Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Vinedresser, the True Vine, and the Branches (John 15:1-11), part 1 of 2

Among the “I am” Sayings of Jesus, what makes this one unique is the prominent role given to the Father. He is the Vinedresser. That truth alone should us comfort in the assurance that the gardener is not lacking in skill. He is a perfect vinedresser. Some of his actions may be unpleasant to us branches but we have to trust that the vinedresser knows what he is doing. Some of the things the Vinedresser does are two time-tested practices in viticulture:

a. Taking away fruitless branches
Someone is absent in this scene—Judas—he just left a few hours ago to betray his Lord in exchange of 30 pieces of silver. Just like the rest of them, he too was exposed to Jesus' teaching for three long years. But he developed no love for the words of Christ. Judas is unclean (John 13:10-11). He is an example of a branch that was taken away. Those who will persist in their love for sin shall be thrown away from the vine for the health of the vine.

b. Pruning fruit-bearing branches for improved production
The Greek for 'prunes' also means cleans. The means of cleaning the vine is the word of God (verse 3). Three years of continued exposure to the words of Jesus made them clean. And so as long as you keep on exposing yourself to the word of God, you are being cleaned for a fruitful life. Merrill Tenney comments:

“The means by which pruning or cleaning is done is the Word of God. It condemns sin; it inspires holiness; it promotes growth. As Jesus applied the words God gave him to the lives of the disciples, they underwent a pruning process that removed evil from them and conditioned them for further service.” (John and Acts, EBC Vol. 9)

The place of this pruning process is the doctrine of sanctification where we are changed into his image more and more. Sanctification is God's will for us (I Thess 4:3). If you have stayed long enough in the vine, you know that pruning often involves pain. For sure it would be unpleasant, yet it's end result is greater fruitfulness for the vine (Hebrews 12:5-11).

The need to prune sometimes  involves sin just like in the case of David. For this reason, we should not despise those who have underwent severe discipline because of some grievous sin. If they have already repented, and they have undergone that painful process of restoration, then expect productivity from them. Expect to be blessed when you are near them. If they have already humbled themselves before the Lord, they will soon be lifted up (James 4:10).

The need to prune is sometimes preventive of sin as in the case of Paul. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." (2 Corinthians 12:7)

The need to prune sometimes involves  no known sin at all, as in the case of Job.  Here is a man walking uprightly yet he was put to some of the most unbearable tests. In fact, the Lord is so proud of him. He told Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8)

So before you murmur and complain, “I am walking in holiness Lord. I can't understand. Why are you allowing this suffering in my life Lord?”, consider the possibility that the Lord may be so proud of you as His child. Perhaps he told Satan, “Have you considered my servant __________? (put your name in the blank). There is no one in Pangasinan like him.”

Maybe you are already fruitful, but there is still room for improving your yield; so he lets you go to that painful process called pruning. It may not pleasant at the present time but soon you will see the yield and your joy will be complete.

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