"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)Most Christians are familiar with Jesus's "vine and branches" analogy. Most Christians nod their heads and agree that we need to abide in Him. Most Christians miss entirely the weight of the last phrase.
Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing."
Wait ... what? Really?? "Nothing"??!
That's what Jesus said. So, what did He mean? You see, if it is true that we can indeed do some things without Him, then He didn't mean "Apart from Me you can do nothing." He was wrong (we'll reject that out of hand) or He was using hyperbole, but He didn't mean a flat "nothing".
Now, it could be that He did mean "nothing at all" After all, "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) "In Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17) "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things." (Rom 11:36) So in a very real sense we can actually do nothing -- not even exist -- without Him.
I don't think, however, that "absolutely nothing" was what, exactly, Jesus had in mind here. I think He was speaking in context of His statement. That is, "Apart from abiding in Me you do not have the capacity to produce fruit."
Now, I know, lots of people are saying, "We could have told you that." But I think it's imporant to think things through. More importantly, however, I think that it is in these kinds of examinations -- even examinations of the "obvious" -- we might arrive at something monumental. And I think we have done just that here.
We are told that we need to abide in Christ. We are told that He will abide in us. We are told that, in this arrangement, we will actually produce fruit. We will be fruitful, productive, useful. We will make a difference. We will have a godly purpose. And we all know that ... except, for reasons we don't fully understand, we seem to often fail to recognize that it is abiding in Him and His working in us that does it. So we come up with plans and programs, cool gimmicks and careful shows, events and spectaculars, lots of things to produce fruit, forgetting that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Those things aren't, by nature, evil. Not my point. The point is that we need to abide in Him. The point is that He needs to be working in us. The point is that He needs to be the point. He is the direction, the purpose, the goal, and the power for producing "fruit". So while we, on one hand, get deeply concerned that we won't be able to do things for the Lord and, on the other hand, find ourselves leaping into "best laid plans" that actually don't come from Him, let's try to keep Christ in mind. We need to be thoroughly connected to Him. He will be working in us. What He plans cannot fail. It will produce. Count on it.