As a young man in high school and college, I spent my summers working as a landscaper for a local businessman, whose multiple properties included a moderately-sized vineyard. Part of our crew’s responsibilities was to tend to the grape vines periodically. Through those years, I learned what was required to maintain a functioning vineyard. One of those things is to prune the fruit-bearing branches regularly. To prune a branch is to select and remove the shoots that would rob the rest of the plant of the nutrients required for producing fruit. Once a week, we would work through the vineyard, clipping off shoots that were either out of place or growing in the wrong direction. Doing so produced a harvest of juicy, dense clusters of grapes at the end of the season.
In John 15 we see Jesus giving his disciples some final exhortations before the events of the cross would begin to unfold. We find Him instructing them to abide in Him as they live their changed lives, navigating the struggles that would come with it. In doing so, He gives them an object illustration of a grapevine. In the illustration, He identifies Himself as the “true vine”, the Father as the “vinedresser”, and the disciples as the branches which are connected to the vine. He explains the role of the vinedresser as removing unfruitful branches and pruning fruitful branches. The main point that Jesus wants the disciples to understand is that they must abide in Him, because, as He says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5).
As believers, we ought to live our lives the same way. We ought to abide in Christ, as though a branch 100% reliant upon the vine to which we are connected. We must recognize that apart from Him we can do nothing. We must also be willing to let the vinedresser prune us of that which would hinder us from bearing fruit. Also, remember that pruning is not a pleasant action. It is the forceful removal of something that has a stronghold. But it is always for the purpose of making us be more fruitful, and thus for the glory of God.
Unfortunately, often times we confuse the roles. Instead of being a branch which is connected to the vine and pruned by the vinedresser, we make ourselves the vinedresser, and God the branch, pruning Him into what we want, in hopes of enjoying the fruit He produces. We do this every time we disregard God’s revelation about Himself (scripture) to fit our preferences or justify our sin. If you have viewed God in this way, repent and begin abiding in Christ. Furthermore, to abide in Christ, He must be of top priority to you. Nothing else should come before Him. Be honest, and ask yourself this question, “Can I honestly say, ‘the only thing I want in life is Jesus Christ,’?”
Know this, everyone struggles through seasons of wanting to not abide in Christ. There are times when we all avoid letting the vinedresser prune us. Perhaps you are in a season of life now when you could not answer “yes” to the question above. Maybe you are holding on dearly to that which hinders you from bearing fruit. Dear brother or sister, repent. Choose this day to repent and once again desire to abide in Christ. Ask God to begin pruning your life, so as to be more fruitful and to bring more glory to God.