Without Christ, you can do nothing - just what does this mean exactly? Isn't it true that there are non-Christians that have done great things, and if so, then what does this verse really mean? 

TEXT: John 15:1-17; I Peter 3:7

What is meant in this verse is that “without Jesus we can do nothing of eternal significance.”  We are powerless without Christ to build eternal things, we are spiritually poor and without power outside of Christ. But with Christ we are rich in every way, we now have the power to affect eternal things and leave a legacy that will impact eternity and last into eternity.

Here is illustration: A very poor woman worked for a very wealthy man. She acted as a maid as well as took care of their only son whom she grew to love as her own.  One day the wealthy man's wife passed away unexpectedly. When the boy reached his teens he became ill one day and died. The father was heartbroken, as was the maid who worked for him. He was so grieved that he passed away a short time after his son died. 

There were no known living relatives and no will was ever found so the state decided to auction off all the belongings. The maid who had nothing but her memories of devotion to this father and son all those years scraped together all the money she had and went and bought a picture of the boy that had been displayed in the family room of the mansion. 

She had loved and nurtured this son for 15 years and to her it was worth the price to have his picture. Once home, she decided to clean the frame and picture, and she noticed a lump behind the cardboard backing…it was the lost will!  

In the will it stated, “All my wealth should go to the one who loved my son enough to claim this portrait of him!” Her devotion and love for this father's son brought her untold wealth and power ... she could now do all things! 

And so it is with us in giving ourselves to Christ!  -- Source Unknown

The Bible teaches us that only by dwelling in Christ and His love do we have eternal significance and can reap eternal rewards. Without Christ, we can do nothing of eternal significance!

I. WITHOUT GOD - NO LIFE! John 15:1-4

A. "Vine" John 15:1, 3-4

1. Jesus begins to paint a picture to teach us some very important spiritual truths, He states that He is the vine, and that His father is the gardener!

The point is quite clear, no branch can be fruitful that is not attached to the vine!
“Fruit” here means things that are important and lasting, not natural fruit but spiritual fruit!

2. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He is showing them and us that we must abide in Him to have life, a life that will matter not just now but in eternity!

Jesus describes them as "already clean"… meaning that they are “grafted in” already ... they are participants of Christ's salvation and plan for eternity!
Jesus says that they will not be able to bear fruit unless they "REMAIN IN HIM," just like grapes, no branch can bear fruit without remaining in the vine!

B. "Pruning" John 15:2

1. Abiding in the vine is wonderful, but the quality of the fruit will also depend on how well someone "prunes" the branches!

Anyone who grows grapes will tell you that the only way you get high quality grapes and a good crop is to cut away excess growth, growth that will not produce fruit is only extraneous and takes away from the all important fruit! The goal of a good gardener is not just to produce any life, but fruitful life!

2. The work of pruning includes cutting away excess stuff, but with the right balance!
If too many leaves are cut away it could zap the energy of the plant. But, if too many leaves are left the fruit is compromised! The master gardener knows just where to keep his balance!

3. His goal is to develop healthy life with great fruitfulness! Discipline is the act of "pruning" in our lives ... we don't like it but we need it to stay healthy!

To illustrate the above, here is a story: A young child accidentally took sleeping pills from the family's medicine cabinet one day. The doctor instructed the parents to keep the child awake by any means necessary for the next four hours, including the pain of slapping if necessary! -- Source Unknown

That pain was necessary for the child's survival! Hebrew 12:11 states, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (NIV) 

4. “Pruning” is necessary for proper fruitfulness to take place in our lives!
Life cannot flow through us if we are not connected to the source of life any more than a branch can produce fruit if it is no longer attached to the vine! Without Christ, there is no spiritual life!

II. WITHOUT GOD - NO LOVE! John 15:5-15

A. Producers! John 15:5-8

1. Now Jesus turns from the negative -- no life if not attached, to the positive -- “much fruit” for those who are attached! Jesus now turns attention to the aspect of producing fruit, here He used the term "MUCH FRUIT."

Those who abide in Christ will not only have life, they will have “much fruit,” and since we know that the fruit of the Spirit is "love" this is what He means!

2. Jesus' statement of purpose in His teaching comes out here: "WITHOUT ME, YOU CAN DO NOTHING!" Again, His point is about eternal things, without Him we can do nothing of eternal significance!

This point is made clearer by what He says about those branches that are not attached, they will simply be picked up and burned in a fire, they may give off a temporary flash of heat and then they will be gone! This is unlike the branch that stays attached which will give off a continual supply of fruit that will benefit many over and over again; this has a future to it!

3. Unsaved people always mean well, and indeed they hope one day to address their spiritual needs, they just don't see why they need to do it now! They plan to do it someday!

The problem with this approach is that they miss out on God's best for them now! They will miss out on so much by ignoring the present need to be in Christ. It may be too late for them also!

Further illustration: A man and his wife had their first child two months after he had been shipped overseas on a 13 month tour of duty. Shortly after he returned home his wife suggested that he try his hand at changing the baby's diapers. 

"I'm busy," he said, "I'll do the next one." The next time the baby was wet she asked her husband if he was ready to learn how to change diapers. He looked puzzled by her question for a moment and then said, "Oh, I didn't mean the next diaper, I meant the next baby!"  He just kept putting it off!  -- Source Unknown

4. It is interesting to note that Jesus ties together here the idea of being "fruit producers" and asking in prayer what we want and it being done for us! You will note a similar statement in verse 16!

I will come back to this point at the end of the message! Jesus now says that "bearing MUCH FRUIT" shows that we are His disciples. Jesus had made a similar statement in another passage like this: "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that you love one another."

B. Passion. John15:9-15

1. Jesus now moves to the area of "fruit"-- which is love!

“Remaining” in Christ means abiding in His love, which goes out toward God and others! One cannot be a true disciple of Christ and be without passion. Abiding in Christ breeds passion in our souls!

2. Christ's very nature is that of LOVE, thus to be attached to Him will create a godly love in us!

3. Those who love Him will keep His commandments, we tend to do what others want when we love them!

4. Notice too that this "love" is not without "joy". Being a Christian and serving in love is not drudgery! Rather, God's joy will be experienced by those who love Him; a joy that Jesus says will be complete in Him!

5. For those who are saved this joy and love will be so obvious that others will think that we are like Christ, the very meaning of the name: "Christian!" Our love should be so like Christ's that people will know what Christ is like by observing us. "Abiding in Him" lets His love flow through us!

For more understanding, here is illustration: When the motion picture GANDHI was being filmed it was done on location in India in the same area where Gandhi had lived. The star Ben Kingsley had spent a great deal of time visiting the locals and learning what Gandhi had been like, how he talked, what he did, he even learned to spin thread on a wooden wheel just as the famous Gandhi had done.

The physical resemblance was so startling to the real Gandhi once he was done up in makeup, and he had learned so well to put himself into the real Gandhi that one day after filming a scene in a village south of Delhi, Kingsley stepped out of the car and an elderly peasant knelt to touch his feet! 

Embarrassed, Kingsley explained that he was merely an actor playing the revered Gandhi. The villager answered, "We know, but through you he will surely live again!" The man felt he was in the presence of Gandhi himself, Kingsly had done such a good job being him, so should we be of Christ!  -- Source Unknown

6. This is the kind of passion we are to display in our lives, the same kind of love that Jesus displayed while on earth, and if we are truly attached to His life we will!

III. WITHOUT GOD - NO LEGACY!  John l5:16-17; I Peter 3:7

A. "Picked" John 15:16a

1. Jesus now reverses the usual method of discipleship of that day, normally you picked a teacher you wished to emulate and you followed that man for several years. Jesus had already reversed the relationship a few verses back, no longer calling them "servants" but "friends."

Here again Jesus adds a twist, they had not chosen Him, He had actually chosen them ... chosen them to go and bear fruit. Jesus had not just chosen them to benefit them only in this lifetime, but for eternity ... this is the meaning bearing fruit, something will remain after they are gone!

2. Jesus had "picked" them to bear eternal fruit, not just follow the course of this world and live for the moment. It is important to understand how this statement will fit in with the next about answered prayers!

Jesus says here, "fruit that will last." Their service will benefit others, they were chosen to give something to the world besides momentary existence, they would serve the world and show it love much like Christ was about to do!

3. They were to demonstrate to the world what character God calls us to!

Illustration on the above: Years ago on the stagecoaches in the old west you could buy one of three types of tickets. You could either buy “FIRST CLASS, SECOND CLASS, OR THIRD CLASS” tickets. 

The difference was discovered when there was a problem like a breakdown in mud or a broken wheel that brought everything to a stop.  If you had a "first class" ticket you could stay on board and would have to do absolutely nothing to help, you just sat there until the problem was solved.  

If you had a “second class” ticket you were expected to get off the coach while it was being attended to, you had to simply watch as it was being fixed but you did have to stand to the side and not be permitted to sit on the coach.  

Now if you had the "third class" ticket things were different, third class holders had to not only get off, they were expected to do whatever it took to fix the coach, if it meant getting dirty and holding up the coach while a new wheel was put on, so be it! Third class ticket holders were the workers, the servants to the others, they got things moving again! God give us “third class” ticket holders in the church and in the world!  -- Source Unknown

B. Petitions! John 15:16b-17; I Peter 3:7

1. Notice that Jesus' statement here to "ask the father and He will give you anything we ask in Jesus' name" follows the statement about being fruitful. Jesus paints here the picture that it is not just prayer that God is moved by but also the fruitful lives who pray!

This same principle is found in I Peter 3:7 where Peter states that many men had their prayers hindered from being answered by God because they were not in a proper relationship with their wives – asking alone was not enough in prayer. The Pharisees were good about making many prayers, but they were not answered because their lives were unfruitful!

2. This mentioning of prayers being answered is followed also by the command again to "love." There is a direct correlation between answers to prayers and how fruitful our lives are. Fruitfulness puts us in a place of asking God and having answers!

3. Where there is no legacy of fruitfulness, there will be little evidence of answered prayers!

To illustrate this: The 9th U.S. circuit court of appeals recently rejected the petition of William Jefferson Walker, sentenced in 1983 to serve 10 years in an Arizona prison for aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident. 

Walker had argued, as he had in four other petitions filed with state and federal courts, that he was deprived of a fair trial because no one in his jury pool had a last name with either W X Y or Z! 

Walker claimed that people with surnames late in the alphabet have an increased tendency toward, "ALPHABETIC NEUROSIS" a mental illness brought on by the constant waiting for one's name to be reached in the classroom and in other situations!  

He lost his petition, his lack of fruitfulness in his life won no sympathy from the judge! And so it is with us, those who are fruitful have a wonderful legacy of answered prayers; their lives have eternal consequences from abiding in the vine!  -- Source Unknown

4. Without Christ, there is no legacy, no privilege, no eternal dimensions to our life!


a. Are you doing nothing?

b. Are you abiding in the true vine?

c. Is your life “fruitful?”

In conclusion: What did Jesus mean when He said, “Without me, you can do nothing!”? Isn't it true that even sinners do good works from time to time? 

What Jesus was saying was "Without me, you can do nothing of eternal significance, nothing that affects both time and eternity!" Without Christ we might live for the moment with earthly wealth, but with Him we live forever, our actions have everlasting consequences when we abide in Christ! 

Nothing like this is done without Him.

Praise God!

By Rev. Dennis 

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