I am the true vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me; and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

Typically when I read scripture, the cross-referencer in me comes out. In light of this passage, I  cannot help but think of two other verses;

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. (Psalm 51:3) and…                                     Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…… (Psalm 127:1)

As a young Christian I was involved in very intentional methods of discipleship, where the becoming of a disciple, at least in my mind, entailed the doing of prayer, fellowship, study and witnessing. I would not trade that experience for the world; not because I give doing wholesale endorsement as a means but rather it is from that perspective I have learned the inestimable worth of being as opposed to doing.

During those years of intense doing, when I would see my sin ever before me, I mostly thought of how inclined my sinful nature was toward lust, greed and pride.  I even tried to do King David one better by reflecting deeply and regularly about my hopelessly depraved nature. My sense was that if I could introspect sufficinetly into the dark abyss of my heart, I could then be cleansed proportionally and break out into the light of freedom in Christ – that coveted fruit-laden promised land of discipleship.

What was fueling this zeal? Was it my pure love of Jesus Christ? Was it my commitment to the Great Commission? Or was there something I inherited in Adam that I had not taken fully into account that was also driving my doing?

Over time my new Christian life grew to feel heavier in some ways than my old sinful one. Willing my outward self to tell people about Jesus, while my inner self was reeling was just not working! What was I selling in my evangelism anyway; “Well yes, Jesus will save you from your sinful deeds but not from your sinful nature. So… come to church with me and we will sing …..

My heart is prone to sin; it is more deceitful than all else. It is desperately sick. Who can understand it. Like Enoch Oh Lord, rapture me and all shall then be well with my soul. Hallelujah, hallelujah, then all shall be well with my soul.

My oldest granddaughter told her little sister recently, I love your precious heart but..I don’t like your face. She should have said, your face is beautiful (which it certainly is) but your heart..that’s another matter. The little sister is precious beyond belief but her family is discovering that thing in here we inherited in Adam which I had not taken fully into account that can end up powering a religious treadmill of doing. When little sister is asked if she wants help putting on her shoes, she reacts with an offended look and says, “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” Never mind that they end up on the wrong feet.

I will turn 61 next week. I have been privileged to have labored in vain in building the house as I have often attempted to DO IT MYSELF. We not only inherited lust and greed and pride from Adam. We inherited independence. Christ’s disciples ultimately discover that sin not only influences the deeds of the flesh; it fuels the motives of the heart. It is in the heart where our motives live; and it is from our motives that our deeds ultimately derive. Thus Solomon’s wisdom…

Watch over the heart with all diligence for from it flow all the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

I am now deep into the second half of my life wishing that I could somehow spare the zealots from the futility of the wrong kind of labor. If I have acquired any wisdom, it is to say that much of discipleship is simply allowing God, in His sovereignty, to overcome that part of me that is inclined to DO IT MYSELF.

When we were evicted from Eden, our identities as those created in God’s image, were scrambled. We were forced to live by our considerable wits. The self-image that was formed as it labored in the cursed ground was that of a doer.  Doing it ourselves in our own ability is the thing that must die in order to follow Jesus. This is certainly a large piece of what He meant when He said that if we wanted to be His disciples, we must take up our crosses and follow Him.

A profound miracle eventually occurs in the lives of disciples when the weight of futility becomes sufficient to produce the godly sorrow and humility of authentic God-gifted repentance. The doer then fades away and a true human being begins to take shape – a personality that is being restored to the original image of God. When we read John and hear Jesus command us to abide, we must not just think of a busy and obedient life. In our consideration of “who we are”, we must ultimately see ourselves as John did (the disciple whom Jesus loved).

As John lay his head upon Christ’s chest, he was giving us the best picture of abiding imaginable.  As he lay there entirely at rest in God’s love; totally free of introspection regarding his fallen nature, he was the abiding branch drawing fruit from the true vine.  Consequently he would be a disciple who bore much fruit throughout his life as He lived out of the LIfe of Christ in him.  I believe John and all fruit-bearing disciples no longer live under the tyrannical notion that we CAN DO IT OURSELVES.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me; and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

Hear is a hint for zealous disciples: If it seems you are kicking against the goads; if there is just a sense that all is not really well with your soul; If there is frustration and anger building up, perhaps it is not just the devil’s opposition to your vision or ministry. Consider the possibility that God Himself is standing between you and your dream and another superior one that He has for you containing even more glory. God may be rescuing you by bidding you come and die to the idea of becoming someone by YOURSELF in the strength of your own doing. Consider the possibility that, buried in the frustration of current circumstance is the kindness of God attempting to lead you into the promised land of abundance that is inherited by those who learn to truly abide in Christ; those who can say….

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Father, Search me and know my heart, Try me and know my anxious thoughts. Deliver me from any hurtful religious ways that would in any way diminish the joy of abiding in You or the fruit You have ordained from my life. Amen.








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