“…apart from me you can do nothing.”
(Joh 15:5 ESV)
As we approach another new year, we once again hear people speaking about resolutions. And I think that most of those who make resolutions are well-intentioned. They recognize certain changes that need to be made in their life, and they set out to make those changes.
That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. In fact, I can’t recall that I’ve ever made one. And the reason is simple. Even though I certainly recognize my flaws, and even though I know many of the changes that need to be made in my life, I also recognize my inability to make these modifications.
The reason for this is simple: I’m a sinner. And we can see the sway that sin holds over our life all throughout Scripture (Romans 3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 14:12, Romans 7:14-25, etc.). We also see in passages, like the one above, that only in Christ do we have the means to overcome our sin.
This verse comes from Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches. He tells us in this passage that, unless we’re in Christ, we can do nothing. If we’re separated from the vine, we can bear no fruit. If we’re cut off from Christ, we’ll simply wither and be cast into the fire.
This is the concept from which the First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is drawn. It says: “We admitted that we were powerless over drugs and alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
It rightly tells us that the first step to making a change is admitting that we’re powerless to make that change. And it’s this that leads us to the source of change, which is seen in the Second Step: “Came to believe that God could restore us to sanity.”
The same thing is true of any sin with which we struggle: Gluttony, gossip, taking God’s name in vain, etc. We are powerless to overcome these sins by our own power. It’s only as we come to understand our weakness that we discover the source of help. And that source is Christ.
We see this again in Galatians 5, starting in verse 16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Our sin results from the flesh. It flows from the desires of the flesh. And, left to ourselves, it will control our life. However, the fruit that God desires in our life flows from the Spirit. It’s produced by the Spirit of God in our life. It’s by his power, it’s by his leading, that we’re able to bear fruit for God.
So, as we face the New Year, and as we think about the changes that need to be made in our life, let us not strive to accomplish them by our own strength. If we do, we will only fail. Let us instead admit our lack of power over sin. Let us look to Christ for forgiveness, and for the power to overcome our sin. Let us trust in the Spirit of God to produce his fruit in our life.