This Hard Truth Will Help You Bear Much Fruit

I live near the wine country of Southern California. Just minutes from my home are countless rows of grapevines. The vineyards make for a lovely spring afternoon drive. The beautiful green leaves of the vines wave in the gentle breeze, and one can easily find him/herself transported to Tuscany or some such famous location. That is what it looks like now as the vines ripen and prepare to bring forth fruit for the harvest. Once the harvest is complete, and the season moves from summer to fall, the vines begin to change. The branches, once abundant in foliage, turn brown. The leaves, once lovely, fall. The time for harvest has passed, and the time for pruning has come. 

vineyard

The vine grower cuts back the lovely vines of spring and summer. He aggressively prunes them to avoid disease and rot. Walk through the vineyard in winter and you will see what appears to be a wasteland. It isn’t. It just looks that way. Another season of fruit and harvest will come, but this season of pruning must pass first.

In John 15:1-8, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. Most of the time when I hear that, I want to think of the springtime vineyard, and that is part of the story. It is clear from the reading there is an expectation that, if you are in Christ, connected to the vine, you will bear fruit. If there is no fruit coming from your branch, then there is a good chance the branch is sick, or may not be connected to the vine like you thought it was. You may not be connected to Christ. Regardless, no fruit means the branch is dead or dying, so the vine grower cuts it off.

Fruitful Branches Need Pruning

OK, easy peasy, bear fruit and we can avoid the shears. That sounds great. Just be a good Christian and everything will be awesome …  except Jesus continues the metaphor. Not only do the fruitless branches get cut off, but “every one that does [bear fruit] he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Remember the winter vineyard scenes I described a little earlier? It looks terrible. It looks dead, but it is not. The vine grower is actually preparing the vineyard for a new harvest. He needs to cut back the vines in order for the vineyard to continue to thrive. In our spiritual lives, that often takes us by surprise. Not every season is harvest.

bear much fruitSometimes God prunes. The Lord knows how to tend to his people. He is not content with last year’s harvest. He expects us to continue to bear good fruit. God works in us so we can do that.

God loves you and honors you so greatly that, right now, where you are, when you say “yes” to his will, he will use you to accomplish his work. He will bear fruit through you. But, God loves you. He is not content to leave you right where you are. He wants to work in your life to make you holier, more like him. That can be really hard. The letter to the Hebrews gives some insight into how we deal with this pruning.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons … For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 7-8, 10-11)

Preparing for the New Harvest

If we are going to grow, and stay alive in our faith we need to allow God permission to prune us. Yes, I love the harvest seasons of life. I love when I can see God moving in and through me. And no, I do not look forward to, or seek out, times of trial or pruning. I do not seek them out, but I do know that I need them. When trial comes, rather then rebelling, we need to submit our lives more deeply to Christ. It is during those seasons that God is working, preparing for the next harvest. We need to be pruned. We need to have the sick, sinful parts of our lives cut back so that a new season of harvest can come.


You May Also Like:

Does God Always Show Us the Fruits of Our Prayer? (Ascension Presents)

What is a Disciple?

Abiding in Christ: Reflection on the Gospel of John

 

Chris Mueller

Chris Mueller is a youth minister from Murrieta, California. He crafts dynamic talks that communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that resonates with teen and adult audiences alike. Chris is the president and founder of 242Revolution Ministries, a nonprofit organization that invites young people to share in the devotion of the first generation of Christians—devoted to the teaching of the apostles, to the communal life, and to the breaking of the bread and prayer (Acts 2:42). Chris and his wife, Christina, live in California with their five children.

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  • vincewarde

    Wow – surprised that there are no comments!

    “It’s precisely because we believe in this dual consequence of sin (eternal and temporal) that we do penance, believe in purgatory, and embrace the doctrine of indulgences. And it’s precisely because Protestants reject this two-fold consequence of sin that their theology has no room for any of these three.”

    As an evangelical minister (who considers the Catholic church to be in error on some matters, but still essentially Christian – in fact I have much more in common with many Catholics than with many Protestants), I must disagree with the above. Let’s takes these one at a time:

    1) Purgatory. All Christians have to believe in some form of Purgatory, even though they may not call it that and may even recoil at the term. As you said, time doesn’t function as it does here in Purgatory – if it is right to refer to it as a place, rather than an action. No sin may enter the presence of God. We all die sinful. Scripture tells us that to be absent from the body is to be in the Lord’s presence. Therefore, between death and entering God’s presence, we must be cleansed and transformed so that we are free of sin. We both believe that this cleansing and final sanctification is a work of Grace – however, we would see it as taking so little time that we will not be aware of how long it takes (2 Cor 5:8)

    2) As for penance, I certainly like your analogy of parenting. However, I reject the idea that we do not disciple our flocks so that they may grow in Christ and overcome their sins by God’s grace. This may be true of some hyper-calvinists but it is certainly not true of all Calvinists and definitely not true of Wesleyans (of all denominations). We see the same picture you do: The need for both Justification and Sanctification. We address both, as you do. We also call our people to repent when they sin, not just seek God’s forgiveness without a desire and effort to change.

    3) Indulgences. Well here we really part company. Not only do I see no Scriptural basis for them, I do not see them as serving the need of wholistic salvation. It does not serve to either justify or sanctify the person receiving it.

    So, I would disagree that we do not see the “dual consequence of sin (eternal and temporal)”. We see it as clearly as you do. We believe in it as firmly as you do. We simply do not see a Scriptural basis for SOME of Catholic teaching at this point. Since, in our belief, tradition and reason must be tested by Scripture – we cannot believe in indulgences or long period of “time” in Purgatory. I realize that my Catholic brother and sister have more sources on the same level as Scripture, but this is another area of disagreement as I am sure your know.

    May God Bless You as you follow Christ,

    Rev. R. Vincent Warde
    Free Methodist Church (ret.)