June 4

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

By saying that believers remain in him and he in them, Jesus is making it clear that Christianity is not something we put on externally.  We don’t put it on like clothes.  We don’t adopt it as a new lifestyle that focuses on our efforts, as do those who practice a holy lifestyle they have invented themselves.  Rather, Christian faith is a new birth brought about by God’s Word and Spirit.  A Christian must be a new person from the depths of the heart.  Once the heart is born anew in Christ, these fruits will follow: confession of the gospel, love, obedience, patience, purity, and so on.

In this passage, Christ warns his disciples that they must remain in the Word.  Remaining in the Word leads to genuine, newborn Christians.  These true Christians produce much fruit.  They guard themselves from the teaching that perverts God’s Word and that tries to make grapes from thistles and thorns.   This will never happen, however, because each kind produces its own kind.  Even if you teach about, strive for, and pile up good works, your nature won’t change.  You must first possess a new nature.  You won’t accomplish anything by striving and exhausting yourself.

The two types of works remain vastly different.  The one type of work is produced by human effort, while the other grows naturally.  The works we make up always require us to strive harder, but they never do as well as natural growth.  In contrast, natural growth stands, moves, lives, and does what it should naturally.  So Christ says, “All other human teaching cannot succeed, because it instructs people to make up works.  But if you remain in me, as natural braches remain on the vine, you will certainly produce good fruit.”

Martin Luther, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional

Edited by James C. Galvin

Timeless insights from one of the most important people in church history. Resounding across the centuries, Martin Luther’s prolific writings as a pastor, theologian, scholar, Bible translator, father, and more, remain powerful and richly relevant. Faith Alone is a treasury of accessible devotionals taken from Luther’s best writings and sermons from the years 1513 through 1546. This carefully updated translation retains the meaning, tone, and imagery of Luther’s works such as this gem:

Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. Faith should be first. It is faith—without good works and prior to good works—that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone. —Martin Luther

Through daily readings, Luther’s straightforward approach challenges you to a more thoughtful faith. Read one brief section a day or explore themes using the subject index in the back of the book. Faith Alone will deepen your understanding of Scripture and help you more fully appreciate the mystery of faith.

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