The Mystery of the True Vine by Andrew Murray:
To Abide through God’s pruning knife #1.8
A topic we tend to avoid
For many of us, this is not a topic we like to hear about because we often conjure up strange ideas as to what God’s pruning knife actually is. In Andrew Murray’s day, especially in South Africa, most thought it was affliction. But Murray questions this assumption by pointing to the fact that many Christians go through life free from both adversity and illness.
The WORD of God is God’s pruning knife
The answer, according to Andrew Murray, is the Word of God as described in Hebrews 4: 12. It states:
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Turning his attention to those who are experiencing affliction, Andrew urges them to sanctify it through the discipline of the Word, just as St. Paul did with his thorn in the flesh. In this way they can make it become a blessing.
In St. Paul’s case, it was only when he received the following Word from the Lord: “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” that he was able to see the danger of self-exaltation, and be able to rejoice in his affliction.
Clean through the Word
Murray invites us to give up our own thoughts of what Christianity is and to yield to the teaching of the Word by means of the Spirit.
Quoting Jesus’ words: Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you (John 15: 3), he urges us to study the Word as a hammer—that breaks and opens up; as a fire—that melts and refines; and as a sword—that lays bare and slays all that is of the flesh.
Nevertheless, to study the Word in this way, we need to wait upon God so that He will be able to accomplish His cleansing work.
What does God prune? (It’s not what you think.)
According to Murray, God’s ultimate aim with pruning and cleansing is for us to bring forth more fruit (See John 15: 2). But what exactly does God prune in our lives? To answer this question, Murray turns to the vine and the branches. He says that while other trees may need pruning, the branches of the vine must be pruned. The reason is that they would consume too much sap that should be allocated to fruit-bearing.
In a similar way, God does the same with us. It is therefore not only sin that God wishes to prune, says Murray, but our own Christian activity, especially our natural gifts that are in constant danger of being over-developed and trusted in.
The stripping away of self
For Andrew Murray, God’s ultimate aim is to strip away self as in self-pleasing, self-exultation, self-will—and any other “self” word one can think of—so that our old nature does not interfere with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This, of course, is a process of a life time. It is also one of Andrew’s key themes in many of his books. He raises it time and time again because it was only when he realized that self could not caste out self that the breakthrough came.
But more about this in my next post.
© Olea Nel
The Mystery of the True Vine: chapters 6 & 7.