John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
This is the very simplest, most logical of principles, yet we have a lot of trouble getting it through our heads. In horticulture we don’t expect a cut branch to bear fruit, whether it is from a grape, an apple, or any other tree. However, we have trouble grasping that we are indeed branches of Jesus, and so we think we can do things completely independently, and much of the time we try to do exactly that. How utterly foolish! Another illustration the Bible uses to get this point across is that of the potter and the pot. God famously spoke it to Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 18:1-6) but Isaiah also used that image (Isaiah 29:16, 45:9) and even Paul referred to us as clay pots. (Romans 9:21, 2 Corinthians 4:7) We forget that we are dependent, created beings! Atheists formalize that to insist that there is no Creator, but even many who claim to be Christians live their lives ignoring God. The results are often tragic. It’s like an infant: deprived of its mother’s milk and touch, it will soon die. We use bottles and formula and the like when the mother’s milk is not available for some reason, but touch, nurturing, is hardly less important. Experiments showed that a baby monkey separated from its mother would choose a terrycloth doll that gave no nourishment over a wire doll that had nipples from which it could feed. Whatever image you use, the fact remains that we are given freedom to choose and to act, but we are still dependent on our Creator. We have an emotional need to be accomplishful, but Jesus is here pointing out that we can fulfill that in truth only when we are fully connected to Him.
This is a lesson that I haven’t been that fast to learn. I understood it in theory, but getting it to the core of my being was a different matter. As a pastor I desire that each of the believers grasp this truth, but they aren’t any better at it than I was! I seek to help them understand the importance of consistent daily devotions, but only a fraction of the congregation maintain that. Society presses in with all sorts of demands, but we fail to grasp that we can meet those demands (those that are right and reasonable) only as we are connected to our Source. It’s no wonder we suffer burnout when we disconnect our fuel line! The devil does all he can to blind us in this area, and he is all too often successful. I can’t convince people on my own, but I can speak the truth in love, and the Holy Spirit can use my words to open the eyes of believers. I too need to abide in the vine!
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for this message to share with the people on Sunday. Frankly, I am tired of trying to get this through to people. That probably shows I’ve been trying to do it on my own! Help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, showing the believers what it is to abide in you by example, using words only to explain what they can see. I pray that You would give each of them a hunger for more of You so that they will rearrange their priorities and place You first indeed, for their great blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!