PRUNING: A Must For Christian Maturity (Part 5 of blog series Growth In The Vine)
As born again Christians, Jesus instructs us to preach the gospel. Unfortunately, Jesus is often left out of the preaching – especially for new converts to Christ. In other words, Christian character growth is limited in the new converts. Yet, they are often instructed to preach the gospel as if they are seasoned, trial-tested Christians. Have you ever seen this? Have you ever experienced this? Unfortunately, I have seen too much of it. It is like the butterfly with the damaged wing.
As I previously stated, it is important to witness and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, never is this to be at the expense of developing one’s character and maturity of Christ – especially for a new convert. If we did not have a broken heart and an abyss of garbage, then we would have never turned to Jesus. Therefore, it is very obvious that God has a lot of garbage to clean up in each of us. So it is HIS responsibility to season us for His work.
- Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
- Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus began it. He will complete it.
- Philippians 2:12-13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
This is where many Christians err and fail. They do not, either ignorantly or purposely, permit the Holy Spirit to clean the heart so only the fragrance and love of Jesus resides. Instead, with heavy, burdened hearts, they sincerely go out to preach and witness the gospel when they are clearly not ready (mature) to in some areas. They do not know their limitations.
The following example illustrates the importance of understanding the “pruning” process. A new vine needs at least three years of pruning before fruit is to be produced through it. The vinedresser prunes the vine each year because he knows when the vine will be ready to bear fruit. (This sure is similar to what God the Father does to us.) The vine will grow the way the vinedresser prunes it. If he does not prune it the proper way, the vine will grow uncontrollably and become weak. It will not be strong enough to bear any fruit from its branches. The fruit may look delicious and edible, but once a bite is taken, the fruit’s immaturity will be tasted. Then, it usually is spit out. Who would want to taste fruit that tastes like poison? It is like eating a hard, immature apple. The apple is not ripe and mature. So why bother to even try it? It is 100% apple, but immature and not ready to eat.
The same is obvious for the born again Christian. She is immature in some areas (ex – preaching and witnessing) and needs to mature in these areas before undertaking them. Otherwise, disaster waits as Satan pounces on the immaturity. Luke 13:6-9 shows an excellent example of three years of pruning the proper way. “He (Jesus) spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and found none; cut it down; why cumbereth in the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well: then after that thou shall cut it down.”
This is why it is critical for you to understand the benefits of “pruning.” God wants to expose you to the truth of His fruit maturing in you so that the mature, ripe fruit is all you would desire to bear – His fruit, His life, His time. The immature fruit is shown through the immature Christian who does not let Jesus be seen through him on a consistent basis. Jesus may be initially seen. However, after a short period, Jesus will be hidden and rarely seen. This is because the Christian has reached a period of his walk that he is not ready (not mature) for. So, instead of stepping back and hiding in Jesus (Colossians 3:3), he goes forward in immaturity and bears disaster for the name of Jesus. This is usually seen as the fruit of the flesh, not the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24). He has refused “pruning” from the Father.
So embrace suffering as “pruning” and “discipline.” Truth is painful. But, truth will set you free. The Father knows what tomorrow will bring because He is already there.
I know this is easier said than done. It always is. Right now a very deep struggle is occurring within me. Over the last ten years as a Christian, Jesus has freed me from much bondage and has grown His love deeply into me. Yet, at times such as now, fear can easily overtake me as I continue to focus more on my circumstances. I appreciate your patience that I can be honest with you right now. I must be. I do not want to provide you “lip service,” but the reality of life. The “pruning” I have been sharing is just as important to understand for me as it is for you. I realize I need deeper growth than I ever realized. Then, His perfect love will daily cast out my fear. I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” God the Father is “pruning” me further. All He asks is my trust and love so He can do it. Apart from Jesus, I certainly can do nothing.
This is an excerpt from my book Growth In A New Life In Christ. You can view it, and other books I have written, at my website http://www.LifeUnderGrace.com.