Friday, December 19, 2014

Pruning in the Lives of Christians

Pruning.  I have been sitting on this topic for a year and a half now, but I believe the timing is just as fitting now than it would have been then.  Honestly, my hesitation was primarily due to the fact that what must be said affects me just as much as it does you.  No matter the difficulty or whether I am as ready as I wish, I must be obedient to the Holy Spirit.  I will not delay this any longer, so, let's talk about it.
Pruning Grape Vine
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

What does it mean to prune something? To prune something means,
To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth...[t]o remove or cut out as superfluous ([b]eing beyond what is required or sufficient) - (see pruning
Have you ever planted a vegetable garden?  If so, directions on the package of seeds instructed you plant a few together with a certain amount spacing between them.  Later, you would have to prune (or cut back or down) the other plants, so that your row of plants will have enough room to grow. The purpose of the pruning is to ensure better or desired growth for that plant or tree.  I have grown a couple of gardens before and I have learned a few things from it as well. For example, I have thrown a bunch of tomato seeds in the ground and didn't prune at all.  I ended up with a nice produce, but things grew out of control and vines were all over the place.  Some of the other plants in the garden box were not as strong as the tomatoes.  I probably could have ended up with a better yield of everything had I followed the instructions to place the seeds the right amount of space apart and pruned where needed. You'd be surprised at what you can learn through gardening!

The beautiful thing about this is that pruning not only relates to physical gardening, but it also relates directly to our spiritual walk with Yeshua as well. In John 15:1-6, it says:
(1) Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (2) He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. He also trims every branch that produces fruit to prepare it to produce even more. (3) You have already been prepared to produce more fruit by the teaching I have given you. (4) Stay joined to me and I will stay joined to you. No branch can produce fruit alone. It must stay connected to the vine. It is the same with you. You cannot produce fruit alone. You must stay joined to me. (5) "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won’t be able to do anything. (6) If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be like a branch that has been thrown out and has dried up. All the dead branches like that are gathered up, thrown into the fire and burned." (ERV)
So, let's break those verses down into three sections.

Roles

In verses 1-3, Yeshua, immediately gives us His identity and then identifies Yahweh the Father.  The Father is the gardner and the Son is the true vine.  We as followers of Christ are the branches.  A gardner takes full care of his plants and takes the necessary steps to ensure that they get the maximum production out of them. While pruning is one out of many things that must be done, it is still necessary to trim back the branches in preparation of producing the fruit.  This means that if you are not producing fruit (doing what has been commanded of you) as a branch, you will be cut off from Christ.


Connected to the Vine

In verses 4-5, Yeshua stresses the importance of staying connected to Him.  He tells us that we are nothing by ourselves.  I am pretty sure, that many of you can attest to trying to do it alone without Him and the mess from which you are probably still trying to recover.  There is no way we can be fruitful, if we are disconnected from the True Vine.  Yeshua wants a healthy relationship with each of us, but that means we have to remain healthy branches in order to stay in relationship with Him. He has already given us the promise of being fruitful, we just have to do our part.


What Happens to The Separated

Verse 6 pretty much sums everything up.  You have seen branches that are trimmed from trees.  You have seen what happens to dead portion of trees and plants that go by the wayside.  They are separated from the healthy part of the plant so that the rest of the plant continues to thrive. If you have ever seen a fire started, you know that it is started with dry material.  You don't start it with healthy living material.  Dry wood something which has been separated from the living plant for quite some time.  This is why campers and people with wood-burning stoves or fireplaces seek out dry wood to start fires.  Simply put - dead wood burns better.  This is what Yeshua tells us.  If you become separated from Him, you become like kindling for a fire.


What does this means for you and I?  Well, it means quite a bit.  You see, a branch on a vine, typically has its on little branches as well. We should be connected to the True Vine all the while being fruitful, however, we as branches need to continuously prune things in our lives.  If you leave dying branches on a plant, it will eventually cause harm to the rest of the tree. One article states that you should "[r]emove dead, damaged and diseased branches to help prevent insect & decay organisms from entering the tree." (see, "Why, When, & How to Prune Your Trees").

Folks, the Gardner (Yahweh) WILL NOT let the Vine (Yeshua) and the true church be damaged or diseased by branches that are not producing fruit.  In addition, those who chose to against His will are subject to being trimmed as well.  As such, we as followers, should not allow anything to cause us to be cut away from the True Vine.  This means that we have to make some decisions in our lives - some easy, some medium-sized and some difficult. If you know that there are stumbling blocks in your life, then it is simple - prune them from your life.  However, it gets difficult when the Holy Spirit instructs us to cut things out of our lives that we have become use to having, like:
  • TV Entertainment
  • Habits (coffee, cigarettes, etc.) 
  • Hobbies
  • Things (houses, cars, games, etc.)
  • Friends
  • Family
  • And many more things...
The two on the list that may cause the most heartburn for folks are friends and family. I understand it, because we are use to those who are close to us, especially family.  I have had the same struggles as well just as many others on this Christian walk.  How do you just cut them off?  How do you cut off the ones that have brought you through thick and thin? How do you cut off grandmothers, aunts, or uncles who may have raied you?  What about the ones who birthed you?  I do not have that answer for your situation or the words for you to say (should it come to that), but I can only point you back to scripture. In Matthew 12:46-50, Yeshua tells us His true family:
(46) While Jesus was talking to the people, his mother and brothers stood outside. They wanted to talk to him. (47) Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are waiting for you outside. They want to talk to you." (48) Jesus answered, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" (49) Then he pointed to his followers and said, "See! These people are my mother and my brothers. (50) Yes, anyone who does what my Father in heaven wants is my true brother and sister and mother." (ERV)
Our commandments are to stay connected to (and love) Yeshua and Love people as He loves them.  Then, we are commanded to share the gospel.  Those are our jobs, but listen - everyone cannot and will not accept the Word in its entirety. Doing the parts that benefit us comes easy.  The part that causes us heartache and sacrifice is a different story for many others. We cannot think that those before us who were righteous can also gift us an easy Christian walk and connection to the Vine. Sunday morning service does not guarantee you a constant connection to the Vine. Your parents' relationship with Yeshua, does not guarantee you constant connection with the Vine.  It is your own walk which determines your connection to the Vine.  As such there will come a time where we must make a choice as it pertains to our direct relationship. We will have to chose to either stand up for the Messiah or not.  Unfortunately, this may mean some emotional decisions for many of us (I included). The question is where will you stand?  Will you stand with the Son or will you stand against Him?

We have to realize that pruning in our spiritual walk is also a constant health check on our relationship with Christ.  You do not want anything in this life to jeopardize your eternal life after this flesh is gone.  So, I end with this last question:  What do you need to start pruning from your life today?

Decisions. Decisions.

Be blessed folks.


Antoine E. Hall


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