Friday, October 3, 2008

"The Purpose of Pruning" by Garris Elkins

When God prunes His people He is preparing them for a coming season of fruitfulness.

Have you ever wondered why God cuts back certain resources or relationships in our lives? Are you going through a pruning season right now and find yourself searching for the reason why you are left as a severed branch? Getting cut hurts. It can make us feel insecure. God wants to change how we see His pruning process.

When I was a boy each year I watched as my father would go out into our front yard and cut back the trees. It was unbelievable how much of each branch he cut back. The trees looked like they would never survive his yearly pruning, but each spring there was an explosion of new life. It never failed. Year after year my father cut the trees and year after year new life came. As I grew older I realized that my father cut the branches back to prepare the trees for new life.

In the culture of the Middle East vineyards are everywhere. Each year vineyard owners would cut away the dead branches and prune back the unfruitful branches. The vineyard owner had a purpose in his pruning - to make the vine ready to produce fruit in the coming season. The pruning was part of the preparation for a coming harvest.

Your life is no different. When you enter a season of pruning the enemy wants you to focus on the pain and perceived loss of the pruning process. God, on the other hand, wants you to begin celebrating because a new season of fruitfulness is coming. God is calling the severed branches to begin to celebrate in anticipation.

In the Old Testament a vineyard is mentioned as a metaphor for the people of God. But each time the vineyard was mentioned in connection with God'ss people the vine was depicted as a degenerate, wild vine.

In Jeremiah 2:21 the prophet asked, “How did you grow into this corrupt vine?” In Isaiah 5:4 a similar question was asked, “What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes.”

The vineyard of God needs tending by the Master Vinedresser or we will become something that is unusable to the Lord. Pruning is part of God's process to make us sweet and usable branches.

Above the gate of the Temple entrance, and draped over the four huge columns of this doorway, was a large sculpted vine overlaid with gold and clusters of gold covered grapes the size of a man. Each time someone would enter the Temple they would have to pass under this image. Each time a person walked underneath this image of the vine they were reminded of what they could be in God. The wild and degenerate human vine would walk under an image of God's promise.

Some of you may think that God has pruned you without reason. He wants to remind you that He prunes with purpose. God prunes us out of love to prepare us for a new season that He is sending our way. To get to that new season requires that we pass through the pruning process. In the pruning God remove what is dead and unproductive in our lives.

The stub that you are left with is not the end of the process. The stub is evidence of God's preparation. The stub is a promise that in the next season God has plans to make you alive with His fruit.

I want you to walk with me underneath the Word of God like the people who walked underneath the gold-covered cluster of grapes at the Temple entrance. As you walk under the Word I believe you will discover the purpose of God's pruning in your life.

In John 15 the Lord said, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”

If you have come through a season of pruning it is critical that you know God's heart for you.

GOD PRUNES US TO SHAPE US INTO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON

The context of this scripture is fruitfulness. God is not punishing the vine. He is sculpting the vine into a new image. In verse one Jesus said, “I am the true grapevine.” When God prunes us He uses the template of the life of His Son and the pattern He trims to.

At salvation you and I were grafted into the Person of Jesus Christ. We are part of Him. We are not some isolated branch. The pruning of God is His shaping process to make us look like Jesus.

GOD PRUNES US FOR A COMING SEASON OF FRUITFULNESS

In verse 2 Jesus said, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

Fruitfulness flows out of our position in Christ not our activity for Christ. The greatest work a believer can do for God is to learn to rest in the Lord. Rest is the environment where the greatest works of God take place.

Galatians 5:22 tells us,”The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” We can't make this kind of fruit happen. Did you ever try to be patient?

The miraculous works God has assigned for the church to do don't flow from human effort. These works flow from a place of rest where God is free to move through His vine to the world.

There are seasons when God will prune back our activity so we only have rest to offer. This is where the greatest works of God's Kingdom begin to manifest themselves. The tools of God's Kingdom are not human-made or human-powered. When we work from this place of rest it is the Lord who gets the glory, not our style or models of ministry.

GOD PRUNES US SO OUR LIVES WILL BRING GLORY TO GOD

Jesus addressed this issue of glory in verses 7-8 “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”

The word “remain” in the dictionary means, “to be there.” To remain means that we get to live out our oneness with Christ. In verse 5 Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” When you feel the Father begin to cut and prune your life what you bring to the process is to simply remain. To press into intimacy with the Father in an deeper way.

The Father is glorified when His branches lay heavy with fruit. This fruit does not come with new and more intense activity. This fruit comes because of our position in the Vine.

What should be the response of a branch that is being pruned? A pruned place in your life or ministry is a place of worship and celebration. God is preparing you for something that only comes on the other side of the pruning process. Why would a pruned life worship? When God prunes us He is shaping us into the image of His Son. The nub at the end of your life that is raw and cut away is an announcement that God is about ready to do a new thing. This new thing, springing forth from the wound of pruning, will bring glory to the Father because the growth will come from something that does not exist in our human strength, abilities or resources.

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