“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2, NKJV)
Our heavenly Father wants fruitfulness of us. We want the same with our children. We want them to mature in character. We want them to lead responsible, productive lives for themselves and as contributing members of society.
What character are we to develop in Christ? What society are we to be contributing members of? We are to grow in the image of Jesus Christ, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. We are to put off self and put on Christ. The Spirit is at work to form Christ in us.
The society we have been enfolded into is the kingdom of God. Our Father wants us to be responsible and productive members of that kingdom, seeking it as a matter of priority in our lives. We are not to be pursuing our own glory and empire. We are to seek God’s glory and dominion. The gospel of the kingdom pertains not only to the hereafter but also to the here now. The gospel governs our attitudes, ambitions, and actions. It brings everything about us under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Since it is the case that “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine” (John 15:4), it stands to reason that the Father wants us be rooted and built up in Christ. The more established we are in Christ in our daily practice, the more fruitful we will be in our growth and service to the kingdom of God.
It is through the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ that we will be cultivated in Christ. Jesus made this clear when He said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15–17).
We rest in Christ through relying on the Spirit. The result of such dependence will be an organic outworking of Christlikeness.
Pruning communicates another sense in God’s work as an involved father in our lives and that is His discipline of us. Pruning addresses those suckers that draw energy and rob the plant of greater fruitfulness. We might think in terms of disorders and distractions that we allow a place in our hearts that are unseemly and unproductive for the kingdom. We speak of it as being double-minded, pulled in two directions, drawn by divergent allegiances rather than a full and focused commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
A sprawling public garden in my area includes a section of topiary foliage. Trees and shrubs are shaped into various animals and geometric figures. The gardener uses instruments like electric trimmers, loppers, and snipping shears to fashion the plants into something fascinating. Those shrubs give evidence of the involvement of a designer and the effort of a skilled craftsman.
So it is in our lives. Hebrews 12 describes for us the loving discipline of our heavenly Father to conform us to the image of our Lord Jesus. Such pruning is painful. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11, ESV).
Often when we think of discipline we think of punishment. However, in view is the whole of the training matrix involved in our spiritual growth. It involves teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness toward conformity to the image of Christ. The word translated discipline is the same word used in Ephesians 6:4 where fathers are to bring up their children in the nurture of the Lord. We are those topiaries that God by His Spirit shapes into the image of His Son.
We are to regard life’s circumstances as lessons from the Lord, carrying His purpose, conveying His loving involvement. The writer of Hebrews cautions us to be expectant and not to disregard these lessons or become discouraged by them (Heb. 12:5).
As branches on the Vine, our Father the vinedresser is at work. He wants us to toss aside every encumbrance and sin that shackles and turn our eyes to Jesus, who is our salvation, our example, our comfort, and our strength (Heb. 12:1-3).
- Why do you think Jesus says that His Father is the vinedresser?
- How does our Father prune us and what involvement do we have?
Father, by the Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of Your name.
For study of the fruit of the Spirit through abiding in Christ see A Vine-Ripened Life (Stanley D. Gale, Reformation Heritage Books)
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.