In John 15:1,2 (NLT), during the time that many biblical scholars believe was at the close of the last supper, Jesus Christ taught the disciples one of the most prolific lessons of living a spiritual life. He said, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” Before we can truly understand the meaning of this verse, we need to know a little bit about exactly what pruning entails. Pruning is a practice that involves removing selective parts of a plant or tree, such as its branches, buds, or roots. This is necessary to improve and maintain the overall health of the plant or tree. Pruning is very often targeted towards branches that are diseased, damaged, or non-productive, because these diseased, damaged, or non-productive branches are a hindrance to the entire tree. They keep the tree or plant from functioning in a way that yields continuous beauty, growth, and fruit. There are a variety of different pruning techniques, but when it comes to the Master Gardener, our Heavenly Father, we don’t need to worry about the techniques; all we need to know is that we’re being pruned for a purpose.
John 15:3-4 (NLT) says, “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” Jesus Christ told the disciples that they had already gone through the pruning process. They were purified by the message he had given them. In this verse, we can see that he had given them very simple instructions that was instrumental to maintaining their pruned and purified status. He said “Remain in me.” This command suggests to us that the disciples had a choice. They could remain in Christ by following his example and ministry, or they could do the exact opposite. In other words, whether or not the disciples remained in Christ was dependent on their own volitional choice.
For the disciples, and for us as well, the benefit to remaining in Christ is beyond extraordinary! He said “Remain in me, and I’ll remain in you.” Do you see that?!!! You don’t get any better than this. Christ gave us a guarantee here. “There is no way that I’ll leave you alone.” he said. “There is no way that I’ll leave you to fend for yourself in this cold, dark world. No. I’m gonna be with you every step of the way; I’ll remain in you.” He tells us, but he then also warns us to be careful, because “A branch cannot produce fruit if it is cut-off from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Jesus Christ is talking directly to the believers in this passage. He’s letting us know that he’s the vine, and that you and I can do things that will cause us to be cut-off from him if we’re not careful. It’s quite simple really. A person should be able to look at a Christian’s life and see the disciplines and rewards of Christianity. We look to see in them the deposition, attitude, and behavior of someone who models Christ. As for our beloved Savior’s part, he will never cut himself off from us, but that isn’t the case with many of us who are born again and living today. Sometimes we indulge in unfruitfulness. We commit actions and make choices that do not match the magnitude of our spiritual reality in Christ. This is how we cut ourselves off from him.
Fruit is designed to honor God. He doesn’t bother with plants that refuse to produce, but for those of us who intend to honor God, the pruning process is inescapable and unavoidable; thank the Lord for it. John 15 tells us that God prunes the branches that DO bear fruit, so that they will produce even more. So producing fruit the first time was a great blessing, but being pruned to produce even more fruit is a pressed down, running over the top blessing. So we should do everything we can to cooperate with Heavenly Father as He prunes us for His glory, and for ours.
Many Christians are as miserable as can be, and it’s because they’re walking around dragging diseased, damaged, or non-productive branches that God pruned a long time ago. These Christians are unfruitful because they won’t recognize God’s pruning expertise. Those branches should have fallen off by now, but we’ve hot glued ‘em, taped them, and tried some of everything else we can find to keep those dead branches attached to our lives.
1Corinthians 6:18 says, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” There are many Christians who, even after committing themselves to be their best for God, are still indulging sexual sin. We know better, but we’ve grown comfortable with business as usual. This is a dead branch.
Anything that does not grow will die, and everything that wishes to sustain life will seek to grow. Simply put, in order for life to continue, growth is inevitable. A person who no longer wishes to thrive by reaching out to others with the love of God, and growing in His grace every day, is a person who has branches that need to be removed. God is not slack. He knows exactly what needs to be pruned in our lives. He knows exactly how to remove the dead branches, but we have to be a willing vessel in order for the pruning process to be complete. Again, for many of us Heavenly Father has pruned those dead branches, but He will not remove them from our lives if we refuse to let them go.
The people…the situations…the consequences we encounter are not the dead branches. They are the mirrors that reflect and reveal the things that we have refused to let go. God is pruning you to receive all the wonderful blessings He has in store for you. So don’t ever work against the pruning process of our Heavenly Father. Realize that sinful attitudes and actions keep you from the blessing of marriage, but as soon as you release them, God can move you closer to the blessings you truly desire. ■