As a know-it-all twenty-something, I thought the world was my oyster. If I worked hard enough and played even harder, true happiness was inevitable. I had a good job, many friends, my own apartment, and a big city full of possibilities. I answered to no one except myself. My time, resources, and decisions were disbursed as I saw fit.
I was also not a Christian.
After many poor decisions and dependence on money for happiness, my life was anything but happy. Eventually, cavernous debt became a millstone around my neck and it was clear that my immature, worldly-centered, unchecked independence, was quickly destroying my life and future.
Have you ever desired for independence so badly that you almost self-destructed?
After being baptized into the faith that God called me to, I learned that He calls us to be part of His vineyard. I had to learn from scratch that believers are dependent on Him for everything. After all, every blessing in our lives comes only through the unmerited grace of God.
We as disciples constantly struggle with thoughts of independence ─ mainly, asking God to bless the plans that we believe are best for our own lives. But that’s not the meaning of John 15:4.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Jesus tells us that we are to remain in Him. What does that even mean?
When Jesus talks about abiding, the Word tells us that it translates into believing that Jesus is God, following God’s commands, believing the Gospel, and relating in love to the community of believers (fellow branches in God’s vineyard).
That doesn’t sound like a call to live independently. God planted (sent) Christ, the true Vine, to establish and care for His Father’s vineyard. As His branches (disciples), you and I are dependent on the Vine for everything — even the air we breathe.
If you read through John’s Gospel without pause, you will note that there is a consistent emphasis on the disciples’ complete dependence upon Jesus to accomplish His work and will in the world. Jesus is the perfect portrait of complete dependence on God, the Vinedresser. He sets the example that we, as His disciples are to follow.
I often fall far short of complete dependence on Christ for everything. Some days, I fall short of depending on Him for even the smallest things. Can you relate? How would you describe your dependence on the Vine?
When is the last time you halted your footsteps to determine if the direction you are heading is in accordance with the Father’s will? John reiterates that even the very words that Jesus utters are the words of God (John 3:34, 14:24).
In this sinful world, you and I fall short of such a perfect standard. However, we are not without hope!
Christ abiding in us provides the strength we need to follow God with every heartbeat of our lives.
The life Jesus lived, He lived by the Father (John 6:57). Jesus did not heal people or perform mighty miracles for self-glorification. His thoughts, words, and deeds, were in one accord with the authority of the Vinedresser (John 5:19, 30). Why? So that we may see the glory of the Father through the true Vine.
Nothing and no one completes us but Christ.
Only the Creator completes the created.
We will not find contentment, fulfillment, or purpose apart from the risen Christ. The world may tout independence as the only way to ride through life, but it is a runaway train.
Dependence on Christ provides the nutrients, care, and growth we need to be fruitful in this life. God planted us in His vineyard and connected us to Christ the true Vine so that we can bear fruit for His glory.
No greater calling or privilege exists.