You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.

John 15: 16

 

There is more than one way to view the total meaning and implication of this verse. However, regardless of your theology, I believe that there is an overarching truth to it that is common to all. It seems clear that God chooses us; we do not get to choose our God. There is one and only one God, and He is sovereign over every aspect of the universe. Out of that sovereignty and because of His desire to be engaged with people in a form of relationship that is voluntary and that we desire to be in, He does grant us humans the ability to accept or to reject Him. Still, God calls to us, and He has designed for each of us a purpose and a plan for living in a manner that is productive for the sake of His Kingdom.

 

God does not call us into His holiness and grant us His righteousness in order for us to be superior and segregated from our world. Rather, Christ performs His transformative work in us so that we would gain His ability to see sin as it is and to fearlessly engage it head on. He also grants us His wisdom and understanding to use in speaking God’s truth into the hearts and the minds of a desperately lost world. It is God’s truth, when delivered in a package of His grace and mercy, which brings justice, righteousness, and peace into the world. This is the fruit that Christ desires to see. He wants to view a great harvest of lives that are eternally changed and to smell the sweet aroma of an unending bounty of love, peace, and reconciliation.

 

This is a fruit that lasts. As it is deeply rooted and attached to its true source of life in Christ, it draws sustaining nourishment and growth producing understanding from the Spirit. This should lead us into living a life that is centered on the Father and on desiring to know and to follow His will. As God makes Himself known to us, we are called to serve Him in ways that He deliberately and uniquely gifts and equips us for. It is out of this profoundly intimate relationship with God through Christ that we are provided with the sort of wisdom and understanding which leads us to seek out the Father’s calling for our lives. From this place of absolute trust we can fearlessly ask God to grant us His blessing upon the ways that we are seeking to join Christ in the unending work of tending His vineyard.

Him (Christ) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toll, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1: 28, 29

 

Paul was a man of rather singular focus. His primary purpose for almost every day that he lived after that moment when Christ had interrupted his life’s work and faced him down with the truth of his own complete sinfulness was to bring people everywhere into this state that he called maturity in Christ. Now there were steps that were necessary along that journey into deep faith. First and foremost among them was for a person to recognize the sinfulness of her own life and turn to Christ as its answer. But I think that even that initial step was secondary to the calling that Paul perceived for himself as a teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

The message that Paul proclaimed was that of the risen Christ, and the new life that Christ would bring about for those who followed Him. This message of reconciliation with God was one of hope, peace, and love, but it also had a very sharp edge to it. This razor-like surface is the place where God’s truth intersects the vagaries and compromises of this world’s view of truth. It also works to demonstrate and to separate out the ways that each of us enter into the delusion and acts of deliberate rebellion that form the core of our own sinfulness. Paul knew that the peace and love that God offers were at odds with the world where we all live so that our only hope of entering into them fully was through facing honestly into the areas of our own lives where we fall short of Christ’s standard of righteousness.

 

This honest discussion of God’s truth and of the ways that each of us falls short of living it out is the platform from which Paul’s idea of warning is launched. If we desire to be people who are mature in Christ, it is essential for us to face the reality of the ways that we act and think differently than God’s Word tells us to do. When we encounter the conflict between God’s truth and our own lives, we can confess our sinfulness and submit ourselves to the restorative work of Christ. Each of us, like Paul, is tasked with living as Christ in our world and with proclaiming His truth without compromise in the process of so living. Both aspects of this form of life are possible only by the strength of Christ and with the powerful energy that His life within us provides.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13

 

The diversity that is found in humanity is a good thing. It is a part of what makes this world interesting as it helps to create the flavor and the spice that enlivens life. We come from many different backgrounds. The languages that we speak have a variety that is incomprehensible to most of us. Even in our own communities and in our own families we find strikingly large differences in what we look like, how we think, and in our ways of handling life. Humanity is like one of those great canvases on which the artist Jackson Pollock scattered his wildly imaginative swirls, globs, and splashes of paint. Sometimes our imaginations are engaged and we are opened up to new ideas and our minds create wonderful vistas out of the color and shapes. Then there are times when it all seems confusing, chaotic, and disturbing and fueled by our discomfort we can react very negatively.

 

It seems to me that God did not originally intend for all of this discord to exist. He made people in His image so that we possessed a singular focus for our hearts and our minds. God desired for all of us to live in a state of constant relationship with Him and in loving and peaceful relationships with each other. I don’t think that His heart and mind have changed in regards to this desire. God’s primary desire for His creation is that we would be reconciled to Him. It is through this reconciliation to our Creator that we will also become free to love and to care for and about each other in a manner that is similar to the way that God does it. Jesus Christ is the singular way to this reconciliation with God, and He is the answer to everything that is broken in our world. All restoration needs to be founded upon Christ, and all hope for peace comes from and through Him.

 

The common bond that all of humanity can hope for is found through Christ’s Spirit. When we open our hearts to His presence and surrender our wills to His leading, we are transformed. The baptism that His Spirit grants to us washes away the fear and the self-centered desires that work to separate people from each other. In Christ we are made into something that is very different from what we were before. God’s will is that we would begin to see the world around us and all of its inhabitants in the light of His grace and love. As we gather around Christ’s cup of blessing, we can not afford to be concerned about the race, social status, or nationality of the other lips that are touching it. We are literally one in Christ, and when we war against another partaker of Christ we are at war with ourselves and stand in opposition to God’s expressed will.