For those of you going through Experiencing God with us on Sunday nights, I’ve got a little bonus here: a good friend of mine, Jim Groth, is going to be sharing some articles for me to post up on here. Jim has great insights that he frequently shares with me, and I’ve talked him into contributing here from time to time. Here’s the first:
The first night of “Experiencing God” on Sunday night was great. I enjoyed it immensely and am looking forward to the rest of the series. As we worked through the first day in “Experiencing God” It occurred to me that two issues need definition. In a sense they both work together.
The first was found on page 6 in the quote from John 15:5: “I am the vine: you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing.”
The second was John 10:10 from page 8: “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”
In the first case it is the word “bear.” We often interpret that to mean “to produce” much fruit. Here is where we must be quite cautious. We are incapable of producing anything; nevertheless we often go around trying to do just that in an effort to please God with our effort. It is the vine, the root of the plant which does the work and production. The branches (us) only bear it as the vine produces it through the branches (us). In our human nature we often think that somehow we have the responsibility to do what only God can do. In addition, some branches are better equipped by the vine to bear more fruit then other branches. We must not make “bearing fruit” into a competition to determine who are the better or more obedient branches. In this competition fueled by our fleshly human nature we miss the joy of bearing any fruit. Also we must take into consideration what exactly is fruit. Often there is fruit seen only by the Keeper of the vineyard; not easily seen by the branches or even the branch bearing such fruit. We must keep in mind what Paul told the Galatians:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love (5:6); For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation (6:15) .”
Circumcision here is a metaphor for doing or not doing– in other words, the law.
Failure to recognize the ramifications of trying to produce fruit brings me to the second point based upon John 10:10. What exactly is meant by having life to the full? The answer to that depends on how one defines the full life. Many define that as having the American dream; a good house, loving spouse, caring loving children and freedom from financial and health woes. Everyone wants that. But is that what God has in mind by “life to the full?”
Notice what Jesus said in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Life to the full is fully encapsulated in Christ. It’s about an outlook on the inner life focused on what God has done for us in Christ that we cannot do for ourselves, rather than an outlook and dependency on favorable circumstances. Truly knowing the father and the one he has sent is life to the full. Jesus did not have desirable circumstances, but what Christian could argue he did not have life to the full?
When we look to ourselves or others to provide “life to the full”, we will never find it. It is only found in trusting Christ, not only for eternal life but also for daily living. Christ came to provide life to the full: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18).”
Without Christ there is no hope; no life to the full, only emptiness. With Christ there is eternal hope and life to the full; for we know God can be counted upon, trusted, and that he loves us. Knowing this and counting on it is “life to the full.”