In yesterday’s blog, we looked at the blessing of our Heavenly Father’s discipline. He trains and corrects His children for their good that they may share in His holiness—not out of spite to destroy them. It is an indication of true “sonship” when we are disciplined by God and willingly receive it as coming from our loving Father.
In John 15, we have a related thought. Here Jesus teaches that the branch that bears fruit will be pruned by the Lord so that it bears more fruit. First, it is important to see the contrast between branches that bear fruit (true believers in Christ) and branches that do not bear fruit (those who are outside of Christ). The work of pruning is reserved for those branches that are alive in Christ. Pruning will not bring a dead branch back to life. In this case, only union with the True Vine (Jesus Christ) will bring life out of death.
Second, it is critical to understand the purpose of pruning. In the world of horticulture, pruning is used to shape the tree or plant for future growth, to remove dead or damaged branches, to correct poor structure, and to improve fruit and flower production. There is a big correlation between this and what the heavenly Vinedresser does.
In the life of the believer, there is fruit being produced by the Holy Spirit; but, there are also many things in the life of the believer that hinder further growth and fruit production. There are dangling twigs that the child of God sometimes mistakes for the Vine. He believes these twigs have life in themselves and that they are capable of producing satisfaction, security or even joy. In reality, though, they only rob the branch of the resources needed for producing fruit that lasts. These twigs are parasites that make the branch unhealthy. In masquerading as the true Vine, the twigs act as idols and there is only one appropriate action to take—cut them off!
While not all pruning or discipline is directly related to specific sin in the life of the Christian, we do know that the branch is immature and not fully grown into the image of Christ. So the Holy Spirit takes the believer and works to conform him to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Again, this discipline—the paideia as we saw yesterday from Hebrews 12—is “the primary way we should think about God’s treatment of us in our trials. Just as a parent trains up a child, subjecting him or her to a process of education and arranging demanding experiences designed to spur development, so God also leads us through this life….Trials are designed to make us stronger, to apply force against the muscle of our faith to push us forward toward our spiritual potential” (Richard Phillips).
Pruning, as it sounds, is painful. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).