Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
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. (John 15:4–5)
The movement of deeper leads us into the graced reality of dependence. Our dependence on Jesus will never exceed the depth of our real relationship with him. How does this work? It’s not that we don’t want to trust him, it’s that our ability to trust has been broken. The work of deepening, or descent, leads us into those broken places and heals our ability to trust. It frees us from the slavery of trying to build up our ability to trust in ourselves or our image or wealth or, on the darker side, our addictions.
In the previous chapter 14 of John, and in the following chapter 16, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Holy Spirit. Between these chapters he gives us a brilliant picture of what it looks like when people on earth live in abiding trust and dependence on an unseen God who is in heaven. The image of a vineyard overflowing with grapes is the metaphor Jesus chooses to talk about how his disciples must depend on him. This could be some of the clearest and plainest spoken teaching on depending on God in all of the Bible.
Jesus likens himself to the vine, he likens his disciples to the branches, and he likens an abundant harvest of grapes as the outcome of a life lived in trusting and loving dependence on him. The Holy Spirit is the mysterious movement of the power of God through the vine, into the branches, and onward into irresistible fruit.
Here’s the kicker: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). Okay, the truth is you can do something. It’s just that it will amount to nothing.
Abba Father, not only are you a good Father but you are a good Farmer. Thank you for your gracious work of pruning in my life. I give you full permission to prune out all my self-dependent and codependent ways. Lead me into the freedom of life in the flow of the Holy Spirit. I want to bear fruit, but I cannot do it apart from you. Teach me this in the depths of my soul. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Can you name a couple of places in your life where you are really depending on the Holy Spirit right now?
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