Today’s post is from a sermon delivered at my home church and published here with permission from Nairobi Chapel South.

A little backstory- last year I was going through a really hard time, battling condemnation. It was so severe that on some days I thought I would lose my mind. Like a skilled storyteller, Satan weaved in numerous colorful lies to keep the onslaught going. These lies altered my perception of God as a good father. Reading the bible became arduous because I was afraid of meeting with an angry unamused God who was never pleased with any of His children. Instead of freedom, certain scriptures brought me condemnation!

I believe that God was dealing with many erroneous theological foundations in my life. As He rooted out fears, He sent believers who were committed to teaching the truth of His word in a way that set me free. Some of the blogs I wrote were a reflection of what God was teaching me.

One particular blog, In His garden, was written from what I perceived to be God’s training in my life at the time. Listening to this sermon which is from the same passage, {John 15:1-8} illuminated the scripture further, bringing deeper understanding to me. I am glad to share this with you today.

When we read this passage of scripture, three problems present themselves.

1) The problem of translation

“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.” {John 15:1-3}

This passage often comes off as harsh because we may struggle to see the evidence of fruit in our lives. In a sense, we have viewed God as a farmer instead of a gardener. And there is a big difference in the two- the farmer produces crop solely for profit or subsistence, while the gardener does it simply for the joy and beauty of the plant.

There is an alternative understanding of this passage that bears some consideration. James Montgomery Boice {among others} believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, more accurately translates to lifts up as opposed to cuts off.

As was common in the ancient practice of tending vineyards, the viticulturist made sure to lift the crop off the ground that it might get more sun and bear more fruit. In the same way, the Father lifts up unproductive vines off the ground. His desire is not to cut you off, but to lift you up, to give you every opportunity to bear fruit.

On the other hand, the reality is that because God is a good gardener, He will allow situations to come your way with the ultimate goal of making you more Christ-like. Therefore, be a student of the process and learn. The quicker you learn the quicker the pruning.

2) The problem of interpretation

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” {John 15:5}

We have interpreted this passage of scripture to mean that bearing fruit is fully dependent on us. I have never seen a branch struggling to bear fruit.

Here are a few truths to consider:

  • You bear fruit not by your own power or strength, but by remaining in Christ.
  • There is nothing you can do, other than remain.
  • He decides what fruit you bear.

As you remain in him, then you do what he designed you to do.

3) The problem of recognition

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” {John 15:8}

We may forget why Christ wants us to bear fruit. It is not so that we can be famous, become recognized or even get followers, no, it is for His glory and our joy that we bear fruit.

If I pray for you and you get healed, I did nothing, God healed you. I was just a vessel, and a vessel cannot take the honor for its content. The sword does not get the glory of the battle, but the warrior does. In the same way, when people see you full of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, God is pleased- He is glorified, and that is what He desires for you.

 

Continue to remain hidden in Christ in His garden. Allow the gentle gardener to lift you off the ground, clean you and then recognize that it is He who deserves all the glory when you are a beautiful plant.