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(This study requires printed scripts, some props, and prepared people! See p3 and the script – John 15fs)

John 15:1-8  

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


Last time we dealt with cutting off – this time we’ll look at the second part of verse 2: while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful


The analogy would have been well understood in a culture where many people would have had their own vines.


Has anyone here grown a grape vine? What happens to the new growth in the spring if you do nothing with it?


It becomes a tangled mass. It needs support, direction (training), and restraint.

(As you read this, write the words in blue on the board)


This fits well with the Christian life: new Christians are often full of exuberance but will only be most useful if they receive support, direction (or training) and often some restraint in order that they will be most productive in the life of the fellowship.

More mature Christians will continue to need the same support, direction and restraint, but they may also need pruning. Branches of a vine are cut back in order to grow stronger so they can support heavier bunches of grapes.


Have pre-written on board and uncover when appropriate:


Let me read a passage from ‘A fruitful life’ by Tony Horsfall

 ‘Spiritual pruning is the process by which God ensures that our lives not only bear fruit, but continue to bear fruit, and of increasing quality. Anyone who wants their life to glorify God will experience this work in their life as God cuts away from them anything that would hinder their productivity. It is often a painful process, and sometimes bewildering. We wonder, 'Why is this happening to me?' and often ask ourselves, 'How long will it continue?'


The sharp pruning knife that the divine gardener uses is once again the word of God, spoken directly into our hearts. It can come in a variety of ways – a scripture that we read, a sermon that we hear, the wise counsel of a friend, the quiet voice of the Spirit within, a word of prophecy, a parable of nature – countless ways by which God speaks to us and shows us what is hindering our growth, inviting us to let it go so that our lives can be more effective.


We are not thinking here so much of sinful things as of things that are legitimate but unhelpful. In pruning us, God is dealing more with our self-life than anything else.

In my experience, pruning often centres around some key areas:
 

- who is in control of my life,

- how I use my time,

- what claims my affection,

- and the sources of my significance.

 

Time and again I am brought back to the principle that God must be first in my life if I am to bear fruit for his glory. Through the combination of the convicting word in my heart and the trials of life, I am forced to reevaluate my life in order to bring myself more in line with God's will for me.

Selwyn Hughes says, 'The pruning process cutting away the things that hinder or prevent our growth provides for a continuous conversion in which we are converted from the irrelevant to the relevant, and from being just busy to being fruitful.’ There is no greater danger to spiritual fruitfulness than religious activism. If we are busy, we tend to assume that we are fruitful, but this is often far from being the case.


Sometimes we are doing the wrong things altogether – things that we feel are right but have not been ordained by God. Sometimes we are doing too many things, all well-intentioned and good in themselves, but which leave our lives fragmented and distracted, lacking any overall sense of purpose or direction. We become like a wild grape vine, all leaves and branches, but precious little fruit.’



Let’s look at these first four statements. Can you give me examples where we may need some pruning?

- Who is in control of my life?

How often have we sung: ‘All to Jesus I surrender’?

- How I use my time.

How much of my week is totally wasted? (Either by doing absolutely nothing or even by being too busy doing something totally irrelevant and useless).

- What claims my affection?

JOY: Jesus first, others next, yourself last.

- The source of my significance.

Often when we try to make conversation with someone we don’t know, we will ask questions like: Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? What brings you here? - - - Is it these things that give me my significance?


God must be first in my life if I am to bear fruit for his glory


But there is another reason why a gardener may need to prune his vine. As well as pruning to encourage a better crop, there is also the need to watch out for pests and diseases which can cause deformities and stop the free flow of sap. A branch with these may ultimately need quite drastic pruning in order to protect the rest of the vine.


(Sorry, but this next bit is extremely specific to where I live! I’ve put a link here to a picture of a Knopper gall. Click HERE if you want to see what I’m talking about!)


Next door is an oak tree. What sort of fruit do we expect? – Acorns. What  are these? (Show oak-galls) Still fruit, quite attractive in their own way, but each contains a maggot and they are definitely not what are wanted.      


SKETCH

You will need someone to be God and someone to be Man, and some props: a large bag containing a scalpel or small knife, and a large axe.

Four thin triangles cut from a Post-It note with the sticky end the widest.





Give these to ‘Man’.

A coffee table or similar in the centre of the room

 

Hand out scripts.


Let’s assume that The Gardener (God) is walking in his vineyard inspecting his vines. (God walks round room looking at people’s faces. Returns to front)

(Man has a thin triangle of post-it note concealed in his hand)

God: Man, will you come here a moment? (Man walks over)

God: What’s that in your hand?

Man: It’s just a little thing I picked up. It’s quite attractive don’t you think?

God: I don’t like it. Will you give it to me please?

Man: No, it’s OK, I’ll just get rid of it (He drops it. - - - picks it up again and returns to his seat. Sticks one end to the side of his middle finger so it protrudes visibly like a thorn)

(God does another circuit of room looking into each face, and goes back to the front)

God: Man, will you come here a moment?  (Man walks over)

God: What’s that in your hand?

Man: It’s just a little thing I picked up.

God: Didn’t I speak to you about it before?

Man: Yes, but it’s so attractive, and it doesn’t do any harm to anyone.


(Draw: Christ in us picture with thorn)

















God: I don’t like it.


Draw us in Christ with tip of thorn

sticking into Christ’s heart)
















God: It causes me pain. Give it to me.

Man: No, it’s O.K. – I’ll get rid of it

(Shakes hand but it stays stuck on.)

Man: I can’t seem to get it off.

God: You should have just given it to me when I first asked. But I can still take it from you. (God goes to large bag and produces small scalpel)

Man: No no, I’ll do it – just give me some time.

God: It really won’t hurt much. Let me help.

Man: No really, I can do it.

(Goes back to his seat and sticks three more thorns on)  

(God again does circuit of room, looking into each face, and goes back to the front)

God: Man, will you come here a moment? (Man walks over)

God: What’s that in your hand?

Man: I seem to have a problem

God: I thought you were going to deal with it

Man: So did I.

God: You seem to have trouble with this hand, it keeps picking things up.

Man: I think you’d better take it

God: You know it would have been less painful if you’d just given it to me when I first asked?

Man: Yes

God: OK, put your hand on this table (Man kneels and stretches his hand out so it rests on a coffee table with thorns visible)

(God gets large bag and reaches inside – and produces a large axe)


END OF SKETCH   


God is very good at identifying problems, but we aren’t very good at listening to him. Our Man should have given God his problem, not just dropped it. If we give our problems to him he will deal with them. If we simply drop them it’s too easy to pick them up again.


What sorts of thorns are there which can cause us trouble?

Sin (obvious!) like?


And how about

Matthew 13:22 worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth.


Basically anything which is opposite to the fruit we are supposed to be growing ((Hold up oak-gall)    Point to the thorn on the ‘Christ in us’ picture)


Let’s remind ourselves – what is the fruit?


Galatians 5:22-25

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


Fruit is the outward expression of the life of Christ within – the whole purpose of pruning. We’ll finish with another quote from ‘A fruitful life’ by Tony Horsfall


‘Neither cleansing nor pruning are 'fun' times. They reveal the determination of the divine gardener to produce in our lives a crop of fruit that will glorify his name. The more we desire to glorify him, the more we will be tested. We may not welcome the testing, but we know it is the only way to bear fruit, and so we willingly submit to God's gracious dealings in our lives.

 God deals with each of us as individuals, just as the vine dresser treats each branch separately. God has a purpose for your life, and his activity in your life will be shaped according to that purpose. God will prune you according to your needs, so that your life will better fulfil his unique plan for you. No two people are alike in this respect. Always he deals with us tenderly and carefully, acting out of his wisdom, and in love.

  ‘Always remember,' says Selwyn Hughes, 'that no matter how often the secateurs snip, or how painful the pruning, your life is in good hands: it is your Father who is the gardener.’ ’ (Chapter 8 p61)



A Fruitful Life: Abiding in Christ As Seen In John 15  

by Tony Horsfall 2006

Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF)

ISBN 9781841013350





John 15eJohn 15g








John 15f - I am the Vine: Pruning

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