BUT HOW?……David Tryon

“To will is present with me;

but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18).

This is the cry from the heart of many a disappointment, defeated, disheartened, and troubled Christian. The beginning of the Christian pathway was so bright. He looks back to the time when he received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. He rejoiced in the joy of knowing that his sins were forgiven; a great burden was lifted from his heart; he was filled with love for his newly – found Saviour. It seemed then that he would never want to sin again, that nothing could be simpler than to live always in the power of this new joy. But this did not last. Gradually the first exuberant joy died down; the old temptations came back as strong, even stronger than before; the desires to pray and read the Bible grew less; there came bad falls and failures such as he had thought had been left behind forever. And now, after months, or it may be years, of Christian experience, there has come to him a settled sense of failure, a state of continual self-reproach; a deep impression that his Lord looks on him as a failure, too. There

have been bright patches in his pathway, times of blessing at conference meetings and the like, when he seemed to get a new grip on things, and felt that he had entered a new phase in his Christian life. But the influence of such times had not lasted; there has been the coming down from the mountain of temporary joy and victory into the valley of further defeat and failure, and the valleys have been longer of late, and he is beginning to distrust the mountain top experiences because they make the valleys so much darker by contrast. And whether it is concerning his private Christian life which seems so full of defeat and failure, or whether it is concerning his attempts at Christian work, which have been feeble and fruitless, the cry of his heart is expressed in exactly these words, ” HOW TO PERFORM THAT WHICH IS GOOD I FIND NOT.”

Does that describe your experience of the Christian life? Then it is especially for you that this booklet is written in an effort to show clearly God’s way of deliverance for those who are troubled as you are. For God has a way of deliverance, do not doubt that for a moment. You may enter into that way today and walk joyfully in it all the days to come.

Get it clear, first, that deliverance by laying hold of and acting upon certain great truths revealed in God’s Word. But before we set down these great truths as simply as possible, and see how we may lay hold of and act upon them, will you seek to realize these two facts?

Only God by His Holy Spirit, is able to lead you into His way of deliverance. He desires far, far more than you do, that you should find that way.

So take a moment now, in His presence, to tell Him (in the light of the first of these facts) that you are entirely depending on His Spirit to lead you into His truth. Then tell Him (in the light of the second of these facts) that you are confident that He has brought you to this time and place to bless you, and that you are expecting Him to teach you as you read.

NOW THE FIRST GREAT TRUTH IS THIS;

1) YOU, WITH YOUR SINFUL NATURE [flesh], ARE INCAPABLE OF PRODUCING ANY GOOD THING.

The sinful nature [flesh] with which you were born remained unchanged when you were born again. It is just as incapable of doing good now as it was when you became a Christian. You “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8) by effort you make, any more than an unsaved man can. You are as unable to produce one good thing, thought, word, or deed, as you were unable to blot out the record of your past sins. “In me,” said Paul, “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18 ). That is what God says about you with your sinful nature [flesh]: in you dwells no good thing. No good thing. Take a moment and let that sink in. Ask the Holy Spirit to drive it home and enable you to accept God’s estimate of you. Don’t shrink from believing it utterly; accept the truth of it without reservation, even though at the moment you cannot begin to see all that it implies. It seems to be a truth that should lead you to despair. No, the acceptance of it is the beginning of the pathway that leads to deliverance.

For has not all your experience been teaching you the truth of it? You have tried to do good; tried to love, and please, and serve God; tried to produce in your life and service the goodness and the fruitfulness that you know should be there. And you have failed. Of course you have. Do you see what you have been doing?

You have been trying to prove in your life the very opposite of what God says is the truth. God says: in you dwells no good thing; you have been trying to produce some “good thing.” And now you are downcast and disheartened because you are beginning to find that there is “no good thing” there to produce. You have been struggling against the admission of that truth, because you felt that in admitting it, you must admit once and for all the downfall of your Christian life. In reality the admission and acceptance of that truth will be the place where deliverance will begin for you. There will be no deliverance until, in utter despair of yourself, you admit that you cannot do the first thing toward pleasing and serving God.

And notice this, and try to grasp the significance of it in relation to your past unhappy experience. God’s dealings with you are all directed to this end, to bring you to that place of utter despair of and distrust in yourself. He will let you fail. He will allow defeat and disappointment in your life, He will spare you no necessary suffering, in order to bring you to that place. For you must learn by experience, and bitter experience it often is, that in you dwells “no good thing.”

You did not realize that, did you? You thought that your failure was proving that God could not make use of you. In reality He is bringing you to the place where He can begin to use you. You thought He was looking on you reproachfully, because you cannot do the things that please Him. In reality, He knew all along that you cannot, and He is watching over you in unchanging love, waiting until you learn the lesson which He sees is necessary for you to learn.

It has been well said that the secret of the Christian life can be summed up in the words, “Let go, and let God.” The first thing is to “let go.” You have been clinging desperately to your hope of “making good” as a Christian; you have been clutching, like a drowning man at a straw at the last remnants of good which you imagine you possess; you have felt that, if you let them go, your whole Christian life must go. Now you are beginning to see your mistake. God is telling you to “let go,” to do the very thing that you have felt would be your downfall. Will you do it? Let go your last remaining hopes of being able to live the Christian life by any effort you can make, and admit once and for all the truth of God’s verdict that in you dwells “no good thing.” Let go just as you did when you first came to Him for forgiveness; you brought with you then no lingering remnant of the “filthy rags” [Isaiah. 64:6] of your own righteousness; you could find no reason in your own heart why He should accept and bless. It was:

“Just as O am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me.”

“Nothing in my hand O bring,
Simply to Thy Cross I cling.”

Come as you came then. Cling to nothing else. Let go every other hope of ever being what God wants you to be. “Let go,” and then “let God.”

This brings us to the second great truth of God’s Word which you must lay hold of and act upon, and a glorious truth it is–truly “good news” to a troubled Christian such as you.

2) GOD HAS GIVEN HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO DWELL WITHIN YOU, FOR THE PURPOSE OF WORKING IN YOU BOTH TO WILL AND TO DO ALL THAT HE REQUIRES OF YOU.

If it is true that in yourself you have no power to produce any one thing that God requires of you, it is equally true that in the Holy Spirit you have power to produce all that God requires of you. And the Holy Spirit dwells within you. He is there for the purpose of “working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). But, though He is there for that purpose, He cannot do His work while you are trying to do it for Him. He has entered (so to speak) the door of your life, but up to now you have kept Him on the threshold, looking on while you try to straighten up the house yourself. Your very efforts to please God and do His work are hindering His working. He cannot do His work while you are in the way. But when you “cease from form your works,” [Heb. 4:10] when you recognize at last that all you best efforts must end in failure, that in you dwells “no good thing”; when you “let go,” then the way is prepared for Him to come and do His work in you.

Lay hold of these great facts:

* Just as God gave the Lord Jesus Christ to die for you that there might be pardon enough for all your sins; so He gave the Holy Spirit to dwell in you that there might be power enough to meet all your needs [Phil. 4:19].

* Just as the blood of Christ covers all your sins, and you do not go looking anywhere else to get rid of any one of them, so the power of the Holy Spirit covers all your needs, and you must not look anywhere else in order that any one of them may be met [Gal. 5:16].

* Just as, in your salvation, God did all–and you took no part in it, but to accept what He had done–so in your sanctification and service God must do all, and you will take no part in it but to accept what He will do for you [Rom. 1:17].

* When God gave you the Holy Spirit at your conversion, He gave you all you need for your Christian life and service. God requires nothing of you which the Holy Spirit cannot work in you–nothing which He will not work in you, if you will let Him. Not one good thing can you produce yourself. It is useless for you to try. The attempt will drive you more and more to despair. When He gets to work He will produce all good things [Gal. 5:22,23].

What is your need?

* Is it holiness? You will not find even the beginnings of it in yourself. He is the Holy Spirit. Where He is allowed to work, increasing holiness must be the result.

* Is it love to God and to others? You can never work it up. He is the Spirit of love, and where He is allowed to work in a human heart (however cold before) He sheds abroad the live of God in that heart (Rom. 5:5).

* Is it assurance? It will never come by reasoning or argument. He is the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15), and His work is to witness with your spirit that you are indeed a child of God, enabling you to call God “Father” with full assurance.

* Is it power over sin and for service? He is the spirit of power (2 Tim.1:7). He is “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead” (Rom. 8:11). If He is allowed to work in you, all the power of His resurrection will be put forth in you to conquer sin and to perform God’s will though you.

* Is it an understanding of God’s Word? Alone you cannot understand it. You may fill your head with its teachings, but a heart knowledge of its truths, and the assimilation of them into your life, are beyond your reach. He is the Spirit of truth; His work is to lead you into all truth (John 16:13). If He is allowed to do His work, God’s Word will begin to live to you as never before, and to exercise a power in your life which you had not thought possible, till you say with one of old, “O how love I Thy law!” [Psalm 119:97].

* Is it that you want Christ to become real to you? It is the Holy Spirit’s work to make Him real. He alone can take of the things of Christ and reveal them to you (John 16:14), until the Savior becomes to you not One far off whom you know by the hearing of the ear alone, but “a living bright reality, more dear, more intimately nigh, than even the sweetest earthly tie.”

So we could go on. But there is no need. The great and glorious fact is this: in giving the Holy Spirit, God gave you all you need for all your Christian life and service. It matters not what you are, or what you are not; it matters not what you can do or what you cannot do–you have all in having Him. He has not been given to help you when you do your best; He has been given to do all, because over the very best that you can produce God has written “no good thing.”[in your independent self-Rom. 7:18].

The one condition that must be fulfilled on your part, before He will do the work which He has come to do, is FAITH. You receive His power and working, and continue to receive them every day, in exactly the same way that you received God’s pardon for your sins–through faith (Gal 3:14).

Just as there was always pardon for your sins because Christ died, but it did not become yours in experience until your faith made it yours; so there is power for you in experience until your faith makes it yours.

Faith is getting out of the way and letting Him work. Faith is “letting go and letting God.” Faith does not persuade Him to do anything; it makes way for Him to do what He longs to do. He longs to get to work in your life, doing for you, in His own wonderful way, what you have so sadly failed to do for yourself. Faith says, “Lord I am not going to try any more. Come Thou, and do Thy work.” He does not ask you for any gift before He will come and bring you blessing. You have “no good thing” to offer Him if He did. The only “surrender” that He asks of you is the surrender that consents to stop working and lets Him do all. Do not try to find any reason in yourself why He should work His blessings in you. The only reason is in His great heart of love, which found its full expression on Calvary, when every barrier that could keep your soul from blessing was broken down. That is why He is going to bless you. Not because of anything in you.

And the turning point in your life of failure will come when, refusing to listen to any reasons that Satan or your own heart can give why He should not bless you, you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, and to do in and though you from henceforth what you have been vainly struggling to do up till now. And having asked Him to fill you, believe that He has done it, and reckon on His Power, expecting evidence of His working. If you do not get the evidences at once, if you do not get them for some considerable time, do not let that trouble you. Hold on to your attitude of faith toward God; tell Him that, as He has promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask (Luke 11:13), and as He has commanded you to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), you believe that He has filled you in response to your request and, whether He pleases to show you the evidences of that filling sooner or later, that you are counting on it even now as a fact, and expecting His working in and through you. Remember that once you have asked for and claimed the filling of the Holy Spirit, taking Him at His word concerning His willingness to give you this blessing; once you have done that (let me say it reverently) the responsibility is on Him, and “He abideth faithful.” “I take–He undertakes.”

I take the promised Holy Spirit,
I take the power Pentecost
To fill me to the uttermost,
I take–He undertakes.

And in His own time and way He will make it abundantly clear to you that He has indeed granted your request.

When the result of His working begins to become apparent to you, it is likely that the first thing to become very clear to you will be what is spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 2:12. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” You will begin to see, as you have never seen before, that God’s way is always to give freely, and that our part is–not to try to win His blessings by our feeble, futile efforts–but only to receive His gifts. It will become clear to you, in a way that that only the Holy Spirit can make it clear, what it means to be “under grace” –that all God’s dealings with you, at the beginning of your Christian life, and all the way along, are on the principle of free and utterly unmerited grace. And when you look for the ground of this free giving of God, you will find it always and only in the fact that Jesus has died, that He has “offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” On the ground of that perfect work upon the Cross, God can give freely and forever every blessing that you need.

And this brings us to the third and last great truth that we are going to mention. We have deliberately left it until the last, though some may think that it should have come earlier. But it is a truth which only begins to dawn on one who is filled with the Spirit, and on which further light is shed by his experience only as he continues to live in the power of that same Spirit. The truth is this:

3. WHEN CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED, HE TOOK WITH HIM TO THE CROSS, NOT ONLY YOUR SINS, BUT YOUR SINFUL NATURE [“the old man”] TOO.

In some wonderful way, deeply mysterious, but nevertheless true, your sinful nature [“the old man”] was put to death on the Cross with Christ. So, not merely has God pronounced that our sinful nature [flesh] can produce no good thing, but He has shown His estimate of that nature, shown how He regards it as an utterly corrupt, useless thing, by passing sentence of death upon it, as being unfit to live, and nailing it to the Cross with Christ. (Let me say again with emphasis, this is a truth so deep that it is not only unappreciated by, but utter foolishness to the one who is not taught it by the Holy Spirit.) And as with the fact of the power of the Holy Spirit, so with this fact, its power can only be known in your experience as you lay hold of the fact by faith God has finished with your old nature, “the old man” as it is sometimes called if Scripture. It has been judged, condemned, and executed in Christ. “Our old man,” writes Paul (Rom. 6:6), “is crucified with Him.” And he goes on, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (Rom. 6:11). As you reckon on this amazing fact, the power of it begins to be experienced in your life (how, you cannot tell), and there is worked out in some degree in your life what God tells you is indeed a fact; your old nature is kept in the place of death, and its former power to make you sin has gone.

The mystery of this truth is beyond the grasp of the human mind; the power of it in the life can be unmistakable. But do not make the mistake of trying to lay hold of this great negative truth that your old nature [old man] was nailed to the Cross with Christ, without laying hold, first of all, of the even greater positive truth that the Holy Spirit is within you to produce all the power and goodness that you need. That is why we stated the truth about the Holy Spirit’s work before this other truth that you are “crucified with Christ.” Because it is as you reckon on the Holy Spirit dwelling within you to work in you all that God requires, that you will be able to understand more clearly and reckon more confidently and effectively on the great fact that you are crucified with Christ. So it is that the Apostle wrote, “if ye live after the flesh (that is, obeying the desires of your old sinful nature [the flesh]), ye shall die [experience the principle of destruction]: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, ye shall live [experience the principle of wholeness]” (Rom. 8:13).

Those three words, “through the Spirit,” are very important. This great truth of crucifixion with Christ will be understood and experienced only as the Holy Spirit is allowed to do His work in your life. It is His work to make real in your experience all the benefits of your union with Christ in His death. It is the ceasing from self-effort, the receiving of His fullness, and the reckoning on His working, you need to learn first of all. And as you do that continually, making it the habit of your life to refuse to expect any good thing from yourself, and confidently to expect every good thing as the result of His working. The understanding of this second truth, that your “old man was crucified with him,” will help you when that old nature [flesh] comes clamoring for recognition and seems likely to entice you to sin, or drive you to despair. Refuse to recognize its [the old man’s] existence or its claims; recognize only one thing: the Holy Spirit’s perfect working in your life. When the old nature [flesh] rises up (as it will), with its promptings to sin, and you are tempted to doubt whether the Holy Spirit is really at work in you, and to worry because of the existence of that “old man” [flesh] within–take your stand upon God’s unshakable fact, “My old nature was done with forever at the Cross.” Because of that do not let any of its manifestations of life move you from depending utterly and only on the Holy Spirit’s work, and believing that He is active within you even when you are not conscious of it.

In Thy strong hand I lay me down,
So shall the work be done,
For Who can work so wondrously
As the Almighty One?

As you live thus you will enter experimentally into the meaning of those great words of Paul in Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (by His Holy Spirit): and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the SON OF GOD, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

So we have seen that the entrance into and continuation in the life for which you have been longing will be by faith; the faith which listens only to God’s voice, turning a deaf ear to the many other voices which clamor for a hearing; the faith which does not look for feelings, but reckons on God’s facts, resolutely counting on them, in the face of everything that may seem to contradict them.

Everything then depends upon such faith. Leave the other truths for a moment, and focus your thoughts on this central one. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, and He desires to fill you, and to be to you all you need in your Christian life. There is nothing for you to do but just to take what He wants to give. Will you do that now, deliberately and definitely? Bow in His presence; tell Him you have failed; tell Him that if any good thing is to come in your Christian life, He must do it all; tell Him you give yourself to Him, just as you are, not trying to make yourself better, or prepare for His Blessing, just “letting go”; ask Him now. “Then” (in the words of a great Christian leader) “rise up and go forth from your chamber, not trying to feel filled, but reckoning that God has kept His Word with you, and daring to believe it, though you may not be conscious of any emotional outburst.” Take a few moments in silence to do that– now.

One word in conclusion. This life which you have entered is all the way along a life of faith. Feelings there will be at times, feelings of joy unutterable and full of glory–but not always. When the feelings come, they will be as the result of faith, but they are necessary part of faith and the lack of them is by no means a proof that faith is in vain. Faith rests, without emotion, on immovable facts, not on feelings which are ever changing. And so for the maintenance of this life–as for its start–for the continual “being Filled” with the Spirit as with the first “filling,” everything depends on your faith.

It is well to get that firmly fixed in your mind. In the days to come there will be seasons of desperate attack from the enemy of your soul. All his power will be put forth in the endeavor to shake your confidence in your Lord. The words of the Lord to Peter before his fall are well worth bearing in mind, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”(Luke 22:31,32). It is on your faith that the strain will come. Get that clear. That is the point of the enemy’s attack. That is the one point that you must guard at all cost, whatever may come. Satan will not waste time attacking God’s facts They are unassailable.

(1) God has finished with your old nature on Calvary.

(2) In the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, you have all the resources you need.

These two facts Satan knows. They cannot be attacked. They are tremendous, unalterable, unassailable facts. But only your faith will make the facts real in your experience. And your faith can be attacked. Your faith may fail. Those glorious facts may become almost useless so far as your experience is concerned, because you fail to reckon on them and live in the power of them. So it is your faith that the enemy will single out as the chief point of his attack. Whether by fierce temptation, whether by the circumstances into which you are brought, whether through your feelings, whatever means he may use, his one aim will be to discredit God’s facts to you, and so shake your faith in them and Him. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith ” (1 Peter 5:8,9). When circumstances seem impossible, when all signs of grace in you seem at their lowest ebb, when temptation is fiercest, when love and joy and hope seem nearly extinguished in your heart, then cling, without feeling and without emotion, to God’s faithfulness; hold on to the fact that He loves you infinitely, and even now is working in you mightily; and honor God and put the enemy to flight by taking to yourself the words of Job, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in Him [Job 13:15].” “I have prayed for thee,” says the One who ever lives to make intercession for us, “that Thy faith fail not [Luke 22:32].”

This faith of yours can only be maintained and strengthened by regular, prayerful study of God’s Word, depending on His Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth, and in prayer and waiting upon God receiving each day afresh the needed strength to lay hold of the things that are freely given to you of God. So set apart each day a definite time for being alone with Him, if possible in the early morning, and let nothing take that time from you. Then, before the rush of the day begins, seek a fresh and firmer grasp of the great facts of His Word, each day anew reckoning yourself dead unto sin, and alive only unto God; each day anew claiming and reckoning on the filling of His Holy Spirit in whose power alone can you live to please Him each moment, each hour, each day.

Thus you will have found God’s way of deliverance. The cry of your heart, “How to perform that which is good I find not,” will be silenced forever, for you will have learned the secret that is only learned by those who have passed from Romans 7 into Romans 8, and who can make the words of the second verse of that great chapter their own, saying with the Apostle,”for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

by David Tryon

Footnotes

This booklet was first published through South Africa General Mission, Brooklyn, N.Y.; later by Moody Press, Chicago. Terms in brackets are inserted by J.B.W., using the literal, biblical vocabulary.

Related definitions:

1. Old Man and New Man (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22,24; Colossians 3:9,10)

Specific: Old Man refers to unregenerate human spirit consisting of Adamic life prior to salvation. New Man refers to regenerate human spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Generally: Old man is all that the Christian was before salvation. New man is all that the Christian is after salvation.

2. Flesh (Self-Life) (Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5:16-21)

Flesh is the interface of the mortal body and human soul that consists of the beliefs, values, identity messages, coping mechanisms, etc. that have been shaped by living independently of God. The flesh is sin-stained (by depravity from Adam) and sin-trained (from each person’s life experiences and choices – Romans 7:18).

“In the flesh,” refers only to the position of unsaved people (Romans 8:8,9; Ephesians 2:1-3).

“After” or “according to the flesh,” refers to a way of living which may be evident for either the unsaved or the saved (Romans 8:4, 5,13). This is a condition or way of living out of one’s own resources and strength as if one is independent of God. It is learned before salvation (in Adam) and continually taught by the world.

“Carnal”(Latin root) is another word for “fleshly” (Romans 8:6,7, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

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THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES……David Tryon

THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
By: David Tryon

There are many Christians, struggling to live the Christian life, who have never discovered where the strength to live that life is to be found. There are many earnest believers, young and old, who are continually being disappointed and cast down because they are finding their own resources so inadequate to meet the demands of real Christian living. There are hundreds of Christians of all ages who are hungering and thirsting after a fuller, deeper life than that which they now experience. What they need to know, and to know experimentally as well as mentally, is thatall the resources of the Christian life are in CHRIST, and in Him ALONE, and that He lives in them by the Holy Ghost. Perhaps there is no better and no simpler illustration of these truths than the Lord’s parable of the vine and the branches in John 15. We shall look together at some of the great lessons which this parable teaches, with the prayer that God will use these messages to bring great blessing into the lives of each of us.

I. A USELESS BRANCH

“I am the Vine,” said the Lord Jesus, ” ye are the branches” (verse 5). Every true Christian is ” in Christ,” a branch in the vine, joined to the Lord, a partaker of His nature.

“I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away…. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

The first lesson we learn from this parable of the vine and the branches is that a branch is useless if it does not bear fruit. We need to be careful, when trying to understand the teaching of a parable such as this, not to press the details of the parable too far. There are those who teach that these words show that it is possible for a man to be “in Christ” and out again; to be saved and then lost; to have eternal life and then lose it. This cannot be. There are clear statements in Scripture to the contrary. We must remember that no earthly parable can fully express all sides of eternal truth. Yet these words of the Lord Jesus are very very solemn words. Perhaps we shall more clearly understand the truth contained in them if we compare them with some words of St. Paul which teach similar truth. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians iii. 13-15). The apostle is writing about Christian service and he likens it to a building. It is possible he teaches, for a servant of Christ, whilst building on the One True Foundation (verse 11), to fail to put into his building such materials as can stand the test of fire with the result that one day all his life work will be burned up, proving that he has been utterly useless, and all his work completely wasted. This is what the Lord Jesus is teaching under the figure of the branch that does not bear fruit. A branch that does not bear fruit is a useless branch; its existence is a wasted existence; it is only fit for the fire.

How tremendously solemn this is. What a terrible, what a tragic thing it must be to be a Christian who is not bearing fruit! What a tragedy is the life of the careless Christian the lukewarm Christian, the sinning Christian, the idle Christian, the worldly Christian, the prayerless Christian! How very seriously concerned we all should be as to whether we are branches that are bearing fruit, or whether we are fruitless, useless branches.

WHICH ARE YOU?

These words are certain to be read by many a fruitless Christian. Are you one of them? Do you know, as you read these words, that your Christian life has been a fruitless life? It is not necessary to explain to you what is meant by ­”fruitless”; you simply know that you are not fulfilling the purpose for which God saved you, just as a branch that is not bearing fruit is not fulfilling the purpose for which it is in the vine. Probably you judge your condition by certain indications in your life some sin that has dominion over you, a failure to witness, a lack of prayer, a distaste for Bible Reading, no power in service, a love for worldly things. This may not be due to your carelessness or indifference. You may have made great efforts to become a fruitful Christian, to witness, to pray, to overcome sin. Yet you look back on failure. You know there has been no result. On the other hand, it may be that you have just not let ” fruit-bearing ” concern you very much. You are a Christian (you tell yourself), your sins are forgiven, you will go to heaven. That is the most important thing. You have not felt that these other things matter very much. Your life is fruitless because you have not been particularly concerned whether you bear fruit or not. But whether your life is fruitless because of your carelessness and indifference, or in spite of much deep concern, and longing, and striving, you know it is fruitless.

THE TRAGEDY OF A FRUITLESS LIFE

Before we go any further with the study of this parable, will you read again those words of the Lord Jesus about the fruitless branch, and in His Presence think for a moment of the tragedy of such a life.

What a tragedy it is in the sight of God. What a disappointment and grief to the husbandman is the branch that bears no fruit, that completely fails to fulfil the purpose for which it is in the vine. What a grief to the heart of the Great Husbandman must your fruitless Christian life be, a continual frustration of the wonderful purposes of grace He had in mind when He placed you in Christ.

What a tragedy is such a life as far as others are concerned. There are weary, fainting, thirsty, bitter lives in this wilderness world of ours; these lives are coming into contact with yours every day. It is God’s purpose that they should be refreshed and strengthened and sweetened by the fruit which you shall bear. And because you are a fruitless branch, these weary, thirsting, perishing ones have passed you by unrefreshed, unblessed. Oh, the tragedy of it! Little have you realized the harm you have been doing; the love and joy and peace of which others have been robbed because you have borne no fruit.

What a tragedy such a life is from your own point of view. It is a wasted life. A branch is only in the vine for one purpose, to bear fruit. If it fails to do that, its existence is wasted. As far as its usefulness is concerned, it might as well not be there. It is no use at all. Your fruitless life is a wasted, useless life. At the judgment seat of Christ you will suffer loss. All the produce of those wasted years will be burned up. What awful, solemn mystery surrounds those words of the apostle, “But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire “.

This then is the first lesson we must learn from this parable, that if our life is a fruitless life it is a tragically wasted life, useless to God, useless to man, and an irreparable loss to ourselves. Oh, let us ask God to teach us how we may bear fruit to His satisfaction and glory, to the blessing of others, and to the full salvation of our own souls.

II. “THE BRANCH CANNOT . . .”

Now we come to a second lesson of the utmost importance.

“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me . . . for without Me (or, severed from Me), ye can do nothing.”

So we learn that a branch cannot bear fruit by any effort of its own. Severed from the vine the branch can do nothing. That fact is so obvious that we are inclined to pass it by without further thought, and so miss the far-reaching implications of this part of the parable. Think of it for a moment. There is a branch, severed from the vine, lying before you on the ground. How utterly helpless it is to produce any fruit! If a branch could have feelings and understanding it might be deeply conscious of its uselessness, and the danger in which it lay of being cast upon the fire. It might be full of the deepest longings after a life of fruitfulness. It might make mighty resolutions to do all in its power to produce fruit. But it would be utterly powerless to make any move towards satisfying those longings, or carrying out those resolutions. That severed branch is a picture of the most complete helplessness.

“As the branch cannot . . . NO MORE can ye.” Will you sit still a moment now, and let those two words “no more” sink deep into your heart? You can do no more towards producing the fruit which God requires in your life than can that severed branch. NO MORE. You may be deeply convicted of your useless, fruitless, Christian life. You may be stirred up to a great longing that things should be different you may have been planning and contriving and resolving in order that your life may be different in future. But you can do nothing. No stirring up, no effort, no determination, no strength of will, can make your life what God wants it to be. ” As the branch cannot . . . no more can ye.”

UTTER HELPLESSNESS

Do not misunderstand this teaching of the Lord Jesus. Many Christians who think that they have received this truth have not even got a glimpse of the depth to which it goes. Unconsciously they are placing upon it limitations imposed by their own preconceived ideas of the possibilities that are in human nature. The Lord Jesus is not teaching that, because of your natural weakness, you need help to bring you up to a standard of life which you cannot reach yourself; that by your own goodness and strength and courage you can get so far, but not far enough to reach God’s standard; that if you made an immense effort it would help a great deal, but because of your natural limitations that effort needs to be supplemented by His power. That a better, stronger, braver man than you are could get further than you can get. That is not what He is teaching at all. This statement goes far, far deeper than that.

Go back to the parable again and ask yourself the question, How much can a branch do toward producing fruit? Can a branch have some part in the production of the fruit? Is it conceivable that if we found a branch clever enough and strong enough it could produce fruit of itself? The answers are obvious. The branch does not possess in itself even the smallest glimmerings of fruit-producing life. The best branch is as helpless as the worst; the strongest as helpless as the weakest, the most beautiful as helpless as the ugliest. The branch whatever its natural condition, cannot….

“No more” can you. It is not a question of whether you are strong or weak; good or bad, brave or cowardly; clever or foolish; experienced or inexperienced. Whatever your natural condition you are absolutely helpless to begin to live the life God requires. Whatever your gifts, accomplishments virtues, experience may be, they are of no more help to you in producing fruit than is natural beauty in a branch. In you (that is, in your flesh) dwells no good thing, not the first faint flickerings of the life that produces fruit.

Hundreds of Christians never find that out. They spend their lives fighting against the admission of it. They know they come short, but they think it is not so short but that a greater effort, backed up by the Holy Spirit’s power, will put them right. And so they ask His help, and try again.

AN ” UP AND DOWN ” EXPERIENCE

What is the result? The result is what is sometimes called an ” up and down” Christian experience. When they appear to be advancing in the Christian life; when they receive indications that God is blessing their service; when they get some definite, unmistakable answer to prayer; when they overcome some temptation; when they discover within themselves some thought of holiness, some virtue, some desire for the things of God, then they are “up”. On the other hand, when they are conscious of failure and lack of progress; when they see no blessing in their work; when prayer is apparently unanswered; when sin gets the better of them; when they get some glimpse of the corrupt, sinful state of their natural hearts, then they are “down.” They are “up” when they appear to be producing fruit, and “down” when they can see no fruit; ever battling against the admission of the truth that “as the branch cannot . . . no more can” they. They know nothing of the rest which remains for the people of God, and which can only be entered by ceasing from their works. Their life is one continual effort to produce fruit for God’s glory, to prove to themselves and to God that the branch can, after all, do a little to help itself.

There are many earnest Christians who have lived like this for years, and have become more and more disappointed with their Christian experience. There are many young Christians, who, having begun well, have gradually slipped back, as they have proved by bitter experience how utterly unable they are to reach the standard which God requires. Are you like that? You know your life is fruitless, but it is not because you do not care. You are tremendously concerned that your life should bear fruit; you have tried your hardest to be the best for God, and you have failed. “It is no good,” you say, “I cannot be a keen Christian.” Is that what you say? Is it? Do you see what you are admitting? You are admitting the very thing that God has been asking you to admit! The Lord Jesus said, “As the branch cannot . . . no more can ye,” and you didn’t believe it; so He has been letting you find it out by experience. And now, at last, you say, ” It’s no good. I cannot….” You are admitting at last what He has been trying to tell you all along. You have come to the place where He can begin to do His work in you.

Troubled Christian, lately you have said often, almost in despair, “I cannot.” It is true; yet if you could but see, that is no reason for despair, but rather for joyful expectancy that your barren days are past, for now God is going to show you what HE is waiting to do in those who “cannot,” and who admit it. You cannot. Consent fully to that position of complete powerlessness. Do not be afraid to let go every hope of being able to make the smallest contribution towards the production of real fruit. Turn your back on self, and refuse to expect any good thing from it any more. And now listen as He tells you of the Life which is going to do through the branch what the branch can never do by any effort of its own.

III. “I IN YOU”

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” “Abide in Me, and I in you.”

We have thought of the tragedy of the fruitless branch, and seen how impossible it is for a branch to produce fruit by any effort of its own. Now the vine and the branches have another lesson to teach us a lesson which only those are prepared to learn who have in some degree mastered the former lessons.

If God expects me to bear fruit in my Christian life, and if I cannot produce that fruit by any effort of my own, how then does He intend that fruit to be produced? We have the answer in this parable. The fruit is produced by the life of the vine in the branch. God intends that the fruit in my life should be produced by the Life of the Lord Jesus living in me. “I live,” said the Apostle Paul, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2. 20). “Not I,” not by any strength or goodness of my own, no more than there is any life in the branch because of anything the branch has done,-“but Christ liveth in me,”-His life is working in me the things which are pleasing to God, just as the life of the vine works in the branch to bring forth fruit.

This is God’s plan for every Christian that the Lord Jesus, Who lives in us by His Holy Spirit, should work in us all things that are pleasing to God, bringing forth fruit in us to God’s glory. When you have seen that, you have seen the greatest secret of the life which God wants you to live. The Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian, and His purpose is to do all the work that God requires, all the work which is necessary for the production of the fruit for which God is looking. Only those who have learned the lesson of the utter helplessness of the branch can fully appreciate this wonderful truth. Just in so far as you have grasped the great fact that you are utterly helpless even to begin to live a life which is well-pleasing to God will you understand the meaning of this, that God has given you the Holy Spirit to do ALL the work. His plan is not that the Holy Spirit should help you to bring forth fruit, any more than the vine helps the branch. It is not even that the Holy Spirit should work, and that you should help Him all you can. The branch cannot help the vine in any way. No. Christ must do ALL in you, even as the vine must do ALL in the branch.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Let me emphasize that, for it is a truth that we are so slow to learn. How much does the vine life do towards producing the fruit? Everything. How much does the branch do to help? Nothing. How much must the life of the Holy Spirit do in you? Everything. How much must you do to help? Nothing. Just as Christ in His death and resurrection did everything for your justification, and you did nothing, but simply accepted the benefits of a work finished nineteen centuries before you were born so Christ in you must do everything for your sanctification, and you must do nothing, but simply accept the benefits of a work which He will complete as surely as He has begun it.

“But,” you ask,” must I not do anything? ” No, nothing. ” Oh, but now you are going too far. You can’t carry things to that length. Of course I must do something. Mustn’t I read my Bible and pray; mustn’t I witness for Christ; mustn’t I surrender everything to Him; mustn’t I do good works whenever I get the opportunity?” Do you know what you are like? You are like a branch saying, “It’s no good you telling me that I mustn’t do anything in order to produce fruit. That’s going too far. Of course I must do something. Mustn’t I produce fruit?” I should say to that branch, “Yes, of course you must produce fruit, but you’ll never produce fruit by trying to. It is not the fruit you need to be concerned about, but the life. If once you have got that, the fruit will come all right.” And so I reply to you, Yes, of course you must read your Bible and pray and witness and do good works; of course you must surrender completely to Christ, but don’t you see, all these things are part of the fruit. You cannot do them by trying to do them; you can only imitate them; you can only be like a branch tying on artificial fruit, because it does not understand that real fruit must be the result of the vine life within. Leave the fruit for the moment. Apart from Him you can do NOTHING; and prayer and witness and surrender are all included in that “nothing.” Every single bit of fruit has to be the result of the life of Christ in you. It is the Life you need to be concerned about; if you have gotthat, the fruit will surely follow.

HIS PERFECT WORK

So leave the fruit just now. Forget, just for the moment, about the need for Bible reading, prayer, witness, and all the other things, and concentrate your thought on the Life which must be the source of all these things. That Life is Christ in you. He lives in you by the Holy Spirit. He waits and longs to do His perfect work in you. He cannot do it while you try to do it for Him. Is that what has been wrong with your Christian life-you have been trying to do His work for Him? You have read the Bible and tried to understand its meaning. You have succeeded in getting quite a lot of it into your head, and perhaps can give very nice addresses from it, but it does not live to you. You have tried to pray, but it has been a burden, and you know little of real fellowship with God. You have witnessed but there has been little power. You have tried to surrender everything to God, but more and more you are finding that your sinful heart does not want His will. You are trying to do His work for Him; that is your trouble. You have taken upon yourself the responsibility of a work for which He wants you to cast the responsibility on Him. It is His work to make His Word live to you, to open the eyes of your understanding to behold wondrous things out of His law. It is His work to witness with your spirit that you are a child of God, till prayer becomes to you the glad fellowship of a child with an infinitely loving Father. It is His work to give you power for service, filling you with Himself, and making perfect His strength in your weakness, so that, as you lean on His strength, things happen as a result of your witness that are worthy of His power. It is His work to bring you to that complete surrender which He requires, shining the light of His Presence upon the things displeasing to Him, filling you with His love till you see that it is best for Him to have His way with you. This is all His work. You cannot do it for Him. You cannot in any way prepare yourself for His working. You must stop your futile efforts and look for Him. He is in you, God’s full provision for all you need. He waits to do His work, if you will let Him. He will work so surely, so wonderfully, if you will give up your feeble trying and cast yourself on Him. He will perfect the work which you cannot even begin. Will you not look to Him now, tell Him that you are not going to interfere with His working any more, and ask Him to complete in you the work which He has begun?

“Work on then Lord, till on my soul
Eternal light shall break,
And in Thy likeness perfected,
I satisfied shall wake.”

IV. “ABIDE IN ME”

We come now to a critical point in our studies of the Parable of the Vine. We have seen how necessary it is that we should bear fruit to the glory of God; we have seen that we cannot bear this fruit by any effort of our own; and we have seen that God’s way is for the fruit to be produced by the Life of Christ in us. The questions that naturally come to our lips at this point are: But how is all this to become real in my experience? How can I enter from a life of fruitlessness and failure into this life in which Christ, by His Holy Spirit, is working in me? How can my nothingness be connected with His fulness? How is this wonderful prospect, of having the Holy Ghost working in me, making Christ real, making the Bible a new and living Book, making service fruitful and prayer a joy-how is it to change from a wonderful prospect to a personal reality? What must I do in order that all this may be real in my life?

A VERY SIMPLE STEP

Before we look at the answer which the Lord Jesus gives to these and similar questions, let me emphasize one thing. The step from a life of striving and struggling and emptiness, of failure and feebleness, into a life of fulness and power and satisfaction, is a very, very simple one. I want to lay great stress on that point. It is very important. Will you accept it and believe it before we go any farther? You can begin to enjoy all the blessing we have been thinking of by a very simple step.

“Oh, how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven’s easy, artless, unencumber’d plan.”

Satan will try to make you think it is complicated. He will tell you of all sorts of things that you ought to be and do. Do not listen to him. Leave alone, for the moment, all the things that you ought to be and do. As we have already seen, they are the fruit. ” I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ ” (II Cor. 11:3). The way to this life of fulness is very simple indeed.

Now listen to the words of the Lord Jesus:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (verses 4, 5).

Here, then, is the simple lesson that we have to learn now. We can put it like this. All that the branch has to do is to remain in the vine, and so the life of the vine will remain in the branch.

“Abide in me and I in you.” “Abide” simply means “remain.” The branch is in the vine. In order to have life flowing through, it has to remain there, that is all.

When you received the Lord Jesus, God forgave your sins and placed you in Christ. In order that His life may flow through, you have only to remain where you have been placed.

“Yes,” you say, “but what exactly does that mean?”

Let me answer with another question. What did you do in order to have your sins forgiven, and to be placed in Christ? Think back to the time of your conversion. You heard that the Lord Jesus had died that you might be forgiven. And you just trusted Him to save you because He had died. Very simple, wasn’t it? Forgiveness was there for you all the time. It became yours when you took it. That taking is called FAITH. Then God placed you in Him. So all you did in order to be placed in Christ was simply to trust in Him.

HOW TO “ABIDE”

Now, how are you to remain, to “abide” in Him? In exactly the same way as you were placed in Him. Listen while He tells you that you are a branch in Him, the True Vine. And then just simply trust Him that His life is flowing through you.

So many people make the mistake of thinking that they got placed in Christ by trusting, and that after that they must bear fruit by trying. No. You remain in Christ in the same simple way that you were placed in Him. BY FAITH.

Faith is hearing God’s word and acting on it. That is how you abide in Christ. You hear His word that you are a branch. Then you take Him at His word. You say, “Lord, if I am a branch and in Thee, I thank Thee for it. I thank Thee, that just now I am in Thee, and Thy life flowing through. So I shall no more bother and try and struggle to be a Christian, but live my ordinary life counting that Thou art living through me.”

TAKING YOUR POSITION

You see, it is just a matter of taking a position that is already yours. So many Christians will not take the glorious position which is theirs in Christ, and so they miss all the blessing. It is as if a very rich man owning a great mansion and a vast estate became possessed with the idea that he was poor, and shut himself up in a small attic at the top of his mansion, and wished all day that he was rich. He dressed in the shabbiest clothes, and ate the scantiest fare, and sat on the floor because he thought he could not afford a chair, and made baskets in order to earn a living. And all day long he wondered how he could get enough money to buy a big mansion and own a vast estate. There he would be, living in a little, cramped room with scarcely enough food to eat, and dressed almost in rags, existing like a pauper. Why? Simply because he had a position which he would not take.

But it would be a very simple thing for him to change his method of living. He would need first to have his eyes opened to the fact that he was actually living in a great mansion and that it was all his. Once he had seen that, it would be the simplest thing to change his whole life. He would only have to act on the knowledge that he had. He need not even leave the room to begin with; he need not change his ragged clothes. There and then, sitting on the floor of that attic in all his apparent poverty, he could take the step that would be the entry into a new life. He need only say, “Why, I see it now. I have all that I have been wanting. All that I have most desired is mine. From now on I will live as if I had it, and be a fool no longer.”

The devil has filled the minds of many Christians with the delusion that they are poor, and in their poverty they must work and grind and toil in order to buy the blessings which are already theirs in Christ. Perhaps he has deluded you in that way, and now you are just beginning to see that all that you need you have in Christ. That is the fact. There is no need of yours which is not fully met in Him. You cannot name a need which He does not fill. All you need you have-now-in Him. And you are in Him. You only need take the position which is already yours.

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