The pruning of the Vinedresser




Introduction Sbongiseni Khumalo
We thank the Lord that He has allowed us to gather today. We thank the Lord for all that He does for us and for His working amongst us. God is good and He gives us everything we need for our lives.

We need God’s word. We need to feed ourselves on His word. We need to meet and have fellowship.

Dietmar Joosten
We thank the Lord for this opportunity to sit at His feet. Today’s text is found in John 15. This word has been on my heart for some time, and I pray that God will expound it to your heart.

“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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John 15:1 – 4

Christ is the true vine. If you would be in our nursery, you would understand what grafting is all about. There is the true vine, and a branch (you), are grafted into the true vine. It is a very delicate process but with God’s help it is possible. You require a good vine stock, otherwise the root stock can spread diseases to the branch. God, our heavenly Father, is the vine dresser who sees to it that it grows.

In Genesis, Jacob blessed his 12 sons at the end of his life. Joseph was blessed with these words: you will be a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a fountain. Its branches run over a wall. Genesis 49:22 This means he would not just be a vine, but a fruitful vine that would grow. He would grow over the wall that stopped him. We remember what Joseph went through. He was a fruitful vine, but he experienced many hardships and much pruning. He was hated by his brothers who threw him into a well and then sold him into slavery. The evil Egyptian woman attacked him and tried to bring him down. He was thrown into prison. Can you imagine a worse life?

There are hardships in life. I heard about a family recently who experienced a tragedy. The couple could initially not have children. Many years later and after receiving medical treatment, they were able to have children. Last week, however, they were involved in a car accident and the two children were killed. (Children, your life can end at any time. If God has called you and you do not obey, what will we say at your grave? Those little children for whom the parents had waited for many years were taken away in an instant.) And so, people go through life and there are some circumstances that we do not understand and will never understand. One thing is sure – everything works for the good of those who love Christ and are grafted into the vine.

Joseph’s achievements in Egypt would not have taken place had he never been pruned by God. Hardships are a good pruning tool that produce the best fruit possible. Joseph turned the country upside down through his determination - which was born of God. When you look at yourself and see where you have come from, you marvel at what God has been able to do in your life.

God must often bring a person low because He knows and understands mankind, He knows the human heart, He knows what pride does in a man’s life. It destroys him, without the owner of the heart even realising it.

Last Sunday we heard about Moses who experienced a difficult life. He herded sheep in a desert. For forty years! Can you imagine what Moses faced. He was just a human being who must have missed home. But what did God do? He brought out the very best in Moses.

We do not want to experience hardship. We want to be carried on a tray and have an easy life. If someone just steps on your toes, your reaction is godless. God may have sent that person to prune you. God teaches us to die. Experiences like these should roll off our backs like water off the back of a duck. The Lord says, whom I love I chastise, prune – that it becomes excellent fruit. Hebrews 12:6

We grow peppers. Some of the plants are about 5 metres high and more. Why? Because we prune them. We look after them. If it was just a bush, it would not grow higher than a metre or metre and a half, but the quality of fruit would never be the same. Pruning is needed for fruit in our lives - whether we like it or not. Rev Stegen has often said that we should be prepared to be a doormat, something that people walk over. Are you still alive to your feelings and opinions?

That’s why he Lord Jesus taught His disciples. When He walked with them, He talked to them. He pruned their lives through the words He spoke. As they obeyed His word, He taught them the next lesson. We may think He just talked to them and told them stories. No, He was teaching them secrets from heaven. These words that he spoke, these very words were words of pruning. God tests us in the same way. He is preparing us so that our lives can bring fruit to the world. Which is why He spoke these words – the words of life, of cleansing and pruning.

The vine dresser, our Heavenly Father takes time to prepare our lives. He prepared Joseph over many years and Joseph did not give up. He did not run home. He did not desert. He stayed where God wanted him to be even though it was difficult. When it is difficult, we just withdraw. ‘It is impossible’ you say. But God is pruning us during tough times. If you run away, you will end in a dark bush.

What must our Heavenly Father feel when He plants a choice vine, but they become wild grapes, sour – just the opposite.

As a farmer, you know what it is to plant something and expect something from it. When you pick it, and it is sweet, good. How much more does our Heavenly Father desire sweet fruit? Think about it. What does your Heavenly Father think about your life?

In John 8 we read the Lord Jesus says, ‘… because My word has no place to grow in you and it makes no change in your heart.’ Maybe He has tried for years and years but there is no fruit in your life. Why? Because His word finds no place in your heart. Just think, God spends time, maybe forty years but your heart, your way of thinking, is a stumbling block. Someone said these words, ‘The only way you can be saturated with the thoughts of Christ is to saturate yourself with the book that is all about Him.’ If you want Christ to fill your life, to work in your life, to prune your life, then you must spend time with the pruning shears.

We find with our avocado trees, that we prune them, but then suddenly there is a shoot that grows out and by what we see, we think wow, we will have so much fruit, but you can look as hard as you like, there is no fruit on that branch. We call it a bull shoot. And if you don’t prune it quickly, you are wasting all your energy on it. We think it was good, but God sees otherwise – there is no fruit on that branch. Fruit doesn’t speak, one just tastes it and one sees it.

If we saturate ourselves with the world and the things of this world take up so much of our time, how will God’s word saturate out lives and work in our lives? It of utmost importance that you know the vinedresser and have a relationship with Him.  This should be the greatest priority in your life. Maybe you are full of bull shoots that look green and good, but there is no fruit. Like when Christ came to the fig tree – it looked so good - but there was no fruit. No wonder the Lord cursed that tree. When the world looks it should be envious of that fruit that is hanging on the tree, not the leaves on the tree.

If your glass is so full of your own things, and saturated with what you have read, heard and seen, then when the heavenly water comes – the heavenly Word - where will it find place in the glass? God has called us to sit under His word and be washed and cleansed. Do not take it lightly.

In verse 2 we read that the Lord cleans and prunes repeatedly. When you come to Christ and give your life to Him, He grafts you onto the real vine which is Christ. And as you grow, he sees a wild branch (a bull shoot) and He cuts it off. Maybe we think what we did was so good, was so blessed, but then someone comes and says, my brother you made a mistake. Then we are so despondent. I think this brother is against me now. I thought it was blessed, and good, but the Lord Jesus says, yes it was good, but I want it to be better, fruitier, tastier. The Bible says it is done to make the fruit more excellent.

I can spend hours pruning and grafting. In 1980 when we planted the first avocado trees, I thought it would be an easy tree to manage, which would not require too much attention. However, as the years have passed one has realised that it is much more work than one could ever have imagined. It is the same with our lives. It takes time and if we are patient, we will harvest that which God has for us.

If you are a person who always sees the wrongdoing of others, it just shows you that your fruit can be much better. Stop looking at what others do wrong and right, show us through your life what God can do. It is so easy to point a finger, to find fault, but in the same breath, then show us what God has done through your life. It is so easy to write all the negative things and show the whole world, but please, then show them also what God has done through your life. And we will keep quiet and respect you when you tell us how many souls have got converted. How many have changed totally from heathendom to Christianity. I always say let them speak, they haven’t spoken enough – their cup isn’t full yet, it needs to be filled to the brim for God to act.

That is why a person learns over the years to be careful what one says. It’s easy to talk, but very difficult - in fact nearly humanly impossible - to pick up the feathers that have been spread through your words.

In verse 3 it says, ‘you are cleansed and pruned already’. The Lord says to His disciples that the words I have given you, the teachings I have shared with, the very words I speak to you cleanse and prune your life. Yet you neglect those very things and take them lightly.

I’d like to look at some examples which the Lord Jesus used when He spoke to His disciples.

In Matthew 16 the Lord was telling them how He would suffer and be crucified. Peter reacted with words to which Jesus said get behind me you devil. These were words of pruning and cleansing. If Peter hadn’t have accepted them, he wouldn’t have become what Christ wanted him to become. Maybe he meant well, but it was contrary to what the Lord Jesus was teaching them. He said, Peter I am pruning you now, get behind me Satan. If Peter would have been obstinate, he would never have been the branch he became, bearing fruit.

In Matthew 15 we read of how a woman came to the Lord, asking for help. She was serious, upright and she needed help. The Lord said, you’re a dog. Why must I take something which belongs to the master’s table and give it to the dogs? She could have run out of the house and said, that is an evil place! But the Lord was using His pruning shears. He was saying, all right, you say you want to follow Me. These are my terms. To be called a dog must have been bitterly painful! But she didn’t go against it. She just bowed. And immediately there was fruit because she bowed. God has put us here to live a life that He can prune and work through.

Another example was when a mother came to the Lord and said, Lord, I want my two sons to sit on your right-hand side in heaven. Mothers always look out for the best for their children, but the Lord didn’t give her what she wanted. (Maybe the heart-breaking thing is that she sought the best for her own children, but not all the children. You are worried about your children, you care about your children, but what about other children? Those you despise and have no time for?)

The Bible says the other disciples were upset by what this mother wanted of the Lord. You see, for them position was important. These boys must have gone to the mother and said, ‘Mother can’t you pass this on to the Lord?’

Sometimes you marvel at mothers. They have great hearts, they are the backbone of the family, but sometimes they also have a weakness which is contrary to what the Lord wants.

But what was the problem? Position. We ask why is that person treated like that, and I am not. Why can that person always go and I can’t. I am always being overlooked. And the Lord Jesus taught them that we have to be the servant of all. If you want to become great, if you want to be something in life, then become the servant of all. Take your time to help others. Take your time to bless others, not to show how great and important you are.

The Lord immediately cut off that shoot. He knew, My children will be obedient and won’t be hurt if I cut it off.

In Luke chapter 9:23 we read “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. (Amplified)

If the Lord calls you, and He speaks to you, but you listen to man, you don’t know what your end will be like. A girl felt God calling her to be a missionary in China, but her father did not want the child to go and said she may not go. He could not allow his only child to go. It didn’t take long that the child became sick and the father lost the child. It is not worth it. You don’t just destroy yourself, but your own family, by your disobedience.

Note the words, “Let him deny himself, disown himself.” Are you prepared to put everything on the altar because of Christ? Are you prepared to lay aside your own will for Christ? ‘Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for My sake will save it.’

The Lord was tightening the bolts on the disciples and saying now comes the time to deny yourself, set aside your own interests, your own work. And the Lord says, if you seek first My kingdom first, I will add on things you never, ever thought were possible.

You feel a calling on your life, but then people convince that you need to study, that at least you should have some qualification, some security, after all there is medical aid to be paid for and so on. You will have expenses and will need money. Many across the world, mainly in Europe, have lost their calling  because of the fact that Christ wasn’t put first.

Christ took a Peter who was an uneducated man, a fisherman; and then Luke, who was a doctor and He put them together. Now, test yourself. Are you prepared for that pruning, and if it has been done already in your life why have you shrunk back?

Christ can use even death. Somebody close to you passes away, somebody that you loved or were so one with and the Lord says, I will take this person because I want to work in your life. That person has been pruned, he is clean – but yours hasn’t been.

These words are striking and stern, “any branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He cuts away”. These words were spoken by Christ after Judas had been cut off. And although they didn’t maybe understand it at that moment, but they would understand it in time. A branch that stops bearing fruit God says He will cut off.


Judas was warned a few times, maybe many times. Jesus said do not steal. Judas, the love of money is death. But Judas was not willing that that thing be cut off. Judas persevered in what was wrong.

How many times are we not warned against pornography or gossip. An Israeli once came to me and said, Do you know what destroyed us in our camps? Gossip. Gossip is a poison that destroys and brings utter death.

Judas wasn’t prepared to bow himself and listen to the Lord and allow those pruning shears to cut him off.

If you lived an immoral life, and you still live an immoral life, and the Lord warns you, yet you do not cut it off and destroy it, it will destroy you.

In John 13 we read how the Lord Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus said to them that anyone who is bathed only needs to wash his feet. What a secret! The contact with this world needs to be washed off. That is why the Lord Jesus told His disciples, wash one anothers feet.  Here He warned, you are clean, but not all of you. These are frightening words.

The Lord was teaching His disciples to wash their feet. Think of such a life. I don’t think we always understand what the Lord is trying to say to us. We are called to a high calling.

The Lord was teaching His disciples to let someone else wash their feet. This is so simple: if my feet are dirty, I must quickly go to someone – that person loves me, he will pray for me, he will wash my feet.

This is food for thought. Gives yourself time to think and be before the Lord. Allow the word to work in your life. We must be prepared to allow His word to teach and mould us.

Someone sent me a story yesterday and I would like to end with it.

An old granny loved to go to church and loved the Lord Jesus. All her life she attended services. That is how her family knew her. Even the grandchildren noticed it. Granny has a love for God’s word. But when the granny would ask the grandchildren to go to church, they would have 101 excuses.

One day a grandchild came to the granny and asked her what she had learnt in church that day? And the granny thought and thought, but she had forgotten. And she realised this boy was trying to catch her out. (As you get older you do sometimes forget.) So, the granny thought and prayed and said, ‘My boy, you that when you use a sieve the flour falls through and bad stuff stays behind. You know, my boy, if you put a sieve under running water, one thing is sure that water washes the sieve.’

Although the water runs through it is washing the sieve, cleaning the sieve. But you are not so old yet. Does that water, that pruning cleanse your life? The vine dresser does it because He wants His kingdom to grow.

Conclusion Sbongiseni Khumalo

We thank the Lord for all we heard. There is much that we can reflect on as we leave. There are many good lessons we have learnt.

We are at the pool to be cleansed.

Let us allow ourselves to be cleansed by the word.