At the heart of Jesus’ call to his first disciples is the invitation to be with him. The path of discipleship is not primarily about a particular set of practices (although there are practices that help). Rather it is about intentionally remaining in the presence of Jesus.
Bible Text: John 15:1-11
The idea of being with Jesus is shown through this picture of a vine. Just as the branches of a vine find their life through the connection to the vine itself, so we must remain connected to Jesus and abide in him if we want to be fruitful in the Christian life.
Abiding: The central instruction given is to abide in Christ. As we do this, he also abides in us. It is about keeping a strong relational connection with him. It is sometimes easy to reduce Christianity to a set of beliefs or practices, but this misses the point. The whole purpose is enjoying the presence of Jesus. As part of this point it would be good to explore practically how we can abide in Christ, and how things such as the spiritual disciplines and the community of believers can be helpful in this.
Pruning: Jesus extends the metaphor beyond simply branches abiding in a vine to include the role of the Father in pruning the branches. Those branches that are part of the vine will sometimes be cut back, but always with the view of making them more fruitful. This teaches us that the path of discipleship will not be an easy one. There will be tough moments along the way, but as we abide in Christ through these times we can trust that God is working in them for our good and our growth.
Bearing Fruit: The main difference between the branch that abides in the vine and the branch that doesn’t is seen in the fruit that is produced. Jesus is clear that apart from him we can do nothing. If we are looking to have a fruitful life or ministry without the life-giving connection to him then we will be disappointed. On the other hand, the one who does abide will bear much fruit, and the fruit is what proves them to be a disciple. Some of the ways that the fruit will be shown, according to this passage, are in answered prayers, obedience and joy.