In my parental home, we generally had family devotions every day. We’d read a portion of scripture and talk about it, or perhaps read a little devotion booklet to learn what the writer had to say about God’s word. Then one of us would pray a brief prayer.
God gave our family a thought for the day through these daily devotions, and they were a great part of my early life.
It was during one of these devotions, that a verse of scripture really impressed me, and it is a part of our text today. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
This is not emotionalism. It comes right from the heart of God’s Word and is the objective message Ð I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me Ð Homer Larsen Ð you can do nothing.
Let’s say that I was 15 years of age when that passage first spoke to my soul. Now I am 88. Those words have spoken to me all my life. You may have a little ego and sometimes some pride, but I want you to know that apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus is writing these words to those who have been made clean through him, those who live in a personal relationship with him. And he says, you remain in me and I will remain in you. We (the branches) cannot bear fruit by ourselves. Jesus is the vine, and he wants those who bear this name to bear fruit. We need to grow in grace and see how he can really use us.
I was reminded of that not long ago as I sat in a Bible class at our church. A man was speaking that night about his feelings of worthlessness as a servant. “I have nothing in my life that is really bringing glory to God,” he said. And his story caused another person to say something of the same nature. I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer as I said to him, “Let me give you some good news. See who is sitting beside you, your daughter. Put your arm around her. On your other side is your wife. You wanted to marry a believer, and she wanted the same. From that home have come children, one who is with you today. She is a very talented and great person who is giving her life to the Lord Jesus Christ. She will offer many fruits to the Savior. You have offered your home to God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and therein is the fruit.”
“Apart from me you can do nothing, but with me you can do many great things.” What greater accomplishment is there in life than for us to raise our children around the throne of grace that they may grow up to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes a Christian home, one that feeds the children through the years.
Another couple in that same Bible study at one time were not Christians. After their conversion, during a devotion one night, it was their little girl’s turn to pray. She prayed, “Jesus, thank you for giving me a new mother.”
“If you abide in me, and I abide in you, you will bear much fruit.” A father and a mother working with their family to bring them to the throne of grace, praying that one day all of them will confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord Ð this cannot be done alone. These parents need that vine, the Holy Spirit. “Apart from me you can do nothing, but with me just see what power I am giving to you. See what words you were able to speak that otherwise you were not used to speaking.”
This is a marvelous word of God. Underline it in your book, commit it to memory and know that in Jesus Christ you’re going to be great people for God.
I think of that sometimes when people are facing death. One well-churched woman from our retirement center said to me one day, “I am concerned about dying. I hope I will go to heaven.” If she will take her Bible and turn to John 14, she would find a very familiar passage where Jesus says to her, “I have gone to prepare a place for you. And if I have gone to prepare a place for you, I will come again to get you that where I am you may also be also. You know that way.”
And if she had replied, “I don’t know the way. I am trying to live a good life,” Jesus’ response would be, “Apart from me you can never know that your sins are forgiven. Apart from me you can never know that you are going to go to heaven. But apart from me, know this: I, the Lord Jesus, am the way, and the truth, and the life. And no one will ever come to the Father but by me.” Is it not clear enough?
This is what we can learn in a devotion. Pray that it will happen in the church service, too, because we need to hear that gospel every single Sunday. Then it needs to be followed up when we are in the quietness of our home and Jesus wants to have a few minutes with us. Then listen to him say to you, I am the way. I died on the cross for your sins, and I was raised again. I can bestow my Holy Spirit upon you, and if, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will ask me into your heart, I will come in. That is what a home devotion is all about.
Jesus is a good example of the need for personal time with God. While he was on this earth, he was not only true God, but also true man. The Bible tells us that he was in all points tempted as we are, but without sin. Think of the help he needed on the night he was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took his eleven disciples with him, three of them Ð Peter, James, and John Ð into the inner garden, and then asked them to remain there while he went in further to pray. He asked the Father, “If it is possible, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”
There he was, in his human state, explaining to us in action, “Apart from (my father), I can do nothing.” And so we say, apart from the Lord Jesus, we can do nothing. Isn’t that a marvelous example?
What about your home? Are you so busy that you can’t take a few minutes every day? Think of what a wonderful experience it would be if your children could hear you and your spouse pray together and listen to your comments on what was read in the scriptures. Your children, no matter where their life may take them, will have that lasting impression.
I wonder if we could afford to get along one day after another without taking God’s Word, reading it, meditating upon it, applying it to our lives, and then saying, “Lord Jesus, apart from you I can do nothing. Help me, I pray.”
I pray you will.