i am currently teaching through the gospel of john in a series entitled, “the word became flesh.” it’s been a long journey, but we have finally arrived at john 15–in my mind, one of the most significant passages in scripture. we had a stimulating conversation on the subject during our “q & a” on sunday morning, and again on sunday evening in our small groups.
jon tyson, pastor of trinity grace church in new york city, explains it beautifully (as part of his “q ideas” series, gabe lyons interviewed tyson on the subject). consider what tyson says (and he says it in a cool aussie accent) about john 15…
I think the fundamental job of a believer is abiding in Christ.
If you have a look at Jesus teaching in John 15, every outcome that we hope happens in culture–all the fruit that we’re seeking, all the answers to prayer, all of the impact, all of the love for one another as brother and sister–flows out of the idea of remaining in Jesus’ love. And so the primary task of the Christian is not to bear fruit or not to bear cultural fruit, the primary task is to remain in Jesus’ love.
Now what’s interesting about that verse, is that most of us have grown up in a paradigm in which Christianity is basically about our love for God, rather than His love for us. And if we remain in how we feel about God, we know that we’re fickle, we know we get tempted, we know we sin, we know we fall away–we struggle with these things, so we feel poorly about our love for God.
But Jesus doesn’t ask us to remain in how we feel about Him, but about how He feels about us.
what a liberating perspective! conversely, i fielded a question in our small group that i thought i would submit to you, my reflective readers. an older gentleman made this statement (and i paraphrase):
“not long after i got saved, my pastor told me in order to “remain” i had to be careful about the clothes i wore and how i cut my hair. since then, i’ve had pastors tell me that “remain” was about 1.) being faithful to serve in the church, 2.) getting others into the kingdom, 3.) how quickly and easily i could be lost (thrown away/withered/burned, and 4.) the power in my words to get what i want from god. now you’re telling me that “remain” is actually doing nothing–simply resting in god’s love for me. who’s right? every one of my pastors were godly men who preached the word as faithfully as they knew how. please explain to me why this message has changed so much.”
so c’mon, cunning counselors, answer the man.