June 06, 2023
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
We are born into this world separated from Christ. This is because of the fall of man through the choice of our First Parents. Starting in this position, the only resource we have is ourselves. We may rely on some other people, but in the end, every decision, every activity, and every step is comprised of our own choices made in our own power.
THE TRAGIC RESULTS
In this sad, depraved state, all we receive (and all the world gets) from our best efforts is nothing compared to the glory we were intended to enjoy. We were made to be conduits of God's love, wisdom, grace, and power. Instead, even our best efforts are "filthy rags" in God's economy. We may look good to others. We can try to dress up those rags, but they are rags nonetheless.
Jesus emphasizes what is possible in our mere humanity with one telling phrase: "Apart from Me, you can do nothing."
We don't believe this, of course. The Great Liar whispers in our ear that we can do it on our own. We try and fail, and then he whispers that we are worthless. He puffs us up in pride with one voice and condemns and accuses us with the other, pushing from one ditch to the other like a rag doll. All the while, we are working hard and producing nothing without Christ.
THE GREAT ADMISSION
But Jesus is pure truth. The Perfect Husbandman speaks the following to us (if we will listen), and it is absolute reality.
"I am the Vine."
He is the source of life. The fountain from which everything we need springs. He often refers to Himself simply as “I am.” And Hebrews says that faith is believing that “He is” (Hebrews 11:6). He is what? He is everything! Life, power, wisdom, truth, understanding, and on and on.
"You are the branches."
Think of it as you view a tree outside your window right now. The branch, if cut off, withers and dies. But as it remains (abides) in the vine, it receives all its life, nutrients, and power from the vine. The branch is merely the conduit through which vine-life flows. And the vine gives the branch the happy privilege of bearing the fruit that the vine itself is producing through the branch.
The branch can do nothing—absolutely, positively nothing—apart from the vine.
THE LIBERATING TRUTH
This one sentence explains everything about us, about Christ, about true Christianity, and even about the condition of the entire world. We can try to live without being joined to Christ, and we will live and die and produce zero fruit that matters and lasts. Or, by God's grace, we can be grafted into Jesus Christ, recognize our place and purpose, aggressively cooperate with Him, and we will bear much fruit.
Our job is to remember who He is, who we are, and understand the difference. And then live every common day looking to and relying on the One who is all in all. Ten times in John 15 Jesus uses the word “abide,” which is to remain in a stable, fixed position with Him.
But it begins with this humble admission: apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. Repeat that out loud a few times. Pause and think deeply about that word that describes the sum of your life without Christ’s empowerment: nothing. And when you have grasped this great reality and begin to live in its light, you have taken the first step to a fruitful life.
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