John 15:5 “. . . apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Can you imagine someone saying something like this to you? What gall! What a stunning thing for someone to say! To think of how comprehensive, how all-encompassing such a statement is. Apart from ME, you can do NOTHING. Only an egomaniac who is so full of himself that he thinks the world, even your and my lives, revolves around him, could possibly say something like this. Surely, I’ve never heard anyone actually say something like this with my own ears, and I doubt that you have either. Yet, if this is indeed a true statement that is simply being stated as a fact by someone for whom this is indeed true, then the nature of the statement becomes something to which we had all better pay close attention.
You see, it was Jesus who said this. And he said a lot of things like this – things that were so preposterous that only someone who was all-powerful and who had total knowledge of everything there is to know, could have said such things and be taken seriously. Of course, this same Jesus, did many things that demonstrated that he indeed did have such power and knowledge. Who else ever spoke to a storm and had it obey him? Who else ever turned water to wine? Who else ever walked on water? Who else ever spoke to someone who had been dead and buried and had that person actually do what he said? And who else ever rose from the dead by his own power? Jesus is the only one in all of history who did any of these things, and his words have the authority of God.
So, what indeed did he mean when he said “apart from me, you can do nothing?” Well for one, we can do nothing physically without him. Colossians 1:16 says “all things” (that includes you and me) were created by him. And Colossians 1:18 says that “in him all things hold together.” In other words, we only have life because he gave it to us and we only continue to live because he sustains us. Why do our hearts keep beating, and our minds keep thinking, and our lungs, livers, stomachs, eyes, ears or any other part of our bodies keep working? Surely, we have nothing to do with it. But he has everything to do with it, for we only continue to exist because he has ordained it. It’s like a humorous take on this same truth that I saw not too long ago on social media. Someone asked the question, “Do I need Jesus to go to heaven?” The answer? “Dude, you need Jesus to go to Wal Mart!”
The same holds true for spiritual things. If you are a Christian, you only have spiritual life because Jesus gave it to you and you can only perceive or do anything spiritual because of Jesus and Jesus alone. It is because of these facts that our relationship with Him is the most essential thing in all the world. And while we may have a role in such physical things as how well our heart continues to work by taking care of our body, exercising, and not doing things or putting things into our body to harm it, so we can do things that strengthen or weaken us spiritually. Sin will “kill, steal and destroy” while God’s Word, the bread and water of life, will give us strength. Fear and anxiety will stunt spiritual growth, while prayer and faith will help us grow strong spiritually. Above all else, simply recognizing and acknowledging that what Jesus said, i.e., apart from Him and Him alone, we can do nothing, will give us a perspective on all of life that is rooted in truth, i.e., our moment-moment dependence on the author of both physical and spiritual life.
Living without this perspective is to acknowledge other things as the most important things in life. Of course, that’s a lie that will lead to nothing good in the end.