In last week’s blog, I wrote about the verse in John 15:1-2 where Jesus said that He is the Vine, and we are the branches. I made the point that all blackberry canes need to be cut back, so they don’t overgrow and become a bramble. We can be like first-year canes when we are growing as Christians, but need correction, discipline, or refinement in some part of our life. This pruning process is painful, but it is needed to help us grow and be productive. This week, I want to talk about second-year canes, which undergo a vastly different pruning process.

If you see a cane that had fruit, it’s a second-year cane, and it will never, ever grow any significant amount of fruit again, so it needs to be cut off at the ground. And, if you see a cane that is gray, shriveled, or with patchy lesions, this cane is diseased, or dead, and it also needs to be cut all the way back to the ground.  For us as Christians, these spent or dying canes are like the sins the Bible warns us about.  Hebrews 12:1 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that does so easily beset us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus endured, and He was sinless. We can look to Him to help us lay aside what needs to be laid aside. If we have a fault, a habit, a sin, something that is not pleasing to God, He requires us to sever ties. This might be a friendship that is unhealthy or an area we have not totally trusted to God. Most of the time, it’s something from our life before we were Christians that tries to creep back in. It might be lying, cheating, manipulating, gossiping, envying, boasting…things the Bible clearly labels as sin.

The Bible talks about repenting, which means to turn around and go the other way. We ask God’s forgiveness and then stop. We don’t do it anymore. But sometimes, I find myself repeating the behavior and making excuses, or telling myself it’s not so bad. When I find myself doing this, I need a plan. What has helped me is to set up a reminder – like a swear jar – where I put aside money for lapsing into an old habit – something to make me accountable. I will donate the money in this jar to a charity I really don’t like. That often makes me think twice about being lazy and careless and slipping into old sins. These sins are the diseased and dead canes that must be cut to the ground.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” And really, what that verse is saying, is that all things are becoming new. We are being pruned, so we can be more like Jesus. Sometimes, we are like first-year canes, and we need to be cut back or corrected. Other times, we are like second-year canes, and we need to repent and cut out something damaging, unhealthy, or sinful in our lives. And while these processes are different, BOTH are necessary.

Jesus is the Vine, and by putting our faith in Him, we are trusting His growing process. We accept that pruning is for our good, just like pruning is necessary for blackberries. This has been a good growing season for blackberries, and I am praying for you, as I hope you are praying for me, that this is also a productive season for us as Christians to grow to be more like Jesus.

— Written by Jill

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