I watched my dad prune the leafy limbs from the grape arbor. That’s what a good horticulturist does when he intends to grow grapes.
When the farmer goes to the vineyard in the springtime, he has two choices. He can grow big, beautiful, green leaves, or he can grow grapes. He can’t do both. If he wishes to produce grapes, he must prune the vines, cutting away unnecessary leaves so that the sun can reach deep into the vines. Only after the master vinedresser prunes away the excess will the vineyard produce the anticipated harvest.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He and the eleven apostles left Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley, and climbed the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. On the short journey, Jesus must have paused a few moments at a grape arbor. Looking at the grapes, and then scanning the eyes of his friends, he said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:1, 4-5).
Jesus was teaching his disciples a crucially important truth. “Abide in Me, and I in you!” (John 15:4, ESV). Apart from Jesus we will be fruitless, but in union with Christ, we are promised fruit-filled lives. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and there is “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Having been“saved by grace through faith” we become “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:8–10). Saved people are “in Christ.” Lost people are not “in Christ.”
“Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit” (John 15:2). I respectfully disagree with the translator’s interpretation. I believe that it should read, “Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he LIFTS UP.”
The word translated “removes” (John 15:2, CSB) or “takes away” (ESV) is often translated lifts up or picks up. Jesus told the paralyzed man to “PICK UP your bed, and go home” (Mark 2:11 (ESV). After Jesus fed five thousand men and their families, they “PICKED UP twelve baskets full of leftover pieces” (Matthew 14:20). Jesus commanded His disciples to “TAKE UP his cross daily, and follow me”(Luke 9:23). “Pick up … picked up… take up!” These are translated from the same Greek word found in John 15:2.
“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6, ESV). What is the eternal destiny of the person who does not abide in Christ? Yes. Sadly, “the fire.”
But what of the person who is “IN ME that does not produce fruit” (John 15:2)? What happens to the lazy limb that has fallen into the dust? When my dad was pruning the grapes, he often found a lazy limb laying in the dust. These undisciplined, fruitless limbs weren’t lopped-off and throw into the burn pile. He gently lifted them up, dusted them off, and wrapped them around the trellis. He trained them, disciplined them, putting them in a place where they would become fruit-bearing.
Our God is the Great Vinedresser. When we fail and fall, He doesn’t immediately get out His shears! Are you feeling fruitless? Are you experiencing limited love, little joy, no peace, plenty of impatience? (Galatians 5:22-23). Ask the Gracious Father, the Faithful Vinedresser to lift you up, to dust you off, to train you, and to put you in a place where you can produce fruit.
Take it from me. I promise. Our Gracious God delights in picking us up and dusting us off.