Why would Jesus invite His baptized covenant members, “Abide in Me”? He tells us: “You are my friends.” “I have . . . loved you” (John 15:14, 9, NKJV). If for no other reason, our Creator invites us into this most intimate relationship imaginable simply because He loves us and calls us His friends! But there’s more.
The “more” has to do with bearing fruit. Using the image of a vineyard where branches connected to a healthy vine bear fruit, Jesus likens those who have chosen to be in covenant relationship with Him to branches connected to (“abiding in”) Him, “the vine,” and thus enabled to bear “much fruit” (John 15:4, 5). You don’t “bear fruit” to “abide in Jesus”; you “abide in Jesus” to “bear fruit”!
The life of every human being bears fruit, ether “fruit [for] . . . death” or “fruit [for] . . . God [and] . . . holiness” (Rom. 6:20–22; cf. 7:4, 5). Living an old-covenant experience produces the former; a new-covenant experience the latter. In the wake of someone characterized by an old-covenant experience is a host of damaged lives; in the wake of someone characterized by a new-covenant experience is a harvest of healed lives or lives on the mend. Jesus chose us to bear good fruit, healed lives, on-the-mend lives; He “prunes” us, disciplines us, often through various hardships, to maximize the results (John 15:2, 16); because we will get to live forever with those whose lives were healed in part through our influence!
Simply put, bearing fruit for the kingdom of God is two-dimensional: (1) “keep[ing] oneself unstained by the world” and (2) “visit[ing] orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27, NASB). The first involves allying with the Spirit in His war against the flesh (see lesson 5). The “world” entices, addicts, and enslaves: entertainment, sports, pornography, shopping, overeating, accumulating stuff, and so forth. You do not realize you have been enslaved until you cannot stop using. The fruitage is “death,” not only for oneself but also for others within one’s circle of influence.
The “much fruit” (John 15:5) produced from abiding in Jesus is that which contributes to healing and hope for those in our circles of influence. Jesus summed up the entire Old Testament in one line: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12, NKJV). Throughout Scripture, this love command has always been expressed as a very practical ethic, as in the Ten Commandments, for example. In Jesus’ most graphic description of the final judgment, He based the outcome on how we treated people in need (Matt. 25:31–46). “Christ’s rule of life, by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment, is, ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’ Matthew 7:12” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, 640).
This is the essence of the everlasting covenant, how the Trinity has eternally related among themselves and, by extension, relates to the creation as a whole, including humanity in its original perfection, including humanity at its ugliest and most vicious. Once Jesus lived out that love principle at a depth that even the unfallen universe had not comprehended (Col. 1:20), He could reissue it as a new-covenant command: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12, NKJV). This is the fruit that abiding in Him produces.
“It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts” (White, The Desire of Ages, 641).
Welcome to the new-covenant experience!