This morning during our time of worship at church, our pastor talked about John 15 – the vine and the branches. As he read the verses it was as if I was hearing these words for the first time. Jesus said, “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) I have heard these words spoken many times before, but today they cut into my heart. Listen to what is being said, “…he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes…” I never noticed this before, but regardless of whether or not the branch is bearing fruit, He is still cutting.
The commentary in my NIV Study Bible says that cuts off is a reference to judgment and pruning produces fruitfulness. God cuts off everything in me that bears no fruit, but anything that is bearing fruit he prunes so that I can be more fruitful. The pastor went on to talk about those times in life where it feels like things are going amiss and it is difficult to make sense out of what is happening. He reminded us that we have a God who loves us and that our circumstances may be a time of pruning.
Sometimes I find myself wondering what God is doing in my life. I wonder if he is hearing me. I wonder why I have to go through the things I go through. Life just isn’t how I imagined it when I was younger. Then I am reminded how much God loves me; he loves me so much that he sent his one and only Son to die for me. He did all this regardless of whether I deserved it or not. Those pruning times in my life are for my own good because God is interested in my life and it’s fruitfulness. God wants me to rely on him; to remain in him. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4) A relationship with Christ is essential, for without it we are lifeless. A branch cut off withers and dies and if we are not in Christ, we will wither and die.
Life is challenging, but who am I to think that those challenges aren’t meant to make my life miserable. One thing I have learned in recent years is that God is more important to me than anything else and outside of him I am nothing. However, in him, I can bear much fruit. Therefore, I offer God everything I am and everything I have, trusting in him to renew me. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
That is my desire, to be transformed by the living God and have my mind renewed. How? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you…” (John 15:7a) Immerse myself in God’s Word – Read it. Meditate on it. Talk about it. Memorize it. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Pruning, although it may cause discomfort, is not a bad thing. Trust the gardener. Allow him to transform and renew you through his word. He loves you and wants you to bear fruit; much fruit.