“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” —John 15:5
As a kid, I enjoyed watching the television series “Lost in Space.” In nearly every episode, young Will Robinson would be going through life and wouldn’t realize when danger was present. His mechanical friend, “Robot,” would sense something was wrong and would declare, “Danger, Will Robinson!” When it comes to practicing spiritual disciplines, there is potential danger present as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have a personal robot shadowing us to let us know when that trouble is near.
Danger is present if we do not understand the proper role of the spiritual disciplines in relation to our faith.
They are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. One danger is to believe that the spiritual disciplines will somehow earn favor with God. Practicing spiritual disciplines does not make us godly unlike what the Pharisees believed, which led to their legalism and self-righteousness. The other danger is to undervalue the disciplines and assume that they produce nothing of significant value; after all, we cannot earn our salvation by our works, so why would we put so much emphasis on these efforts?
When understood and practiced appropriately, spiritual disciplines are life-giving and liberating. They will lead to increased faith and humility. In John 15, Jesus describes our life with Him as a partnership. God begins and completes the work of redemption in our life with our willing participation. The imagery Jesus uses is that of a vine and branches. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. As branches, it is vital that we remain attached to the vine. Practicing spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, the study of God’s Word, and obedience, helps us stay connected to Jesus.
If we remain in Jesus, we will bear much fruit. When we are attached to Him, we become an incredible force of grace and love that produces life in us and others. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Prayer for the week: Father, thank You for inviting us into a deep and meaningful partnership. Help us be aware of the danger of misunderstanding the role of the spiritual disciplines in that partnership. May we embrace and practice the disciplines in ways that will be life-giving and liberating. Amen.
Steve Hoffman is the district superintendent of the Prairie Lakes District Church of the Nazarene (Minnesota, North and South Dakota).
Written for Coffee Break.