There’s a big difference between a promise and a command.
Every kid knows that’s true. Think about the difference between “I promise that we are going to get ice cream” and “Clean your room.” See? Different. But why are those things different? And why does it matter to us when it comes to God’s work in us? It’s because a promise is focused on the character and power of the one doing the promising.
When I make a promise to my children, it is up to me to keep that promise. If I fail to do so, it might be for a number of reasons. Maybe I overshot my own power and I said I was capable of delivering something I could not. Or perhaps I had the best of intentions when I made the promise originally, but then some new information came about or the circumstances changed, and that change kept me from keeping my word. Or maybe I am just a liar and enjoy disappointing people. In any of these cases, my failure to keep my promise is a reflection on me. It’s a confirmation of my imperfect knowledge, incomplete power, and inadequate character.
Not. So. With. God.
He makes promises that He not only intends to keep, but that He actually will. If it were not so, then the failure is a reflection on Him. Failure on the part of God to keep His promises is an indictment on His perfect character and absolute power.
That’s what makes John 15:5 so glorious:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”
This isn’t a command; it’s a promise. Now that’s not to say Jesus doesn’t also command submission and obedience in His children; He certainly does. But in this passage? He promises that if we remain, or abide, in Him, we will bear much fruit.
Have you ever considered that the bearing of fruit – these godly attributes that develop in increasing measure in the life of the Christian – is a promise? That a life of fruit is a reflection on the perfect character and absolute power of God? That the failure for this to happen is an indictment on His perfection? Thank God it’s true.
For all of us who look inside ourselves and see, even after all this time, the lack of love, lack of patience, lack of goodness, lack of purity… For all of us frustrated at our double-mindedness and failure to be rightly and purely motivated… For all of us who think, in our best moments, that we should surely be far further along in our relationship with Jesus by now…
For all of us, God is bound by His own perfection to bring His promise to fulfillment in us.