[Part II in a series on Abiding in Christ.]
While Jesus’ call to abide is about relationship, it is also about the resulting fruit that brings glory to our Father and demonstrates that we are his disciples. I like to think of fruit as what Christ accomplishes in and through us as we do our work. Practically speaking, fruit is evidence that we are abiding in Christ. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12–14 ESV). It is important to note that the fruit Jesus is referring to here is continuing his work. He says that whoever believes in him will also do the works that he did. We have been saved by grace for good works and our greatest joy comes from doing those works that we have been created in Christ Jesus to do. (Eph. 2:10)* The key to doing these works is asking him to do them. After all, they are his works, not ours. Asking reminds us of this critical truth.
Apparently, Jesus really wants us to ask him for anything in his name. He repeated this command seven times on four separate occasions during this passage from John 13 – 16. Most often the immediate context of this invitation “to ask” was about the works he would do (the fruit) through those who believe in him. The “anything” has some parameters on it – it must be according to God’s will and purposes and for his glory. That’s what it means to ask in Jesus’ name.
Asking is done through prayer. One way to measure how well I’m doing at abiding is to look at how I am praying. Am I asking? What am I asking him for? Are we asking God together? Are we asking in Jesus’ name? Are we asking him for fruit?
Remember that Jesus was having a conversation with a group when he was giving these commands to abide, to ask and to love. While we can and should apply this to our personal relationship with Christ, we must hear his commands to us within the context of community. I have learned to pray by praying with other people. I’m not talking about grandiose religious-sounding prayers, but rather heartfelt, honest, biblical prayers demonstrated to me by those who have been my spiritual role models. One of the four main practices of the early church in Acts 2 was praying together. Our unity is strengthened by praying together. Isn’t it interesting how Jesus even links our joy with our asking? “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24 ESV). Over and over he says that the Father will answer. God loves to answer prayer when it is in accordance to his will and purposes. Seeing him accomplish his work to a greater measure will bring us fullness of joy.
God intended for us to pray together. Asking God to increase his work in and through us is an area we ought to grow in this next year. It is a critical aspect of abiding in Christ. God’s glory is dependent upon the fruit that will come as a result. Here lies proof that we are his followers. “7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7–8 ESV).
I once asked one of our missionaries to share some of the fruit he was experiencing in ministry. I expected to hear him proclaim the powerful works of the Lord, but instead he surprised me when he answered that he was in a season of pruning.
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2 ESV)
Could it be that the Lord is graciously pruning us, calling us back to the basics of abiding in Him and bearing fruit so that the world will know that we are his disciples? Pruning will bear a greater harvest of fruit to our Father’s glory. Asking him to accomplish his work in us and through us may just be the most important activity we could undertake during this time of pruning.
Coming Next: PART III – Loving
*Doing the works that Jesus did begs the question, “What works did Jesus do that he intends us to continue?” Looking at his departing statements will yield an answer: go, make disciples, be my witnesses. I’m eager to clarify what that means as we spend the next fourteen weeks in a Discipleship 101 series with our new Transitional Senior Pastor, Dave Jenkins.