It’s been a long, cold winter. The last month has been wet and soggy, and while I am thankful for the rain, I am ready for spring. I’m craving sunshine and blooms and blossoms. It seems like every spring, I am reminded of how desperately this world needs good news, a fresh start, and something to put hope in. The resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate during Easter is an eternal reminder that in Jesus, the world finds a Savior, a hope, and a promise of new life and new beginnings.
Spring for me also brings back memories of my childhood. I lived on a farm and my father started preparing the garden as soon as the first warm days emerged from Winter in mid-March. I learned so many things about the gospel from my dad when I was unaware of the lessons that lied before me. Looking back now, I see so many parallels between the natural rhythms God has established in creation and how God works in us to make us new creatures as we live out our salvation and transformation day by day.
My father was a master gardener. At our farm, the front yard was filled with fruit trees; apple and pear and plumb and peach, to name a few. As a small boy who loved to be at my dad’s side, I couldn’t understand why he would consistently cut off the branches of the trees that he worked so hard to keep healthy. It never made sense that he would cut off the very thing that was to bear fruit. When I finally gathered the courage to question him, his explanation was quick and simple. “Son, you cannot let a tree grow without pruning the limbs. The more you trim it back, the more fruit it will give you. It has to be cut so it can grow stronger and give you more fruit.”
Don’t you see the parallel to our spiritual growth? Jesus Himself taught this very principal in John 15 when he said that His Father is the gardener who prunes the vines, cutting off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. But that is not all. Jesus says that He prunes every branch that does bear fruit so that it will be even more fruitful. It sounds counterintuitive to us. It sounded crazy to me as a little boy when my dad said the same thing. But it works.
Sin is like a dead limb. It never gives life. It never bears good fruit. It must be cut out of your life if you are to be of any good use for the Kingdom of God. Sin makes us a poor witness of the gospel. It robs us of the joy of our salvation. It creeps up in our hearts and steals away our ability to worship God with a pure heart. It bends us toward jealousy. It causes us to envy the blessings and gifts that the Holy Spirit chooses to give other people. It renders us ineffective for the gospel. It makes us greedy for attention and accolades. Ultimately, it creates in us a sense of self-righteousness that leads to feelings of spiritual superiority over our sisters and brothers in Christ. These things carry with them the stench of death. God must remove the dead to make way for the living. He disciplines those He loves for His glory and their good.
The pruning process doesn’t have to feel good to bear good fruit. But in the end, that is God’s intention. We are wise to surrender fully to the painful process. That’s what Jesus did when He surrendered to the pain of the cross. Now just look at the fruit of salvation that we enjoy from His sacrifice! Let Spring remind you of the joy of new beginnings found in Christ.