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The Least Believed Phrase in the Bible

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. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

It was said earlier this week, and I fully agree, that “apart from me you can do nothing” is the least believed phrase in the entire Bible.

I believe with a little more money, I could do something, well really, lots of things. I believe that by use of my connections, or with a little more networking, I could accomplish powerful things. I believe that with a little more will power, a little more discipline, a greater determination, a new perspective, increased effort, the expertise of this doctor or that psychologist, a new plan, a wiser budget…I can do everything I determine to do.

I am a product of Western culture which genuinely assumes God as a last resort, if at all, only intervening when every last effort of my own has been exhausted. As a matter of fact, somehow, my Christianity has reinforced this! I assume God is standing with His arms crossed, a slight hint of a scowl on his face, as He watches to see how wisely and responsibly I will make use of the instructions, abilities and resources He has put at my disposal. How directly opposite is this notion from the very words Jesus spoke! And yet, it somehow seems so spiritual to my easily deceived heart which is drawn like a magnet to independence and self-reliance.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:5-7 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil. 2:13 Out of context, hanging in the background of all this grace stuff, was the threat that “to whom much has been given, much is expected.” But what is the much I have been given and by which I have assumed this scowling threat for so long? I have been given unreasonable acceptance and unlimited grace by which my deserved cursing has been placed on Jesus and His earned blessings have been credited to me! I have been drenched in uncontainable love, given His unconstrained power by which He is making all things new, even me. When I have been given this much, even more, there is no way it would not splash out into all my relationships and circumstances. It is not for me to keep to myself, or bury in the ground as if valueless. And because it is God at work in and through me, it cannot be contained even if I try. (see Jonah) because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14 Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I am being made holy and do not make myself holy, as if that were ever possible anyway. (see Adam and Eve and the Pharisees and really the whole story of Israel) Because He covers me in His acceptance and beauty and accomplishments, I no longer have to cover up and deny my own unacceptability, mess and failed attempts at holiness. I do not have to be ashamed of my great need for a Redeemer (as demonstrated by the horrible thing I said, the angry way I behaved, the deceptive way I live, the fearful anxiety to which I have bowed, etc.) because I have a great Redeemer to meet that need and the great needs of others. Why then do I dread above all things others seeing that I actually can’t love, speak, think or act like Him apart from Him alone and never by anything commendable in me? Why do I always want my stories of redemption to be past tense rather than letting people see that right this minute I need Him, every hour I need Him!? What if the best way for others to see this great Redeemer more clearly is for me to let them see more vividly my own great need for Him, not last year or last week, but today? “Apart from me you can do nothing” is not a new command but an eternal reality. It is Good News because it includes the fact the Gospel has never asked anyone to handle life alone, to cover or disguise any shame with fig leaves, to figure it out independently, to manage, to provide, to solve, to rescue, to protect, to heal, to help or to recover for even a breath apart from Him. The only scowling face is my own, apart from Him. May I hear the words of the Father about His Son as they too are spoken to me in Him, and smile with His delight at His work in me: Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. Matt. 12:18/Is. 42:1

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