As we begin to shape our prayer life around the theme of “where else can we go”, we begin to be partakers of the divine life that Peter spoke about in his second letter. “As we increasingly integrate our life into the spiritual world of God, our life increasingly takes on the substance of the eternal”. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy) There is a flow of life and depth that reaches beyond the temporal. Paul would explain this reality with these words. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17.28) It is interesting to note that this truth was woven into the fabric of the message that Paul preached in Athens. Surrounded by a host of other worldviews and belief systems, Paul sets the standard by which all others must be judged. It is in him that we live and move and have our being. Our culture is bombarded with belief systems and worldviews that offer various forms of satisfaction and meaning. It is in this reality that followers of Jesus come to a place of confession where they can say with the disciples, “where else can we go”? This position is followed by joining with Paul in saying that it is ‘in Him’ that we live and move and have our being. He is the source of life and the one by whom we partake of divine life.
It should come as no surprise that both the disciples words and Paul’s confession is the inevitable outcome of what Jesus said about fruit. He said that, “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) It is a simple picture, but all encompassing in understanding that there is nowhere else to go to find life and that it is in him that we live and move and have our being. Jesus reveals himself as the true source of life in the vine and that we are dependent on him as branches. To be a partaker of divine life we must come to the point that not only is there no other option but that we are completely dependent on him for inner wholeness and life.
In the passage in John 15 not only does Jesus tell us that he is the true source of life and our position in relation to him as branches he goes on to say that apart from him we can do nothing. Certainly, there is no way that we can live out of the divine life separate from him. Many would agree with that statement, yet our belief and practice seem at times to be in conflict. On one side we would easily acknowledge that Jesus is the true source of life and that apart from him we can do nothing. On the other side we are drawn into taking matters in our own hands and to some measure creating our own life. This conflict may be more pronounced in those of us who are involved in the emergency services. The inherent cultural reality is that we arrive on scene, mitigate the issue and return to quarters. This reality establishes a mindset that may cause us to lose track of the fact that we are not in charge of our spiritual life nor are we able to create lasting eternal fruit. There is an undercurrent in our thinking that pushes us to try and do something to enhance our spiritual life.
Certainly, there is a place for the spiritual disciplines but what is the nagging root that causes so many to try and create their own spiritual fruit and what is the answer? The root of the problem begins in the Garden of Eden. God creates the garden and Adam and Eve. In the course of time sin enters the process and the separation between the created and the creator occurs. This separation sets the stage for the undercurrent in our lives that causes us to try and create our own spiritual fruit. We must understand our beginnings.
In the beginning we were created. We are designed by God to be dependent. It was never his intention or his design for us to be independent, yet the very nature of sin is rebellion and independence from him. This independent nature is what Jesus is confronting when he tells us that he is the true vine and that we are branches. As uncomfortable as this statement makes all of us, we are created to be dependent on him. It is in this place of dependency that we are set in the right place in terms of our life in God. He truly becomes the vine and we become the branches. It is in this kind of dependent relationship that his life flows and we become partakers of the divine life and find our everyday life intertwined with divine life. This choice of dependency is not a process of mental assent and verbal agreement but rather an expression of purposeful prayer and confession. It is one thing to acknowledge to one another our dependency on the Lord for all things. It is quite another to acknowledge our dependency on him in prayer before him.
There is an inherent unease with this approach because we feel vulnerable and exposed. Yet it is in this place that we are touched and transformed by the Lord and find a deeper expression of the divine life being revealed through us. In this place of vulnerability we find ourselves set more firmly on Jesus as our foundation.
by Michael Banes, Forge Joplin Co-Director