June 23, 2022

Why Your Best Effort Falls Short

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Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 

“Apart from me, you can do nothing.” That’s Jesus’ answer to our best attempts at being “good people” (John 15:5).

We want to think that, with effort, we can be the very best versions of ourselves. And yes, we can get healthier, organize our time and our lives better, but nothing apart from Jesus changes the hard fact about our hearts we find in the Bible. It says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, had a prestigious religious pedigree and a dramatic conversion story complete with a visit from Jesus.  Yet Paul was very open about the condition of his own heart. He calls himself the least of the Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9), the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and “wretched, living in a body of death” (Romans 7:24).  Paul owned up to a deep need for Jesus’ transformative power in his life.

But Paul didn’t share this to depress us. He knew what Jesus says to the spiritually discouraged. Jesus started out what are known as the Beatitudes with this assurance: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him” (Matthew 5:9).  Giving us a picture of our need to continually draw strength from Himself, Jesus called Himself the Vine and His followers, the branches (John 15).  “Remain in me,” He says. “Let my words remain in you…Remain in my love, by keeping on obeying Me,” especially in times of discouragement (vv.7, 10).

We’re blessed when we are realistic about our spiritual poverty and stay firmly connected to Jesus.