Removing the good things
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).
I have been thinking about plants. I don’t know much about plants other than you put them in soil, add sunlight and high-quality H2O, and voila – a plant. It seems like a simple, almost transactional process.
However, any kind of growth is not that simple. There are no vending machines for maturity. In John 15, Jesus says He is the vine, we are the branches, and we must abide in Him. Again, this seems like a simple, almost transactional process. But as any true disciple will tell you, following Jesus is anything but simple.
We know many of the essential ingredients and processes – prayer, Bible reading, the church – but John 15 gives us another key and vital process necessary for growing and bearing fruit: pruning.
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t identify the Father here as the Plant Waterer. He doesn’t even call Him the Planter or Gardener. While these descriptors may be accurate of God the Father, in this reference, Jesus calls the Father the vinedresser. Why? He prunes His branches.
As I understand it, the process of pruning takes away smaller or less healthy stems from a branch so that fewer but more robust stems may have increased nutrients and there more growth. Pruning also removes parts of the plant that don’t cause it to grow.
Later in John 15, Jesus says the nutrients that flow from Him, the true vine, come through His Words and commandments. In other words, by abiding in God’s Word, we abide with Christ – connected to the source of life.
If I am one of God’s branches attached to the vine of Christ, I wonder what it is that God the Father needs to prune so that the parts of me drawing life and spiritual nutrients from the Word can grow and flourish. What diverts my time away from the Bible?
We often assume God will only take away bad things in our lives to make us grow. As a vinedresser, we assume He is looking for the dead stems to tear away that we may be vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.
While right pruning does take away the dead or dangerous weight, it also takes away parts that provide some fruit so that more and greater fruit may grow. There is a parallel here with the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. In this parable, Jesus portrays a servant who has one amount of his master’s money but produces no more with it. The master’s response? Take it away and give it to the one who has 10 talents worth. In other words, he gets pruned.
In the Christian life, it is easy to give our time and attention to many good pursuits. As long as they are not bad things, we believe, they can stay in our lives, and we can flourish. God the vinedresser, however, may have a different view.
What are the things that draw time, energy and effort away from learning, trusting and applying God’s Word? If some things were cut out of your life – even good things – would you be more fruitful for Christ? What produces some Gospel fruit in your life but could provide more fruit if it were removed?
There are times as Christians we need not only examine our lives for bad things, but also for underperforming good things or activities that draw nutrients of time, energy and attention away from God’s Word and our obedience to it. A busy Christian is not necessarily a thriving Christian.
May we ask God the Spirit to examine our lives and show us where God the Father may need to prune our lives that we may most glorify God the Son.
“And I pray this; that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).