March 6: Because of the Indwelling Life of Christ, We Do Nothing Apart From Christ.

In John 15, Jesus gives us one of the best metaphors in scripture for the indwelling life of Christ, the vine and branch. “To live is Christ” means that he is the source of our life, like the vine provides life to the branch. We “abide in Christ” and he “abides in us.” This foreshadows our complete union with Christ, which will become the bedrock of the Apostle Paul’s Christology. Jesus hints at this union when he says “apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5. 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.


Fruitfulness is guaranteed by this union. If every Christian has the Spirit of Christ (and they do), then every Christian has the fruitfulness of the Spirit. We can and will do great things by the indwelling life of Christ. We will care for our children and our aging parents. We will love those who are marginalized. We will be faithful in ministry, and kind to neighbors. We will live in hope and die in that same hope. We will pray believing. We will grieve and yet find joy in Christ. We will love even when it makes no sense to love. We will tear down barriers in our churches. We will feel peace in the middle of the storms of life. We will share our hope with others. We will stop lying and stealing and rather we will encourage and build. We will forgive and offer grace over and over again.

Yes, we will do great things by the Spirit of Christ. But so we don’t get a big head, Jesus gives us a warning- “apart from me you can do nothing.” This does not mean that we do nothing physically without Jesus. It does mean that we must live in dependence upon Christ’s indwelling life, just as Jesus lived dependent upon the Father’s life. We can even hear Jesus saying, “apart from the Father, I can do nothing” (of course he did actually say these words). Anything we do apart from the freely given life and love of Christ will not bring glory to the Father.

But we must also set this warning beside the reality of the indwelling life of Christ. For the Christian, this warning becomes a promise. We actually don’t do anything apart from Christ, and our union with him by the Spirit. Our spirit is joined to his Spirit. Therefore it is literally impossible to do anything apart from him. When we do the amazing spiritual acts of faith that we listed above, it is because of that union (never our own mechanical growth). And even when we sin, we bring the Spirit of Christ along with us (1 Corinthians 6:16-17).

In John 15, Jesus, of course, has in view our fruitfulness, not our sin. But nonetheless, the radical reality of our union with Christ remains a truth that has implications for everything a Christian does throughout the day. We truly do not do anything apart from Jesus. And any grace filled, loving thing that we do from the Spirit of God, we do from our union with Christ. That is why Paul could say “to live is Christ.”

March 5: Abiding In Christ is Living By the Indwelling Christ’s Life.

In John 14 we’ve seen Jesus relate his union to and dependence upon the Father with our union and dependence upon the Son. In John 15, Jesus will use the metaphor of the vine and branches to explain how to live life. “To live is Christ” is what Jesus will describe as “abiding in Christ.”

John 15:1-5. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.

“I am the true vine.” This is another of Jesus’ 7 “I Am” statements. He is declaring himself to be our source of life. He is our source of zoe. The result of this life, is what Jesus calls “fruit.” Think this through with me. If Jesus is the source of life, then the “fruit” of life must also be Jesus- his life, character, obedience, love, and holiness (more on this tomorrow). Image result for bear fruit odg



The branch (that’s you) must abide in the vine (that’s Jesus). “Abide” means to stay, remain, or dwell. The branch has to live attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. We have to constantly draw on the life of Jesus in order to live like Jesus. We cannot manufacture the life of Jesus within ourselves through our self efforts or good works. True change can only come organically, not mechanically. Or to say it another way- true change comes by faith in Christ’s saving life, not by behavior modification.

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Is most of your “spiritual growth” organic or mechanical? Is it through behavior change or through abiding in Christ (faith). For example, do you measure your spiritual growth only by behavioral markers, like “I read my Bible everyday.” This is mechanical growth, not organic.

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Mechanical Growth
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Organic Growth






Spiritual growth through abiding in Christ would sound more like, “I find that I have peace even in the middle of this hard situation.” This is growth that comes from abiding in Christ; the organic growth of faith. This is the growth of heart change. This is the growth of an empowered life. It is Christ’s peace at work in your heart and mind. And don’t misread what I am saying about reading the Bible. Bible reading is not a measure of spiritual growth. But it can definitely be the cause of true spiritual growth, if we read it in order to abide in Christ.

“To live is Christ” is to abide in Christ. To allow his life to be my life. His love my love. His power my power. His acceptance my acceptance. His dependency my dependency. His faith my faith.

March 4: The Indwelling Life of Christ Comes by Obedience to Christ’s Command- Believe.

We’ve been seeing from John 14 that Jesus is both equal to and yet dependent upon the Father. This is because he is both divine and human. In his humanity, Jesus lived from complete dependency upon the Father. Beyond this, we have seen in John 14, that Jesus will send the Spirit to manifest the his life to us, his disciples. Now, we too must live our lives dependent upon Christ, just as he lived dependent upon the Father.

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Before we move from John 14 to John 15, let’s look at one more connection that Jesus makes for us as it concerns living from his indwelling life by the Spirit: we receive the indwelling Spirit through obedience to Christ’s commands.

John 14:21. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 

Now, stay with me- this is NOT teaching salvation by works.

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To understand this, we have to understand what John and Jesus mean when the word “commandments” is used or when he says “keep my word.”

Frederick Bruner, in his commentary on John, points out that the commands of Jesus are       “his twin invitations to believe him and to love one another- in short to want to be                  Christians in our hearts. These simple commands are not onerous conditions. Rather,            they are exciting privileges, that our Gift, the Holy Spirit, our True Friend, helps us to            take seriously as we accept them simply and undeservedly.”

Bruner is essentially pointing out that to keep Jesus’ commandment, and to keep his word, is to simply have faith. Look at how 1 John summarizes it:

1 John 3:23. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

So we are saved by faith. To have faith is to obey the commandment of Jesus. To live out that commandment by loving others is also faith- faith without works is dead.

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Now re-read John 14:21. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. We love God because he first loved us. His love is demonstrated at the cross. “God so loved the world that he gave…” It is this love from God that compels us to faith- to “have Christ’s commandment,” to believe in him, and to love others. Our faith, or our desire to be loved by God and to love others, is the proof that we love Jesus as he first loved us. And God continues to manifest this love in us: And he who loves me will be loved by my Father. Romans 5 tells us that God pours his love into us by the Spirit. John 14:21 says it this way: and I will love him and manifest myself to him. How does Jesus manifest himself to us? By the love of the indwelling Spirit.

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The answer to “Good Judas'” question in verse 22 is the indwelling life of the Spirit. Look at verse 23 again. “We will come and make our home with him.” The Father and Son will indwell the disciple who has placed faith in Christ. How? By the Spirit. That is how the world will see and experience the love of God after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus – through the indwelling life of God [zoe] manifested in the life and love of those of us who claim “to live is Christ.”

John 13:35. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Bonus video- classic Michael W!



March 3: The Indwelling Life of Christ Produces Peace.

We left off yesterday in John 14. Jesus told his disciples that when he departs, the Spirit will come and bring with him the indwelling life of Christ. “He will be with you and IN you,” Jesus says. Then Jesus goes on to describe the result of the Spirit’s coming.

John 14:25-27. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

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The Source of Life

The source of our eternal life and therefore our eternal peace is Christ by the Spirit. We’ve been exploring this concept for several days now. In verse 26 above, we see that the Spirit will be sent by the Father. And we also see that the Spirit will minister to us the life and work of Jesus. Again, as we said yesterday, the Spirit is Christ-centered.

The Signs of Life

To receive Christ’s indwelling life, by the Spirit, is to receive his peace. “Peace” here is the Greek word eirene, and it is the Hebrew word shalom. This is no small thing. Shalom is more than just peace as the absence of conflict. It is whole life flourishing. Everything “going well” for you. It the Jewish “hello” and “goodbye.” The beginning and end. Jesus doesn’t supply peace by changing the disciples’ immediate circumstance. In fact, life is about to get much worse. He will supply peace by providing the source of all peace, God himself, in the form of his own life implanted by the Spirit. This is far from the peace that the world offers – a fleeting, temporary, shallow, and self seeking peace.

This peace results in a restful heart and freedom from fear (“let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be  afraid”). Imagine how hard this conversation is for both Jesus and the disciples. Remember he is about to be arrested, tried, and executed. The disciples are about to be scattered in fear. They will be the farthest from shalom that they have ever been.

But the absence of peace that night is what will bring everlasting internal peace. A peace that passes all of our understanding. It is a peace that will be accomplished by the cross, not just offered by good will. It is a peace that will be made possible by faith. Faith in Jesus’ commandments, but also faith in his work on the cross.


Tomorrow we will look at one last thought from John 14. The connection between love, “commandment keeping,” and the indwelling life of Christ by the Spirit. But for today let me ask you about the your own personal shalom. Do you have peace? Does the indwelling life of Christ produce a daily peace in your life? Or, do you live from a troubled fearful heart? If so come back tomorrow (and for the rest of the year) as we continue to explore how to appropriate the peace of God, through the indwelling life of Christ.


March 2: We Depend On Our True Friend, the Spirit, For Christ’s Life.

Jesus lived his life from complete dependence upon the Father. In this way he imaged God as a human, and showed us how to do the same. But even Jesus didn’t do this from his own strength. He did it from the indwelling life of the Father, by the life giving power of the Spirit. The Spirit applied the life of the Father to Jesus’ human life so that he could live from the life giving love of God at all times. This is precisely how we are to live.

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In John 14-16, Jesus is explaining life to us before he goes to the cross. Yesterday we saw that Jesus’ life and the Father’s life were united, and yet submissive (Jesus submitted to the Father). Today we will see Jesus introduce the Spirit into the equation.

John 14:16-17. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The word “Helper” [paraklete] means “The one who comes alongside,” encourager, advocate, counselor, comforter, or even true friend. Jesus is their current Friend. The Spirit will be their new Friend. We depend on the True Friend, the Spirit, for Christ’s life. The Spirit will serve in the same way as the Son. And notice what Jesus says, “he dwells with you and will be IN you.” Now that’s even better than what Jesus was to them. Jesus in the flesh was WITH them, but not IN them. This new True Friend, the Spirit, will be with and in them “forever.” And in this way, Jesus will too.

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The Spirit is also “the Spirit of [the] truth.” This takes our minds back to John 14:6, where Jesus calls himself the Truth. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ Jesus. The Spirit is not Spirit-centered. He is Christ-centered. It is his goal to apply the life of Christ to our lives.

John 14:19-20. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live [zoe], you also will live [zoe]. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

“You will see me,” Jesus says. He  is predicting his resurrection. And then notice his next words: “Because I live, you also will live.” Because of the resurrection, you will have my eternal, divine, zoe life. But how? How does Jesus’ resurrection secure for us his spiritual life? By the Spirit. Jesus was resurrected and then glorified. This allowed for him to then disperse his life into ours by the Spirit (more on that in future weeks).

John 14:25-27. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper [paraclete], the Holy Spirit [ruach], whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 

Here Jesus makes it explicit. The Spirit is the Helper.

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He is sent by the Father, and he will minister to you the life and teachings of Jesus. The Spirit comes in Jesus’ name- his authority, and character. Just as Jesus came under submission to and dependence upon the Father, the Spirit comes in submission to and dependence upon the Son. And as we depend upon the Spirit for Christ’s life, we learn “all things.” Not all things about all things. Not physics and chess. All things about how to live as an image bearer, how to love, how to have peace, how to live in dependency.

And the result is peace.

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More on that peace tomorrow.


March 1: The Union of Father and Son Is the Model For Our Union to Christ.

“To live is Christ” means that we live from the indwelling life of Christ. And this life comes from the Spirit. Over the next couple days let’s journey through John 14-16 to see how Jesus connects his life to dependency upon the Father, and our lives to dependency upon him, through the Spirit.

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Today will be mostly review, but that’s OK, we all need to hear things more than once, right?

John 14:6-7. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

If you know Jesus, you know the Father. If you have Jesus’ life in you, you have the Father’s life (zoe) in you. You have union with God.

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And, as we will see in John 14-16 tomorrow, by the Spirit we have the Father’s life and the Son’s life in you, if you have by faith received this life.

John 14:10-11. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus again appeals to his union with the Father. This union of Father and Son is the model for our union to Christ. Jesus says that he never speaks of his own authority. Jesus is dependent upon the Father, just as we must live dependent upon the Son.

Are you aware of your own dependence upon Christ? Do you desire him like air? Like water? Do you desire Christ more than a solution to whatever problem you will face today? Do you realize that without him you can do nothing. You have no authority in this life. Even each breath you take comes from his approval.

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Jesus submitted to the Father’s authority and approval. Even though he is equally God, he humbled himself in submission and was obedient. Why? Because that is humanity. That is life. That is image bearing. And that is how our relationship to Christ works- we submit in dependence to him.

Tomorrow we will see Jesus connect his life of dependency to the Spirit.


February 28: Jesus’ Life Is the Spirit’s Living Water That Satisfies.

Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ conversation about life (zoe) with Nicodemus. Today let’s take a look at his conversation with the Samaritan woman, commonly called “the woman at the well.” The story is found in John 4.

The story has Jesus travelling through the region of Samaria, a place that no self respecting Jew would ever travel through. Jews and Samaritans hated each other, disagreed on theology, and in general avoided each other. When Jesus stops at a well in the middle of the day, he meets a Samaritan woman there who is drawing water, and he asks her for a drink. She is shocked at his humility in lowering himself to ask for something from her, and she questions why he is talking to a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that.

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John 4:10. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the [free] gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

First, Jesus says that the life made available to the woman is free. Zoe is free. Living water is free. The Spirit is free. Christ’s life is free. And what God has made free, may we never make costly.

Notice what Jesus says next, “if you knew…who it is that is saying to you give me a drink.” Of course he is talking about himself. He is connecting himself to the free gift. He IS the free gift. The free gift is himself.

And the free gift is the “living water.” The water, as we saw yesterday, is the Spirit himself. So the “free gift” is the Son and the Spirit. They’re a combo package. The Father freely gives us the Son, and the Son freely gives us the Spirit.

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John 4:14. The water that I will give [to the person who drinks] will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life [zoe].

When you trust in Jesus, you get all the Spirit you are ever going to get, and all the life you are ever going to get. It is Christ’s life made to gush out of us like a spring of water. And we will never thirst again- every desire is satisfied by Christ’s indwelling life. “To live is Christ” is that soul satisfying life. A life where every thirst is quenched.

This is the life that the woman needed. Having been through 5 husbands, she sought satisfaction in all kinds of things in her life. But only true worship could satisfy her. Only eternal hope and love could bring her peace. Only Christ could quench her thirst and ours.

On the cross, Christ cried out “I thirst” so that we might never thirst again.

And a bonus video just because it needed to happen.