John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Merriam Webster: Definition of: NOTHING
1: a : something that does not exist, b : the absence of all magnitude or quantity; also : zero 1a , c : nothingness, nonexistence
2: someone or something of no or slight value or size
3: a light, playful, or frivolous remark —usually used in plural <whispered sweet nothings>
The above passage from the gospel of John, reveals a startling truth for all of us who are active in our churches today... it deserves our closest scrutiny to be sure.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus cursed the fig tree? Why he spit in a man's eyes as part of his' prayer for healing? Or, why Jesus allowed thousands of demons to enter a herd of pigs only to have them rush over a cliff to the dismay and angst of the pig farmer's who were tending these unfortunate swine? I have, and I've wondered again and again as I've read the scriptures why Jesus did so many things that today most churches and denominations would find offensive, and certainly puzzling by our present day standards of religious norms... No doubt. The answers to "why" Jesus did so many seeming strange things as we follow Him through the pages of the New Testament are found in His' very own words - words that are also found in the gospel of John. Here we find the "key" to not only understanding why Jesus did the amazing - and often strange things that were common to His' daily ministry; but also reveals the meaning of what Jesus meant when He said the words, "APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING."
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.
RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS/THE 'KEY'
Jesus, reveals a "key" principle by which all of His' disciples for all ages should take heed of: HE ONLY SAID, AND DID WHAT THE FATHER WANTED HIM TO DO. If you examine the above verses, and there are many others that make this truth clear; whatever Jesus did, it was not on His' own that He ventured out, nor was He going it alone, and checking in with God the Father later, after doing something(excuse the sarcasm please).
Nope, Jesus didn't do anything, without being in one accord or without His' Father's approval. Now, that doesn't mean we "understand" the reasons why The Father and Jesus did some of the things they did; but it does mean that we know "how" Jesus made the choices He did - and why He did things the way He did them. Is no small matter, it means to us that just as Jesus did nothing apart from the Father's involvement - neither should we.
Now, with that in mind, look again at JN.15:5 - and read it again: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Obviously, we can do things, many things, religious things - in the church, even in His' name, but Jesus says, if they are done "apart from me" they are zero, a big fat NOTHING! (These "dead works" are to be repented of/Heb.6:1)
Ouchhhhhh, them there words are sure to step on some "shoes" in many of our churches today.
Jesus, considers anything done apart from Him, even if it's done in the church, in His' name, or with the greatest of religious fervor - NOTHING. Just doing things in Jesus' name doesn't mean it is okay in God's sight. I've seen people "claim things" in Jesus' name, that was nothing more than coveting someone else's home or car.(which besides being witchcraft, is using' God's name in vain). I've even witnessed people "cursing" people using the name of the Lord and calling for "death and judgment" to fall upon them - which is most definitely a "dead work" .
What is and what isn't "legitimate fruit" that springs forth from Jesus - and then to, and through us is found in the words, "IF YOU REMAIN IN ME AND I IN YOU". There we have it. RELATIONSHIP!! Any of our works down here, no matter how noble, no matter how scriptural - if they are to be found acceptable and worthwhile in God's estimation are - TO BE BORNE OUT OF OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS HIMSELF.
That is simply a spiritual truth that deserves our deepest attention, and most heartfelt contemplation. Knowing the difference between a "religious work" that is good on the face, but not borne out of our relationship and oneness with Jesus - from works that are truly commissioned and that issue forth from union and communion with Jesus is to God - a matter of great relevance. Works are either "Good Fruit", or "Nothing" - though on the surface they may look quite the same... this is a phenomenon that many persons in the modern church have yet to distinguish - one from the other. Not good. Let me repeat this again: Works that are done apart from Jesus may look the same on the outside as works done in Christ or through Jesus - but, and this is important: GOD KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE EVEN IF OTHERS DON'T, EVEN IF WE DON'T.
The point of all this discussion: Don't be hasty making decisions, make sure you've prayed about things first, don't act unless you are in one accord with Jesus - Just running off with a scripture does not mean God wants you to do a thing - get alone with God until His' will for you is made known to you - Yes, He will confirm it with His' word -but timing and other things are worth seeking God for and waiting for God to reveal to you, and HE WILL! (1 CO.3:10-14) And above all, MAKE SURE JESUS IS THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING YOU DO.
Mt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
WHEN BEING "BUSY IN THE CHURCH" IS A BAD THING...
Let me state first, being "busy in the church" - is not synonymous with "being busy for God". Or, put another way, just because someone is very active in their church doing good and wonderful things, even in the name of Jesus - does not in itself mean that God has sanctioned or approves of that person's works... hard words, perhaps - but, than again God hates religious works that are in truth - DEAD WORKS! The mere fact that someone is part of a church, and doing things in the bible like, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, driving the church bus, or even casting out demons, or doing the work of an evangelist is no guarantee that the individuals involved with these religious activities are even saved!
Churches are full of people who are faithful to their churches in terms of service and attendance - but, have yet to repent of their own sins. Thousands of "nominal Christians", those in name only - fill churches today and are on the outside very upstanding and moral people by society's standards and mores. However, when placed under the scrutiny of Jesus' standards - are found wanting, and in the eyes of God: NOT READY FOR HEAVEN! Making sure our own hearts and lives are above reproach and that we ourselves are in right standing before God - should be first and foremost before we start trying to "save the world" or becoming busy in the church... (Heb.10:22)
CLOSING THOUGHTS: It's a wonderful thing to serve in the local church, the Body of Christ - it is something that every believer is supposed to do. The problem is this, many Christians simply do not know how to say "no" to the pastor, or church leaders when they are asked to do something in the church - they feel guilty saying no, or they think that it's somehow wrong or a sin to turn down someones request to fill a position or do something that is needed.
The world is filled with many persons who have long ago left the church because they felt they were taken advantage of, or overworked, and in many case - they were. (though not all, some simply use this as an excuse for backsliding). This happens often with new Christians, or members who somehow fill that they want to be "used" by God - some end up being"used up" by the church... Our first priority, is not being busy in the church, or busy for God - that is perhaps the most deadly and lethal trap the devil has laid in the Body of Christ - and has destroyed countless Christians who began their spiritual journey with great passion and zeal - only to find themselves burnt out - and tired of the frantic/activity oriented pace that is all too common in many local churches today.
Quality time with God in prayer, study of the scriptures, and our own personal devotion should be at the top of every Christians priorities - especially those in leadership positions in the church. If you find yourself too busy for personal/private times of devotion, study, reflection and prayer and worship - YOU ARE TOO BUSY! Religious works borne out of a life of haste, guilt, competitiveness, or even professionalmotives(money/prestige/power) - are sure signs that one's works are suspect - and may be "nothing" in God's sight.
Remember, the very first principle of Christ is: REPENTANCE FROM DEAD WORKS! God hates sin, and all iniquity - but, He despises religious works that do not spring forth from our abiding our residing in Him. ( Heb.6:1-3)
A man obessed with the truth,
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I love God, people, and all of God's creation. For me there is always something or someone to write about...