Over the next few weeks in our Sunday morning service at NDC I will be preaching on being fruitful Christians. One of the aspects of being fruitful Christians is the experience of having God prune us. In fact Jesus talks about this in John 15 where he states: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit,”(v.2,3 NASB). The problem is as we’re going through this pruning process in our spiritual lives sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between God’s purging hand and God’s pruning hand. This metaphor of the vine and the branches would have been fully understood by Jesus’s listeners. He is not introducing a new picture but one very familiar to every Jew. In fact in Isaiah 5 the nation of Judah is pictured as a vineyard and the Jews prided themselves on being the vine of God. But Jesus says that He is the true vine. The word true speaks of that which is opposed to that which is pretense and that which is counterfeit. Israel was a vine but they were not the true vine. Our identification with Christ is what really counts. Israel didn’t come up to God’s ideal because they didn’t produce fruit, while on the other hand Jesus fulfilled the utmost purpose of His existence. And so He is the true vine and His Heavenly Father is the gardener or the vine dresser. As the gardener God cultivates and protects the vine. This speaks of His love for Christ and the fruit that He would bear. The owner of the vine establishes a relationship between the vine and the branches. God as the gardener longs for fruit but the vine of Israel had degenerated and produced rotten fruit while Jesus the true vine has produced an abundance of fruit.
But perhaps what’s most interesting to me in this passage is the second verse were Jesus talks about the purging and pruning hand of our Heavenly Father. First of all it’s significant to note that Jesus talks about every branch that is “in Him”. There are branches in Jesus that do not produce fruit. That deadwood must be trimmed away so that sap is not robbed from the healthy branches. Much of what we call fruit today is something that is brought forth without any true spiritual union with Christ. Many times unfruitful believers are also unfaithful believers. The pruning hand of God on the other hand occurs when we are ready producing fruit and God desires that we bare more fruitful. The process of pruning is very painful but beneficial for the fruitfulness of the branches. God prunes every branch in the vine to remove the useless qualities but his pruning also produces deep grace and more fruit in our lives. Pruning is one of the most common methods of increased fruitfulness. The problem is that when we’re going through pruning it can feel an awful lot like purging. The end of purging is to castaway while the end of pruning is to bring forth more fruit. Branches that have their roots in the vine of the Lord Jesus Christ experience the sap of the Holy Spirit flowing into our lives even in difficult times. In fact many times it is in difficult times in our lives that God produces the sweetest of fruits. God’s desire is to cultivate into our lives a sense of truth, justice, mercy and love for others that we’ll see as we look at the remainder of this passage. What is paramount in this passage is God’s desire that you and I be fruitful branches as we stay connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not save us simply so that we can stay in our safe comfortable holy huddle. We have to get out into the world and engage the world if we are going to make a difference for Jesus Christ. Jesus is indeed the true vine and so I must close by asking you: are you connected to the true vine? That doesn’t mean that everything is going to go smoothly in our lives but as long as were connected to the true vine we can be assured that God desires to use us to produce “much fruit” for His glory.
All Glory to God,
Pastor Rich Sivo