“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NLT)
Do you take offence to the last sentence in this verse? I struggle with it. “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
What do you mean, “I can do nothing.”? I’m an independent, intelligent, married woman with a challenging career in the 21st century. There are lots of things I’m capable of doing. (And apparently one of them is taking pride in my accomplishments.) J
To get the proper context for this statement we need to look at the relationship Jesus describes at the beginning of John 15. He compares relationship with Himself to the life giving relationship the branch on a grapevine shares with the main stem of the plant.
When a branch breaks off the main stem of a grapevine it stops receiving nutrients from the plant’s roots. Without nutrients the branch no longer thrives. It dries out, shrivels up, and dies. Without connection to the main stem, the branch literally, “can do nothing”.
Jesus isn’t sticking out His tongue and taunting us like a kid on the play ground yelling, “Neener, neener, neener...you can’t do anything.” Instead He’s explaining to us how to become mature Christians.
Christians are like branches on a grapevine. If we choose to cut ourselves off from relationship with Jesus (the main connection to our source of spiritual nourishment) we cannot develop spiritually.
I just finished reading, “The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling for People Helpers” by Gary R. Collins. In one chapter on Christian spiritually Dr. Collins writes about becoming more Christ-like through the process of spiritual growth.
As I read his thoughts I realized I’m sometimes guilty of trying to achieve spiritual growth through accumulation of God knowledge instead of God relationship. Trying to grow spiritually solely through the accumulation of knowledge is an act in futility.
Spiritual growth withers and dies in the absence of relationship with Jesus. But, if we choose a long term relationship with Christ as the Son of God, we receive ongoing, life giving nutrients for our spiritual journey.
By remaining connected to Him we are guided down a path leading to personal spiritual growth. As we grow spiritually the light of Christ shines brightly in our lives, revealing His presence to those around us.
When I see the verse in this light my knee jerk, pride-filled reaction to the statement, “apart from me you can do nothing” fades away and I realize just how true those words are.
Things To Think About...
Are you trying to achieve spiritual growth through accumulation of knowledge instead of relationship with Christ? Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 (NLT)
John 15:5 (NLT)