"I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener......I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:1,5
If you have ever spent time with a child you most likely have heard them say: "I can do it myself." We want our children to grow in understanding of their roles and responsibility in taking personal accountability for their lives. We who are Christians also want our children to become aware of faith aspects in livng life as spiritual beings.
How many times have you said to God, "I can do this myself?" I am not sure about you, but I know I have said and tried to do this Christian life by myself, in my own way, in my own strength, using my own plans and goals.
As human beings we have been indoctrinated in a culture that instills us to become self-reliant and to be strong as individuals, striving towards success with a standard of possessing things; college, job, house, car, etc.
From a spiritual standpoint, self-reliance and being independent is a liability and a false ideology in terms of becoming successful, or to thrive as Christians.
The above scripture verses were written as Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples in the last hours of his life. He was trying to prepare them for what was about to happen.
The disciples had walked in a close, near relationship, slept, ate and traveled by Jesus' side for 3 years learning what it meant to be His disciples. They had given up everything; home, jobs, family - to follow Him.
Jesus knew the disciples could not possibly comprehend what was about to happen at Calvary and that they would be beyond devastated by his death. Jesus deeply loved these men (as he does each one of us) and desired them to flourish, thriving in their spiritual life when he was no longer walking on earth with them.
As a master and wise teacher, Jesus used allegorical stories of things within His followers own culture to illustrate content of living the spiritual life. In the above passage we read how Jesus geared this particular teaching to the practices of the day to what was familiar to them in an agrarian farming culture.
Jesus described himself as the vine and His disciples as the branches. For anyone who professes Christ, He is our vine and we are His branches, intricately interconnected, attached and grafted into Him as our life source.
A branch is totally dependent on the vine for its nourishment, for its supplied life, for the source of life itself. The vine provides all that is required for the plant in order for it to give forth fruit - flowers, produce, grain, leaves, etc.
Anyone who has cared for plants would know if a branch breaks off from the vine, it will dry up, starve and die. It will wither, shrivel, and become nothing as a result of being severed from its life source.
In verse 5 of John Jesus was instructing His followers of the necessity of closely abiding in Him in such a way that they would draw, rely, depend on Him for sustenance, power, ability, strength as the source of life. Jesus sought to teach spiritual truths in order to provide His followers a way to survive and thrive in living as newly created beings - bearing fruits of this spiritual life.
Jesus said apart from Him, apart from His life in us, becoming our life, we can 'do nothing.' Jesus did not say there are a few things we can do without Him. He said we can do Nothing apart from this total dependence and reliance in His life as our source of life.
The notion we can be independent or self-reliant in our spiritual life, or act as lone rangers, or separate ourselves from Christ as our sole provision is not a biblical concept. To live self-reliant and independent of Christ as our source is a worldly, cutlural, societal standard and view. If we disconnect ourselves from spending time with Christ, seeking Him, talking with Him, communing in Him, getting to know Him, our lives will begin to wither, dry up and we will starve, resulting in a spiritual death. If we deny our need to rely on Christ for all things, trying to live the Christian life in our own ability, we will lose our source and our vibrancy spiritually. We will lack the energizing power of Christ who sustains our faith and grows us into mature spiritual beings - succumbing to our former ways in becoming independent and self-reliant.
The Christian life is a call to know it is God who teaches us to live in kingdom principles, adopting a lifestyel exhibiting true, authentic and real love for one another - spiritual fruit that results from personal relationship with God. Spiritual fruits would be impossible without abiding in a deeply rooted and interconnected intimate fellowship in Christ.
This type of God-love is not possible for us as humans to acquire, gain or possess in our own ability. God's love is unlike anything we can fully comprehend or understand. God's love breaks religious traditions, worldly ways, cultural conditioning and independent living.
The Christian lifestyle is one of learning to grow in an understanding of grace in becoming Christ-reliant, Christ-centered, and Christ-being, abiding according to His ways.
Our God is the tender gardener whose life is intricately intertwined in the life of Christ as Holy Spirit dwelling as One and their union of love has been infused in the fabric of our humanity. God as our gardener patiently cares for us, cutting, pruning, clipping away our flesh tendencies, our rough edges, to purify and continual form our inner realm into becoming godly image bearers.
As our gardener, God cares for our spiritual health and He will do all that is possible to provide us will all we need, fully equipping us so we thrive, blossoming as fruit bearerss.
We cannot expect to thrive as Christians living separated from our source of life, from Christ who is our spiritual food, who provides godly manna, enriching and enhancing His life in us.
To thrive as Christians does not mean we escape suffering, difficulties or pain.
To thrive as Christians means in the midst of the good and the bad in life, we recognize and admit Christ is our full provision for all we need.
To thrive as Christians means we relinquish our flesh tendencies again and again and again, choosing His life as our truth, our guide, our roadmap. To thrive as Christians mean we desire, long for, and pine after Christ as the Holy One who satisfies and completes us. To thrive as Christians means we have come to know Christ as our total sufficiency.
To thrive as Christians means I come to Him again and again and again asking Him to fill, renew, and refresh His Spirit in mine.
To thrive in Christ means I have given up holding onto anything, or looking to anyone, or any other entity for my security and my source for living out my faith.
To thrive as a Christian is learning; minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, to exchange flesh-reliant, self-tendencies for Christ-centered inclinations and desires - choosing a lifestyle of faith - fully consecrated in God-consciousness, intricately abiding in this dependent-reliant relationship in Christ - by grace.