John 15:1-2 (NKJV) 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
We have been looking at the idea of restoration in the Bible. I believe that this is a year where God wants to work restoration in our lives. There are many areas of restoration. We may have been broken and need God to fix us. We may have lost something, or something may have been stolen from us. God wants to restore those things to us. Finally, Joel says that God wants to restore the years that have been “eaten” by the devil. I am not sure what that means, but I receive it in Jesus’ name.
Today I want to look at an aspect of restoration that we may not be so excited about but is necessary none the less. In Joel 2:18-27 we read about God’s restoration. God is going to do wonderful things for Israel. However, in verses 1-12 we find that the devastation came upon them by an army of the Lord. In verse 11 we read some things that may be a bit disturbing.
Joel 2:11 (NKJV) 11 The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?
This picture is of the judgement that comes to the people of Israel because they have disobeyed God yet again. The restoration process begins with verses 12-17 which describes a time of repentance among the people of God with their leaders at the forefront. It is only after that process that we see the restoring power of God.
I do not believe our Father actively brings bad things to our lives. I do believe what Paul taught in Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is always death. When we allow sin into our lives, we open the door to the enemy. God is God. Even when this happens, we must understand that he is always in control and is working to provide a way out. His heart is restoration. He is by nature a rewarder, but we must diligently seek him and his ways (Heb. 11:6.) Jesus taught something that can give light to how he deals with us today and it correlates with the process outlined in Joel 2.
John 15 is part of Jesus’ last teaching time spent with his disciples. Beginning with the 13th chapter and continuing through the 17th chapter, Jesus is sharing with his disciples the things that are most important to him before he goes to the cross. I think you must agree that these things warrant our attention. In John 15 he gives us insight into how God deals with us. The point of the teaching is that we bear more fruit and eventually that we bear much fruit. I believe part of that involves the kind of restoration he wants to bring into our lives.
I have heard a number of people talk about how bad 2019 was for them. Believe me, I have had those kinds of years. 2019 could have been better for me, but on balance I have to say it was a good year. Either way, we must understand that it is the will of God for us to be fruitful. He does whatever he must, within the confines of his Fatherly love for us, to make sure we become all we can be in him. In today’s verse Jesus’ reminds his disciples of something that we must remember. He prunes us so that we may bear increasingly more fruit in our relationship with him.
I love all my children. I am very proud of them. Each is different and what they are doing in life is different. I believe all of them are baring fruit. That is what is important to me. When they were growing up it was my job to teach them, train them and correct them so that in adulthood they would be fruitful. Now they are out of my care, but they still have a Father watching over them and he desires we all continue to grow in baring kingdom fruit.
In this wonderful teaching we find a number of things that the “vinedresser” will do for us. First it says that branches which do not bear fruit are taken away. I do not think we need to be so concerned about that. If we are doing our best and walking in relationship with him, we are baring fruit. It is the second thing that we need to understand. If we are bearing fruit, he will prune us.
There is no hope for the unfruitful branch. It cannot bear more fruit. It is dead. It cannot bear any fruit. However, those who are fruitful in the Kingdom are the ones he will prune. What does this mean? He will cut away the things in our lives that are keeping us from baring fruit. He will trim the deadness out of our tree so that the life in us is free to flow to a greater and greater degree.
How does God prune us? I believe it is primarily by the Word of God. In verse 7, Jesus tells us that if we abide in him and his words abide in us, we will bear much fruit. If we are pruned, we bear more fruit. If we abide in him, we will produce much fruit. The reason is that the life flow will be consistent. We will not need pruning, at least not as much.
The pruning process through the Word of God happens when we hear things that we may not want to hear. God brings words to us that point out things that may be wrong. James speaks of this in a slightly different way, but it contains the same truth.
James 1:22-25 (NKJV) 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
He says if we hear the Word but do not do what it says, we are like someone who gets up in the morning, sees that he has “bed head” and does nothing about it. We would not do that. When we look into the “perfect law of liberty” and adjust our appearance accordingly, we will bear more fruit. God does not tell us what we do not want to hear to hurt us. He tells us because he loves us. If a parent refuses to tell their children when they are wrong but only praises them when they are right, they grow up with a warped view of both life and themselves. God does not want that for us.
Sometimes we refuse to heed the Word God gives us for the purpose of pruning. Often that leads to bad things happening. I do not think God does the bad things. We put ourselves in vulnerable positions when we refuse to obey. I believe God covers us for a time and keeps dealing with us. If we still refuse, God must allow the enemy to exploit the vulnerability we have allowed. Repentance closes that vulnerability, Praise God.
Let me bring this around to restoration. Even when God prunes us and some things have to be removed, he still loves us. Whatever pruning removes God will restore in a better and greater form. The army that came upon Israel in Joel caused some extreme pruning. However, in the end they were much better off.
If you went through some pruning in 2019, that is OK. God is simply bringing you to a place where you can bear more fruit in 2020. I believe the pruning we may have needed was just a part of the preparation for the better things 2020 can and will bring. If you went through some difficulties, do not give in to condemnation. God loves you. The pruning is an act of his love.
Not every bad thing is God’s pruning process. Whether it was God pruning or the attack of the enemy that brought bad things in 2019, just know that God is not mad at you and restoration is on the way in 2020.