In this week’s main passage, Jesus gave His disciples a clear picture of His relationship with them. Notice the wording carefully. The last verse does not say, “He who abides in Me and I in him can bear much fruit,” or “can now choose to bear much fruit,” or “might bear much fruit.” It simply says that this person “bears much fruit.” That is, it is a natural expression, a natural result of abiding in Christ and Him abiding in us.

Abiding in Christ when believing He is who He says He is leads to behaving a certain way. This is counter to legalism—this is living a life of belief.

Sometimes the idea of depending on Christ doesn’t bring a good reaction. It’s a natural (albeit sinful) reaction of the human heart to “shape up” in its own strength, to get credit for all the good actions and expressions of love. This desire can be exacerbated by the observation that people who don’t even know God are doing well enough (David confirms this from his own perspective in Psalm 73).

The answer to both hesitations is the same: reality. In reality, no one can change through his own power. It’s as ridiculous as de-spotting a leopard or drastically changing the color of someone’s skin (Jer. 13:23). In reality, no one can be credited with any of the kind, good, or selfless things they do—they’re all simply evidence of God working in and through them (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6; 2:13). So they would be taking credit for something that they’re not actually responsible for.

The way to truly change, in a Christ-centered, lasting way, is to embrace reality. Embrace the reality that all humans are powerless in and of themselves to change (Jer. 13:23). Embrace the reality that God not only supplies the ability to change, but the desire to change (Phil. 2:13). Embrace the reality that God changes hearts in a way that humans are powerless to do, and by doing so, causes willing hearts to walk in the paths of good works, kindness, and love (Ezek. 36:26, 27). By living in this reality, by fully depending on, looking to, and trusting in Christ, people change. As Paul succinctly put it, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Col. 2:6, ESV).

Walk in Him forever. Jesus is not a set of training wheels. He is not a charger for batteries, nor is He a temporary helper to get someone along their way. Jesus is more necessary for physical and spiritual life (and growth and usefulness and ability and everything else) than oxygen itself. All people need Him more often than they do air. Walking with Christ is not the ramp-up to a life of self-sufficient goodness. Instead, it is the journey, the freedom, and the joy of the rest of life. Relation to Christ is one of eternal dependence and love.