Physics was my worst subject in high school. I used to feel as if my teacher, Mr. Johnson, was speaking a mostly unintelligible language with words like fulcrum, friction and velocity. I only remember a few random things from those brain wrenching hours.
So who could imagine, over 40 years later, that something useful would come out of my dim recollection of Mr. Johnson's class? But that is exactly what happened recently when I thought of displacement; that is, measuring the volume or weight of liquid displaced by an object submerged or floating in it.
John 15 is a passage I have read countless times but I think that I never really understood it until now, with the help of my elemental knowledge of physics.
John 15:5 (New Century Version)
5 "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.
I suddenly saw the connection between the fruit Jesus referred to in John 15:5 and the fruit of the Spirit, which the apostle Paul writes about to the believers in Galatia.
Galatians 5:22-23 (New Living Translation)
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
In my previous readings of John 15 I interpreted the reference to fruit as meaning a "fruitful life" in ministry; more about the things done; even though in Christ's strength alone.
I think I was missing the point. I believe that Jesus was saying that when I remain in him and he "in me," he displaces (Mr. Johnson would be proud) my egotism, self centredness and selfishness and replaces them with himself and his characteristics. Both things can't fill the same space.
This is affirmed in verse 8:
John 15:8 (New International Version)
8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This verse indicates that the fruit is more about "showing" than "doing." And the passage ends with another reference to "fruit that will last;" and a command to "be" the expression of God's fundamental essence; "Love:"
John 15:16-17 (New International Version)
16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
I have long been trying to understand the "how" of the work being God's not ours. I believe that Jesus' death accomplished the redemption of my fallen nature as well as my soul, and I believe that this isn't to be by my effort; besides that clearly hasn't worked very well to this point! But how is it to happen? John 15 holds the answer.
Nothing can be more important than to spend time unhurried time in his presence; to be still; to meditate upon who he is, to memorize his Word; to listen, and to open my heart and my soul to him so that he can pour himself into me. That is where the fruit comes from. Not from my efforts but by him growing out through me.
"Lord, fill me up with you; clean me out of me; clothe me with humility--and then use me."
Wilson Goode; Lead Like Jesus