“...apart from Me you can do nothing” -John 15:5
A passage like this can sound cliché until you’re faced with a seemingly impossible task. Does Jesus really mean we can do nothing? Is this hyperbole? If we can do nothing apart from Christ, then how do so many unsaved people wake up, go to work, take care of their families, etc.?
For one, Jesus is the upholder of the entire universe (Heb. 1:3). If Jesus doesn’t keep gravity functioning as gravity, we will be in a huge mess. If Jesus doesn’t keep 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen molecule together, we don’t have water. There are billions of other processes and systems that Jesus upholds.
However, the thrust of John 15 seems to be pointing to spiritual fruitfulness. Every branch that doesn’t bear fruit is destroyed (John 15:2,6). Every branch that does bear fruit is pleasing to God. He is glorified when we cast off our self-reliance and bear spiritual fruit through abiding in Him (John 15:8). In this sense, apart from Him we can truly do nothing.
Yet we often try, don’t we? We get up, check our phones, glance at our bibles for a chapter, toss up some repetitions before meals, and then wonder why we aren’t more missional. We wonder why we aren’t bold enough to stand for our faith at the water cooler on Monday. It seems like we will never stop gossiping, overeating, vegging out on social media, or binging on Netflix. The days of patience with our children, love and respect for our spouse, and joy in the Lord seem too far gone.
For those of us in ministry, we wonder why we aren’t seeing change. We’ve tweaked the service, made the messages more engaging, chosen better illustrations, and found the perfect application... only for it to fall flat. That book on powerful preaching didn’t have the cutting edge after all. That new K-Love song just didn’t seem to resonate, and neither did the old-fashioned hymn we threw in. Maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.
If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone. Some people feel this way daily. Some in ministry wrestle with this every Sunday (and wednesday and every other service there is during the week!).
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Jesus has called us to more than self-willed, pat-yourself-on-the-back, do-better-next-time Christianity. Apart from Me you can do nothing. Remember that? Apart from Him, you won’t do better. You can’t. We can’t. Branches that fall off trees lie on the ground until a mower runs over them or some kid picks one up and starts hitting stuff with it. Others go in bonfires. None of them become trees and start growing fruit.
We need Jesus. We need prayer. We need to open His Word, be fed, and pray for the Spirit to help us bear fruit. Our toes may have busted out of footie pajamas, and our waistlines may pop a few buttons on our pants, but we never outgrow the basic spiritual need of communion with God.
Dwell with Christ.
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