There is an old story about a pastor who was working the grill at the annual church cookout when one of his parishioners who had not attended Sunday services in a while came up and started chatting with him. As he listened to his parishioner explain that he did not need the church to be a Christian, the pastor used his tongs to move one hot coal away from the pile of burning charcoal. Soon the lone coal grew cold and stopped glowing, and the pastor used it as a visual illustration of how his parishioner’s love for Jesus would also cease to burn brightly if he did not stop isolating himself from the body of Christ.
Separation from fellowship with other believers will cause our love for Christ to burn less brightly and result in a less fruitful walk with the Lord, but our affection will be even colder if we separate ourselves from Jesus Himself. Our Savior is the vine, as we see in today’s passage, and those who profess His name are its branches (John 15:1–8). Just as branches that are cut of from the vine will not produce grapes, those who are separate from Christ will fail to produce spiritual fruit.
The Lord is not giving a discourse on whether salvation can be lost (it cannot, John 6:37–39); rather, He is encouraging us to live our lives in Him so that we will continue to receive His nurture. Those who abide in Him will bear fruit abundantly, including the spiritual fruit of joy (15:5–8; Gal. 5:22).
We cannot abide in Christ without keeping His commandments, for we truly love our Redeemer only if we follow His way (John 15:9–10). We must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we must also love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:28–34; Rom. 13:9), with a willingness to abandon whatever keeps us from following Jesus (Luke 9:62). To remain in Christ also requires regular fellowship with other believers (Heb. 10:24–25), for the Lord works through the encouragement and admonition of others to prune away the dead growth in our lives and make us more fruitful servants (John 15:2).
In our own strength we cannot make ourselves joyful, so we must abide in Christ and rely on His power. When we do this, Jesus’ joy will increasingly well up within us, and we will find ourselves more readily rejoicing in all circumstances (vv. 10–11).