Being connected to Christ is critical, and yet sometimes if we are being honest, we pull away from Jesus. We start trying to produce fruit on our own and we jump into the muddy madness of conforming to the world. It is at that point that we need some…
CLEANSING (John 15:2, 5-8) . 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Sometimes, we have to fight gravity as we start growing in Christ, we feel the world pressing down on us, demanding that we conform to it’s image—but Jesus here distinguishes between two types of pruning: (1) separating and (2) cutting back branches. Jesus promises to cut away at what infects us and then prune what is under-performing and purges what is poisoning the entire tree. Yet, there is another component, that sometimes under the weight a branch can fall down, Jesus cleans it up! Here is the cool part–it no longer comes about doing enough good things to feel good about ourselves, but as one commentary put it, “Fruit-bearing is not a test; that is, a branch does not have to demonstrate a level of productivity to be safe from destruction. Rather, fruit-bearing is a byproduct.” (NIV APP Commentary) There is no Jesus quota–where I have to earn his love, but there is a Jesus quality that starts over from the roots to impact the rest. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.Abiding produces abundance, but it doesn’t always feel good in the moment or happen overnight! Even if you are abiding that means there are areas that need to be adjusted. An attitude that is divisive, a correction where you’ve gone off course, an unwillingness to forgive–and Jesus grabs a hold and cleans and then cleanses. It can even feel that walking with Christ produced hardship rather than greater harvest. Yet, every tree goes through a season of dormancy, where it has no leaves where it may look like nothing is happening. In fact, it may look like it is dying on the outside, but it is still growing deeper on the inside. Vines are interesting in that they can produce numerous clusters of fruit, sometimes up to 6 or 7, and yet as gardeners know, by pruning away smaller clusters of growth, the vine can produce 2-3 huge clusters of higher quality grapes. In order to start conforming our lives to the Image of Christ—we too have to be powerfully pruned.
I love what the Psalmist proclaimed as he asked God to cleanse him: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7 ). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRefcuICmuM. Recently, Chelsea and I took Samuel to the softball fields in Charleston, and Samuel within 30 seconds was playing in the dirt. Hilariously, he started to look like Linus from the Peanuts Comic Strip—a dust cloud was all around him—he literally had gravel stuck to his scalp. It was obvious, you’d touch his hair and a puff of dust would rise up. His hair covered the rocking interior, but it didn’t change the reality of the dirt.
A lot of the times, we can do the same with sin, we cover up and try to make our lives look clean, when the dust cloud of sin is impacting everything in our lives. It is separating us from God, from each other, it is dividing, and destroying—when all along God offers to wash us clean through the blood of Jesus Christ. He offers to do what we are unable to do, so we can experience what we are unable to build for ourselves, an enduring relationship with God—a harvest rather than a heaping pile of branches.