When a tree is not producing any fruit, or as much as it should, the farmer is not without remedy. He can either prune the tree, or score the trunk. Pruning can be done by either cutting off excessive leaves and branches, or by digging around the tree to cut off some roots. Both of these pruning processes are mentioned in Scripture. While illustrating his relationship with believers and how they can be fruit bearers, the Lord Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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… Remain in me, as I also 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.” (John 15:1-4) In saying this, the Lord Jesus acknowledged that there are those who profess to be believers, but remain unfruitful. They are like the branches of a vine that were firmly attached and had leaves, but were without fruit. As far as he was concerned, these branches were useless and were just crowding the vine and eating up much of the nourishing sap that should have been given to the branches that were productive. The existence of these barren branches limits the potential of the other branches to produce more fruit. Therefore, Jesus said that to conserve the nourishing sap and make it available to the productive branches, the vine needs to be rid of unwanted, or useless branches by cutting these off.
The other pruning process is known as root pruning. In a parable in Luke 13, Jesus talked of a man who had a fig tree. When he went looking for fruit there was none. This happened for three years. Therefore, he commanded his servant who was tending the fig tree to cut it off because the unproductive tree was using up the soil. But the servant said, “‘Sir… leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:8-9) This process of digging around the tree is root pruning. Some of the roots of the tree will be cut in the process and this will cause the tree to be productive. Some of these roots could be bringing in harmful substances to the tree instead of those that bring nourishment. Believers that are not productive often find themselves in a similar situation. They are rooted in the wrong thing. We are told in Scripture that we should be “rooted and established in the faith” (Col. 2:7). To be rooted in the faith is to be rooted in the Word. The problem with some believers is that they are rooted in the world. They take the warning of the apostle John lightly. In his epistle, the apostle John said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
The Lord Jesus also emphasized that our fruitfulness is dependent on our relationship with him. No one among us can produce independent of him. He said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But how do we remain in the Lord? Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). It is the Word of God that we keep in our heart that will cause us to remain in him. This Word should be alive in us and manifested fully by the fruit of the Spirit. No one who is in Christ will not have the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22). As we live by this fruit, we will produce more fruit – the fruit of righteousness and peace.
Going through the pruning process is not easy and pleasant. Not many can endure it and would rather quit than learn vital lessons from it. The apostle Paul pointed this out when he said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). God uses discipline to prune believers. The most difficult part is whom the Lord will use to discipline us. There are those whom we welcome as bearers of God’s discipline, but there are also those that we resent. Regardless of the people and circumstances that the Lord will use, we need to respond positively if we wish to be fruit bearers. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Let us allow the Lord’s pruning knives to cut the unwanted branches and roots in us so that we will bear fruit – much fruit. The Lord Jesus was very emphatic on the consequence of not remaining in him and bearing fruit when he said, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6).
Therefore, let us repent of our sins and be determined to bear the fruit of the Spirit as we remain in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember that apart from Christ we cannot do anything, but with Christ in us we shall bear much fruit. Hallelujah!