The Vine and the Branches (Part 5)

Chapter 5 (conclusion)

This parable has many more lessons to teach us, but now, as we finish, we can only touch on one more important point: the place of God’s Word and of prayer in this life of “abiding in Christ.” I think that when we see what the Lord Jesus says about it, we’ll understand how essential it is for the Christian, who abides in Christ, to daily dedicate time to prayer and to the reading and studying of God’s Word.
 
“… every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”(John 15:2-3).
 
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit … I chose you … that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you”(John 15:7,8,16).
 
The teaching of these verses might be summed up as follows:
 
The fruit-bearing Christian needs to be continually pruned by the Word so that he can bear more fruit.

A fruit-bearing life, which is continually being pruned so that it can bear more fruit, is a life that knows how to pray, and which actually prays.
 
Pruned by the Word
 
The branch that produces fruit is pruned by the gardener. I am not sure of the way in which he does this. Perhaps he uses a sharp knife to cut away any growth that might be an impediment to the best possible fruit. The Lord Jesus tells us how God prunes those that live in him. He does it by “the Word” (vs. 3).
 
This means that one indispensable part of the fruit-bearing life is hearing (or reading) his Word, so that we may be ‘pruned’ and bear more fruit.
 
As you needed to hear the Word of God and to obey it in order to receive from Him the forgiveness of your sins, and be placed in Him; that is, just like you needed to hear his Word and obey it so as to enter into this life of abiding in Christ, so also you need to continue to focus on the Word for the ‘fruit’ to become ‘more fruit,’ for the life of Christ to increasingly reign in you. It was by “the Word” that you first believed in Christ, because you could not have believed in him of whom you had not heard (Romans 10:14). It was by “the Word” that you came to be in Christ, taking up by simple faith the abode that is yours in Him, because “faith is by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). It is also by “His Word” that God will prune your life so that the Life in you may prosper and that fruit may be multiplied continually.
 
Thus, just as you would never have come to Christ without the Word, and without it you would never have come to live in Him, so you will never be able to plumb the depths of the glorious possibilities of that marvelous life of Christ within you, if not by “the Word.” Reading the Word of God is of vital importance to advance in this life of abiding in Christ. If Satan can manage to limit the fruit in your life by keeping you away from God’s Word, you can be sure that that is what he’ll do. Many Christians, who responded joyfully to Christ’s call to come and abide in Him, have lost that joy because they did not realize the need of God’s Word in the Christian life. It is by “the Word” that God, the Great Gardener, will prune your life so that it will bear more fruit.[8]
 
How does He prune?
 
I will try to give you an idea of how this will come about in your life. In the measure in which you read God’s Word, He will show you what is necessary for the life of Christ to become more and more dominant in you, resulting in more fruit. He is not going to do this all at once, but, rather, little by little; it is a continual process. The gardener watches the branch all the time, and he prunes it. In the same way the Great Gardener watches over you all the time, and He will deepen your knowledge of what it means to be a branch of the vine, always teaching you new lessons and pruning you to bear more fruit. While you read, He will reveal more of the riches that are yours in Christ, and you will respond by believing his Word and by trusting that, indeed, Christ is everything to you, everything that God declares Him to be. He will show you your sins and the things that hinder Him, the things that must be exposed to His light, and abandoned, once they have been confessed to Him. And you will respond by confessing and leaving the sin and by appropriating the promise of cleansing (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). He will show you the duties that were neglected and every type of failure, also the things that He wants you to do. And you will obey His commands, not trusting in your own strength, but simply looking afresh to the Lord Jesus, trusting that He, by His Holy Spirit, will work in you “both to will and to do, for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In some such way your life will be continually pruned by “the Word.”
 
As you read and obey, God’s Word will become part of your very life. The words of the Lord Jesus will be in you (v. 7), and one of the results will be that, when you pray, your prayer will be answered. Just like the reading of God’s Word, prayer has everything to do with fruit-bearing. Satan, out to restrict the fruit in your life by getting you away from the Word, will also try to stop you praying.
 
Thus we arrive at the following conclusion: an essential part of the Christian’s life, of the Christian who ‘abides’ in Christ, is given to prayer and Bible-reading. This fact-of-life can never be over-emphasized. Keeping those daily intervals of quietness, alone with God and His Word, is crucial.
 
The importance of a “quiet time”

Are you having a regular “Quiet Time”? Perhaps you are among those who object: “I have tried so many times, but I don’t manage to keep it up. It doesn’t seem to be very useful and it seldom is a pleasure. I have often felt inclined to abandon the custom, and when I yield to that temptation, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.” Such an attitude shows that you still haven’t learned what it means to ‘abide in Christ.’ You are a branch that tries to bear fruit on its own. You don’t understand that it is the Lord Jesus who, in you, must do it all. If you are wanting to bear fruit on your own, and you keep your ‘Quiet Time’ because you believe that that is one of the things needed to accomplish that, then, indeed, you are going to find lots of problems. It is then very well possible that, as you discard your times alone with the Lord, you will hardly notice any change in the results. A branch, which should attempt to produce fruit on its own, i.e. apart from the vine, would be unfruitful, whether pruned by the gardener or ‘unpruned.’
 
But for you things have changed. You now understand that you are a branch of the True Vine and that it is the Lord Jesus who works through you; you are trusting Him to produce the fruit. Accordingly He will teach you the importance of those moments of stillness in His presence. They are not a burden to be born, nor a ‘duty,’ rather a wonderful time in which He is there with you. Assign a period for every day to meet with him; then enjoy those times with this thought: “I’m here to meet with God, the One who longs to meet with me. He is ready to teach me and to ‘prune’ me through his Word.” Kneel before Him and, first of all, thank Him for His love in giving Christ to die for you, and for consenting to come and meet with you and teach you. Thank Him for His Spirit who lives in your heart and ask Him to teach you from his Word through his Spirit.
 
Then, read carefully, expecting His blessing. Don’t worry if at the outset you don’t seem to gain much from your reading. The responsibility to teach you is His and He’ll be sure to teach you all that He wants you to learn. Trust Him to do His work, even though there seems to be little progress. He knows best how to carry out the ‘pruning’ in your life, and, as you come to Him for that, you may be sure that He will see you through.
 
Follow up your reading by prayer and trust that His Spirit will instruct you how to pray. Turn the things that you have read into praise and prayer. Bring all your temptations, difficulties, joys, your work, your sports, friends and all your concerns, and leave them in His hands.
 
Every single day, occupy afresh your place in Christ, a branch in the Vine, thanking him that his powerful resurrection life is in you, and that all that you need, is already yours.
 
Will you keep that appointment with Him every day? In that way the Great Gardener can carry out His pruning work, the ‘fruit’ will become ‘more fruit,’ and you will be finding out more and more about the unlimited possibilities of that wonderful life of prayer. The Lord said about it: “Ask what you desire and it will be done for you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grace Notes: May 5, 2005.

Part 5, conclusion, The Vine and the Branches. Parts 1-5 are at GraceNotebook.com

[8] For a sample of a Bible reading plan, see Grace Note: “The Balanced Diet Reading Plan.”

“About two years after I had begun my Christian life I was trying very hard to do all the things which preachers said I was meant to do. But nothing seemed to be working, and although I knew God had forgiven me, I was thoroughly frustrated and miserable. At that point someone gave me a little booklet by David Tryon called The Vine and the Branches, and within a few hours I was relaxed and again trusting God to work in and through me.” – Robert Brow.

Printed copies of this article in tract form are available from AFRICA EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP, Post Office Box 1679, Bloomfield, New Jersey 07003

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