Readers who are familiar with the process of pruning trees and bushes know that it involves cutting back (or away) the useless shoots and branches that will slow growth. Today I’d like to offer you a word of encouragement concerning the pruning God does in our lives.
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)
Here we see that pruning is promised to the people of God—those who are faithful and fruitful—because of their union with Christ. The “branches” that the Great Gardner cuts off are those that were never truly in Christ. They looked like it from the outside, but on the inside, where it counts, their hearts were never in Christ by grace through faith.
In this context, Jesus was referring to Judas Iscariot, who appeared to be one of the disciples outwardly, but was never truly a disciple inwardly.
So, the question we must ask is: “Why does God promise to prune His people?” We see the answer at the end of the second verse . . .
SO THAT WE WILL BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL!
Every branch that is in Christ is already fruitful, because the same grace that saves an individual also sanctifies an individual. As Martin Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” We are fruitful branches simply by virtue of our connection to the Vine. But, as we all know, we can always be more fruitful, and this is the ultimate goal of God in our lives. And He helps us in this process by pruning us along the way.
Paul gives us two wonderfully encouraging verses that will help to sustain us when we are in seasons of providential pruning.
We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Live a life worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
Remember, the alternative to pruning is to be cut off; so pruning—which is admittedly painful at times—is a very good thing! And the primary tool God uses in His pruning is the Bible.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
God uses His Word to cut away everything that would hinder out growth, maturity, and fruitfulness. If those who are truly in Christ resist what the Word is speaking into their lives, God will use other tools for pruning, such as affliction. Charles Spurgeon observed, “It is because the first knife (God’s Word) does not always produce the desired result that another sharp tool (affliction), is used by which we are effectually pruned.”
Either way, our God loves us too much to leave us like we are . . . and for that we are eternally grateful.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!