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1.LOVE: What Does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - John 15:1-10

What Does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple?
1.LOVE: John 15:1-10

By Ted Schroder,
June 25, 2017

My Vision for the next three years is to develop mature Christian disciples who will be able to compassionately respond to the needs of others. But what does it mean to be a mature Christian disciple? Randy Frazee in his book, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus: Becoming a New Person in Christ, answers the question by asking another one: Who am I becoming? He then goes on to list ten virtues or fruit of the Spirit. "Jesus used the analogy of fruit to teach about the spiritual growth process. He said becoming like him is much the same as growing a crop."

John 15:1-10 describes the process in terms of the true vine and its branches. If we want to bear fruit we have to remain connected to the vine. "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." Jesus is the true, the authentic, vine which is cultivated by God as his people. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

The key to becoming a mature Christian disciple is to remain connected to Jesus so that you are in him and he is in you. It is a daily, hourly personal relationship that enables the life of Christ to flow through you and produce fruit. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them." You can tell those who are mature Christian disciples by their lives, by their behavior, by their attitudes, by their conversation.

What is this fruit? Jesus goes on to say, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." God has loved us into a personal relationship with him and wants us to reflect that love in our relationships with others. The Great Commandment is to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. God enables us to love others by pouring his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us (Rom 5:5).

But what do we mean by love? It is not just sentiment, or good feelings, or reciprocal love, whereby we love others for what they can do for us. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Christian love is sacrificial love, a free gift of grace. It enables us to love the unlovely, to even forgive and love our enemies.

St. Paul expounds the meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Henry Drummond was born in Stirling, Scotland on August 17, 1851. When he died, aged 45 in 1897, his life was described by his friends and admirers, as the most Christian life they ever knew. His biographer, the noted biblical scholar, George Adam Smith, wrote that he "was one of the purest, most unselfish, most reverent souls you ever knew; but you would not have called him saint. The name he went by among younger men was 'The Prince'; there was a distinction and a radiance upon him that compelled the title." Henry Drummond is remembered for an address he gave to students in 1890 at D.L. Moody's school in Northfield, Mass. entitled The Greatest Thing in the World. It is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, and it is still in print.

This is what Dwight L. Moody says about its author. "No words of mine can better describe his life and character than those in which he has presented to us The Greatest Thing in the World. Some men take an occasional journey into the thirteenth of First Corinthians, but Henry Drummond was a man who lived there constantly, appropriating its blessings and exemplifying its teachings. As you read what he terms the analysis of love, you find that all its ingredients were interwoven into his daily life, making him one of the most lovable men I have ever known. Was it courtesy you looked for; he was a perfect gentleman. Was it kindness; he was always preferring another [putting others before himself]. Was it humility; he was simple and not courting favor. It could be said of him truthfully, as it was said of the early apostles, 'that men took knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus.' Nor was this love and kindness only shown to those who were his close friends. His face was an index to his inner life. It was genial and kind, and made him, like his Master, a favorite with children... Never have I known a man who, in my opinion, lived nearer the Master, or sought to do His will more fully."

Drummond divides his exposition into three parts. The first part is headed, Love Contrasted. He contrasts love with eloquence, with prophecy, with sacrifice and martyrdom. It is possible to be a great speaker or preacher and yet lack the fruit of love. You can know everything about the Christian faith, be a theologian and a pastor and yet lack the fruit of love. It is possible to be a visionary, a genius of great intellect, a successful leader and yet lack the fruit of love. It is possible to be a great social reformer, a champion of the underdog, a critic and revolutionary and yet lack the fruit of love.

The second part is headed, Love Analyzed. He uses the analogy of light, which when passed through a crystal prism is broken up into its component colors. So Paul passes love through the magnificent prism of his inspired intellect, and it comes out on the other side broken up into its elements. He describes this spectrum of Love as Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility, Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good Temper, Guilelessness and Sincerity. Life is full of opportunities for learning Love. The world is a schoolroom in which to learn to love. Life is not a holiday, but an education in love. The one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character -- the Christ-like nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice. He asks how we can bring Love into our nature. Love is an effect. The cause of Love is: "We love, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) Our heart is slowly changed by Christ. Contemplate the love of Christ and you will live. Stand before that mirror, reflect Christ's character, and you will be changed into the same image. There is no other way. You cannot love to order. You can only look at the Perfect Character, this Perfect Life. Look at the great Sacrifice as he laid down himself, all through life, and upon the Cross of Calvary; and you must love Him. And loving Him, you must become like Him. Love begets love. We love others, we love everybody, we love our enemies, because He first loved us.

The third part is headed Love's Defense. Love lasts. To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love for ever is to live for ever. Eternal life is inextricably bound up with love. We want to live forever for the same reason that we want to live tomorrow. Why do we want to live tomorrow? It is because there is someone who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back. There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved. Eternal life also is to know God, and God is love. Love must be eternal. It is what God is. On the last analysis, then, love is life. Love should be the supreme thing -- because it is going to last; because in the nature of things it is an Eternal Life.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 once a week for the next three months. It will change your life. It is for the greatest thing in the world. It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. Address yourself to that one thing. Everything else in all our lives is transitory. Every other good is visionary. But the acts of love which no one knows about, or can ever know about - they never fail.

If you want to become a mature Christian disciple you will remain in Christ and produce the fruit of love.

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