“Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
There is a comforting challenge contained within our passage of Scripture today. Does that sound like a contradiction in terms to you — “comforting challenge”? Usually a “challenge” is an exhortation to engage in something difficult, right? Well, when Jesus Christ referred to Himself as the true Vine and to us as His branches and then went on to say, “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 idea of a “self-dependent” or “self-reliant” person is a myth. Those who think of themselves as strong, self-reliant people live in a 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 Trinity, God in the flesh, 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.
Jesus made no attempt to hide His dependency. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19). Moments later, He said again, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:19, 30).
To pursue a life of self-dependence is to pursue a life our Savior refused to live. As He knelt in prayer just hours before His arrest and execution, Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Think about it this way. Every breath you take and every beat of your heart is dependent upon the will of God. Only as God purposes for us do we have life, and that life is totally dependent upon the will of God sustaining it, “for in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Every person is God-dependent, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. When the world speaks of “willpower,” it is speaking in self-deceived terms, because “will” has absolutely no “power” apart from God.
Listen, being a god is not only hard, it is impossible to do. When we attempt it, our hopes that our self-dependence will mask our weaknesses actually accomplish just the opposite. We end up appearing both anxious and afraid to those around us.
So, here is a question we all need to ask ourselves: Are we trying to live a life of self-dependence, as branches disconnected from the true Vine? If you are sensing in any area of life where this is the case, simply turn your heart back to God and remember Zechariah 4:6 — “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” 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 be living 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!