John 15:1-2—I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The Route to Fruit Bearing
As we carefully follow the text of John 15, we observe a progression in the life of any sincere traveler with God. I like to call it “God’s fruitful route to fullness of joy.” It goes like this:
1. If I, from my heart (will), believe in Jesus Christ, I can expect to become a branch in Him as the vine. (vs. 1-2, 4-6)
2. If I keep His commandments, I can expect to be cleansed by the Word (v. 3) and abide in His love (v. 10). Obedience is the irrepressible public relations project of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
3. If I abide in Christ, I can expect to bear fruit (v. 5). Fruit is the natural outgrowth of the life of Christ in the abiding believer.
4. If I bear fruit, I can expect to come under the Father’s knife (v. 2). This is our Beloved Husbandman’s way of allowing more of the Vine to grow in and around the branch.
5. If I yield to the Father’s knife, I can expect to increase fruit (vs. 2, 5) even into old age (Psalm 92: 13-14; Psalm 1).
6. If I bear much fruit, I can expect the Father to be glorified (v. 8). This, of course, is the ultimate purpose of the believer and the corporate aspect of the Church (I Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 3:21)
7. If the Father is glorified, I can expect unspeakable joy (v. 11). This joy is two-dimensional. His joy remains in us. This is the inward celebration of Christ (Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 16:11) Our joy is full. This is our own emotional shalom and satisfaction (I Peter 1:7, 8; Matthew 25:21, 23).
Before we leave our discussion of this fruitful route, let’s consider two things.
Notice carefully the consequence of not abiding in Christ through obedience. Verse 6 is very graphic. The “non-abiders” are cast out, withered, gathered by men, thrown into the fire, and burned. Whether they are lost or saved, this surely is a waste of life without profit (Mark 8:34-38).
For those of us who love and sometimes lead a local church, let’s add the “we” aspect of the Vine. Certainly, the church as a whole reflects the qualities of individuals who inhabit it. What the Father does with those individuals affects the whole body and the leaders in their shepherding (I Corinthians 12:26).
On one occasion I traveled to Southern France to visit one of our missionaries. That area is known for its lush, fruitful vineyards. I happened to be there after the harvest and after the pruning. It seemed to me that the pruners left nothing! But the locals assured me that this was necessary for the vine to channel its “vine-life” into the fruit and not the foliage. Jesus let His disciples know that His Father was looking for fruit rather than just leaves (Matthew 21:19).
Many of us have experienced the benefits of a skillful surgeon who cuts away diseased tissue to stop malignant growth that could one day take a life. Similarly our all-wise God (Romans 16:27) knows what needs to go from our lives and our churches. God removes all things in the believer’s life that would hinder fruit bearing even though it may bring grief at the moment. As a pastor I would often die a thousand deaths when someone left our church or we seemed to miss that “opportunity of a lifetime,” but through it all, we learned to bear more fruit. Dr. Warren Wiersbe says it well, “Our heavenly Father is never nearer to us than when He is pruning us. Sometimes He cuts away the deadwood that might cause trouble, but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing us of spiritual vigor. Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we need it.” (Wiersbe Study Bible, p. 1577)
The Rest Areas
While the beauty of fruit bearing includes the pain of pruning, our loving Husbandman supplies strategically placed rest areas along the way. These are hidden in the text but often overlooked because we are focused on the central message. Notice what God gives for healing, comfort, and courage to take the next right step toward fruit and ultimate joy.
A loving community of fellow disciples (vs. 12-13, 17)(Hebrews 10:24-25)
Friendship with Christ (vs. 14-15) Christ Himself shares the Father’s secrets which allow pruning to make more sense. He helps us to see the present in the light of the eternal. Even without full knowledge, His intimacy secures our well-being (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:14, 16).
Effectual prayer (vs. 7, 16) Knowing that we have prayed according to God’s will, and then seeing specific answers to prayer, surpasses most any other form of comfort or encouragement. When God’s laser beam provision arrives in perfect timing, we are assured that God truly knows our address (I John 5:14). When we sense our prayers are flowing from the life of God in us, there is a reality that overcomes the darkness.
Wisdom and understanding (vs. 18-25). Here is where God enables us to see that the servant is not greater than his master. He helps us see life and the world from God’s point of view and respond accordingly. When God allows us to have an understanding of life’s issues, we then radiate an excellent spirit that is a witness to the lost (Proverbs 17:27; Daniel 5:12, 14; 6:3)
The Comforter (vs. 26-27) The ever-present, indwelling Spirit that proceeds from the Father is that constant inner witness from the throne that lets us know that all is well. Our witness then becomes bold and effective (John 14:15-24).
All five of these flow from the throne of grace and become fountains of grace while we endure our pruning yet experience His unexplainable joy.
God has mapped out a fruitful route to fullness of joy.
It includes believing, obeying, and abiding.
Pruning enhances production.
“Good” and “better” must give way to “best.”
There are serious consequences for not abiding.
God has built-in resources of grace for the pruned pilgrim’s wounds.
No pain, no gain.
Rejoice; we are not home yet.
A Touch of Tozer
After all, what higher privilege and experience is granted to mankind on earth than to be admitted into the circle of the friends of God? . . .
It is well for us to remember that Divine-human friendship originated with God. Had God not first said “You are My friend,” it would be inexcusably brash for any man to say, “I am a friend of God.” But since God claims us for His friends, it is an act of unbelief to deny the offer of such relationship . . .
The spiritual giants of old were those who at some time became acutely conscious of the presence of God. They maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives . . .
The essential point is this: These were men who met and experienced God! How otherwise can the saints and prophets be explained? How otherwise can we account for the amazing power for good they have exercised over countless generations?
Is it not that indeed they had become friends of God? Is it not that they walked in conscious communion with the real Presence and addressed their prayers to God with the artless conviction that they were truly addressing Someone actually there?
The Tozer Topical Reader, Volume 1
“Friendship with God” p. 216