Religion has taught that if we don’t do the right things as Christians, that we are exposing ourselves to trouble with God. We fear that if we don’t meet certain standards, that God is capable of cutting us off from His blessing, His presence and His favor. What a scary thought!
The problem is that many times we don’t have an accurate understanding of what the Bible says about God. Because of our lack of understanding, we end up misusing Bible verses in an attempt to prove that although God loves us, He is waiting, ready to give us the ax if we mess up.
Here is one example. Many Christians are quick to use John 15:1-4 to explain that God is capable of cutting you off:
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 (John 15:1-2, NKJV).
Christians will tell you, “if we don’t produce good fruit in our lives, then we are at risk of being cut off from God, or from His blessings.
As an eager student of Jesus and His grace, I have learned that in order to truly understand scripture it is important to: 1) Read the entire context of the scripture, and 2) Explore the true meaning of the words used.
If you are like me, you have been taught that a branch that gets taken away represents a branch that has been cut off or removed. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
The term takes “away” is translated from the Greek word “Airo”, which means “to raise up, elevate, lift up”.
My husband and I once lived in a house that had a grapevine growing in the back yard. Whenever we found a branch that wasn’t producing grapes, it was usually because it had been laying on the ground. After propping the branch up and lifting it out of the dirt, it eventually produced beautiful grapes!
For me the second part of verse 2 used to be even scarier than the first:
“…and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
I was taught that even if you ARE doing all the right things and producing fruit, God will STILL “cut” you, so that you can grow even more! Does this sound like a loving God to you?
Once again, let’s take a look at the true meaning of the words. The term “prune” is translated from the Greek word “Kathairo”, which means: “to cleanse, of filth impurity, to expiate (this word “expiate” means: “to atone for; make amends or reparation for”).
Jesus is telling us that as His branches, He is continually making us clean! Taken in this proper context, the next words He speaks make much more sense:
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 (John 15:3-4, NKJV).
God is not watching with a microscope, waiting to determine if He will bless you – or cut you off. He has declared that when you struggle, He is there to lift you up. He has declared that because you believe in Jesus, you have been made clean. Jesus simply says to abide in Him. That means that we are to be totally dependent on Him – not on ourselves. We are to totally trust in His love for us, and to learn how to rest in that love.
A branch does not have to strain in order to produce a grape. Have you ever walked by a branch and heard it grunting, “Got……to…..produce….this…..grape!….” That’s absurd. It simply has to remain connected to the vine, and fruit is produced naturally and with ease.
The church needs to wake up to the truth about how very much God loves us. When we learn to abide in Him…without the fear of punishment…only then will we truly see ourselves – His branches – producing beautiful and delicious fruit!