John 15 has been the focus of our Sunday night studies since the middle of last fall. This past Sunday we wrapped up the series with a night of review.
For today's post I want to look at a few highlights and answer the question in the title of this post: How do you grow spiritually?
I think John 15 gives us a few pointers:
1. You grow over the long term. Love is the anchor.
Short term gains are really good - they can jolt our heart, mind, and affections back to God and away from the world. But over and over again in John 15 we see Jesus talking about remaining. He desires that we bear fruit in our Christian lives. He doesn't say "stick around until you're bored and then come back once you've messed up". He says "remain". Let's take that approach.
Love is the anchor of spiritual growth. God is love. Jesus commands us to remain in His love, which is the basis of His relationship to the Father. We should look to the long term and ask God to increase our love for God and neighbor.
2. The Word of God is necessary.
Go ahead - read John 15 and see if you can get through the chapter without seeing God's Word. Jesus says in John 15:3 that we are clean because of the word that is spoken. We are clean through faith in Jesus and His teachings. Wow. Spiritual growth happens because of God's Word.
Also, remember that John begins his gospel by clearly stating that Jesus is the Word. So, don't be shy about God's Word. Embrace it. Devour it. Love it. Cherish it.
3. Trouble brings growth.
Some people will look like they're Christians when they're not. Some people will hate us when we say we believe. These are difficult and potentially discouraging things. Jesus teaches that people who don't remain are cut off and burned in the fire.
Notice what's happening here. Jesus is not giving us a theology of things being easy. He's loving the disciples and loving us as readers and telling us that it's not going to be easy.
Trouble is part of God's plan. Remember John 15:1 - God the Father is the vinedresser, or the gardener. If fruit is growing and all of these difficulties are present, then the Father knows exactly what He is doing. Very challenging.
4. The Spirit empowers sharing.
At the very end of the chapter, the Spirit is mentioned in the same verse as the Son and Father. The goal is for the truth to be made known. And Jesus promises that it will be made known.
By us? By his disciples? Really, no. Yes, humans share and testify to what God is doing. Long lasting growth is a huge sign of that testimony. But, it's ultimately God who will make God known. What confidence that should give us as we seek to grow: the Spirit will empower us as we share. This bears fruit and helps us remain in Christ's love.
In sum . . .
Don't rely on short term growth. Know God's Word. Embrace trouble and pruning as God's work in your heart and life. Know the Spirit will empower you to testify and make God known. John 15 is a chapter that is heavy into God's work and role in our lives. After all, as John 15:5 tells us that apart from Jesus we can do nothing.
To quote a radio preacher I heard last night: if you didn't get it by God's grace, you didn't get it from God!