The gospel of John admonishes us to abide in the vine of Christ. “I am the vine and 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 15:5). This is a pretty clear teaching. How much is “nothing?” It probably has befuddled many through the centuries. But this morning I heard a clarifying teaching on this command from a favorite Bible teacher. Yes, you can do things, everybody does. But those things you can do you could have done anyway. We can turn to the left or the right; we can walk through the “valley of the shadow of death.” We can serve Lattes at Starbucks or run a corporation without knowing or being in Christ. Many people wander around even helping the poor and oppressed without Christ, even though they were created by Him and He is watching. But as Bible teacher Beth Moore said in one of her programs, we cannot do the “things we cannot do” without Christ. With Him we can do miracles and things beyond ourselves that we cannot do without Him and His Holy Spirit working in us. I would take this a little further and say that we cannot do the will of God without God living inside us. That should make some sense too.
So why would we care about doing the will of God? Because that is why we were made, to do what pleases God. I know that this already has the hackles of you independent types waving in the wind. Go ahead and do what you want. This reminds me of the Dirty Harry line by Clint Eastwood, “Go ahead, make my day.” So do you want to make someone’s day? Good question. Who’s day do you want to make?
The gospel goes on to say, “If you obey my commands you will remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down your life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:10-12,13,14). Now there in lies a life charge. I want the Joy of the Lord to me in me. Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I want this joy to be “complete.” Joy is the knowledge that not only are you doing the will and commands of the Lord God, but you are His friend and He is bringing you “complete joy.” That sounds like a perfect deal and it is. However, you need to lay down your life for a friend. Now that is hard and maybe impossible to do without the power of God in us.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). There it is. God demonstrated His love for us by dying on a cross for us that through Him we might be able to do “things we cannot do.” When we do then our joy will be complete. And that is good!