“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
There is a comforting challenge contained within our passage of Scripture today. That phrase “comforting challenge” may sound like a contradiction in terms, but when Jesus referred to Himself as the true Vine and to you and me as His branches and then said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” it was the same as saying “Connected to me you can do anything.”
We live in a world that is self-deceived by self-dependence. The truly self-dependent, self-reliant person is a myth who dwells in the world of make-believe. No one ever has and no one ever will live a self-dependent life. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the King of kings and Lord of lords, did not live a self-dependent life when He came into this world. Rather, He lived in complete dependence upon God the Father through the power of God the Holy Spirit.
To pursue a life of self-dependence is to pursue a life our Savior refused to live. On the night He was to be betrayed, arrested, and ultimately face the terrible wrath of God for all the sins of all those who are His, Jesus told Peter, James, and John that “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” yet his simple prayer was, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:38, 42).
Think about it this way: Every breath you take and every beat of your heart is dependent upon the will of God, for “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). Only as God purposes for us do we have life, and that life is totally dependent upon the will of God sustaining it. Every person is God-dependent, whether they acknowledge it or not. When the world speaks of “willpower,” it is speaking in self-deceiving terms because “will” has absolutely no “power” apart from God. Listen, being “god” is not only hard, it is an impossible thing to do. When we attempt it, our hopes that our self-dependence will mask our weaknesses actually accomplishes just the opposite. We end up appearing anxious and afraid (and frequently asinine) to those around us.
Here is the question you and I must ask ourselves today. Am I trying to live a life of self-dependence, as a branch disconnected from the true Vine? If you sense that this is the case in any area of life, simply turn your heart back to God and remember these words from Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” God will grant you the gift of repentance and meet you in your place of need, for all good things come from Him (James 1:17).
Never forget that self-dependence is self-deception. Stay close to Jesus through His Word, your prayers, and consistent connection to His people, and you will live the only kind of life that truly matters: Savior-dependence, which brings glory to God and good to others.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!