Summary: In order to get Christians to increase in their fruitfulness for Him, God cuts things out of our lives.
Oct. 26, 2003 John 15
“Ow! That hurts!”
Indian Jones and the Last Crusade is one of my favorite movies—it’s great entertainment but it packs a powerful punch of a message about finding happiness and joy. In the climactic scene of the movie, Indiana Jones is grasping for the Holy Grail even as he is about to plunge to his death. His father implores him, “Indiana, let it go.” All too often it is not what we lack that inhibits us from experiencing abundant life: what keeps us from experiencing life abundant is the stuff of earth that we do not want to let go of or to lose. Jesus said that he came to give life, and give it abundantly. If that is the case, then we have to seriously talk about what keeps us from experiencing the life abundant that Jesus came to give us. Here’s a clue: The things that inhibit us from experiencing life abundant on earth today and in heaven to come are the things we refuse to let go of.
Vine – Jesus – provides resources
Gardener – Father – prevents problems
Branches – Us – produce fruit
Gal. 5:22-23 “fruit of the Spirit” Titus 3:14 “good works...not unfruitful” (KJV)
1. Pruning is cutting.
Cut out things that are destructive
Cut out things that are distractive
“The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but...the message is crowded out by the cares of this life...so no crop is produced.” Matthew 13:16 (NLB)
“...let us throw off everything that hinders...let us fix our eyes on Jesus...”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...” Matthew 6:33
Possessions (i.e. rich young ruler – “Go and sell all that you have”)
Position (to the disciples, Jesus said, “Come, follow me.”)
Power / influence (“Blessed are the meek...”)
2. Pruning is painful.
“For the Word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.” Hebrews 4:12 (NLB)
Everyone has their own idea of what they look like – both in their character and in their appearance. “Pastor, I have a besetting sin, and I want your help. I come to church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation. I know I ought not think that, but I can’t help it. I want you to help me with it." The pastor replied, "Mary, don’t worry about it. In your case it’s not a sin. It’s just a horrible mistake."
The Bible describes itself as a mirror (James 1:23). It not only shows you your sin, but it also shows you your self. One of the most painful things you will ever do is to get an accurate picture of yourself.
Pain causes us to resist God’s work. Anybody here enjoy pain? I’m talking about enduring pain not inflicting pain. A lot of us enjoy inflicting pain.
Pain enables us to recognize God’s work. The pruning is happening at the point of pain.
Pain helps us to respond to God’s work. It’s hard to ignore.
Object lesson: Type up the following saying and seal it in an envelope along with a $20 bill. Ask for someone in the congregation to be willing to give you $10 for the contents of the envelope. Play it up as if the only thing in the envelope is the answers to the next fill-in on the note sheet. By giving up a $10 bill for the envelope, they will have gained a $20.
“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.” Matthew 16:25 (NLB)
3. Pruning is perplexing.
Since both punishment and pruning involve PAIN, how do you know which one you are going through?
Biblical examples – pruning or punishment: [mention these examples to the congregation and get them to tell you whether it was punishment or pruning that the person was facing]
Jonah in the belly of the whale – PUNISHMENT
Joseph in Potiphar’s house and then in prison – PRUNING
Abraham having to leave behind his family – PRUNING
Ananias and Saphira when they pretended to give more than they really had to the church – PUNISHMENT
Why is it relatively easy for us to look at the events of these biblical characters’ lives and tell what God was doing when we have such a hard time distinguishing the same things in our own lives? The advantage that we have with their lives is that we get the whole picture. We see things from the perspective of the outsider. We know what came before and how the story ends. In the life of Job, it’s pretty obvious – at least to us – that he was going through pruning. But Job’s friends couldn’t see that. They thought he was being punished. So when it comes to your own life and your perspective is blinded by the pain, how do you figure it out?