Everyone who was born on this Earth, spiritually speaking, is on the way to hell or heaven. Jesus Christ said to Nicodemus – a member of the Jewish ruling council in his time: "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3). But, what does this mean?
What happens if we accept to be born again? God is taking us through a holy process. Here, we are learning how to be like Jesus and to represent God’s interest on Earth.
In this process, because of our weakness we have to depend 100% on God’s mercy and to accept to be disciplined. This dependence and discipline is illustrated very well in John 15: 1-4: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Every Christian, is spiritually pruned by God, “because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” (Heb. 12:6). The word “purge” (kathairo – in Greek) means “to clean.” In Greek, it was used to refer to cleansing corn (separating the corn from the waste material), and cleansing the soil of weeds before planting a crop. Spiritually speaking, God removes every sin from our life that impairs us to bear fruits at maximum level.
We don’t really want to go through this process, even if we know that’s for our good and for His glory. However, there is another reason to endure this discipline – a Christian who lives according to his Father’s will, is a blessing for the church he attends. There are too many churches without Christians pruned by the Lord, churches where the fruit of Holy Ghost is missing.
About the ways God “prunes”, there are many and various: sickness, hardship, loss of material goods, slander and persecution, loss of loved ones, grief in relationships, and war. God allows troubles to prune off the things in our lives that drain away our energy and rob us of our capacity to bear fruit. Maybe it’s time for you and me to answer this question: “What kind of things are keeping us away from God’s purpose for our lives?” He wants us in different places to do different ministries in His ways, but we are too preoccupied with our ways, our “ministries”, and our places.
Now, how do we react when God is pruning us? We complain, asking questions like Job did. Rather we should say,”Yes Lord, I have so many fields in my life inclined to You, do any changes You want, cut any branch in me that bears no fruit.”
Most of the time it hurts, most of the time we lose things that we were pleased with. Hebrews 12 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” (vv. 7, 10). The divine pruning knife may hurt at times, but it is worth it.
Now, we should know something about this “knife”. What kind of instruments (knives) are used by God in this process? We talked about sickness, loss of loved ones…, but first of all is the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century English preacher, said this: “It is the Word that prunes the Christian, it is the truth that purges him, the Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit-effectually cleanses the Christian. Affliction is the handle of the knife – affliction is the grindstone that sharpens the Word – affliction is the dresser that removes our soft garments and lays bear the diseased flesh, so that the surgeon’s knife may get at it – affliction merely makes us ready to feel the Word – but the true prune is the Word, in the hand of the Great Vinedresser.”
What kind of spiritual life do you have? What kind of fruits do you bear? How is your prayer life, two minutes before bedtime? All of us need to improve our spiritual life. God is helping us, but in His manners.