I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5 (ESV)
One verse that I constantly struggle with is John 15:5. I struggle to believe that apart from Christ I can really do nothing. Once I inch towards believing that, then I struggle with trying to figure out why it’s such a struggle.
There are a multitude of reasons why this is a struggle. We live in a fallen world, we still war against our fleshly desires, and so on. However, one reason that hit me is the cultural reason.
From the time we are born until the time we die we are taught that independence is a sign of maturity. Kids need to learn to go to the potty on their own. They need to pick up their own toys and put them away. We move to the schooling years where the pinnacle of education is defined by writing a really large dissertation of independent, original thought. In the workplace, many evaluations or applications have a question asking if you can perform the duties independently or at worse with minimal supervision. To need help or be dependent on someone else means you haven’t yet arrived. You are lacking in some area.
We are conditioned to value independence as a sign of success. We want to have awesome quiet times, conquer some sin habit, design the perfect ministry. On our own. And then show it off to God so he’ll be proud of us. Then John 15:5 comes along and turns everything upside down. Independence in this spiritual realm means you’re lacking. Not only lacking a little, but lacking everything. It’s a bit overwhelming.
At that point of being overwhelmed we have 3 choices: 1) Try harder – Independence really is an idol, 2) Give up – I’ve tried as hard as I can, and it didn’t work. I’m done trying to have quiet times, war against my flesh, etc. or 3) Abide and rest – Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
Do you want to bear fruit? Abide. What does abiding look like for you? Please comment below and let us encourage one another.
Next week: I believe that lack of prayer is both a cause and a symptom of our independent bend. Look for more on that next Friday.
Today’s Daily Digest is a variety pack. 1st we have a look at some of the biggest ideas of the year courtesy of The Atlantic. Secondly, we have a little church challenge. And we wrap it all up with a confession of sin.
The 14 Biggest Ideas Of The Year – The Atlantic describes these as, “A guide to the intellectual trends that, for better or worse, are shaping America right now. (Plus a bunch of other ideas, insights, hypotheses, and provocations.)” It’s a very interesting read. Let me highlight one of the trends so that you get an idea of what this article is about. Trend #13 is called The Maniac Will Be Televised. Here’s an excerpt:
If the old advice to electronic communicators was to speak in sound bites and keep things simple, to cut through the noise by being straightforward and countering confusion with consistency, the new winning strategy is the opposite: embrace incoherence and become the noise. The cool self-control that was once considered the soul of telegenic behavior has been turned inside out, and the traits that people used to suppress when they appeared on television—the contortions and tics—are now the best way to engage an audience. Attention-deficit disorder, remember, responds to stimulants, not sedatives.
The Uncommitted Church – I think Kevin DeYoung nails it with his look at 2 Chronicles.
One of the reasons churches fail is because they don’t call their people to commitment. An ad 1860 for the Pony Express read: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk daily. Orphans preferred.” Amazingly, they never had a shortage of riders. Too many churches give the opposite message: “Wanted: vaguely spiritual, cultural Christians. Must attend church sporadically, give miserly, and serve if you are into that sort of thing. Will tailor music, aesthetics, and preaching to fit your style. Ethical standards are minimal and beliefs are negotiable.” The church needs to compromise less and call for commitment more.
Does your church do a good job of calling people to commitment? If so, comment below and let us know how it’s done. It’s a needed thing in our churches.
Are You A Sentence Hijacker? – Do you like to finish other people’s sentences? I do. So does this guy. Swap a few details around, lessen the quality of the writing, and I could’ve written this post. H/T @challies
So what do I do? If you pause mid-sentence to consider what to say next then I’ll frequently and shamelessly jump on the dangling sentence’s back and ride it on into conversational safety.
He mentions a few reasons why he does this, and I would have to say I have 2 primary reasons. 1) Lack of patience. I think I know what’s coming next so instead of waiting I’ll just save the time and blurt it out. 2) Competition. I know it sounds dumb, but if I go back to reason #1 and blurt out the wrong thing I just lost. If I blurt out the right thing I can pat myself on the back for being a mind reader. It’s definitely something I need to work on.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this is the best Daily Digest yet! Come see what The Office would have looked like as an 80’s sitcom. Read about Hemingway’s life and subsequent suicide (Interesting even if you don’t care anything about Hemingway). And more Kindle tips and tricks!
The Office as 80’s Sitcom – If you watched 80’s sitcoms and watch The Office you’ll want to watch this piece of art which merges the 2 seamlessly. Hello laugh track.
The Mystery of Hemingway’s Suicide – Apparently there’s some disagreement among Hemingway’s biographers regarding his suicide and the reason(s) for it. This article does a nice job profiling his life experiences, and how those experiences allow one professor to unravel the mystery of his death. I know nothing about Hemingway other than I had to read The Sun Also Rises in school and still found this article to be very interesting.
More Kindle Tips and Tricks – I consider myself to be a pretty savvy Kindle user, and I found 2 or 3 new tips & tricks to implement. Definitely worth your time to check out.
Being a champion knows no bounds as seen here.
Today’s digest is coming early, which is hopefully going to be the new normal. Consider it a mid-day treat for those of you in the Eastern or Central time zones. Today we’ll look at the the role of effort in sanctification, the dangers of 4 year olds on Jesus’s lap, why accountability groups may be bad, and Oreos! I’ll also throw in a helpful article on Weiner, redemption, and the exclusivity of the Gospel.
Gospel Driven Effort – A good article looking at the role of effort in our sanctification and why it matters.
These issues matter because, on the one hand, some Christians are beating themselves up to be more like Jesus when they first need to realize that in Christ they’ve already died to sin and been raised with Christ. And on the other hand, some Christians are stalled out in their sanctification for plain lack of effort. They are lazy and need to be told so.
Is God’s Word Sufficient? – This article looks at the popularity of the book, Heaven Is For Real, and the potential bad message it sends.
What bothers me about the reception of Heaven is a Real Place [sic] is what it says about the relatively low view of the sufficiency of Scripture among evangelicals today. In other words, it’s not good enough for us to hear about heaven from the holy apostles, Church Fathers, and trusted commentaries on Scripture. No, we need a little boy sitting on Jesus’ lap to tell us that instead. Then we will believe it. And that phenomenon ultimately bodes ill for everyone who really does love the Bible: pastors, teachers, parents, and yes, even children.
The Dangers of Accountability Groups – If you’ve felt like accountability was about “do more” and “try harder” this is for you.
When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Savior, we actually begin to shrink spiritually.
Who Invented the Oreo? – Yes, there are conspiracy theories involved.
Therapy, Redemption, Gospel Exclusivity, and Twitter – Good article on the limitations of therapy in dealing with sin and the backlash that comes from proposing redemption as the answer.
There is no shortage of perplexing realities in our world today, but counted among them must be the fact that many rather well informed people seem to be shocked that Christians believe the doctrines of Christianity.
…the American impulse is to seek treatment when our real need is for redemption.
We start off this week with a warning against desserts, an English lesson, and a cross-cultural journey into the world of Chinese high school students. Today’s digest closes with an inspiring quote from Lebron “Bron Bron” James.
No Tip For You: When eating bananas foster involves a subsequent medical helicopter ride, it’s been a bad dining experience.
Top Ten Misused English Words: The ultimate list to help you avoid being decimated by English majors (See what I did there). H/T @challies
The Downside of Exam Based Education in China: A brief look at the test that determines all Chinese students’ future and its perils.
Rein’s firm recently interviewed Fortune 500 companies in China. It found that most of them have an annual turnover rate of around 30 percent. In the U.S., 11 percent is considered high. Rein says most Chinese graduates are not qualified for a global business system.
Quote of the Day: Courtesy of the superstar himself, Bron Bron:
All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.
I’m wrapping up the book of 2 Chronicles today in my Bible reading plan, and the story of Josiah really gripped me. Chapter 34 (also found in 2 Kings 22-23) details how Josiah is getting the Temple back in order, and in the midst of the repairs, the Book of the Law* is found. The people now had in front of them a written account of the way they should be living. When King Josiah hears that account read aloud he tears his clothes and weeps because he knows the way they’ve been living doesn’t match up with those words.
The man was impacted. Most of us don’t tear our clothes to show despair, but we definitely know the emotional difference between despair and an inconvenience. How do you view sin? Does it cause you despair? When you come across Biblical truth that illuminates a sin in your life does it cause you to be emotionally impacted at your core? Not me. I can’t say that I react like Josiah. I kind of view myself on a journey that’s best characterized by the phrase, “I’m working on it.” There’s no despair. Often it’s more annoyance. It’s coexistence.
This desperation, however, is necessary to rightly view God’s holiness and to humbly receive God’s grace. A low view of my sin results in a low view of God’s grace. A high view of my sin results in a high view of God’s grace. If I view my sin as worthy of despair, then I’ll view my Savior from that sin as worthy of worship.
God help me to see the depth of my sin so that I can see the depth of Your grace.
* Depending on who you ask, the Book of the Law either refers to Deuteronomy or to the entire Pentateuch