What is if?
What does the English word “if” mean? When Jesus used the word if, it had powerful implications. Therefore, when reading what he says, it pays to slow down and think carefully.
If is an interesting word. It can mean “on condition that.” A warranty might use the word “if” to define what is included. For example, the warranty on my Ford Escape tells me that certain parts are covered if the car is less than three years old or has less than a certain mileage. If can also mean “presuming that.” That is often the way my parents used the word when giving me a command. “If” (presuming you do this) you get your chores done, you can go play.
Repetition with a Purpose
When I was a boy, my parents would say the same things to me. They didn’t always say those things the same way. Love often motivated what they commanded or directed me to do. They saw the long-term benefits of my proper growth to maturity. Sometimes they would start their command with the word “if.” The “if” generally helped me understand the potential reward for obeying or the potential pain I might face if I disobeyed. There would be fruit that remained and often good fruit to enjoy in the short-term as well.
When we read something from God’s Word, do we stop to ask ourselves some important questions? Sometimes the best way to know what questions to ask is to look for the things that are repeated.
When I read John 15:1-17 this morning, some that came to my mind are: 1) Am I bearing fruit? Fruit benefits and satisfies others. 2) Am I abiding in Jesus? Is he the focus of my day and the song of my soul? 3) Am I bearing much fruit? 4) What is my response to the Lord’s commandments? Do I abide in his love and love others like he loves me? 5) Is my fruit abiding? Is anything I did yesterday going to have lasting impact in or on the lives of others? 6) What do I wish for? Is it of petty value or is it a permanent treasure? 7) Have I asked God for it because it is something I deeply desire, that is aligned with abiding in Jesus and his word and loving others?
The First If – If you keep my commandments
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
The Second If
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 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. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Do you desire joy that is full? Do you desire to be God’s friend? Then paying attention to the ifs.