(originally posted March 18, 2011)
"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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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."
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
At this point is Scripture, Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples (as Judas had already left to betray him) in the upper room, the night before his death. He speaks to them using an analogy of himself being a vine, and the Father being the vine dresser. Now just to bypass any confusion along the way, the branch that does not bear fruit does not mean a Christian not-bearing fruit. This is impossible. I could go through the theology of this, but I won't. All to say, there is no such thing as a no-fruit Christian. The branch that does not bear fruit would represent a person who appears to be walking with the Lord, but is not connected to him, and inevitably turns from him.
What I would like to focus on is the branch that does bear fruit; the Christian. The first reference to this branch is that the Father gives much attention to the branch with pruning, as He does in pruning His children.
By pruning, I can also mean cleansing. God wants to remove whatever might be hindering a believer from full-potential, so He brings us through trials and tribulations that will open us up to His cleansing by the Word.
Why is this so important? On branches, there can be suckers; this would cause harm to the branch in that it sucks away energy. Therefore, God prunes, or purges us of our suckers in order to bring forth more fruit. A sucker to the Christian would be sin, as you can imagine. It is the sin in our life that saps away our energy and misdirects our energy to be fully devoted to God.
Think about it. It is the sin in our life that distracts us. Oooh, this relationship is nice. Or wow, I can get use to these nice things. Or boy, does she have a lot to learn. It's the sin that can ever so subtly turn our focus from God.
Jesus is calling every believer to abide in him. Abide simply means to stay close to Jesus. It is in remaining with him that produces fruit, and shows evidence of our salvation.
Does that mean if you make a mistake or have a season of drought that you'll stop bearing fruit and will be cut off. Absolutely not. A true believer will not lose their salvation because a true believer remains connected to the vine. Life comes from the vine and is directed into the branch, bearing fruit no matter the season of life.
Branches are totally dependent upon the vine, as a believer must be totally dependent upon Jesus. And accordingly, the Father will work to prune us, and to purge us of our suckers. Hencethe trials in your life. But it is not the trial themselves that improve you...no. Trials merely open you up so that the Word can cleanse you.
I know this passage has been a great encouragement to me. In this most difficult season of life, this trial has opened me up to a very vulnerable place with God, allowing for Him to prune me. And it is in the study of His Word, and this passage in particular, that I am being cleansed. Yes, it hurts, but pruning usually does. These suckers don't like to be cut off so easily.
There is so much to be said concerning this passage, and I feel I am learning so much. But myencouragement to you would be this: remain as close to Jesus as possible. He is your source of energy and life. Apart from him, you can bear no fruit (as hard as we try...and I know you try, because we're all human and we can't help it). It's impossible. You bear fruit by abiding in the vine, not by trying on your own to produce it. Abiding isn't really all that hard: love God and be in the Word. Truly, stay connected and spend as much time as you can allowing yourself to be cleansed by the Word of God. This will produce much fruit in your life, ultimately giving glory to God.