Monday, October 13, 2008

Pruning is Good....Real Good

“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 15:2
Welcome 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


Mary said...

Wow. Good stuff. I was re-reading John 15 this morning in The Message and verse 5 really jumped out at me. It says: I am the Vine, you are the branches. When yo're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.


In your lesson today I was thinking you know we get the focus so wrong sometimes. It's not about how beautiful our branch looks - how pretty the grapes are - but that we are connected to the Vine and totally dependent on Him. We can get so caught up in our 'works' that we forget our true purpose - being in intimate relationship with Him.


Dana Wilson said...

I've been "pruned" of some very "good" things; things that don't contradict Scripture or transgress any of the Ten Commandments. I've found over the years that pruning seems to serve a couple of purposes in my life. One is to eliminate distractions (even good ones) that keep me from focusing intently on Christ. The other is to prepare me for upcoming "bad weather" if you will. The Gardener knows when a freeze is coming and will prune a plant to help it survive bitter cold. In these instances, it is only in hindsight that I am able to see God's provision in the pruning.

All pruning is for my good and God's glory. I don't have to understand, agree or find it particularly convenient. I choose to submit with gratitude, to trust and obey.

Excellent lesson, Natalie. I look forward to Wednesday.

Tammy said...

well this shed a whole new light on pruning...I hadn't thought of God pruning the good too...that is something that struck me very deep to the core...I am not sure where that will lead but I will be back on Wednesday to read more...and well see where this pruning leads me
thanks for thought provoking reflections

Inksstillwet said...

So much food in these words to satisfy the soul! I have seen Him prune the good in my life so that the best is waiting and capable of being consumed. I love that He pursues us and that He is the initiator in a relationship with Him. I know that He will not take us past a point that He is trying to prune because He wants us to understand the process. So many times in our instant gratification society, we can have that same mentality in our relationship with God. We have to patiently, prayerfully consider His ways, His thoughts because they are not our own. Thank you for this lesson!

Anonymous said...

Oh the title of this one grabbed me and held on tight. I am in the midst of this season now it seems. And it is hard. I posted about it on my blog back in August, "My Pitcher". Drawing me back to Himself is what He is doing. Making sure the service does not become primary.
And yes, pruning is good...real good.
Thank you Nat!