Jesus knows that his time is short. He wants to impart all his wisdom, his truth, and his love into his disciples because he knows it’s up to them (with a giant heaping scoop of help from the Holy Spirit…more on that in a bit) to completely and utterly change the world. No pressure or anything. He knows that the coming days are going to get very dark. He knows that they will be some of the hardest days not only for himself, but for his disciples. He knows what lies ahead for them. Persecution. Hopelessness. Confusion. He doesn’t sugarcoat it one bit. He wants them to be prepared for the days ahead. What does Jesus say that he thinks is the most important concept for them to grasp in order to endure the trials they will face?
YOU. WILL. NOT. BE. ALONE.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” How do you think we can force our hearts to not be troubled when all the walls seem to be pressing in? Trust. Trust is the antidote to a troubled heart. I know, I know. Easier said than done. But when we feel like we are carrying the weight on our shoulders…when it looks like seems like the “ruler of this world” aka the devil is winning the battle…when it feels like we are losing our grip on control…good. That’s when we know it’s time to channel our inner Ice Queen and just LET. IT. GO. Trust in God’s goodness. Trust in God’s sovereignty. When we are feeling overwhelmed and allowing our hearts to be troubled…it is always doubt over one of those two things that is creeping in. God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. When we trust whole-heartedly in those two things, it leaves little room for the devil’s trouble to overtake our heart.
How are you feeling? Is your heart troubled? Have you allowed some doubts to creep into your heart? When you are having a moment of freak out, which of those 2 things do you tend to doubt more? God’s goodness? Do you have a hard time trusting or remembering that God is so, so good? That he LOVES you and wants the BEST for your life? (remember that FULL life he promised back in chapter 10) OR…do you find yourself doubting God’s sovereignty? You trust that God is good but have a hard time believing that he is capable or willing to enter your mess and turn things around?
I know at this point in our John journey, we shouldn’t be surprised by the thickheadedness of Jesus’ disciples. I hope you find a bit of comfort that these are the people who did, in fact, change the world. People like Thomas who said, “How can we know the way?” People like Philip who wasn’t satisfied..who needed more proof, more miracles, more glimpses of the Father. Re-read Jesus’ response to Philip’s dissatisfaction. (Verses 9-14) Can you hear the emotion behind Jesus’ words? Obviously, Jesus knows that the Holy Spirit is coming and will fully equip these people to do what is necessary for the Kingdom to invade the earth….but can you hear the pleading behind Jesus words? He believes it. He just wants them to believe too. “JUST BELIEVE that I am in the Father and the Father is in me!” “I tell you the TRUTH!” See yourselves through the lens that I (Jesus) see you and you’ll be able to truly see what you are capable of in my name. Step out in faith and ASK…then you’ll see Jesus move in mighty ways in your life and in the lives of those around you.
Do you relate to these disciples? Spend a bit of time stepping back, asking God to give you eyes to see his work in your life. Ask God to give you a vision for the “greater works” he has planned for you to do. Where is he calling you to step up and step out? Ask him! He says right here that he will do it! You are a part of these ragamuffin disciples who have everything they need to change the world. I think it’s time to pray some bold prayers!
Go back and read through Jesus promising his disciples an “Advocate”. As we said above, Jesus knows that things are about to get tough. They are not going to be able to face all that is to come on their own. The Holy Spirit is the reassuring presence that will be their helper, their defense attorney, the One who will walk with them. ALWAYS.
I’m going to use an analogy that will probably lose me a lot of friends…but stick with me, OK? Jesus knows full well what the world has to offer, for these disciples and for you and me. The world is offering a giant cup of steaming hot bitterness. You know? Black coffee. You see, I’ve always been a very foo-foo coffee drinker. Give me all the syrups and all the sugar to mask the actual bitter flavor of coffee in its original form. However, a few years ago I decided to go through a period of time where I cut sugar out of my diet for a period of time. But what was I to do in the mornings when I needed to wake up? Coffee is life. (just kidding, Jesus is life.) So I pushed forward and started drinking coffee without sugar. I still couldn’t drink it entirely black though. It was just too bitter. (like life sometimes, am I right?) So I started just adding creamer on its own, without any of the flavor. You know what I learned? That is the best way to drink coffee! The creamer is what cuts through the bitterness and makes the coffee easy to swallow. The creamer is the Holy Spirit. It comes into the bitterness of life and stands by us and helps us through it. Jesus knew we didn’t need the sugar to mask the flavor that’s why he didn’t try to flatter the disciples or make it sound like life would all be puppy dogs and ice cream. He knew it was going to be bitter. But like coffee…we don’t need the sugarcoating…but we DO need the Holy Spirit.
How have you seen the Holy Spirit advocate for you and cut through the bitterness of life? Jesus says that the Spirit will NEVER leave us. Although Jesus in human form is no longer on the earth, the Holy Spirit is STILL HERE, alive in our hearts. Jesus says that the trinity will make their home in our hearts. Maybe we need to make a bit more room? Think about that for a minute. Allow that truth to marinate for a minute or two. In fact… LISTEN TO THIS SONG
Jesus is leaving a parting gift. Like the best party favor in the history of the world. What is this gift? Peace of mind and heart. Isn’t that what we all want? Peace of mind. Peace in our hearts. Rest for our souls. This gift is something we can’t get from the world. I think we know that. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Just like the disciples, Jesus is pleading to your heart as well. “REMEMBER WHAT I TOLD YOU.” Remember. We probably know some of these things in our head, but we need to spend time remembering them in our hearts. So take some time to get your heart right because Jesus next command is just as pressing.
“Come, let’s be going.”
Like many of you, in the early days of the pandemic, my family and I started a little garden. It has long since died, as I am not nearly as good as a gardener as our Heavenly Father. I must say though, tending our little plants granted me a whole new perspective on this passage from John 15. One of the biggest things I learned (the hard way) is that cultivating growth is HARD. It’s not just watering the plants whenever you remember. No, it’s a daily process. Gardening is truly a labor of love. When our strawberry plant yielded us our first fruit is was a joyous day in our household! The same is true of our heavenly gardener. He LOVES to watch us grow. It brings him SO much joy to see the fruit that we produce. One of the reasons is because he has put so much love, effort, and time into cultivating us. Think about that for a second. Think about how much joy you bring to your Father when you grow and mature and produce fruit. He DELIGHTS in you!
There are so many factors that determine how healthy a plant will be. The soil. The sunlight. The water, The pruning. And of course the most obvious…the branch that holds the fruit MUST be connected to the actual plant. It seems like such common sense…and when it comes to gardening it is. However, when Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches, we don’t quite think of it as obviously. We know that if we hack off a branch from our lemon tree, pretty soon that whole branch is going to wither and die and turn into firewood. But somehow, when it comes to our faith, we think we can continue serving, giving, and producing fruit by our own effort. We CANNOT produce any good fruit apart from the vine. This should be just as obvious to us. What is the fruit? Well, later in the New Testament, Paul gives us some specific examples of the fruit we can produce when we stay connected to the vine. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. If we don’t REMAIN in Jesus, pretty soon our patience is going to wither up. Our peace is going to no longer exist. All self-control goes right out the window. These are things that we can’t WILL into existence by our own might. We need the power of the Holy Spirit that only comes by REMAINING in the vine.
So…How’s your fruit? Take a quick inventory of the fruits of the Spirit listed above. Give yourself a letter grade for each. Which ones have you been struggling to produce lately? Here’s the trick though. If you find your fruit to be lacking. the solution isn’t to simply try harder to be more patient or kind. The fruit is never the focus…it is the symptom. The solution to our poor fruit producing abilities is to simply remain connected to Jesus.
REMAIN. What a simple yet strangely complex concept. It’s a passive verb but it takes some practice and discipline and focus. Sitting still isn’t always our strength. Some other words that get used or translated for remain are to abide, to live in, to bear patiently, to accept without objection, to be home. HOME. I know not all of us live in a peaceful home. When we think about home, it doesn’t conjure up very pleasant thoughts. But when we think of what it means to be HOME, what does that mean? To me, home is the place where I can kick off my shoes, where I don’t have to be “ON” where I can simply just be myself. Home is where we rest, where we laugh, where we can be our truly authentic selves. This is what it means to REMAIN in Jesus. In the last chapter Jesus talked about making HIS home in US…and now he’s talking about making OUR home in HIM. What a beautiful picture! Take a few minutes here to actively remain. Kick off your (metaphorical) shoes. Let down your walls and simply rest in the presence of the one who made you, who loves you, who KNOWS you, and who simply wants to BE WITH you.
Here is Jesus again, refusing to sugarcoat what is ahead for us. Yikes. Being hated…everyones favorite pastime. (Although some people I’ve met do take a certain unhealthy pleasure in being disliked…I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about though). So…we are going to be hated by the world. Fun. Jesus isn’t saying we should go out looking to get under people’s skin. He’s just saying that we shouldn’t be surprised when we get rejected by the things and ways of this world. Why? Because this world, as it is now, is NOT our home. Home. There’s that word again. Jesus is our home, and he’s where we remain. We shouldn’t have that kick-your-shoes-off, relaxed, be yourself feeling while basking in the presence of this world and all it values. No, there are times that rubbing shoulders with the world should feel a bit like sandpaper. The world is focused on self, on power, on privilege, on wealth, on comfort, on the here and now. That’s not what we value and it’s not where we live. So buckle-up buttercup. We are in for a bit of rejection. The more we follow Jesus the more we cultivate a soft heart but a thick skin. It’s important that we recognize the distinction…Jesus tells us that we will be hated by the world…not that we should hate the world right back. Because if we remain in Jesus, we will cultivate his heart…which says so famously just a few chapters ago…”For God so LOVED the world…”
What is your relationship like with the world? Do you feel perfectly at home within the culture? Or does it rub you raw sometimes? Have you allowed your thick skin to also permeate your heart? When the world spits on you do you spit right back or do you refuse to allow your heart to be hardened towards the thing that God says he loves?
Just as Jesus finishes painting a pretty bleak picture of our future relationship in the world, he utters one of the most beautiful words in all of scripture… BUT. Yes, things will be tough. Yes, this world will reject you. Yes, the world will misunderstand you and even hate you. BUT. BUT. BUT. I will send you the Advocate. You see, all the love and adoration from the world pales in comparison to the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Just ask any celebrity. (because I know your besties with so many celebrities). Being “loved” by the world…having millions of Instagram followers…at the end of the day it’s pretty empty. You know what’s NOT empty? Being FULL of the Holy Spirit. Walking through the trials of this life with the Divine with you and WITHIN you.
That’s a pretty good trade-off if you ask me.