Most of the time, people only pick out a short phrase or a single word of what I say, and they make assumptions based on what they hear. I suppose that’s fair, since it is my fault that I mumble. However, when you carefully choose your words and try hard not to sound like a dork, it is incredibly frustrating when you are misunderstood.
I wonder if God ever feels that way about the Bible. I know He realizes that our minds are limited and that the Bible can be very deep at times, but when things get twisted I can’t help but think He is sighing and shaking His head. I encountered a piece of scripture this past Sunday that I personally made me cringe, because I could not help but to think at how it would be misinterpreted.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 NIV)
I have mentioned my frustration with the prosperity gospel before, and I believe this is a piece of scripture (I realize there are several) that followers of that gospel would cling to. Think about it. This verse says that if you are a faithful Christian, anything you wish will be granted. People interpret this to mean that money, fame, “stuff,” and success can be gained by faithfully following Jesus.
First of all, let’s take a look at the next verse: This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8 NIV) To me, it is very clear that our wishes will be granted to glorify God, so that we can produce fruit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) to show that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. Our wishes will not be granted for personal gain or for self promotion, but for the glory of God. So if the things we wish for are not meant to glorify God, will they still be granted?
Even if we ignore verse 8, think about the general themes of scripture: selflessness, loving others, willingness to sacrifice, and complete submission to the will of God. How does God serving you like a genie play into that? Based on the Bible I read, it can’t.
Last but not least, let’s look back at the original verse. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Think about the entirety of this passage. Yes, it says that whatever you wish will be done if you remain in Christ and His words remain in you.
However, think of the implications of that first phrase: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you...” If you remain in Christ, what will be your focus? If His teachings make up your core values, what will you desire?
It seems clear from Jesus’ life that, if we remain in Him and live by His words, that we will not seek fame, fortune, and success.
We will be too busy meeting the needs of the widows and orphans.
We will be spending our time hanging out with outcasts and praying in gardens.
We will sacrifice our own personal dreams and desires, and even our lives, to make sure that others know the Truth.
If we are faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, our wishes will revolve around doing His work and serving His kingdom. If we are wishing for anything else, we are not living our lives for Him…and that is exactly what this scripture is calling us to do.