“I am now a new person, a new creation, I also must live a new way. As one indwelt by Jesus, I can now live as Jesus did: in utter dependence on God, in a deep and intimate relationship with him, fully relying on God—not my willpower—to live the Christian life. Jesus used the image of a vine and its branches to describe this new way of living:
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Jesus (the vine) is the life force that flows into us (the branches), thus producing fruit (love, joy, peace, etc. [Galatians 5:22]). Cut off from the vine, the branches cannot produce fruit. The power of production is not in the branch just as the power to live the Christian life is not in us. In fact, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.
That’s why Paul said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20 kjv). When we separate ourselves from Christ, his life no longer flows in us, just as the branch cut off from the vine no longer has life flowing through it. But we are actual partakers and participants in the divine nature of Christ: “he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 nab). I am not God (or even a god), but I have been given a new nature. My faculties have been infused with Christ’s life and power. ..So the key is to abide in Christ.
How do we do this?”
I said, “To abide means to rest in and rely on Jesus, who is not outside of us, judging us, but is inside of us, empowering us. The more deeply we’re aware of our identity in Christ and his presence and power with us, the more naturally we’ll do this. We must get our narrative right and practice spiritual exercises to deepen our awareness of truth. In the end, Jesus’ way is easy. He said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light [Matthew 11:30]. Typically, we try to do what we think Jesus wants us to do—like you did with your bracelet—by your own strength. We can’t do that. But we ‘can do all things through Christ who strengthens’ us [Philippians 4:13].””
Soul Training – Further Reflection
How does it feel to know that the power to live the Christian life is not solely dependant on us, but God in us?
Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com
Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.