John 15:2 “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.”
Jesus spoke often in figures of speech. In the well-known metaphors of John 15 He calls himself the vine, the Father the gardener, and the believers branches. He differentiates two kinds of branches: those that are fruitful and those that are not. Of those who don’t bear fruit, i.e., those “believers” that are associated with the church and may call themselves Christians, but who are bearing no spiritual fruit because the life of Christ doesn’t course through their veins, John 15 speaks of judgment. It tells us that those “branches,” i.e., hypocritical false believers, will eventually be removed and burned, which speaks of eternal judgment.
Then we are told that every fruitful branch, i.e., the true believers, are pruned by the Father. In other words, although each and every true Christian will bear spiritual fruit to some extent (such as the spirit-filled attitudes of Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control), the Father desires more fruit than that Christian is now demonstrating. Jesus himself is our model and we all fall far short of his example in these God-honoring traits. The process of producing more fruit is called pruning, which is removal of “growth” that isn’t bearing fruit. There are things that Christians do, beliefs Christians hold, or motives Christians have that are unfruitful, no matter how good they look (or don’t look) to other people. Only God knows the hearts of men and women. He knows what is keeping us from glorifying Him as we should, including when we actually may want to but because of our blindness or lack of faith, we fail. He knows each one of us much better than we know ourselves. He is very aware of our areas of weakness, and we all have them.
Thankfully, we can be assured that He will touch those areas to make them stronger. He is in the practice of removing things that are other than Him that we may be relying in our trusting in. He knows how to lovingly shock our systems by removing or minimizing things that are part of our lives that we may think are absolutely essential, but that are keeping us from bearing true spiritual fruit. But He will never over-prune. He will not harm us in the end. Though we may suffer loss, it is always for our good, for we have an all-knowing, all-powerful, and infinitely loving gardener, who is at work in us removing things that may look good to us, but aren’t really the best thing for us.
So, have you suffered some loss of late? Is there some hardship that has entered your life that is causing you pain and making you rethink some long-held beliefs? Has anything come into your life to expose to you some not-so-good aspects about your life? If you are a true branch, you can be assured that God is at work preparing you for fruitfulness, perhaps readying you to provide true godly help to other people who are in need of it. And if you are a true branch, this is exactly what you will really want in your heart of hearts.