Since January 1st of this year, I have been doing a deep dive into the teachings of the vine and branches in John 15, and I am excited to continue to share what I have been learning.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes(the Greek for He prunes is also He cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “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.”
Jesus uses beautiful imagery to help us understand how we can have a divine partnership with Him.
Jesus is the vine > we are the branches > God is the gardener who prunes the branches.
The Holy Spirit flows through the vine to produce fruit on each branch.
To remain in Christ we must trust in the merciful pruning process of God.
To abide in Christ is to accept the pruning of our hearts as a lifesaving process for staying connected and thriving on the vine. Don’t resent your trials or numb your emotional pain, because if you do, you may miss the lessons God is trying to teach you that are necessary for your salvation. Open your heart to become aware of how and why God is pruning your heart.
One definition of the word remain is to be left after the removal, loss, destruction of all else. This aptly describes what happens after pruning.
I know what it feels like to be left after the removal, loss and destruction of all else. Last year, the death of my sister and mother, my divorce and moving to a new location was painful, discouraging and sad. But I have chosen to remain in Christ. To stay put. To dig deep into God’s Word in order to understand why God has pruned me so thoroughly – a pruning that feels like my branch was cut down to a stub.
Have you ever felt like you are being pruned down to a stub? Loss of loved ones, finances, possessions, influence, position or opportunity can be God pruning your life so that your heart will be redirected towards a greater purpose that will produce more fruit in your life. Pruning is a time to refocus rather than retreat.
Why is pruning so necessary?
For the physical vine, the gardener’s pruning requires the removal of dead, diseased or damaged stems. Dead stems attract insects and invite diseases to develop. Pruning cuts, rids and removes anything superfluous or undesirable.
For the spiritual vine, God’s Word helps remove all the dead and diseased thought patterns from our minds because these thought patterns cause our hearts to become diseased: thoughts full of bitterness, complaints, discouragement, disbelief, cynicism, jealousy, pride, unforgiveness, competition, lust, greed, lack of love, apathy and the list goes on. Colossians 3:8-14
Pruning cuts out the bad so that new growth can occur.
Back in September 2018, I received a Stage 1 invasive breast cancer diagnosis. The treatment was to cut the bad tissue out of my right breast. My response was, “Sure thing, get it out! On the day of the surgery, my surgeon used some very sharp surgical instruments to precisely remove the bad tissue without harming the good tissue.
Just like this surgeon who used the surgical tools with skill and knowledge, God uses his power, wisdom and love in a merciful and thoughtful way so that we can remain in Christ and bear the fruit of the vine. God does not hack away at our hearts causing more damage than good.
Hebrews 4:12:-13 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
God’s word is the perfect tool for pruning us. It helps us to discern our intentions and thoughts. It is so sharp that it can remove the branches in our lives that are causing more harm than good. Also, God directs our pruning through the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit guides us “into all truth.” John 16:13
However, just like too much pruning can stress the vine and cause it to die, over pruning in our lives can cause harm to our faith and hearts.
This is where God’s mercy comes in.
God’s pruning of those who are remaining on the vine is for the purpose of stimulating growth in sparse areas and to restrict growth where to much growth is undesirable.
If you allow God to prune you, your life will be in perfect balance – even during a trial or in the middle of your pain. The good will be so good and the difficult will be full of purpose in your life.
God is intentional, appropriate and timely in his pruning of each soul on the vine. Consider these verses when you think of why God prunes us with mercy.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation (The Greek for temptation can also mean testing and tested) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Why does God prune us?
God prunes us so that He can answer more of our prayers. When we are pruned on the vine we learn to abide in Christ, which in turn results in the freedom to ask God “whatever you wish, and it will be done for you John 15:7.
God prunes us so that we will bring glory to Him. Giving glory to God is impossible in the heart of the person who does not have in mind the things of God but rather the things of men. But when remaining in Christ is your highest desire, then bringing glory to God is your main concern and in doing so God will lift you up. 1 Peter 5:6
God prunes us so that we will bear more fruit. Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. All of these attributes are so intricately woven into your mind and heart that they persist during the very difficult seasons of your life.
God prunes us to strengthen our salvation. When we choose to remain on the vine, the pruning of God strengthens our assurance of salvation and our heavenly inheritance from the Father. Hebrews 12:7-8 7 says that God’s discipline of us proves He is our father.
Questions to ponder:
- Are you remaining on the vine and receiving the life-giving benefits of abiding in Christ?
- Are you grateful for merciful pruning that God is doing in your life or do you resist it?.
- What can you name in your life today is an example of God pruning you so that you will be even more fruitful?