Last week, we confirmed that a person is saved, made right with God, only by grace through faith. Our works, our best efforts, play no part in us being saved. We also talked about how James tells us in James 2, that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I hope you realized that James was showing us the fruit of our salvation. He was telling us that someone who is saved by free grace through faith will start acting like it. The beautiful thing about this, just like the free grace that saves, is that God does the heavy lifting. Look at how God explains how he saves us in Ezekiel 36. Pay attention to how we walk in His ways and obey Him.
God says that He does the saving work in our lives. He gives a new heart of flesh in place of the old heart of stone. He then confirms, in harmony with James, that we will start walking in His statutes and being careful to obey His rules once we have been saved. How does that happen, though? According to God, that happens by Him putting His Spirit within us and causing us to do those things. God causes the fruit to grow. He calls dead trees to life and then causes fruit to grow on them. Incredible!
God causes the fruit to grow.
My goal in showing you this is similar to the goal I had in showing you the basis of Christian salvation. The pressure is completely off of you. God literally does all of the work. You did nothing to earn your salvation. It was God who gave you a new heart. Once saved, you don’t have to somehow muster up a list of good works to prove yourself. It is God who causes good works in your life. He will start changing your desires. You will start naturally doing things that you wouldn’t have done before. That is God causing you to walk in His ways.
Jesus paints a beautiful picture of this in John 15. He shows us where we need to place our focus in order for our lives to bear fruit. He shows us how to have the faith and works that James taught us about in James 2. Pay close attention to what Jesus says here.
The last part of that verse is massive. In the same way that a branch cannot bear fruit apart from a vine, we can do nothing apart from Christ. No good works can be stemmed from our own best efforts. A branch can only bear fruit by staying connected to its source of life: the vine. Jesus just told us that He is the vine. Therefore, our application is to simply spend our time staying connected to the vine, instead of trying to manufacture fruit! If our focus is on trying to produce our own fruit, we will start to shrivel up with no supply from the vine. If our focus is on abiding in the vine, fruit will start to naturally grow. The vine, Jesus, does all of the work. Crazy!
Be free, dear friend. You do not have to try to somehow make your heart “better.” You do not have to try to perform your own heart transplant. God does that. He removes your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh. He gives you free salvation by grace through faith. You also don’t have to somehow prove yourself by trying your best to make fruit grow in your life. God does that. Christians prove their faith by God’s work in their lives! He gives you His Spirit and causes you to walk in His ways and obey Him. You just focus on abiding in Christ. Stay close to Him. Treasure Him. Your fruit, your good works, will then start blooming for the whole world to see.
- Does this truth feel like it frees you up to live a radical Christian life? Why or why not?
- What things can you do in order to stay connected and abide in Jesus as the Vine?