Tuesday, January 7, 2014

John 15:2--unfruitful branches, part 2

“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit.’”

A couple more thoughts on the highlighted portion of verse 2.

First, God does not take that action lightly, but gives folks a chance, and help, to become fruitful before he moves them out of the way. We can infer that from the passages Jesus seems to be drawing on and their context. Those passages are Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, and Ezekiel 15. They were written to warn Israel that God had lost patience with them and that they would be set aside. When were they written? After long periods of disobedience and multiple warnings. Jesus’ teaching in Luke 13:6-9 also reflect that principle. God does not want to set believers aside--He would much prefer them to bear fruit--so He gives them multiple chances to be fruitful before He stops using them.

Once again, that principle is illustrated, albeit by rough analogy, in our garden. There have been times when particular crops failed to produce. Our initial reaction is to give them more attention, not to till them under. It is only after we’ve tried everything we know to turn them around that we till them in. Why? Because their failure hurts others (the folks that would have been fed by that bed’s production) and we want to do all we can to avoid that. I suspect that God approaches individual believers’ unfruitfulness the same way.

Second, the action is self-imposed. It only happens when believers themselves make the choice not to pursue fruitfulness.  God gives each of us multiple chances and 1 John 1:8-2:2 tells us that the door to forgiveness is always open. It is only when a believer fails to walk through that door that God will move that person out of the way

Monday, January 6, 2014

John 15:2--unfruitful branches, part 1

“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit.’”

What do we make of the portion of verse 2 highlighted above? It seems pretty tough. And how do we reconcile it with God’s loving nature? Several things are worth thinking about. Let’s start with two of them.

First of all, we can’t dismiss it as a divine typo. It is consistent with the passages of the Jewish Bible Jesus seems to be alluding to. See Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5.  It is also consistent with what He said elsewhere. See Luke 13:6-8. Indeed, Jesus drives home the same point later in the same passage we’re considering here. See John 15:6.

Second, it actually is motivated by love. God wants us to be fruitful so we can deliver His love and goodness to others. Others suffer if we fail to do that, and God loves them too much to let His people contribute to that. And make no mistake about it; our failure to be fruitful hurts others. So God is acting in love when He moves an unfruitful believer out of the way.

Let me illustrate that by last year’s garden. We planted a bed of tomatillos in the spring and several beds of beets in mid-August.   By early September it was clear that neither were as productive as they should have been. The tomatillos were played out and significant portions of the beet beds were growing weeds instead of beets.

If we would have let that continue those spaces would have been wasted and we would have generated less food for the hungry. Instead, we pulled the tomatillos, tilled under the weeds, and planted mustard greens. That resulted in several hundreds pounds of produce where there would have been none and beauty where there would have been decay:

                  Greens where played out tomatillos were

Viewed in that light, God’s practice of cutting “away every branch … that doesn’t produce fruit” is an act of love that blesses far more folks than it hurts.

Well, that’s it for now. More later.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

John 15:1--Don't fire the Gardener

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.’”  John 15:1 (CEV)

Two more thoughts on that last phrase.

First, what gardener wouldn't provide his crops what they need for fruitfulness? God desires our fruitfulness, so He is happy to provide the things/conditions we need to be fruitful. See Psalm 80:8-11,  Isaiah 55John 10:10 Sometimes they are not pleasant (think manure, thinning, cut & come again harvesting), but they ultimately make for more fruitfulness.  

Second, since God is both all knowing and all loving, His garden planning is perfect. He won’t plant us where/when we can’t grow, although our conditions might be uncomfortable at the beginning and end (and sometimes in the middle) of our growing season. We simply have to trust Him and do our best to adapt to His plan.  The good harvest will follow, so don’t fire the gardener. See  Proverbs 3:5-8, Romans 8:18, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 12:11.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

John 15:1--On the other hand...

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.’”  John 15:1(CEV)

Let’s think some more about that last phrase.

Think how we feel when a crop does not do as well as we’d like. Not too pleasant is it? We don’t like that, and I bet God does not enjoy it when we fall short of His expectations.

There is a positive side to this though. Just as we work harder to salvage a poorly developing crop, giving it extra attention, God hangs in there with us. See Luke 15.