“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4 (NLT)
I don’t grow grapes and don’t know much about how they grow. But, I do know something about tomatoes. Earlier this spring I planted three Brandywine heritage tomato vines. I prune my tomato vines. While small, I prune the vine allowing only three branches to develop. I tie each of the three branches to a stake of its own. As a branch grows it produces branches (suckers) of its own that fork off in a new direction. If allowed to develop, these suckers draw nutrients from the branch resulting in a smaller and less robust branch. The vine becomes all suckers, producing smaller and smaller tomatoes as the season progresses.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This bring great glory to my Father.” John 15:5-8. (NLT)
I prune all of these suckers while they are young and small maintaining the vine to only three branches. I throw the suckers on top of my compost heap where they wither and rot. Pruning the vine in this manner the vine produces an abundance of large delicious tomatoes.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:9-11 (NLT)
Yesterday, I was pruning my tomato vines. This morning, these verses remind me why I prune. They also remind me that my heart’s desire is to be always present with Jesus. My Heavenly Father has already pruned sin and guilt from me. I am a branch grafted into Jesus, my vine. I must always remember to allow the Holy Spirit to prune away everything that remains within and everything that attempts to sprout from within that may keep me from being constantly in the presence of the love of Jesus. By being in his presence, I receive the nourishment of life from him, abundantly. In so doing, and being, I receive his joy and my joy will overflow. Oh, how I want his joy! With each passing day, remaining in his presence becomes more sustainable. My joy is increasing. Every day is not a happy day. Happiness has its up and downs, its in and outs. Joy is different. Joy is peace on an unhappy day. Joy is a level place during the ups and downs. Joy is always present, neither in nor out.
Don’t you want joy? I know you do. Don’t you want an abundant life? I know you do. Don’t you want to see this abundant life produced in others? I know you do. Jesus loves you, my friend, and so do I. Tell him what you want. He’s listening.