God takes time to prune the believers to make sure that the spiritual nutrients go where they need to go. At times, we go through this painful process, and because we are Americans with a low pain tolerance in every way, we think that all suffering and all pain has to be connected to Satan. But the vinedresser goes through the painful process of pruning so that we will bear stronger fruit for Him.
Look with me once again in verse 2-3:
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. . . . If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
We all understand at least in theory that the Bible is an important book. We were reminded in our denomination that a gigantic battle was fought (and largely won) in regards to the nature of the Scriptures being the literal, actual, inspired Word of God.
Yet, statistics bear out that fewer and fewer in our denomination are reading the Bible less and less. They are looking to other things for fulfillment, satisfaction, and direction. So the battle on the Bible front for many in our congregations is that of the Bible being sufficient! Is the Bible enough?
According to Jesus, the Bible is plenty. How is a Christian made ‘clean’? By His Word—we call this the Bible. We said this pledge in VBS:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word.
And will make it a lamp unto my feet,
A light unto my path.
And will hide its words in my heart, that I may not sin against God.
While this pledge is taken largely from Psalm 119:11 and Psalm 119:105, there is another Psalm 119 verse that speaks volumes:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
We drastically underestimate the creating and cleansing power of God’s Word. But this is how we are made ‘clean.’ Consider the vine analogy again. Basically the vinedresser of a grape vineyard is to cut off the dead branches, then prune the suckers off the branches that are bearing fruit. Why? Because the water and the light that comes to give that plant nourishment is needed for the productive branches. It will be used for the dead branches or for those suckers—when it could be used to produce fruit.
In order for us to bear fruit, we must take prayerfully consider what is sapping our spiritual energy that may keep us from bearing fruit as we should.
When God cleans us with His Word (a Word that comes from Him), we see another avenue of communication that opens up: prayer. Look at verse 7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The pruning brings the spiritual nutrients and keeps spiritual energy from being sapped. Then the spiritual wherewithal opens up another aspect of the connecting and abiding in Christ. The Word comes to us, then prayer is another way we abide—we long to have His will accomplished in our hearts and minds and lives and in the church and in the world. We pray in His name.
(This is Part II of What Makes a Disciple of Christ? Part I is here.)