January 18, 2018

God prunes away all that is not like Jesus

Tozer says that becoming a Christian made me a partaker of God’s divine nature and at that, the work of “undoing the dissimilarity” between me and God began. This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and it continues until God is satisfied.

Jesus said, “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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1–2)

The process of becoming like Jesus has been compared to pruning a fruit tree. First, God lops off the obviously dead branches with an axe. Then He goes to work on all the excess limbs that prevent the tree from bearing fruit. For this, He uses a small saw. Finally, He takes out a pruning knife and cuts away the smallest shoots and twigs that have no use to the tree’s ability to bear fruit.
This comparison is a good one. The Lord’s first concern are those major sins that are obvious to all. Then He works at removing the subtle stuff, and finally the deeper motivations that most cannot see, but the Holy Spirit knows and must destroy.

Tozer also says, “The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it . . . God does not improve man.” Instead, He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus. This is why Paul wrote:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This is the most humbling reality I know. Christ lives in me? Yet the focus is not about me. It is about Jesus, the One who came to change everything. He makes this death and new life possible.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:15–23)

The alienation caused by sin has been eradicated, not by God changing me but by God putting to death that old life and creating a new person. It happened instantly at the new birth, but it also happens gradually during the process of pruning. To use another metaphor, I became a child of God when He saved me — and the rest of my life is about learning to act like what I already am.

Jesus, I don’t know what You lopped off in the past two weeks, but my attitude toward life has changed. Perhaps it was the experience of nearly losing it. Perhaps it was seeing Your hands in the lives of caregivers in the emergency ward. Perhaps it was time spent hearing nothing but the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Perhaps it was the answer to many prayers on my behalf. Whatever it was, something was pruned and the sense of being reconciled to God is deeper and richer than ever before. Thank You.

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