When Being Pruned by Rocky Fleming
“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 (ESV)
Concerning Jesus’ words about branches that are taken away, you may have a question. We need to understand first that not everyone who identifies as being a follower of Christ, is actually one, and it is this branch that is being removed. Look at what Jesus said about it, to connect the dots:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)
The reason I bring this to your attention is because some believers are confused with this passage in John 15 and are concerned that Jesus is speaking to the necessity of bearing fruit to make it to heaven. They think it is for that reason they are concerned about being cut from their attachment to Him, if they don’t prove themselves worthy of His love by their works. If they go down that path, it will lead them to a legalistic view of their relationship with God, having to work like crazy to keep His love. Their works would become their perceived connection with Him, rather than His grace that has created it.
Even if we are a true Christian, this perspective of our tenuous relationship with God would lead to a barrenness of fruit, for the power of God’s grace to produce fruit through our life would be hindered by the legalism we embrace. The point I’m making is that those being “taken away” are the people who identify with Him but have never been attached to the Vine (Jesus). They simply cannot bear the kind of fruit Jesus speaks of because they cut off the Source that produces it. I’ve been asked if I believe “Once saved always saved.” My response is that I believe “If saved, always saved.” But let’s concentrate on God’s children who are truly attached to Jesus, and the delicate, and sometimes not so delicate, ways He causes fruit to be born through our life.
Jesus mentions pruning. Note that Jesus tells us that Father, the Vinedresser, will prune us to bear fruit, even if we are already bearing fruit so that we can bear more fruit. The fruit that is produced through this life is staggering in its ability to originate and reproduce through the most unqualified person. It is truly a God thing. It defies imagination that He can so radically change a person’s trajectory in life that being “born again” becomes the entry to a reformation of our heart, and a transformation of the expression of our life. I mentioned delicate. Let me elaborate.
The reason our connection to the Vine is delicate is not because we are in danger of being cut off. Instead, it is delicate for we are in danger of limiting our ability to bear the kind of fruit that Jesus can produce through our life. Jesus said that He wants us to bear an increasing measure of fruit, and that is why the pruning. He knows that it will be a continuous process, and it will come in certain seasons of life, much like there is a pruning season for the grapevine. The “season,” if you will, becomes the times that we need pruning. The need often dictates what area of our life is pruned away. But remember, we are pruned because we are bearing fruit and we are doing some good things. Now let me speak from experience.
I have found that I’ve been pruned in a consistent area that comes as a result of fruit. It is pride because of the fruit. Pride is so destructive to fruit bearing, for it becomes a hindrance in our intimacy with Christ. It has been quite the process to see and understand the connection with how easy we can go the way of pride in our works. Whether it be applause from people or measurements of fruit-bearing success that we place for ourself, it is so easy for pride to slip in. Because it has been a long battle for me, it has caused me to gain experience with it. I’ve been able to spot symptoms in my life that shows me that pride is showing up, and as well I’ve been able to spot it in others. Here are some of the symptoms of pride:
- We measure other people’s fruit against our own and find them lacking.
- We become critical and judgmental, for we measure others against our own “right” perspective and “right” behavior and find them lacking.
- We become critical and fault finding, for we feel justified before God that we are doing good because we are bearing fruit. So, we feel qualified to find fault in others.
- We become so self-assured in our plans and our efforts that we cannot imagine that God could be displeased with us. After all we are bearing fruit. Right?
- I see that pride leads to an erosion of an innocent heart. Our heart becomes hardened. We no longer love like we once did. We no longer celebrate Jesus like we once did. We become impatient with people, even those we once respected, for our pride tells us that we are superior.
- Pride effects our relationships, for relationships become centered around us so that our goals can be met. Our world becomes centered around our self. In ways people become pawns rather than ministry concerns, and our fruit in their life withers.
- I see pride destroying relationships and the fruit that we once bore, because our heart is no longer in step with Jesus. We lose our First Love, which is to understand we have nothing to be proud of in our self, and any fruit we’ve born was Jesus’ love finding a humble vessel in a man or woman that can bear the weight of fruit that will be produced.
God loves us way too much to allow these things to go unchecked, and that is why He prunes us. Perhaps some of you are showing the symptoms I mentioned? Will your pride allow you to see it and repent of it, or does the Lord need to do some heavy pruning in your life to turn you back to Him? He will do it whether you admit it, or like it or not, for He wants you to bear much more fruit than you’ve produced already. He’s not satisfied with where you are with your fruit, and if pride has entered your life, He will make it known to you. Perhaps you are already feeling some pruning? Seek and ask what God is asking you to give over to Him. I’ll say without any reservation that your pride must go, for it will in many ways disqualify you from being the abundant fruit-bearer you can be. We become disqualified as fruit producers if we embrace pride.
Would you pray about what I’ve brought to your attention? Is God speaking to you about pride, or any other hindrance you have embraced that will keep the fruit that Jesus can produce through your life from being born? It is a serious issue, even if you are bearing fruit. Don’t allow it to linger.