flesh. Rather, to abide means to have our spirits aligned with His “name”, so that we desire what He desires — i.e., the things that glorify God [C.3]:
Importantly, this abiding is not primarily about of obedience or duty — thought it includes those things — but of love:
God’s commands are not arbitrary rules designed to show us who is boss, but an expression of His love [C.4]:
And surrendering to that love — by keeping His commands — is the only sure route to joy:
This is particularly true of His personal commandment, which reflects the highest measure of love:
As parents and soldiers know, there is no greater joy than pouring out your life for the sake of those you love. [C.5]
How precious it is then to know that Jesus love us that very same way — if we will but submit to His love:
14You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
To be called a friend of Jesus is a high honor, and as such it carries a great responsibility:
And what are the essential things He passed on to us from the Father?
I count four life-changing insights here:
- Jesus chose us
- He appointed us to bear fruit
- He wants fruit that “abides”
- God will give us anything we desire — as long as it is Him!
Heady stuff. But it all starts with giving love:
17These things I command you, that you love one another.
Even if it means receiving hate:
18“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before [it hated] you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
A sober warning about the price of abiding in His name. [C.6] But if we skip to the end of the chapter, we find a note of hope — and the promise of a Help:
To love the world is to live a slothful life, and (at least on the surface) an easy one. To live for Jesus means emptying ourselves in love for our brothers and sisters, which will cause us to hunger and thirst for His righteousness.
But if we abide in that hunger, He will fill us with the fruits of His Spirit, which is the true testimony of Jesus — which we can then share with others:
- Share about a “cathartic” experience you have had. How was your life different afterwards?
- Discuss what it means to “abide” in Christ. Is it a passive or active state?
- Do you believe God will do what you desire? Why or why not?
- What do you see as the relationship between God’s commands and His love? Does it always feel that way? If not, why not?
- When has showing someone sacrificial love brought you great joy?
- Have you been hated by the world? Did you deserve it?
- Repentance: What must you give up to abide in Christ?
- Action: To whom in body of Christ can you show the love of Jesus this week?
- Worship: Why is God’s love worth the hatred of the world?
For next week, read James 4. What is the “fruit” of our lust? What is the cure?
- Blue Letter Bible. “John 15 – New King James Version.” Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2009. 14 Jan 2009. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?t=NKJV&b=Jhn&c=15 >