What tasks do you have set before you today? Perhaps you have to make an important presentation at work, the outcome of which will determine your future in the company. Or maybe you need to spend the day going through your finances to see just how you will pay those past due bills. It may be that you have to reach out to a friend or loved one to have a long and hard conversation you’ve put off for far too long. Whatever you have to face today, where are you placing your hope? What source of strength and help are you drawing from as you face that challenge? Where are you seeking life?
One of my favorite New Testament verses comes from Jesus’s Upper Room Discourse with the disciples on the night before he was betrayed. In John 15: 5, Jesus tells the disciples, “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.”
Nothing. Nada. Zero.
Not a single thing.
As believers, we often mentally ascent to this truth, but fail to live it out in our daily lives. Too often, we attempt to face challenges in our own strength and wisdom. We try to create order out of the chaos of our days without considering the One who first spoke everything into existence. We rush headfirst into our problems without stopping to pray. We trust in our own efforts and plans. We look to our own wisdom to guide us rather than the wisdom of Christ.
And we expect to bear fruit all on our own.
But in John 15, Jesus tells us that there is nothing in us that can produce good fruit. We are incapable of doing any good apart from our union with Christ. As Ephesians 2 tells us, we were once dead in our trespasses and sins; dead people can’t do anything. We need to be brought back to life. The Spirit breathed in us the breath of life so we could respond to Christ by faith and receive forgiveness of our sins. Now we are united to him. All that he has done is ours. All that he has is ours. All that he is has now become ours.
This metaphor of the vine and branches speaks to this union. Christ is the vine out of which we receive all nourishment. He is the source and wellspring of our strength. He is wisdom incarnate. As John Calvin wrote, “But Christ dwells principally on this, that the vital sap -- that is, all life and strength -- proceeds from himself alone. Hence it follows, that the nature of man is unfruitful and destitute of everything good; because no man has the nature of a vine, till he be implanted in him. But this is given to the elect alone by special grace. So then, the Father is the first Author of all blessings, who plants us with his hand; but the commencement of life is in Christ, since we begin to take root in him. When he calls himself the true vine the meaning is, I am truly the vine, and therefore men toil to no purpose in seeking strength anywhere else, for from none will useful fruit proceed but from the branches which shall be produced by me.”
And so we must abide in Christ. We must depend upon him for all things. We must draw our resources from him. We must rest in Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death alone to save us, not in anything we have done. We must commune with him through his word, prayer, worship, and the sacraments. We must look to him for wisdom.
Then we will bear fruit.
When we find ourselves facing a challenge or difficulty in our day, or even experiencing the blessings of God’s hand, we have to remind ourselves that all is of grace. Apart from our union with Christ, we can do nothing. The more we remember and live out this truth, the more we’ll see evidence of his fruit-bearing work in our lives.