Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)(NIV)
Most of us contain in the palm of our hand one of the most powerful devices ever created by mankind. I’m not referring to a miniaturized nuclear reactor or warhead. Rather, I’m talking about a smartphone. It’s been said smartphones of today contain more computing power than the computers NASA used to place men on the moon. With a smartphone, you can literally have a worldwide reach. There are people who run profitable businesses almost solely from these devices. With a smartphone, you do not need to depend upon media outlets to get your message out. Smartphones were credited as a powerful tool in the “Arab Spring” uprisings several years back as they captured and shared video footage of Middle Eastern governments’ brutality against its citizens. With a smartphone, you can literally create regime change. Think about the next time you’re using your phone to simply play Candy Crush or Words With Friends.
There is a time when the smartphone’s power and capabilities are severely curtailed. That’s when the phone is in “airplane mode.” As the name suggests, it was designed to allow for the safe operation of a phone while flying on an airplane. The radio frequency at which smartphones receive signals from carriers is said to interfere with planes navigational equipment. In airplane mode, a phone still has some functionality but is unable to send or receive signals to the outside world. It becomes nothing more than a glorified PDA. (Does anyone still remember those?)
There are other times when a smartphone is in “broadcast mode” but the signal is weak. Who among us has not had the experience of only being able to decipher every other word in a conversation with someone else or having a call drop completely? The results are essentially the same as being in airplane mode
We who call the name of Christ have abundant power at our disposal. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV) is not merely rhetoric. However, this power is not ours to wield at every whim. We cannot conjure God’s power through some magical incantation. This was the sin of Simon the Sorcerer (see Acts 8:9-24). God’s divine enablement, his grace, is available to us only to the extent that we are in service to his will.
The impartation of God’s grace depends on two way of communication. We must be able to both send and receive a signal from God. Too often in our Christian journey, we attempt to go it alone or else not maintain communion with God and end up with poor results. We see this played out in the life of the Apostle Peter:
Example of airplane mode
Example of dropped call
Action: At Jesus’ call, Peter walks on the water. (Mat. 14:29)
Result: Peter sees the wind, becomes afraid and starts to sink. Cries out to Jesus for help. Jesus saves him. (Mat. 14:30-31)
Example of strong signal
Action: Peter preaches to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-40)
Result: About three thousand people were saved and baptized. (Acts 2:41)
While Peter is highlighted to illustrate the three communication modes with God, Moses and David and countless other Biblical figures could have been used to make the point. The truth is that all Christians find themselves operating in all three modes at various times. We are extremely vulnerable to operating in airplane and weak signal modes. The scriptural disciplines of prayer and Bible study and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper are constant reminders for us to strengthen our divine signal. Jesus poignantly reminded his disciples “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “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 15:4-5)(NIV)