When I was a kid, they made us memorize scripture in Sunday school. John 15 was one of those passages that I memorized. Sometimes, I go back to that verse because for years it had been my favorite verse of scripture, and I think it was my favorite because of its emphasis on Jesus.
Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, was trying to invest into his disciples with every single breath. John records more of what Jesus said, in those few hours leading up to his crucifixion, than all of the gospel writers. In this chapter, Jesus proclaims that his Father is the vineyard keeper, Jesus is the vine, and that we are his branches.
He makes the point that the only way his disciples will remain alive, vibrant and fruitful is if they stay connected to the branch (Jesus). Today we have so many people who are disconnected spiritually. We are all so busy. The church is too. The church can often be a place where people are too busyness. We sometimes focus on things that are fruitless, and have no true value, and our reasoning for doing so is because we are “serving God.” We are like Martha, so busy serving Jesus and his followers that we forget where true life and vibrance is found. Jesus tells Martha, “Mary, your sister, has chosen the better way, by sitting at my feet and listening to me” (Luke 10:38-42).
The centrality of Jesus and the connectedness to him is something that the human heart longs for. Worship begins when this starts. Salvation begins with the awakening of our souls to our need for a connectedness to Jesus. You cannot have joy, you cannot bear fruit, and there cannot be spiritual life without a connectedness to Jesus.
In Baptist life, we use the word “relationship” a lot. So much so, that it has more than likely lost a lot of its meaning. But those 12 disciples had spent three years with this remarkable man. He had healed people. He had cast out demons. He had turned water into wine, and changed the natural course of nature by stilling waves with a command. He had also preached that he was going to the cross, and that he was going to rise again. Finally, he told them, “I’m going away.” Jesus recognized that this statement brought sorrow to their heart, but he encouraged them with a promise that,“It is for their benefit.” He says, that if I go, then the Counselor will come. The Counselor was the Holy Spirit who would come to them and convict the world of sin, declare that righteousness is only found in Christ, and judge the ruler of this world — Satan.
Today, we live in this time period, when the Holy Spirit is our true connection to the Father and the Son. We pray, and the Spirit helps us pray. We walk, and the Holy Spirit helps us in our serving and worshipping the Father and the Son. We live, and in him we live and move, and have our being. It is our connection to Christ through the Counselor that gives us joy, life, vibrance, power, grace, mercy and every good and perfect gift is found in him. There is a wealth of treasures in the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit only points to one — Christ Jesus. In him is our greatest treasure. Jesus says in John 16 that the Spirit will take from what belongs to Jesus, and declare it to us. Everything the Father has, has been given to the Son, and the Son gives to us freely through our connectedness to Him by his Spirit. We call this the activity of the Trinity.
There is so much joy in a relationship with Jesus. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would reject Christ’s forgiveness and love. I know there are some that do not see Jesus this way. They perceive him as a hard task master, impossible to please, a punisher and a judge. Yet they are wrong. We still live in the age of opportunity: when a man, woman, boy or girl can bow their knee and ask Jesus to bring them in to a “relationship” with him, and a “connectedness” to the true vine. They do this by repenting of their sin, and casting their faith on Christ for salvation. Let us not think that Jesus doesn’t want us, because all he ever wanted was for us to be so close to him that we would be called vines, connected to him, the branch of God.
May God bless your relationship with Jesus.
Brian Taylor is the full-time pastor at Forest Avenue Baptist Church. He began his ministry in the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa, serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the panhandle of Texas.