“Whoever comes to me I will never cast away” (John 6:37). Jesus promised he would never cast away those who come to him, yet some people fear he might. Because Jesus is fickle and he changes his mind a lot.
Of course, that’s not true, yet some worry that it might be true, because of what he said here:
If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:6)
How do these words make you feel? Read them again, then see which of the following responses best describes your reaction:
1. “I’m in trouble. I don’t know if I’m abiding, so I’m in danger of being cast into the fire.” This is the response of the uncertain or lukewarm mind. It’s the response of someone who has not fully understood the good news of grace.
2. “These words aren’t for me because I’m a good Christian. I’m not perfect, but I’m at least better than 50% of the people reading this.” This is the response of the self-righteous. Again, it’s the response of someone who has not understood the good news of grace.
3. “I’ve got nothing to fear because God loves and he will never leave me. Since I am one with the Lord, it is impossible for him to cast me away.” This is the response of those who have been set free by the gospel and are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
If your response was an insecure (1) or a self-righteous (2), don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place.
To the self-righteous and those of you who think you are good enough for God, I have some liberating news: you are wretched, poor, blind, and naked. God’s law says so. Okay, so that wasn’t good news, but this is: Jesus gives grace to the wretched and he clothes the naked. Put off your filthy rags and put on the spotless garments of his righteousness. No one is good enough for God, but God is more than good enough for us. His best is better than your worst. His grace is greater than your self-righteousness. Believe it.
And now some good news for the insecure and anxious. In the parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8), Jesus talks about two kinds of people:
- Those who abide in him
- Those who don’t abide in him and are cast away
Question 1: Who abides in Jesus?
The believer. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15).
A believer, by definition, abides in the Lord. They are not merely branches, but “branches in me” (John 15:6). Because a believer is in union with the Lord, they bear his fruit, and if they don’t, God nurtures them and lifts them up. He doesn’t cut them off.
Question 2: Who doesn’t abide and is cast away?
The unbeliever. Reject the life that Christ offers, and you will have no life in you. You will be a dead stick rather than a living branch.
This is what happened to the religious Jews who rejected Jesus. They “were broken off for their unbelief” (Rom. 11:20). Who broke them off? Not God, but themselves. “They stumbled… they sought to establish their own righteousness … they killed the prophets” (Rom. 9:32, 10:3, 11:3).
Some think that God cuts off unfruitful branches because God allegedly cut off the Jews, but “God did not reject his people” (Rom. 11:2); the Jews rejected God. And by Jews I mean the Jews as a nation rejected Jesus, while many individual Jews accepted him.
Question 3: What’s the takeaway?
Abide in the love of God.
Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. (John 15:9)
We don’t abide to get into the love of God; we get to abide because he loves us. Notice the order in the verse above. There is a proclamation (unconditional love from God to you through Jesus) followed by an invitation (abide in that love; agree that Jesus is the Son of the God who loves us).
When you know how much God loves you, you’ll stop striving to earn his love. You will not fear that he may cut you off and cast you away. (He promised he wouldn’t.) You will be at home in his love.
Your heavenly Father loves you. There is nothing you can do to make him love you more, and nothing you can do to make him love you less.
“Abide in the vine” is both a statement of your union with Christ and an exhortation to live from the pleasant security of that union.
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