“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2Welcome back to week two of The Vineyard! We're just getting started, but if you're new here head on back to last weeks to get caught up. Were in John 15 where Jesus is teaching His disciples about being a Branch on The Vine.
Remember, this time around it's just Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! Here we go...
I’m not a gardener, but from what I can see, those people really love doing it! I don’t mind buying some already flowering plants, i.e. mums, and sticking those suckers in the ground. That’s easy. What I’m not all that interested in is getting the ground ready, making room, tilling the dirt, planting the seed, waiting, waiting, weeding, waiting, and then ooooo, there’s a flower. I just don’t get much out of it. The problem is… I’m impatient.
However, there are those blessed people who exhibit patience far better than I do that love to garden. Get their hands in the dirt. Wait for the perfect bloom. Feed it. Fertilize it. Watch for it.
They create their garden and it is precious to them.
Think about that in relation to Christ and what He said about God. One of the most awe-inspiring things about God is that He is a Pursuer. He created us in pursuit of relationship. He died for us in pursuit of reconciliation. He calls us in pursuit of His glory. He plants us in Christ in pursuit of intimacy.
He initiates everything.
In my own life right now, I am experiencing the love of God and His pursuit to draw me deeper in Him. It’s a strange thing, yet it’s familiar and welcomed. But, it wasn’t until my sister-in-law pointed out that God is the one who initiates relationship did I find myself struck with wonder, humility, and excitement at the idea that He pursues me.
That’s why this description of Him being the Gardener is so precious. We are the very creation of His heart, and just as we work in our natural gardens to have them produce the best features, He does so in our hearts.
We often think of being pruned as God cutting off the bad. However, that’s not always the case. Sure, there are always things that He must get out our of our lives. He gets after our sin-self and disciplines us. That’s a kind of pruning. But the pruning in this passage is something else. Crucifixion of self is the work of refinement, holiness, and purity. I believe John 15 pruning is the work of focus, excellence, production, and humility.
When a vine keeper comes to prune a vine, he cuts off that which is producing fruit. He even cuts the branch all the way back to the vine. He cuts off fruit! Good, plump fruit. And, he cuts off long, vibrant branches. Cutting off of the more immature fruit is called Green Harvesting. It’s for the purpose of decreasing yield and is most often used to produce fine wine. By removing these grapes while they are still green induces the vine to put all its energy into developing the remaining grapes. (ref: squidoo)
There are times in our lives when Christ will prune out of our lives things that, while producing some good things, need to be stopped in order to produce a greater return.
It is between you and Christ what those things will be, but the best news is is that when He prunes He cuts you all the way back to Him. He will draw your focus back on to the strength and sap of the vine in order that we work out of His strength, His Spirit, His leading and His love to produce Spirit-fruit.
The branch of the vine produces its best, sweetest fruit when all things that would sap us of His perfect fulfilling Spirit are cut away and we are left close to Him to bear His abundant fruit.
If we grow and grow in Christ, and we use all that He has given us in service for His Kingdom, there is a danger of those long branches of service becoming our focus and what we trust in.
There is the pruning. He cuts back even the good we do to ensure the Good we become. As Andrew Murray says, “God has to bring us to the end of ourselves…” The less of ourselves, and the more of Christ the greater He can use us for His glory.
We tend to measure our lives by what we are doing. Christ measures our lives by who we are becoming and who we are bringing along side to become as well – Christ-followers.
There is still that whole issue about Him cutting of those who don’t produce fruit. Ouch. I’m not going to be so presumptuous to know who those people are, but also have the ability to see someone who calls themselves a Christ follower, and well, there ain’t much to show that to be true. I’ll let Jesus do His job there, and I’ll stick to focusing on being a branch that produces fruit! How about you?
“There is not a plant of which spirit can be so abundantly distilled as the vine. And there is not a plant that so soon runs into wild wood, that hinders its fruit, and therefore needs the merciless pruning.” Andrew Murray, The True Vine