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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:5-8 (NIV)
Read: John 5:1-17
Consider: In the last post we looked at the seed and how it must die so that it can be productive. Today we consider the analogy of the vine and how the vine is pruned to make it produce more fruit. If you’ve ever seen grape vines growing, you will understand how hard back they are pruned and even with this ‘harsh’ treatment they are highly productive. Any time I’ve seen vines in a vineyard, I have been amazed how old and gnarled they look during their dormant phase, yet only a few months later they in leaf and bearing fruit. If the vineyard owner allowed the vine to grow without pruning, the vine would become less and less productive. It is the pruning back of unnecessary growth that causes the vine to put its energy into producing fruit.
Applying this to ourselves means allowing God to identify and deal with those things in our lives that are not fruitful, so that what is left becomes more productive. Take time to pray, asking God to reveal to you what needs to change in your life and also ask for the courage to face up to it.
It is striking in the verses above from John 15 that Jesus says ‘… apart from me you can do nothing’. Thankfully being fruitful is not a solo effort. We don’t do the pruning, God does. It might be painful and uncomfortable emotionally, but God has our ultimate good in mind.
While considering the theme if being fruitful, I was reminded of what God said to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. It says in Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number …’ Likewise, fruitfulness in the Christian life is not about replacing yourself on a one-for-one basis, but sharing the good news of the gospel to increase the number of followers of Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating concentrating on increasing the number of converts as some ‘altar calls’ have tended to do in the past. What I am saying is that a natural outcome of sharing the gospel is fruitfulness, but it is God alone who knows about the increase. This takes the pressure of us, as we don’t need to enter into number counting to measure success. If we did, we would be seeing the increase in purely human terms, where God sees it differently. God isn’t just interested in numbers, but also about an increase in personal holiness and commitment to him.
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 (NIV)
Pray: Father, we ask that you would confront us with those areas of unproductivity in our lives that need to change. Give us the courage to face them and the willingness to allow your Holy Spirit to do his work in our lives. Give us a desire to be fruitful branches in the true vine. Amen