The Word of God Is Not Self-Help

0

LISTEN NOW!

January 15, 2020

John 15:1-4 (NIV)

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, as I also 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.

CONSIDER THIS

The Word of God is inspired, or God-breathed. We learned yesterday how it is sharper than any double edged sword, able to cut to the deepest place in our hearts; far beneath our behavior and into our dispositions, attitudes and affections. Following Jesus often gets reduced to some dimension of behavior (or sin) management when in reality it is about the deep transformation of the heart and mind.

Today’s text morphs the metaphor a bit from a sword to pruning shears. Note how Jesus begins by locating his hearers inside of the relationship he enjoys with his Father. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” Now, watch how he immediately cuts to the chase.

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.

Did you catch how many branches are cut here? He cuts very branch that bears no fruit and every branch that does bear fruit. At last count, that was all of them: every. . . single. . . branch. The work of the Word of God to transform the image-bearers of God is not the exception but the rule. It is not occasional but comprehensive. In light of this, note the next word from Jesus to his disciples. I would identify this as our first word-last word for today.

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

It is hard to overestimate the negative impact of the self help industry on the Christian faith. Self help inspires a take charge, if-it-is-to-be-it-is-up-to-me, largely behavior oriented, self-reliant approach to change. Don’t hear me wrong; self has responsibility, but at the end of the day, self can’t help. Note, Jesus did not say, “You are already clean because you have worked really, really hard to clean yourselves up.” No. He said:

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

What we need is far more engaging contact with the Word of God and Spirit of God and far less reliance on our own best change strategies, which is most often some combination of The Little Engine that Could and Dr. Phil. Self help is seductive. It puts us in the driver’s seat under the seemingly agreeable guise of taking personal responsibility for our lives. It creates an endless cycle of optimistic striving for an outcome we never seem to achieve. Self improvement keeps the pruning shears in our own hands to do with as we see best. The problem is we can’t see best. Remember who does the pruning. 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.

Now hear Jesus say it again:

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

We are pruned, which is to say transformed, by the substance of the Word of God; not our own self-willed, take charge efforts. It simply requires repeatedly showing up in surrendered submission and trusting obedience. Reading. Ruminating. Rememberizing. Researching. Rehearsing. (Rinse & Repeat). The Word of God must become the deep substance of our lives. He does not do his work through our working. This is the long, slow, steady path by which we learn the way to do our work through his working.

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

First Word. Last Word. God’s Word.

THE PRAYER

Our Father in Heaven, thank you for your Word, which endures forever. Thank you that it is not up to me to prune myself. Thank you that I need not strive to become all you desire for me; that in fact, I will be transformed by exposure to and engagement with your Word and Spirit. Give me grace to simply show up and surrender my deepest and inmost self to this amazing Word of God. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Are are you aware of the seductive strategies of self help and self improvement—And particularly how it keeps everything referenced around the self? Are you seeing how we need another point of reference?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

SHARE

Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

NO COMMENTS