“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” – John 15:1-8
I have never met a person who didn’t think that autumn, with its colorful foliage, is beautiful. Whenever Anna and I have the opportunity to build into our schedule a few days in autumn at the time of the foliage change, we will go to New England. And it’s just glorious. When we visited there some years ago, what came to my mind was this: If the trees we so admired had consciousness of their own splendor and beauty, would they be as impressed with the colors as we are?
After all, we were watching how the growth of the preceding season was dying and falling off. If the trees could think, I doubt they’d be saying to themselves, “My, this is beautiful!” Rather, they would probably be thinking, “There it goes, and winter is coming, and my clothes are falling off!”
So when you and I come to the seasonal changes of our lives, especially those that come to an end so that something else may now begin, all of us go through something like what the trees might think as they are making that transition. At the same time, Father God is looking on our lives in those transitional times, knowing that we bear an element of discomfort, and He sees beyond to the beauty of what is ahead.
I want to ask you to think with me about five different figures of speech that occur in the Scripture; each one that relates to moving ahead with increased effectiveness and fruitfulness during whatever the change is taking place in your life.
There is a personal dimension to this. Inevitably every individual has things that are in some stage of transition. Sometimes these are very happy; sometimes very trying. This movement toward what is the next thing that is unfolding for me carries an element of trauma. Sometimes it’s low-grade; sometimes it’s very serious and demanding. In any case, beyond it, by God’s providence and goodness, there are always the things He will unfold. Scripture says “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). That’s not just poetry; it’s the Word of God. The Lord is saying, “Look beyond this—beyond death there is resurrection, beyond the trial there is triumph, beyond the battle there’s a victory.” We go from glory to glory. Hallelujah!
This is God’s promise to you. This isn’t just looking at life and saying, “Well, I guess it will work out.” God is saying, “Stay with Me; let’s move ahead.” And in this season of change, not only in our personal circumstances but also in our world, what will make you and I the most effective and fruitful?
The Pruning Season
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:2
In the cutting away that Jesus is talking about here, pruning is taking place on branches that just that season had fruit on them. It isn’t the cutting away of things that are of no value. Our tendency is to hang on to things that have been fulfilling and fruitful. That’s what sometimes creates the mindset of people who say, “Well, we’ve always done it this way.”
It’s not a question of saying that the past hasn’t been fruitful, but the Lord has new things He wants to do in your life, in your personal environment. He does things by His Spirit that require us to not settle down.
When you look at this call of the Lord Jesus to recognize the seasonal need for pruning, the objective is not to cut on us; the objective is fruit. There’s a very clear analogy. The objective is much fruit and it will only come about by the process of pruning. Pruning can affect your schedule. It can affect attitudes. The Holy Spirit deals with you and you say, “Lord, have at it. I open to the pruning task.”
The Refining, Purifying Process
“He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” – Malachi 3:3
The prophet is talking about the coming of Messiah. He says this will be something that will take place with the priesthood. In the New Testament Scriptures, it talks about every one of us who knows Christ is a priest unto God (Rev. 5:10). We worship as priests do. The word for priest in the Latin language conveys the idea of a bridge builder. It’s the contact point between people who need something from God and people who have something—and we reach and touch. It refers to the transmission of the love and life of God. And it says He’s going to refine the priests—something that happens with us in the Lord. As this refinement takes place, it says He’s working on gold and silver, so we are precious already.
Refining in some parts of the world is the same as it was done in ancient times. There’s a small pot filled with metal that is heated intensely until the metal becomes molten. The refiner will work the metal to allow impurities in it to surface. Remember, the metal is precious already. The refiner is not doing anything to decrease the value of the metal, though heat is being brought to bear upon it. The process is not to destroy, but to refine and purify.
The purpose of refining and purifying is that it increases value and technically increases weight, in the sense that, when the impurities are taken out, you end up with a greater density of the pure substance itself. When you hear of different weights such as 14 karat gold, etc., it has to do with different value because of the degree of refinement.
This figure of weight, as it bears on us, is referring to spiritual weight and substance. The call of the Lord to every one of us is to continue letting Him process the refining of our lives so that the weight and substance of who we are will increase—not in an attempt to impress people, but to leave an impression of God’s purpose for our being there.
The Threshing Floor
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” – Luke 3:17
I have seen a threshing floor in a few places in the Middle East where I’ve traveled, but it’s not anything you are likely to see in this country. A threshing floor would be a circular, flat area where there was surface stone that could be leveled off. It was where grain was brought and spread on the floor, and animals like oxen would circle around, their hooves grinding the husks off of the grain. The husk is a hardened, protective cover, designed by God, to protect the grain while it is maturing. When it is removed, it becomes a flimsy thing called chaff that dries up almost immediately and blows away. The threshing process had to take place in order for the grain to become useful in making bread.
In the preaching of John the Baptist, in the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke, it describes this. He says when the Lord comes to deal with His people, He will tread His threshing floor, and the chaff He will burn up. He’s removing that which has had its season and purpose. Originally intended to insulate and protect, now it is in the way of what is intended to feed, nourish, and multiply growth.
There are things that happen to all of us in life and times when we suddenly realize we have put up defenses. The Lord is saying, “You need to lay those down.” There are things we need to let go of. There is a season when this protection is good. It’s a part of the growth process. It’s not as though the Lord is saying that those things are always bad; it’s that to hold onto them, they will get in the way of what is happening now.
The Lord has His way of saying, “If you will let Me break away that insulating cover, I can open something to you in the future.” There are some of us that have specific issues that need to be brought to the table with Jesus, and we just sit there and say, “Lord, I just don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go through the melt down. I don’t want to go through the pruning. I like things the way they were. I want to do what I want to do.”
The Lord is not going to send you to hell, but He will let you do it your way if you want. But He will say, “You don’t have any idea the fruit you’re not going to have, the weight that can increase in your life. You don’t have any idea whatsoever of what I can use in you to nourish and feed others if I can break away that protective coat.”
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ… – Colossians 2:11
Circumcision is the cutting away flesh unto miracle potential. In the O/T, circumcision was a token of covenant with God which the Lord introduced to Abraham. Physical circumcision is not a ritual requirement today, but circumcision of the heart is (see Rom. 2:29). There is no more private part physiologically than the sexual organ where circumcision takes place, and there is no more private part, personally and intimately in our lives, than our hearts. There are times when the Lord needs to perform surgery on our heart. The same way that physical heart surgery unclogs arteries or a patient will die, there are things that will never live except there comes a willingness to experience the Lord’s “open heart surgery” as His sons and daughters.
The Flow of Life
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:37-39
These are the words spoken by Jesus on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the autumn of the year, and the people were worshiping in the temple. On the last day of the seven-day feast, huge urns of water were poured out, which was to remind them of the water that broke forth from the rock when Israel was traveling through the wilderness. This was reviewing the miracles of God’s sustaining grace in the wilderness. That water would cascade down the steps of the temple, and people would praise God in this recollection of what God had done for them.
Jesus rises at that moment in the feast and calls out saying, “Those who believe on Me, out of their inner being shall flow rivers of living water.” And they are seeing this dramatic flow from the vessels.
John goes on to say, “This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” So Jesus is prophesying of the Holy Spirit—not of that drink of water when you come and drink of the well of salvation—but unto something that happens in us by opening as a riverbed: “Lord, flow through me. Let the abundance of Your Spirit overflow me; not for my satisfaction, but for the flow of Your life through me.”
Whatever place of influence God gives us, the power comes from Him but we are the riverbed. It’s about the availability of the riverbed to say, “Lord, come flow here”; to open up to the Holy Spirit of God and say, “Lord, let Your grace, Your power, Your Spirit, flow through me.”
That availability that there might come abounding life is so dramatically cast in the prophecy of Ezekiel, chapter 47, where it says, “I saw water flowing out from the throne, and it came under the threshold of the door of the temple of God (in Heaven).” And he said, “The water began to flow, and it kept getting deeper and wider, and a river flowed.” He’s talking about the coming of the Spirit, and he said, “Every where the river flowed, there came life.” He describes it flowing where there was death, and things were transformed. There was fruit on the trees beside the river.
The autumn season, with its transitions, gives us a perfect picture to keep us mindful of these things. The call that’s incumbent upon you and me is always costly, but it’s not the kind of thing that’s ultimately painful. Remember the trees I talked about? The trees may say, “Hey, you can talk about the pretty leaves. That’s easy for you to say, but I’m losing my clothes and it’s getting winter.” But ahead is a whole new season with the beauty of the springtime and the fruit that’s coming then.
Today, loved ones, let each of us ask, “Lord, how I can open to the next season of growth?”
Copyright 2014 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries