“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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 15:1-2
This well-known passage begins with very good news, and then adds some less encouraging truth.
The good news is that every unfruitful piece of your life, your unbelief, pride, fear, rejection, and sinfulness will all be “cut off” in Christ’s vicarious death on the cross.
The less than exciting news is that your good fruitful works will also be cut back to prepare a new season of fruitfulness.
Many people never get beyond the first phase. Christian life for them revolves around a never-ending, sin centred ritual of personal survival, where they are constantly confessing and committing sin. Both inner and outer fruitfulness is sadly lacking in such a life which hangs on to a minimum level of grace but never actually produces Christ honouring fruit. It is a dangerous place to be as the longevity of such a faith is always in doubt and, as John the Baptist said in Luke 3:9:
“The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
We are all called to bear fruit
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” John 15:16
How is this working out in your own life? Perhaps you are at the beginning of your Christian life, the sap is rising and there is great promise for future fruit. Or you may be in the midst of a fruitful time of gathering and growing. Whatever your age, you must have a testimony of fruit. If you’ve read this and feel convicted by a lack of fruit in your life…don’t despair! The very conviction you feel is a sign that the sap is still in you. Make a decision to turn away from every barren thing in your life and get back into the Word of God and worship. Nurture the soil of your heart and fill it afresh with the living seed of Christ. Fruit will follow…
Seasons of pruning
For many, you will have produced fruit in the past but may be feeling the hard cut of the blade as years of fruitful ministry seem to be swept away leaving you with nothing to show. Perhaps after a dynamic start you have encountered a “dark night of the soul”, and find it hard to get close to God. Trials and testings may have eaten away at the fabric of faith while relational breakdown may also have cut in on the fruit of forgiveness.
The works of many years may need to be passed over to others. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 2:21, found this a grievous thing:
“For a man may do his work with wisdom knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it.”
Persecution and trouble may also have ended the fruitful work of years in an instant.
The main thing is getting your perspective right. Let me explain.
I lived for many years in the South of France so had the first hand experience of living amongst vineyards. When the vine is pruned, its gangling branches, which have borne the grapes, are cut right back to the vulnerable infant bud which is so near the original gnarled vine.
So what is your perspective? Are you a branch or a bud? In our success orientated world we are so used to comparing our branches and grapes. No-one seems interested in a little bud.
Do you see your personal identity in the branch or the bud?
The branches are our works but the bud is our intimacy with Christ. Cultivate intimacy and you will come through the pruning with a renewed energy to grow again. Stay close to the True Vine and find your value and identity in the simple love relation with Jesus.
Someone once said:
“I am successful because I am loved by Christ and can love Him in return.”
He must have been a “bud” to say that!
Tears and dryness
When a vine is cut back it “bleeds” profusely. Sugary saps leaks out from the broken branches for days. When the “tears” stop, a desert time begins when the branch will “dry back” to the bud.
In the same way, leave time for the bereavement, the seasons of tears followed by the times of dryness. This natural process is preparing the way for a new season.
Indeed, may we all end up, “even more fruitful” bringing glory to our Father.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8