Pruned or Purged?
No one wants to think of themselves as a bad person. Everyone wants to think of themselves as ‘saved’ and therefore pretty ‘tight’ with the Lord. At least, we want to be free from any sense of guilt or shame telling ourselves that no one is perfect. So, Christians should be instructed in how to determine when the Father is pruning them of character attributes (He calls them unfruitful branches.) so that then their fruit bearing might be increased. The main theme to remember is that to become more compatible with Jesus, those things in us that are not compatible must be removed.
I have never heard a sermon preached or a teaching presented to instruct me in knowing the differences between shame, which we associate with the accusations of the enemy, from conviction of carnality or sin which are ours by inheritance from our natural fathers. (Yes, carnality, naturally minded emotions and other aspects of the fallen nature are to be crucified as they are recognized! (See Galatians 5:24) An easy way to think about this crucifying is to take away its life support system completely and not let it have any active life. However, the natural man tricks us into sustaining those cancerous branches. In order to not be found ‘judgmental,’ today’s Christians set up a new righteousness (which is not righteous at all, but humanism) which empathizes, sympathizes, and supports conduct and sentiments that is clearly natural, or Biblically, carnal. I know of no greater hindrance to growth in Christ than to confuse the idea of being a new creature with efforts made to bring authenticity to the old creature.
As you can tell, this is not a feel good article. This article is designed to help save you from yourself and from the enemy that is actively at work against your mind.
I fear for all of us if our efforts to be free of guilt will play into the enemies most often used whisper, “Do what you want! God loves you! You will not surely die!” This great trick has been effective now for thousands of years and we must not be blinded to the subtlety of this doctrine that has crept into our American beliefs.
Once again we come around to John 15:1-11 NIV which in very graphic language tells us that without the very nature (metaphorical sap) of Jesus flowing within us to produce fruit that is the fulfillment of His life’s virtue that we will in fact die, contrary to the enemy’s diversionary doctrines. We can safely define ‘fruit’ as the products of one’s life whether of the natural man or the man from heaven. It would help us all to distinguish between the Fruit of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Natural Man.
John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
John 15:3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
“How can I know when God is pruning me?”
This is clearly a function of the Holy Spirit to those who are abiding in Christ. To be IN Him, means a living relationship with two-way communications: instructions, corrections and encouragements. Abiding is very up close and personal. Abiding is a dynamic relationship with Jesus rather than merely holding information about Him. Abiding is knowing Him in experience and is far beyond the one sided concept of hearing about Him. Abiding is to be-being filled with the Spirit of Christ, day by day.
Surely, the branch knows when the fruit producing sap is flowing and when it is not. The revelation of Jesus is available to us now, to those who want to give up their humanity to take on His divinity. When we see Him as He is, then are we transformed to be like Him. Seeing Him or being enlightened by Him is the means and the environment of becoming new in spirit, soul, and ultimately, in body. Clearly, John 15:2 tells us that those who are in Him but bear no fruit are purged or cut off the vine.
Verse six tells us that a person may of his own will and action not remain or abide in Jesus. I assume that this person at one time was in Christ but is not now. Think here of Abiding as living in God’s house and then moving away to another house. The result is the same as being purged, the branch dies, falls off the vine, and is burned. Oh, how easy it is to make up stories that sooth the difficult questions of relationship with Jesus. My, all we have to do is tell everyone that they have nothing to be concerned about and then pass the offering plate. Woe! to false shepherds and false evangelists who water down the gospel to puke. Our call is to become and to make disciples, and there are no disciples among those who do not Abide in Christ. Disciples are able to bring others into that degree of relationship through continuing close relationships. True disciples remain in Him and are repeatedly pruned.
The school of discipleship in Christ is a very difficult place to be for the natural man committed to his own way. This school is full of revelations about the true nature of our being and also the true nature of Him. It is difficult for any of us to face how unlike Jesus that we really are. Believe me, I know this pain very well, and it is the pain of pruning. So, the most common thought we employ is that God loves us just the way we are and that Jesus died as our substitute removing any responsibility for change from ourselves. I remember the foolish virgins who did not have enough oil and were rejected as part of the bride. See Matthew 25:1-12.
What God wants to prune will be known to us if we step back and judge our own lives against the quality of life, thought and action that we see modeled for us in Christ Jesus. (See I Cor 11:31) I know for me that I have not yet been made perfect in Him although that is the prize that we run for. Abiding produces an awareness of His thoughts and desires, moment by moment. We know, with growing horror, when our thoughts are not His thoughts. We have an opportunity to bring every thought captive and obedient to Him. If we can not go with His flow, then pruning will soon come.
We might also fall for another of the enemies distortions. ‘You already have everything that is promised. You can’t be saved by your own works!” I can just go sit down on the curb and watch the others training and running of the race. I tell myself that the prize is already mine and it matters little if I actually am transformed into the image and likeness of God in the process? Wretched man that I am for not recognizing the enemy offstage telling me the old lie, ‘Do as you will, you will not die for your unfruitfulness!” See how different this line is to the stipulation of Jesus in verse 7-9 that tells us pointedly that the required fruit bearing is contingent upon 1. Knowing His words. 2. Doing His commands. 3. Remaining in Him. All others are purged by God or remove themselves from the relationship.
John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
John 15:8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Since this article examines the negative possibilities that can come to us if we do not abide in Christ, let the reader know that the objective of ‘pruning’ is so as to not be ‘cut off.’ The logical conclusion of the meaning of being cut off seems much more irrevocable than merely losing a little of our old self.
It is imperative that we not be drawn into the enemies’ trap of thinking that we are automatically in Christ and that we do not need pruning by the Lord on a regular basis. His pruning will not produce Jesus’ character in us if we refuse to cooperate or in pride say, ‘I don’t need that!’
Many will say that we can not be taken out of Him in the sense that once a person is ‘saved’ then they are ‘always’ saved. Salvation, in that stream of thought, contains a conviction that one is released from the liabilities of their sin, unconditionally, past present and future. Also, the thought is that they will go to heaven when they die and will never be separated for the presence of the Lord. Forever and ever, Amen! Or is it? Do not be deceived. There are and will be branches that are cut off (even if that means loss of salvation), sent to the refuse heap and eventually burned. John 15:6. Oh, of course, a loving God would not do that to anyone, we are told.
Let me say that salvation from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, while sufficient for all the sins of the world, is applicable to and available for those who seek, find and maintain an abiding, obedient relationship with Him. I am convinced that our casual definitions and shallow self serving teachings on relationship with Jesus will come to a great sweeping away of many who think they fit the modern definitions of being ‘saved’ and are then acceptable to God. Fellow Christians, it is just not worth the risk to think this way! You can be sure you are in Him, but you will have to get that assurance directly from Him, spoken by the Holy Spirit into your heart and mind. Anything less is deep deception.
There is a tendency among Christians to live in a mental state of denial that any of the negative truths of Scripture could ever apply to them. To me, this is a real danger with possibly irrevocable consequences. The example before us is the idea that people who have a little information about Jesus and a conviction that the promises of eternal life and escape from destruction are theirs with no accompanying commitment to live in Christ. Truly, I would like to present nothing but positive, human pleasing reflections on the subject of Abiding, but the truth of God’s word is conditional, (see ‘If’ in verse seven.) and has negative consequences when those conditions are not met, and ignoring the conditions will not produce a satisfactory outcome…ever!
People do not like ‘conditions’ to be placed on them. No conditions, no requirements, only believe! Belief here, for most, encompasses only an unseen, mental, personal, exclusive and beyond question set of self-pleasing and self-soothing ideas. When the words if or unless appear, we would do well to believe that what we want is not automatic. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Him! The condition is on being found ‘in Him.’
A conditional set of standards may not be accepted or understood by a person who wants to avoid being held accountable for the quality of their Christian life by anyone, human or Devine. Sadly, I recognize that these words will be rejected by many who don’t want their boat rocked. On the other hand, if I can help ‘save’ one person from being deceived into a half-hearted Christian commitment and help them enhance an eternal reward, then it will be worth any rejection or other price to me.
Be pruned or be purged.