~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt. You can hear the whole sermon, Moving the Needle (part 3), by clicking here.
It’s time to move the needle! It’s time for more – a measurable, noticeable increase. In order to move the needle, we need to first understand that Jesus came to give us life and that life more abundantly! not in theory only, but in reality! (Jn. 10:10) “In theory only” is called religion. It’s form, no function. It’s form, no fruit. Jesus hates that. In John 10:37, Jesus said “if I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me.” That’s the standard. If we don’t do the works of God … don’t believe us.
For Bill Johnson, demanding fruit from his beliefs, getting to the point that “we have to see it!”, was a key to starting to see breakthrough in healing. Personally, when Peter saw Megan walking in such wholeness, it made me feel like “I’ve got to have THAT in my life!” That’s the pivotal thing – when we get hungry to see His word manifest in our lives in a noticeable way. You see the fruit in someone else’s life, which removes unbelief. Then you can get in the word, see more testimonies, start reading, and God’s truth will start piling up in your heart like logs in a fire pit. You have a hunger for it, so you are going searching for it. As the Word continues to pile up in your heart, an amazing thing happens – the fire of God falls on those logs! Faith explodes in your heart for that thing and now you see it come to pass. That’s the process of revelation, the process of faith, where it bursts forth in your own heart.
But it is a process. You have to commit to the process. You have to get hungry enough that you will do whatever it takes to see it come to pass. Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not (yet) seen. Faith is a conviction! John 16 says the Holy Spirit will come to convict the world of sin. Is He convicting believers of sin? Not according to that verse! The Holy Spirit is going to convict the world of – not believing in Jesus! But as believers, we read Hebrews 11:1 and it says that faith is a conviction of things not yet seen. The Holy Spirit is wanting to convict you of things in the Kingdom that you haven’t seen yet.
In John 15:1-4, Jesus says “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. 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.” A better translation of verse 2 would be “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He lifts up.” So, every branch that is IN JESUS, and doesn’t (yet) bear fruit (because it is a young branch), the Father lifts up. Why does He do that? Because they need some support because they are young. Lift them up, clean them up, tie them up – get them supported! This causes the next verse “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” to make much more sense!
This is the encouragement. If you are not bearing much fruit, the Father’s heart is to lift you up – not to cast you out! Verse 6 talks about people being cast out. That verse talks about people who are operating in the flesh and don’t want to be connected to God. But verse 2 says “every branch in Me.” You can’t get cast out if you are in Him! So, if you don’t bear fruit, He’s going to lift you up, clean you off, and get you set up to start bearing fruit.
Remember, fruitfulness is natural for a believer. Fruitfulness consists of both fruitful “works” (Eph. 2:10) and fruitful “ways” (Galatians 5); they are both essential to bearing kingdom fruit. Bearing the fruit is about the vine, not about the branches. You’re a conduit, not “the stuff.” Fruitfulness is not about you; it’s about Jesus! The more we try to make it about us, the more we constrict the flow.This takes the burden off of us! It is not about being a great branch, it’s about being connected to the True Vine. Remember that works for righteousness is always about our performance. Grace is always about receiving. John 15 so clearly depicts the grace-fueled life. All the necessities for fruit are coming from the vine. Your connection to Him is all that’s necessary. You just let it flow and the fruit will grow.
While bearing fruit as a believer is natural, more fruit only comes one way – through pruning! “And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” There is only one reason God prunes you – that you would bear more fruit. And there is only one way you are going to bear more kingdom fruit; you bear more fruit by being pruned. As Eric Johnson says “pruning always equals promotion & all promotion comes with pruning.” So, what is pruning? Pruning is losing some of you in order to produce more of Him. John Wimber said the greatest mark of Christian maturity is a “quick willingness” to leave behind all of who you are in order to gain even just a little bit more of Him! It’s a quick willingness to be pruned – to lose some of who you are in order to produce more of Him! That’s a humble branch – which will be very fruitful!
So, what does pruning look like? Pruning looks like Romans 12:2 – being transformed by the renewing of our mind. Pruning looks like being chastened as sons (Heb. 12). Pruning can also look like sheep with a shepherd. The shepherd directs the sheep and moves them to a new area when necessary. Pruning can be small (with your thumb), medium (like the with a hand trimmer), or large (ouch!). Generally, the closer we stay to the Lord, the more we get “nip it in the bud” type pruning. BUT, staying close to God does not guarantee that you will never have one of the big pruning events. Big pruning events might not mean that you were doing anything wrong or you were not close to Him it just means you are getting repositioned for something new. Also keep in mind that pruning for grape vines is radical; more than 75% of the previous year’s growth needs removed! All of the fruitfulness in grapevines comes from the little tiny nodes that are very close to the vine.
Pruning is progressive. For instance, expectations for table manners for 2 year olds, 6 year olds, 10 year olds, and 16 year olds are quite different. The fact that parents are re-addressing table manners with a child at different ages does not signify failure on the part of the child, it is commensurate with growth!
Pruning Should increase our Confidence in Bearing Fruit! It means you are better positioned to be MORE FRUITFUL than you have ever been! Don’t resent being pruned! Don’t lose your confidence when you are pruned! Why would you feel bad for being in Him, bearing fruit for Him, being a legitimate child, and and better equipped to serve the Lord than ever before!?!?
Trust God to Prune You Depending on how the Lord wants to work through you in the future, He will train you up in the way that you should go! So, don’t resent Him operating differently with you. You have to trust Him that He knows the future plans that He has for you!
The Childlike Receive more Pruning … WHICH IS GOOD! Children are humble enough to learn by trial and error. The more childlike you are, the more you act, and the more you act on His Word, the more you grow, and the more you grow, the more pruning you will need!
The goal of pruning is NOT to avoid it … but to embrace it. Even 150 year old vines in California still need pruned. Don’t make parts of yourself off limits to God’s adjustments.