Pruned For The GoodSeries: Fruit Of The Spirit
PRUNED FOR THE GOOD
Sermon By Terry Siverd / April 16, 2023 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
Jesus did not come to earth just to die for our sins.
For certain, He did that - - in becoming an atoning sacrifice to God on our behalf. 1Pet.3:18 states - -
Christ also died for our sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.
Numerous other texts affirm this same truth - - Isa.53:5; Rom.4:25; 1Cor.15:3; Gal.1:5; and 1Jn.2:2.
Jesus saved us by His death, but HE ALSO SHOWED US HOW TO LIVE BY HIS LIFE.
During His earthly ministry Jesus called upon others to become His DISCIPLES (learners).
He called others with a simple two-word exhortation: FOLLOW ME! (Mt.4:19 & Mt.9:9).
A disciple is a LEARNER, which is defined as “one who adheres to the teachings of another”.
In Luke's account of Jesus' sermon on the mount, Jesus said to His disciples (Lk.6:40) - -
A student/disciple/pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
In Jn.12:27, Jesus asserted, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and the follow Me.
Now, let us return to Jn.15:1-5 and re-read a text that we highlighted a couple of weeks ago.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;
and every branch in Me that bears fruit, He prunes it, 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, so 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 apart from Me you can do nothing.
One of the central marks of discipleship is TEACH-ABILITY.
In studies about the many Christian disciplines, seldom is this point stressed enough.
Yet, it is so very basic - - so essential, and so badly needed.
It is impossible to have a life adorned by the fruit of the Spirit without possessing this quality of teach-ability.
Teach-ability describes one who is open to instruction - - able and willing to learn.
It is what is called in athletics “being coach-able”.
From the outset and throughout, it requires humility.
One has to be yielding (willing to give way to the instructions of another).
It necessitates compliance and submission. One has to be malleable (willing to be shaped).
It calls for that attitude describe in Isa.64:8, reflected in the hymn (#552), “Have Thine Own Way” - -
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will.
Just to be every so clear on this opening point, in helping us to analyze where we might fall
on the teach-ability spectrum, it will helpful to consider a few antonyms for the word teachable.
Would others describe you as: headstrong...stubborn...obstinate...and/or obdurate (as opposed to obedient)?
More colloquial words might include: hardheaded...bull-headed...pig-headed...a head like a billy goat.
If these words describe us, we've got some serious work to do.
Let's recall again Jn.10:27 - - My Sheep Hear My Voice.
How adept are you at hearing the voice of God? I'm not talking here, able hearing some mystical voice speaking to you.
If you want to hear God's voice you don't have to strain in the wee hours of the night to tune in.
God's word is revealed to us in the Bible.
In its simplest form, “hearing the voice of God” is a matter of reading the sacred Scriptures.
Now, reading the Bible is not always a pleasurable thing. Sometimes it's quite challenging - - even ruffling/disconcerting.
This is especially true is we are determined to be “doers of the word” - - to borrow a phrase from Js.1:21b-22 - -
...In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
In Js.1:25b, James surmises his thoughts, writing: ...an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
Heb.4:12-13 affirms - -
The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing so far as the division of the soul and spirit, of both the joints and the marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Early in Acts we read of a crowd of people who heard Peter preach the first gospel sermon after Jesus' crucifixion.
cf. Acts 2:22-24, 32 & 36.
How did the people respond to the spoken word of God?
Acts 2:37-38 states, Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest
of the apostles, 'What shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the
name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit....
Luke records in Acts 2:41-42, So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and
there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoted
to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Here we see a gathering of people, many of whom proved to be teachable.
The word of God sometimes requires of us that we prune away bad attitudes and behavior.
By contrast, turn to Acts 6-7. In response to God's words spoken by Stephen, we read Acts 7:54 - -
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.
That which follows is a description of the stoning of Stephen. This group proved to be stubborn or stiff-necked
(Acts 7:51). They were hardheaded and obstinate, refusing to yield to the spoken word of God.
They proved to be unteachable.
When we commit ourselves to read and study the word of God difficulties may arise when
when we're trying to discern hard-to-understand passages (perhaps as with eschatology).
However, the greatest challenges occur when we turn aside from plain, easy-to-understand citations.
God's words is like a surgeon's scalpel capable of performing a wide range of “ectomies”.
About 5 years ago I cut out a planters wart on my left foot with a really sharp pocketknife.
Although it may not be the recommended procedure or remedy, it ended up being successful.
It was a tedious and uncomfortable process - - amounting to a daily pruning spread out over a span of several weeks.
Some pruning offers instant results (like the shrubs around your house).
Other pruning might call for a more severe approach and the results are not always immediately visible.
Pruning in not always enjoyable and in fact, it sometimes hurts - - but it is often necessary.
God often uses those around us to do the pruning.
Our wife; our husband; our parents; our children (the mouth of babes); a beloved teacher; our preacher;
and even our enemies. Seldom are any of these expert pruners/teachers, but if we remain teachable,
their admonitions (in word & deed) can have the Master's touch in bringing about changes for the good.