“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” -Jesus, John 15:5-8 (NIV)
Years ago, a solitary apple tree stood tall in our backyard. Every February, I made it my job to trim it. When late summer arrived, we usually had an abundance of delicious fruit.
One season, I piled up some bruised apples that lay on the ground. The following spring I noticed little apple trees had popped up. I saved a few of these seedlings.
I share all this to give meaning and urgency to Jesus’ words (above) in John 15. It was about this time that a strong wind left our apple tree on the ground. Soon after, all that remained of the beautiful apple tree was a jagged stump, a wood pile and those baby trees. Then hungry deer consumed the seedlings leaving only one little tree.
Over the next few years I concentrated on protecting the tree and nurturing its growth. In time I began to trim it. I anticipated the day we would have fresh apples again. But something was wrong. The more I tried to shape the tree, the wilder it grew. It resisted my efforts to tame it, becoming a literal thorn in my side.
Each winter I would trim, but no spring apple blossoms, thus no apples. When I mowed, I would often get scratched and caught in the tree branches. I tried to give it every opportunity. If only it would have produced some fruit, then I would have let it go, but, alas, it was a barren tree.
I grieved as the apple tree was cut down. Its unfruitful branches became fuel for the fire.
Unfruitful Christians beware: Being another tree in the orchard simply won’t do. Nothing will prevent the Lord from eliminating trees that fail to bear good fruit. If it is in us, we better start showing fruitfulness before its too late.
“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” John the Baptist, Matthew 3:10 (NIV)