By Roger Cook, Topeka Presbyterian Manor chaplain
As I think about the coming year, I sincerely and prayerfully desire to improve the quality of the life of God that is in me. When I look at Jesus, I am reminded that He was man as God intended. He not only showed us what God is like, but also what man is supposed to be like. He showed us the kind of life God had in mind for us when He created man—a life of worshipful dependence.
In John 5, Jesus said He was hard at work: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (v. 17). But it turned out that His working was quite unlike the self-sufficient, self-motivated kind with which we are familiar in ourselves and others. He went on to explain the secret of His working: “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’” (v. 19). “By myself I can do nothing…” (v. 30). “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (8:28a).
The key to understanding Christ’s sinless perfection, then, is not to focus primarily on the way He avoided doing what was wrong, but rather on the way He did what was right. He lived a life of total dependence on the Father. And then he made us this stunning promise: If you will depend on me the way I’ve depended on the Father, then I will be to you what my Father has been to me. The Apostle Paul echoes this same promise in his letter to the Philippians, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
This is wonderful news! It means we don’t have to keep trying (and failing) to make ourselves “good” Christians. We can’t do it. He never said we could. But he can live His life through us. The God who invited you into the Christian life is also the God who wants to live it out through you. “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thes. 5:24). And so, Jesus could say in John 15: “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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” (vv. 4-5).
What a sober warning and solemn promise. Without Him I can do nothing, but with Him I can live an abundant life of spiritual fruitfulness. In practical terms, Jesus living His life through me will help me be the kind of husband, father, pastor, friend, son, and Christian I long to be.
So, as you consider how to maximize your family life, your work life, your financial life, and your ministry life in 2018, asks yourself these questions: How much can I do apart from Christ? The answer is clear, nothing of value. Next, ask how much can Christ do through me? The answer is just what you need, everything of value. He is limited only by the measure of our being available to His Spirit.
The words of Jesus in John 14 serve as a great promise for of all of us. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).