There is a certain simplicity in how one views things as one gets older. For example, there is greater clarity as to what should be the imperatives that should define the life of a disciple. I have been taking a long hard look at John Chapter 15 — part of Jesus’s farewell discourse — containing His main block of teaching before He goes to the Cross. John 15 gives us three imperatives that should shape the life of a disciple.
1. Remain in Christ (v. 4)
We shouldn’t be surprised that the first concern for a disciple is that he or she should have a vital relationship with his or her primary discipler, Jesus Himself. Jesus had already said that nothing can take His sheep from His Father’s hands (John 10:27–30; 15:3). This is no exhortation to an experience where we are saved by grace but maintained by works. But it does mean that the disciple must do his or her part in actualising the relationship with Christ. Perhaps we can see the call to remain in Christ as a call to remain loyal to Christ. John 15 also tells us how we can do that. We are to obey His Word and love His people. Indeed, one way we express our love for Christ is by loving His people (1 John 4:19–20).
2. Love one another (vv. 13–17)
The second imperative of the Christian life in John 15 is the call to love one's fellow disciples. The chapter contains the mind boggling declaration by Jesus that He calls his disciples friends. He goes on to define friendship — the willingness to lay down one's life for one's friend. He would go on to model true friendship by dying on the cross for His friends. And He expects that His followers would love each other in imitation of His sacrificial friendship. We need to note that His basic group of disciples consisted of 12 people. While we are to be open to help all, the nature of true friendship is such that it takes place in smaller groups where people have the opportunity to know each other.
3. Bear fruit that lasts (v. 16)
If the first imperative connects a disciple with God and the second imperative connects one with fellow disciples, the third imperative connects a disciple with God’s work in the world. The fruit that we are to bear is not made explicit in this chapter but if Jesus is our model for mission bearing, fruit should include who we are, what we do and what we say. We need to bear the fruit of Christlike character. We need to bear fruit by doing things to salt and light the world (Matt. 5:13–16). And we are to proclaim the gospel. We do not bear fruit alone. It is because we are connected to Christ and in community with other disciples that we are able to bear fruit for Christ.
The Covid pandemic has forced us to revisit many things, including what it means to be church and how we are to follow Christ. There are many things we ought to be doing but here are three basic imperatives of the Christian life that we must be doing.
- Remaining in Christ
- Loving one another
- Bearing fruit that lasts
We need to recommit ourselves to these three discipleship imperatives as we ask the Lord to show us how we ought to be doing it today, and as we ask the Lord for the strength to do so.