Our spiritual lives are the same way. If we are not vigilant, it is so very easy for our spiritual lives to be cluttered with dead or dying branches. Sometimes, even branches may grow in other directions that are not desirable at all. In time, our spiritual branches no longer bear fruit or what fruit we produce is no longer good fruit.
Jesus used stories about agriculture to provide his disciples and those who listened with a frame of reference that could be easily understood. He often talked about seeds, vines and trees so that people can easily understand not only the story but also the outcome of growing and being nurtured.
In chapter fifteen of the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly tells us that he is the true vine and that we are the branches. We, as followers, have our start in Christ Jesus. We derive nourishment and water from the main vine. As we are fed, we grow. As we grow, we produce fruit. But, if we don’t accept what Jesus has to provide, it is so very easy for us to stop growing spiritually. The fruit that we produce is poor at best and, in some cases, rotten.
When that happens, the branches that don’t produce the desired fruit must be pruned and removed. If it isn’t, then the other branches may soon become undesirable and produce poor or rotten fruit.
Jesus tells us, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 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.”
If we remain attached to the main vine, we grow and flourish. We produce the best fruit. But, if we cut ourselves off from the vine, we cannot produce fruit at all. Part of ensuring the best fruit possible is pruning the branches themselves. Some of the branches may develop a disease that must be eliminated or be infested with insects that can easily destroy the whole branch.
Jesus tells us that spiritual pruning occurs when we receive, understand and accept the message that has been given to us. Producing spiritual fruit can only come from the message. There is no other way to receive what is needed by the branch. That message can only come from Jesus. Some branches may try other messages, but they will soon find themselves fruitless. In order to bear the best fruit possible, the message can only come from Jesus. He alone gives us the truth and that truth will not only set us free but also allow us to grow and flourish.
If we try to do things on our own by separating ourselves away from the main vine, we will be disappointed. We will soon find ourselves fruitless and spiritually dying from lack of water and nutrients that can only be given to us by the true vine, Christ Jesus.
Jesus further tells us, “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 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.”
I know that this sounds very harsh, but when it comes to plants and trees that produce fruit, you have to be aggressive and vigilant in your efforts. It is so easy for some sort of disease to kill an entire grove of fruit trees or decimate a vineyard.
When I grew fruit and vegetables and sold them to the local grocery store, I realized that one sickly plant or an infested branch could easily kill off an entire crop literally overnight. I would inspect my plants every day to make sure that each was producing. If there was one that wasn’t doing so well, I devoted more time to nurturing it. Pruning the dead branches. Giving it a little more tender loving care. In time, the plant would improve and produce.
It all comes down to this. If you remain a part of the vine, I can guarantee that you will produce abundant fruit and you will continue to grow and flourish in order to produce even more fruit. However, if you decide to separate yourself from the vine and grow your own way, it will only lead to being fruitless. There is only one thing the gardener can do whenever there is a fruitless or dead branch. He must prune it and toss it on the fire. But, realize this, it is up to you. If you find yourself growing in the wrong direction or away from the true vine, ask for help. The gardener is there to help by providing more attention and some tender loving care.
As you grow spiritually, be vigilant and inspect yourself often. Make sure you are producing abundantly and the best fruit possible. When you do that, you can rest assured that you will stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.