The True Vine
Read John 15:1-4 (ESV)
“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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless you abide in me.”
Does being pruned sound pleasant or painful? What purpose does it serve?
We have a lot of plants and flowers in our backyard. When we first moved in, my wife spent a great deal of time pruning back overgrowth, cutting off dead branches, and pulling out plants that weren’t flowering or doing well. Like weeds, the unhealthy plants were choking out the healthy plants.
The truth is even healthy plants and trees need a good pruning every now and again. They can develop “suckers” which are little offshoots that suck the water and nutrients away from the main plant. Cutting those suckers off enables the main plant to receive all of the water and nutrients it needs to continue to grow healthier and stronger. It may seem like a painful waste to cut away what appear to be perfectly healthy sprouts but in reality, not pruning plants and trees generally make them weaker. Pruning strengthens a plant, trains it to grow in the right direction, and makes it more productive.
Now, I’m not an expert gardener but I do know that if I see a beautiful flower, clip it, and bring it in for my wife, the flower won’t last as long as it would if I left it attached to the stem. When a flower loses its connection to the stem, it loses its connection to the roots so it won’t receive any water or nutrients from the soil. Sadly, fresh cut flowers just don’t last very long.
Today, we read Jesus’ seventh and final “I am” statement—”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” In this metaphor, Jesus is the grapevine and true believers are branches that are attached to Him, the vine. The dead branches that get cut away are people who claimed to be Christians but never truly believed in Him. The Father is the vinedresser or the gardener. He can tell who is a true believer in Christ by whether or not they produce good fruit.
Branches that produce good fruit all have one thing in common—they are connected to the vine. Likewise, true believers in Christ abide in Him. They remain in contact with Him. They are spiritually connected to the Vine. But Jesus didn’t say that the Father just leaves the good branches alone. No, it says that He prunes these branches so that they bear even more fruit.
Have you ever felt like you were being pruned? I know I have. This pruning often takes place in seasons of trials and hardships and transitions. Usually, God is removing things from my life that distract me or suck away my energy to do what He has called me. When He removes these things from my life, no matter how unpleasant and painful it may seem at the time, it is always for my good and His glory. After I am pruned, I begin to produce even more healthy fruit in my spiritual life.
Conversely, if a branch doesn’t bear fruit, the Father knows that person is not a true believer and thus, they are still dead in their sins. These dead branches claim to be attached to the True Vine but they aren’t. They are diverting nutrition and energy away from the true, living branches and making them weaker. In John 15:6, Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” People who never experience genuine salvation are not connected to the True Vine, they do not abide in Christ, and do not bear spiritual fruit. They will be cut off, judged, and ultimately destroyed.
But what does it mean to abide in Christ? Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). The mark of true believers is obedience to Christ and His Word. Faithful and obedient believers are the branches that bear much fruit for apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Are you connected to the True Vine?
Lord, I want to abide in Your love. Help me to be obedient to Your Word. Even though it has sometimes been a painful process, thank You for pruning me and removing anything from my life that hinders my spiritual growth. I want to bear much fruit in You. Amen.
Reveal: Do you know a fellow believer who is going through a painful pruning? How can you encourage them to abide in Christ throughout the process?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford