We have the “assurance” of salvation when we “trust” Jesus with our lives, that’s it. Once we trust Jesus, He, our great Heavenly Physician, will perfectly heal and restore us, thus our assurance is in Jesus, not in ourselves or our future. Salvation is Now!! 1John 5:11-13, 1 John 3:2, John 17:3
The Vine and the Branch
Jesus gave another example to illustrate the concept of abiding in Him, and our total and complete dependence on Him for everything. It is the illustration of the vine and branch found in John chapter fifteen.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
A Real, Living Connection
Christ lives and abides in us as we daily receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That abiding is very real. Our connection with Christ is just as real and living as is the connection between the vine and branch. In order for the branch to bring forth fruit it must continually be in living connection with the vine. So also with the Christian; if we are to bring forth fruit of obedience we must maintain a living connection with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Using the illustration Christ gave; in nature the branch receives its life from the vine. It receives the nutrients, the sap; the very life it needs from the vine. Once the branch is attached to the vine, whether naturally or grafted in, it will bring forth fruit as a result of the living connection with the vine. The branch does not work at bringing forth fruit. It simply stays in connection and fruit comes forth. If the branch becomes disconnected from the vine it ceases to bring forth fruit and will die. That is why Christ said, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
By Faith, Not Works
The example of the vine and branch nicely illustrates the futility of the believer trying to bring forth fruit of obedience. As I previously described in this book, the usual Christian experience follows the pattern of the individual accepting Christ and then trying to obey Christ’s commands asking God to help him in his effort to obey. All such effort will fall far short of the obedience the sincere believer wants. Andrew Murray in his book, Abiding in Christ, puts it this way.
“The idea they [many Christians] have of grace is this – that their conversion and pardon are God’s work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians and follow Jesus. There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs. They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness.” Abiding in Christ, p.24
Many, especially us Adventists who know many things the Lord wants us to do, will ask; “What then are we supposed to do? Doesn’t obedience require effort on our part? Don’t we need to work hard at following Christ in obedience?” My answer to those questions is; consider Christ’s illustration of the vine and branch. That illustration in itself should indicate to us that there is something wrong with the concept that we must work hard to obey Christ. No, our part is to stay in living connection with Christ, to choose to obey and then ask Christ to manifest His obedience in and through us believing He will do just that. Andrew Murray described this in the following way.
“And if the question be asked, ‘But surely there is something for us to do?’ the answer is, ‘Our doing and working are but the fruit of Christ’s work in us.’ It is when the soul becomes utterly passive, looking and resting on what Christ is to do, that its energies are stirred to their highest activity, that we work most effectually because we know that He works in us.”
Choose and believe, choose and believe – that is the Christian’s part in obtaining the victory over every temptation and sin. Choosing means we give God our will on any given temptation. Where most Christians err is that they think giving God their will means they are to also exert their “will power” in order to obey. We are to give our will and let God provide the power by Christ living in us and manifesting Himself in and through us.
The truth of the matter is, if we work at attaining the righteous behavior the Lord wants us to experience in our life, we are actually practicing a form of legalism. We are looking to self and our own efforts to do what only Christ can do for us. I think many Christians understand legalism when it come to the justification aspect of receiving Christ’s righteousness by faith, but do not understand legalism in the matter of sanctification; Christ’s righteousness being lived out in our life. Righteousness in the Christian’s life in both justification and sanctification are both received by faith; not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10).