Be sure to read John 15:1-8, 16
I want to make two observations from these verses. Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.” (4-5) Why? Why would he say such a thing? Why say it so emphatically?
We’re too confident. We believe we can do life, at least some parts of it, and ministry without God. Consider a few examples of things we might believe that we could do without God: earn a paycheck and pay bills, spend time with friends, chat on Facebook, play a game, play the piano, teach a lesson. Can we really do none of this without Jesus? Don’t unbelievers do these things without Christ?
I’m not going to spend much time debating whether or not we can do this without God because that isn’t the point Jesus is making. (see v. 4, 5, 8, 16)
Jesus is clearly stating that we can’t bear fruit apart from God. What is fruit? In the Bible, the word “fruit” usually refers to a natural product, usually visible on the outside, of life or change on the inside. Consider a few examples. The Fruit of the Spirit is the natural, visible result of having the Holy Spirit living and active inside a person. The person radiates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness because those are the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. These visible qualities are fruit. Another example is fruit of a given ministry. Work was done and now visible results exist. Hearts are changed, lives are saved, and people are equipped for good works.
Jesus is telling us that we can’t change our hearts, change someone else’s heart, or change the world without God. Have you ever tried to change someone else? How did that go? Our efforts usually devolve into manipulation and produce few desired results.
Jesus confronts us with reality twice in this passage. Reality #1 – God chose me to bear fruit & that is 100% impossible without God! I can be busy, but I can’t bear fruit on my own! I can, and often have been, very busy. But I have very little to show for my efforts because I attempted the impossible. Believe me – I tried to bear fruit on my own. It doesn’t work.
Coming to grips with this reality enables us to recognize our dependence, feel desperate, and makes praying feel more natural. As one author put it, praying becomes natural to us, just like breathing. We breathe, not because we know we should. Not because we read in a book somewhere that highly successful people breathe 20 times per minute. Not because we feel guilty if we don’t breathe. We breathe because it is a source of life for us. Without breathing, we are unable to sustain our most basic function – staying alive. That is how it is for us as we embrace this first reality. We begin to believe that our most basic function is to bear fruit. We want to bear fruit. We love bearing fruit. But we are unable to sustain this most basic function without God and we stay connected to him through prayer. We have begun to pray more:)
I should pause to mention that for some of us, the problem isn’t that we’re too confident. Our obstacle to praying more isn’t that we believe we are capable of bearing fruit on our own. Rather, we are too distracted to remember that we were chosen to bear fruit. Reality #1 addresses both groups.