Different parts of the country have different seasons for pruning trees and flowering bushes and plants. And I found the reasons for pruning to be both interesting and Biblical: Some pruning is done to change or train a plant's growing pattern or to restrict growth. And the pruning of fruit trees is a necessary chore that improves penetration of the sun and increases air movement through the tree. Maybe I've just got an unusual way of seeing things, but I couldn't help but relate these descriptions to our spiritual pruning -- changing or training us for growth or constraint; and receiving more of the penetration of the Son and an increase in the movement of the Holy Spirit through us [being the air/breath of God].
The principle verses in the Bible that refer to pruning are the ones we all know, John 15:1-2, I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].
Although the purpose of this blog post is to address the Body of Christ, it is necessary you understand that while these verses in John are applicable to us Christians, they are clearly addressed to Israel. If you take in the whole counsel of God in His Word, you will see that in both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5, the nation of Israel is called the vine, and God is the vinedresser ... You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land (Psalm 80:8-9); For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel... (Isaiah 5:7).
So when Jesus calls Himself "the true Vine", He is identifying with Israel. According to American theologian and pastor, R.C. Sproul, Jesus is saying that He is the embodiment of all that Israel should be.
“Should be” because, as is well known, Israel did not faithfully execute
her mission as God’s representative. Her sins and lack of repentance
prevented her from being a faithful witness. And that's where Romans 11:17-24 brings us Christians into view. We were grafted into the vine, and now share in its nourishing root. But, lest we become arrogant, Scripture tells us that we, too, can be cut off if we become proud or lose our fear of the Lord.
I have to tell you that as we entered into this new year of 2019, I have been overwhelmed with the number of Christian websites that are prophesying of great turmoil and transition this year. Believe me I am not diminishing the ability of the anointed to prophesy, but perhaps I am feeling inundated with the number of self-proclaimed prophets. There are times I sense that "to prophesy" has become an idol among the Body of Christ; that it is "the gifting of the hour", if you will.
But are we possibly seeking after giftings more than fruit? I mean, Jesus makes it pretty clear in John 15 that every branch in Him must bear fruit, or it is pruned. Are we clear that "to prophesy" is to speak under divine inspiration, or to share the counsel from God that we have received? Or have we, as the Body of Christ, become arrogant in believing that our own counsel is worth proclaiming as God's? We are to abide in Him, which results in bearing fruit. But if we just attach ourselves to Him, without truly abiding in faith, then we are just dead wood, not a thriving fruit-producing branch of the vine. And we will be "cut off" -- please see that distinction ... not pruned, but cut off!
To be pruned means that all the branches that are fruit-bearing will will be trimmed to increase fruitfulness and growth. Remember that pruning includes changing or training a branch's growth pattern. We, as the Church, should expect to be pruned to increase our yield of souls for the Kingdom so that the harvest of the Lord will be abundant. Before we embrace every prophetic warning that is being spoken, perhaps we should wait to see if the Lord is about to prune to bring forth a truer word. Every prophecy spoken is not necessarily coming from the Lord; and my spirit is beginning to sense a competition among the "prophetic voices" to gain loyal followings.
I do not want to be so cynical, but I think of Jesus, standing before the Sanhedrin. They beat on Him, and taunted Him, saying, "Prophesy to us!" But He stayed silent. He didn't need to speak to hear Himself heard. At that moment He was silent and surrendered -- not working in His giftings of prophecy or miracles, but surrendered to His flesh and waiting for the Father to reveal His counsel. Through the hardship of His trial, the discipline to wait for His Father's counsel, and the suffering of the Cross, Jesus bore far greater and sweeter fruit than Israel, the original vine of the Lord of Hosts.
I think it is imperative to the Church today to remember that Israel did not faithfully execute her mission as God’s representative. And for that she is temporarily cut off the vine. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that true faith - real, authentic faith that abides in Christ -- is affirmed by the fruit of good works. We must examine our faith and determine if, by acting in our gifts -- whether it be prophecy or any other -- we are producing good fruit for the Kingdom, or serving ourselves. Let us examine ourselves to see what the world sees more of in us --- our giftings or our fruit. Do we need to be pruned because we are growing the wrong way? Are we sprouting branches out of our flesh, or from the true vine? Are we willing to be pruned so that the Son can penetrate our branches and the breath of God move in us? Let us be willing to have every unholy branch be pruned by our loving Father so that we are effective representatives of the Kingdom, and we produce blooms of faith ... healthy, vibrant and beautiful blooms that grow into an abundant harvest of fruit. And let us thank God that He loves us enough to prune us!
John 15:4 "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."