Sow the seed of the Gospel. When it falls into good ground, a healthy vine emerges. Not all vines are created equal, but they all can be a fountain of good fruit if they yield to the husbandman.
Beginning in John 13, we see page after page of red words. Jesus is talking to his disciples – for the last time before his arrest, crucifixion and death. The beautiful personification of a vineyard in John 15 reveals much about living a productive Christian life.
In fact, close consideration of John 15: 1-8 reveals how much work it will take to make us productive in the Lord’s kingdom. Be encouraged! God the Father is the husbandman, and he does all the work.
I have flower boxes in the front of my house. The flower on the end, closest to the driveway, gets covered in dust from the gravel in front of our shop. If I don’t rinse it off, it starts to die.
This is the same in God’s vineyard. Those branches get heavy and fall on the ground. The leaves get covered in dirt and can’t absorb sunlight to make food.
We are sinners; therefore, we sin. Sin makes us dirty and useless to the master gardener. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).
We confess and God does the cleaning. Now we’re ready to absorb some sunlight and get to producing a bunch of grapes.
I’m not much of a botanist, but I know there are dozens of reasons for pruning a plant. We have a plum tree in our backyard that we prune every year because we’re trying to get it to grown in the shape we want.
In the vineyard, God prunes because it makes the unfruitful able to produce and the fruitful able to produce more.
Just like cleansing, we have to allow this process. When we feel the Spirit urging us to cut something from our life, we must follow His leadership. You won’t see the vinedresser asking his vines for permission, but God never forces anything on us.
This process was illuminated for me when I read Bruce Wilkinson’s book Secrets of the Vine. It’s a small book and only 126 pages, but it expounds the truth in the vineyard illustration very well, especially for us non-farmer types.
Wilkinson expounds on the two different types of pruning: discipline and prioritizing. Both of these require action on our part: repentance or submission.
Some Christians think they are reaping when they go out and witness and lead that person to Christ. This is an essential function – but it is about sowing, not reaping.
Reaping is about personal growth. Are you producing good works that glorify God (John 15:8)? In glorifying God, you are sowing more seeds.
We know how many cucumbers we harvested from our garden. Maybe hundreds because we’re a pickle-making factory.
In spiritual husbandry, we can’t count the souls touched and lives changed by our witness. This should keep us from getting big-headed. “I’ve led ten people to Christ. How many have you led to Christ?” Wrong response.
The true reaping will be done at the end of our life. We will stand before our Lord and Savior. He will lift up a basket, and it may be overflowing with grapes – or have only a few, plump bunches.
As you harvest your garden this fall, reaping the bounty of your physical garden, consider your spiritual vine. Are you producing fruit for the Lord to harvest?