This being post 4998, I find myself in John 15:1-17 with the greatest thoughts on “abiding” and “pruning.”
Some thoughts from N.T. Wright on pruning:
The English language doesn’t let us catch the flavour of what John writes here. The word he uses for ‘prune’ in verse 2 is unusual, and is very like the word for ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ in the next verse. That is why he’s used it here: he wants us to link the ‘pruning’ of the vine with the ‘clean’ state of the disciples. They have already been ‘pruned’, though no doubt there is more of it to come. Jesus has spoken the word to them, calling them to take up their cross and follow him. They have had to submit to the pruner’s knife, cutting away other goals and ambitions. They have already borne fruit; they must now expect more pruning, so that they can bear more fruit.
Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (p. 70). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
The walk of discipleship is to learn what is close to the heart of Christ… and cut away my own personal goals and ambitions that don’t line up. It’s not cruel. Trying to keep my goals and ambitions is limiting. When I see Christ and have walked with him… abiding in him, I find greater goals and ambitions.
Another beautiful thought I heard this past week in regards to the ministry of Jesus was God often allows us dreams and visions early on so that a greater work can be accomplished through us and in us… and it often may have very little to do with the original dream or vision. Yet, when we had the dream or vision we got excited and engaged with the Spirit, expanded our thinking, deepened our listening, and found ourselves abiding in Christ in a deeper way. The dream or vision may not have “happened” in the way we thought, but on the other end we find God accomplishing great things in our lives.
An example of this would be Paul in his letter to the Romans. Paul’s purpose for writing to the Romans was to prepare them to be his “launching pad” because his vision was to go to Spain. We don’t have any idea if Paul actually made it to Spain. Many scholars would agree he probably didn’t.
Yet, through all of that, God accomplished something in and through Paul, which was the letter to Romans being written. The vision of Spain drove Paul, but the writing of Romans and its inclusion in the canon of the New Testament was a greater accomplishment for the ongoing work of the Church.
Through the pruning and abiding process of discipleship we find the goal is not simply personal intimacy with God. It is bearing fruit for the blessing of the world around us. This isn’t a “Jesus and me” gospel. This is the height of human vocation and existence. This is the Genesis 1-2 calling for all of humanity.
May we continue to bear fruit… fruit that will last (Jn. 15:16)