April 11, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Bryan Song, Gracepoint Austin.

John 15:1-8
“Pruning is necessary for any vine. Dead wood is worse than fruitlessness, for dead wood can harbor disease and decay. An untrimmed vine will develop long rambling branches that produce little fruit because most of the strength of the vine is given to growing wood.  The vine-grower is concerned that the vine be healthy and productive. The caring process is a picture of the divine dealing with human life. God removes the dead wood from his church and disciplines the life of the believer so that it is directed into fruitful activity.”

Why is the relationship between the vine and the branch a particularly apt description of my relationship with God? The picture of a vine and branch is an apt picture of my relationship with God because the branch is utterly dependent on the vine for life, and that is indeed the case when I come to think of myself and God.  The branch, were it to be cut off from the vine, would be severed from all the nutrients it needs to live.  It would die.  Similarly, it is imperative that I stay connected to the vine, God, who is the source of all that I need for life.

What is surprising about the fact that the gardener prunes the “branch that does bear fruit?” It is surprising that the gardener would prune or do anything at all to the branch bearing fruit.  One would think that he would leave it alone because it’s doing fine.  After all, it’s already doing what it is suppose to be doing, producing fruit.  But the gardener provides further attention to such branches, so that they would in fact bear more fruit.   He wants for the branches to maximize their potency in what they were designed to do.  Perhaps it’s not just that he wants the branches to maximize their potency, but also that he recognizes that if he doesn’t prune away at the harmful areas, these parts will eventually grow and overtake the fruit producing ability of the branch as a whole.  He is not naïve to think that things are okay simply because the branch is bearing fruit.  He is aware that with a lapse in attention and care, this branch could easily get neglected and overrun with decay.

How does the word of God “prune” or “clean” a person? The word of God prunes  a person by cutting away the unfit parts of ones character, thoughts, and heart.  As it says in Hebrews 12, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.  Like a sword, it is designed to cut away at the harmful areas, as it convicts a person’s heart of the concrete choices and ways of thinking that need to change.  This happens through the discipline of daily devotions and bible reading.  As one comes before God’s word, he is not merely reading to know about God more.  He is also receiving instruction and discipline from God’s living word, instructions for how he needs to change his life to be in line with Gods’ word.   Personally, I’ve been experiencing this time and again.  One of the things that God has been challenging me about recently has been the way in which I depend on my own wisdom and strength to push through situations.  As I was reading through Gods’ word last week, one of the verses that really spoke to me was from Proverbs 26:12 which says “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  This was humbling and sobering to read.  God’s word came alive to me as I recognized that I am like this, wise in my own eyes.  It shows just by the way in which I naturally come to depend on my own wisdom many times.  And this realization led me to pray a prayer of repentance, and a commitment to change this kind of maddening wisdom in the self.  I know it’s not a one and done process, but a constant pruning that I will have to undergo when it comes to this tendency to be wise in my own eyes.

Notice that there is no command to bear fruit, but only the command to “remain in me.”  What is the significance of this, and how does this apply to me? The fact that the command is to remain in God and not to bear fruit is significant because it shows what is truly important when it comes to my walk with God.  It’s about remaining in God, not bearing fruit..  Another way to think of it is that it shows that God is concerned about the relationship I have with him rather than the results of my own efforts.  Sometimes I get these two very distinct things blurred as I think about how I’m doing before God.  Just because I’m doing a lot of things for God, doing things here in the Austin ministry to help this church grow, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m in the Father.  I think this is such an important point for me to really understand at this juncture in my life, because objectively my life is only getting busier. My job demands are growing, I have two young kids to raise, and with the growth of the Austin church so are the demands upon me as a minister on this campus.   There will probably never be a time when I’m not busy doing something for God, but I need to heed this important point which is that I need to be sure I’m tending to my relationship with God, staying connected with him.  And I need to be doing this through the unwavering priority of being connected with God through his word and prayer.

Another way this applies to me is that it helps me see yet again the power of prayer.  I think back on this past week here in Austin and the incredible harvest of souls we experienced.  10 salvation/lordship decisions.  It’s truly amazing. Through this experience,  God showed his zeal for the lost, as well as His desire to answer the prayers of those who are connected with him.  So many brothers and sisters across all the churches engaged in fervent prayers for each of the students in course 101.  Though it is God’s prerogative to bring about fruit as he so desires,  how much more God would’ve been inclined to answer the earnest prayers of all those who prayed to Him for the salvation of these precious souls here on this UT campus.  This encourages me to really remain in God through prayer as I grow older, especially as I feel more pressed for time.

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