Jesus as Life Enhancement vs. Jesus as Life Support


October 26, 2020

John 15:5-6

“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.


Several years ago, a popular author came out with a small book called The Secrets of the Vine. While I didn’t read it, I’m sure it had some good insights; however, the title is problematic for me. It tells me there are principles that can be extracted from a text like John 15 and that there are ways and means and formulas to be distilled for my betterment. Maybe that’s true. I guess I just don’t see this text as a neat object lesson from Jesus on how to have a better quiet time.

For my money, this text makes plain there are no secrets of the vine. The secret is the Vine. Jesus is not teaching us how to have a closer walk with thee. He is sharing his last words with his, followers which have life-and-death consequences. Abiding in Jesus means life. Not abiding in Jesus means death. It’s that plain. It’s “bear much fruit” on the one hand and “thrown into the fire and burned” on the other. There’s no in between. This is not life enhancement; it’s life support.

J. Hudson Taylor once famously said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or he is not Lord at all.” I used to interpret a saying like this as a matter of personal decision—that Jesus was Lord only to the extent that I decided to make him my Lord. I see it differently now. Jesus is Lord, period, or he is not. If he is not, we of all people are fools and most to be pitied. If he is, and we do not order our whole lives accordingly, we of all people are fools and most to be pitied.

I fear we are all mostly asleep to the totalizing implications of his lordship. At least I can say I fear I am. We speak it with our lips, but our lives tell a different story. We hold back and hedge and go along with the easy currents of Christian subculture and reasonable faith. Our children know more about algebra than they know about the Bible. At least this is what we have deemed most essential to measure in their development.

Apart from me you can do nothing. These are not the words of a good to great life enhancement guru to upper-middle-class minivan and SUV drivers. This is the piercing clarity of the Word of God. Actually, we can do something apart from Jesus. We can do a lot. It will just amount to nothing.

I regret being so in your face today (I’m holding up a mirror as I write), but I will not apologize. There’s the fire of dead branches or the fruit of divine life. Which will it be?

Let’s start by saying this over and over and over again, “Apart from you, Jesus, I can do nothing.”


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who always tells the truth, no matter how hard or glorious or beautiful it may be. Bring us into the “I am the vine; you are the branches,” real life with him. Come, Holy Spirit, and train us to surrender our whole lives to the lordship of Jesus and to do it until we have done it. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. Are you sensitized to the totalizing influence of the culture in which we live and the way it constantly forms us in its image? Where do you see it in your life?

2. If Jesus is Lord, what kind of pruning needs to happen in your life?

3. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Do you really believe this statement?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.” – C. S. Lewis, “Hope” in Mere Christianity

    The reason Methodism is in existence is because the only thing that John Wesley set out to reform was his own life. He is a prime of example of what can happen when a person “aims their life at heaven”: the church, England and America were all “thrown in”.

  2. You nailed it this time J.D. ,thanks. Am I aware of the effect that our culture has had on my life? Yes. I would say that looking back over my life , I was was probably one of those “almost Christians” , that Wesley preached about in one of his sermons. As you have stated before; I was one of those who stalled out after accepting the first part of the Gospel, but failed to move on towards total sanctification.
    By the grace of God, I’ve come to see that our calling to discipleship requires a lot more than merely believing all the right doctrines; that it requires a deep commitment to follow Christ with my whole life. It’s all or nothing. That’s the way I’ve come to interpret “apart from me you can do nothing .” My challenge now is to discern how my spiritual gifts and natural abilities can be best utilized in service to the kingdom of God.

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