Many Christians associate the pruning of the Father with pain, suffering or bad things happening to them to bring refinement and fruitfulness in their lives. Thankfully that’s not so. Your heavenly Father is not a critical, fault-finding Gardener with an inspecting-type look in His eyes and a big cutting device in His hand, ready to just slash you to make you more effective in His Kingdom.
Cutting trees and pruning bushes was part of my education at a forestry school. All together I’ve cut hundreds of trees and other vegetation. When I think of pruning, I think of cutting, sawing and trimming. Some trees and shrubs start “bleeding” when they’re cut. The tree sap that flows through sapwood becomes visible and starts dripping out of “the wound.”
Jesus uses the illustration of pruning in John 15. It says that the Father prunes the branches, which are the believers, so they can bear more fruit (John 15:2). The fruit indicates any of the virtues that Gods Word advocate. For example, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruits of righteousness, the fruit of new converts and fruit of holiness.
God is a good God
Like trees that “bleed” from a “wound” when they’re cut, I used to think God’s pruning to be a painful process where He cuts and slashes us. I’ve heard people teach that He would do that through things like sickness, death, poverty, and other forms of tragedy so that eventually we will bear more fruit. This teaching promotes problems as a good thing. But not only that, difficulties and trials are also a necessity if we want to bear more fruit.
This mindset didn’t “sit right with me.” Deep down I knew this view to be inconsistent with God’s nature. God is a good God, whose intentions and thoughts are only good, pure and loving. God never uses sickness or hardships to teach and train (discipline) us. He has the Word (2 Tim. 3:16) and the Holy Spirit (John 16:13, 1 John 2:17) to do that.
That is not to say that we cannot learn through tragedy. We can. But God has a better way. If we mistakenly think that God is bringing tragedy into our lives to make us more fruitful, then we’ll not resist the tragedies, and they will not flee from us (James 4:7).
But what does “pruning” in John 15 mean? The Geek word used for “pruning” means “to cleanse (from guilt, to expiate).” To cleanse from what? The definition is self-explanatory; to cleanse from any sense of guilt you might have! Guilt is the result of a law-mentality. You think you need to expiate; do a payment on your part before God will move on your behalf.
Smells like self-effort, doesn’t it?
The good news is, you don’t have to treat God like an “investment vehicle”. You don’t stick in prayer, bible study, fasting and religious works hoping to get something out of the effort. There is nothing you can do to inspire God to bless you (or curse you for that matter), because you already are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).
The cure to be cleansed from a quilt-conscious (“to be pruned by God”) is to receive revelation of God’s unconditional grace. The more you understand God’s grace the less you try to obtain God’s approval or blessings and you’ll automatically bear fruit as you allow Christ to live His life through you.
To rely on Christ’s indwelling presence is to bear much fruit!
In short, God prunes or cleanses you (by His Word and Spirit), from the false idea that you need to bring your contribution to the table so He will move and bless you. Instead of being performance driven you’ll start to rest in the finished work of the cross and bear much fruit.
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