In John 15, Jesus gives us the secrets of a fruit-bearing life and warns His disciples of the dangers of an unfruitful life. First, the fruit-bearing POSITION is to abide in Christ, as without Him, we cannot produce anything resembling fruit that pleases God. Second, the PURPOSE of fruit-bearing is two-fold: it glorifies God, and it proves we belong to Him. Third, He gives us the PROMISE of being an obedient, abiding, fruit-bearing disciple: answered prayer and full-to-overflowing joy.
Position – abiding in Christ
Purpose – glorify God and gives evidence we are truly His
Promise – answered prayer and a joy-filled life
All these truths give us hope and encouragement as we strive to follow the Savior and motivate us to be fruitful disciples. There’s a fourth “P” in Jesus’ words, however, that we don’t like as much: PURGE or PRUNE.
One would think that Jesus would prune the branches that do not bear fruit, not the ones that are already fruitful. Instead, He says that a branch that does not bear fruit is taken away, dries up and is eventually cast into the fire. This is not to say that a Christian can lose their salvation, but instead indicates that the branch was never connected to the vine, but only appeared to be.
In our yard, we have two small shrubs that have grown up within each other, an azalea and a nandina. Every summer I find myself hacking at the azalea, which doesn’t belong there. At a glance, it appears to be one plant, but their “fruit” (in this case, the color of the leaves) gives evidence that they are not. This is the picture Jesus is making. A person can appear to belong to Him, but not be connected to Him. In fact, they are still rooted in their sin; they do not produce the fruit of an abiding branch; in the end, they will prove to be an imposter.
PRUNING is the work of God on the fruit-bearing believer that allows them to flourish and produce even more fruit. The word means to cleanse from impurity; in Jesus’ example of pruning, He illustrates a clearing away of useless shoots, those things that prevent the branch from reaching its full potential. Thayer’s Lexicon describes this metaphor as “he whose inmost nature has been renovated does not need radical renewal, but only to be cleansed from every several fault into which he may fall through contact with the unrenewed world.” This takes us back to Jesus’ answer to Peter’s protests when He knelt to wash His feet. Jesus said that “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:10). In other words, we are made holy in position by salvation, but our flesh picks up the dirt of this world, and that is what needs to be “pruned” away in our lives.
We ought to expect that anything that keeps us from bearing fruit as a true disciple of Christ will be removed from our lives. Sometimes we do that for each other, as Jesus urged the disciples to continue “washing one another’s feet.” As a body, we point out blind spots, hold each other accountable and tell each other the truth. Sometimes the Vinedresser prunes us, orchestrating our lives and directing our steps to remove distractions, influences, and temptations that hinder our fruitfulness. In any case, if we’re going to bear fruit for God, we should expect the occasional pruning!
Have you been “pruned” lately? Don’t give up, even though it may be difficult, unpleasant and painful to your flesh. Submit to the Vinedresser. He’s a Master Gardener, and the results will be spectacular.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)