“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
John 15:2, NLT
In order to become fruitful we must accept the knife.
It takes a sharp eye and a sharper knife to do the Father’s work of cutting. He slices to the quick, and all that is not useful falls to the ground. The vine will produce grapes, and every bit of “grape-energy” will be used productively. Fruitlessness will be cursed, and sterility is condemned. It takes a decisive heart, as well as a wise hand to prune God’s own vineyard.
Fruitless believers may become fruitful ones. Understand, the vine dresser does not attack the vine. He is not malicious or vengeful. All that He does is for the good of the vine. He is motivated to produce fruit. That is what He thinks about; you could say that He is preoccupied with that singular end.
Pruning and fruit are concepts that we vacillate over, some days we understand and other days we blow it off. After over 30 years, I’ve heard every “John 15 sermon”. And most of the time I turn down my spiritual hearing aid. That is tragic, and shows my heart has become hardened.
I need to come on board with this particular imagery. For years I have asked God to “show me His ways”. I’d like to believe that this understanding of pruning has changed me. I would like to think that I have attained a clearer view of wisdom. This pruning business is all well and good. But being sanctified by the knife is decidedly unattractive and uncomfortable.
You must be pruned; pieces of your life are earmarked to be lopped off. (I always wonder if the trees that are spray painted are curious over the why and the when they are to be cut?) In regards to being fruitful we must accept the knife. If we want to be holy and conform to the image of Christ we will be cut. There is simply no other way.
Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.
Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest. People who know exactly who they are become the most gentle of human beings. They now live for others, and show a deep-seated care for even the “least.”
Jesus was gentle just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. 21 And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
Matthew 12:20-21, NLT
“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”
“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.”
“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness. Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.”
“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others. Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.”
“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God, forever and ever.”
Psalm 52:8, ESV
It is important that we can properly identify ourselves. The psalmist knows what he is. There is no confusion in his thinking, and he has a zero vacillation factor. “I am like–the comparison, to a green olive tree, –the reality.” FYI, he isn’t talking about green olives (my fridge has a jar or two), but a tree that is green (full of fresh life). He marks himself, identifying himself of being a flourishing and productive tree. This makes sense when we compare possibilities of what the many types there are.
He puts himself in “the house of God”. “Planted”–the idea of being fixed in a spot. And living, “growing, lush and green”. He is not your “run-of-a-mill” olive tree. He is planted, and positioned, in an incredibly rich place, right in the temple, God’s house. Now it is one thing to flourish– but another thing to be that way in the ultimate prime spot. It is good to see this. There is a generousness about having a place in God’s house. It is as good as it gets!
There is a “trust” that we can see that the psalmist has. It has to do with love. Not so much of my love for Him, but His love for me. It takes confidence to think this way. I confide, and then settle myself in His love. He loves me! (and I know it!)
The psalmist emphasizes a love that has an eternal understanding, “forever and ever”. Now most of us are aware of a love that has limits and distinctions. But His kind of love for me is the “firehose” kind of love. (When it blasts, it can peel paint off a car.)
A fresh olive tree. A desirable thing of beauty. But planted right in the middle of God’s house. That is an amazing thing! We have the soil, and it’s a rich soil. And we have the location, right in a wonderful spot. This is as good as it gets! We have the most envious spot in the garden. As a clinically depressed person, this comes as a terrifically great news!