Apart from me you can do nothing

Apart from me you can do nothing. Have you heard that before? Do you know who said it? And if you do know, do you understand what it really means? Is it really as obvious as it seems?

Apart from me you can do nothing

Apart from me

you can do nothing

Apart from me you can do nothing – some hints

OK – there are a couple hints already as to who said this – and a bit about what it means.

Apart from me” is in red. If you’re a regular, that tells you something. A lot, actually.

If you look at the image, you see lots of sticky notes. As in, things to do. Some of them are probably even done. And yet, they’re empty.

And so with those clues – do you get where this is going?

The final hint comes next. As always, some context is incredibly helpful.

The Vine and the Branches

Jn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Jn 15:5 “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. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jn 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

OK – that was a lot of context, Let me help you a bit more.

  • I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit
  • No branch can bear fruit by itself
  • Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me
  • apart from me you can do nothing

Apart from me you can do nothing – who said it?

It’s obvious, for many people at least, this was said by Jesus.

Apart from me you can do nothing – does it really mean we can’t do anything at all without Jesus?

As I implied above, this verse does not mean we can’t do anything without Jesus. We can, and do, manage to do all sorts of things without Jesus. After all, if it meant we could literally do nothing without Jesus, civilization would have ended a long time ago. Even making babies involves doing something. So do all the tasks involved in raising those babies to become adults. Even maintaining our own lives means doing something. So clearly this wasn’t meant to be taken as literally doing absolutely nothing without Jesus.

How can something we do be nothing?

So if we can do some things without Jesus, how can He say, Apart from me you can do nothing?

Well, the clues were above. They had to do with fruit. But here’s an example. Something Paul wrote. It’s right on point for what we’re talking about here.

No Confidence in the Flesh

Phil 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

Phil 3:2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

Phil 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Let’s pull out portions of that passage to consider more closely.

  • But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ
  • I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all thing
  • I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

I need to point out something on that last item. We politely read the word rubbish. However, that’s not even close to the meaning of the Greek word recorded in the original text. Here’s what Paul really said:

4657 σκύβαλον [skubalon /skoo·bal·on/] n n. Neuter of a presumed derivative of 1519 and 2965 and 906; TDNT 7:445; TDNTA 1052; GK 5032; AV translates as “dung” once. 1 any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs. 1A of things worthless and detestable.  [1]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

And so, we have Paul saying things he used to consider accomplishments were losses (twice) and then even compares his accomplishments to animal excrement!

In that sense, Paul is saying what he did before following Christ didn’t even count as nothing. His prior accomplishments were less than nothing. They were losses and things that no one would want to even be near.

That’s the thought behind when Jesus said, apart from me you can do nothing.

Conclusion – Apart from me you can do nothing

You may remember that Jesus also told us about living a full life.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Jn 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Notice especially, for today’s verse: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

When we remain in Jesus, we bear fruit. We bring glory to God. We live the full life that we were created for.

When we choose to live apart from Jesus, we allow the thief, Satan, to take away the life God created us to live. We settle for less. So much less. And in doing so, we suffer loss. Potentially, sadly, even the loss of eternity with Jesus. We accomplish nothing, or less than nothing, on so many levels.

It’s our choice, really.

What do you choose? Nothing? Or something?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Footnotes

1Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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