The Fruitless Self
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to spend time each day pondering John 15:5. If you’re not familiar with that verse, it’s where Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” The reason I’ve been daily pondering this verse is because “abiding” is something I have a hard time doing. Instead, my focus tends to be more on "doing” and "producing". And while being productive isn’t a bad thing, it can easily become negative when we think that it will make God be more pleased with us, or that our hard work will expand the Kingdom of God.
I know I’m not alone in having this struggle, because in our culture the favored work ethic is to achieve and produce by working longer and harder. The focus is on getting results through our own human effort - which means that the bottom line always comes back to working harder. God’s way is the opposite of this worldview. God's way is focused on the process and the relationship, not the performance and the production. And while He IS interested in results (which He calls “fruit”), He doesn't tell us that we produce these results by working harder.
Instead, as the passage in John tells us, the Lord’s plan for us producing fruit is that we abide in Him so that He can produce the results through us. So the fruit, or results that are produced in our lives come as a result of immersing ourselves in Him - not through us trying harder, or working longer. And if we choose to not focus on abiding, John 15:5 makes it clear that there won't be any results, because without God we can do nothing.
As I’ve been pondering this truth over the past few weeks, I keep coming back to the same conclusion: this is a sweet deal for us - because after all, God is the one doing all the work! We’re His tools for His work to flow through. So the question then is, why do we have such a hard time letting this happen? Why do we struggle to do things under our own power? Why is it that, when it comes to living out our Christian lives, we tend to fall back on a mentality of performance and production?
Well, I think a big part of the answer to that question rests in the reality that we live in a world that is actively going against God’s plans. Here's what I mean by that: our world is constantly hitting us up with self-help books that promote self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-control. And it's all because our world is obsessed with the “self”. So according to the world, humanity stands at the center of the universe. But God’s way of success produces the results that HE values. Results that aren't produced by self-effort, but instead, grow out of an intimate relationship with Him, and reflect the truth that HE is at the center of the universe - not us. So every time that we try to follow God's way of living, we're going to feel the tension between what God’s calling us to do, and what the world is constantly telling us makes us valuable. That’s one of the primary reasons why it's so hard to follow God's way.
However, the reality is that the only way we will ever become truly fruitful is to embrace God's way - to embrace the truth that we need to lay down our self-effort, and lay down our natural human independence, and instead, seek relationship with God. In other words, we must abide in Him. Then, and only then, will His heart, His mind, and His desires fill our lives - and that’s what will lead to us being able to bear fruit, and have an impact on this world.
So today, let's ask God to help us lay down “us” so that we can abide in Him. Let’s ask God to help each of us see the areas in our lives where we're not abiding in Him, and then let's ask Him to help us surrender those things to Him so that we can be nourished and equipped by the One who can supply all that we need. Let’s allow Him to produce His fruit in us.