Nothing? – John 15:5

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.

At first glance this seems like an exaggeration. Surely we can do something, no? It might not be any good, or as good or worthwhile as it should be, but we aren’t that helpless, are we?

First, I would say that it i entirely possible that Jesus means it to be an exaggeration. He obviously wants us to abide in him. And he wants to abide in us. He wants our relationship to be intimate and life-giving. He wants our lives to bear much fruit as a result. So he is quite possibly not speaking in absolute terms. Possibly.

On the other hand, if we consider that our very life is in God’s hands, this statement takes on a more absolute coloring. We might well be encouraged to abide in Christ, because without him we truly can do nothing at all. If he so decided, our life might end this minute.

I’m reminded of the prophet Daniel’s words to Belshazzar in Daniel 5:23,

And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

How shall we abide in Christ? Let’s start with cultivating a conscious experience of fellowship, frequent times of meditation on God’s word, and an attitude of humble trust in his all-good, all-loving Lordship. A moment of thanksgiving for his salvation is always appropriate. There will no doubt be a way to express outward obedience today. Keep an eye out for it – a good work that might not come naturally, but will clearly express the love of Christ.

Apart from him we can do nothing. Yet with him we can do all things.

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