He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.
And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
I made my transition from a sheriff to a gardener when I learned that Father, Himself, is a Gardener, not a sheriff. Father reserves the pruning for Himself; He does not let anyone else prune. The Greek word for vinedresser is georgos meaning a farmer or husbandman who tills the ground. Our Father is the Farmer and He knows something about cultivating and drawing out the seed. If we could surrender our sheriff’s badge and turn in our ankle holsters for gardener’s cultivating tools, we could effectively love those who are hurting. With God’s help, we can learn to be farmers rather than sheriffs because our confidence is in the Seed of the Kingdom.
We are capable of being cultivated and Father seeks to cultivate us so that we can be fruitful. If we have fruit, He seeks more fruit. We also have the capacity to do the cultivating; it is our personal commission. Our job as farmers is to cultivate and bring forth fruit in ourselves and in others and do so with truth and grace. If we attempt this as a sheriff with assumed authority, we make irrational judgments and cut people off. The bottom line question: Is the Bible an ammo pouch or a seed bag?
Luke gives us a powerful parable of the importance of cultivation. The vineyard owner had a fig tree and for three years looked for fruit on it, but did not find any. He said, “Why does it even use up the ground? Cut it down!” But the vineyard-keeper said, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.” If we approach this scenario as a sheriff, we would write down the names of the more challenging members of our church and transfer their membership to another state. God gives us some people to practice on and as farmers we should say, “Oh, please don’t cut it down yet. I know they have missed it. I also know they really do seek to follow Christ. Allow me to fertilize and water and give them another year to bear fruit.” I appeal to you—dig around the tree and cultivate the seed rather than cut it down. Pray and intercede for others. With God’s grace, fruit will emerge when our confidence is in the Eternal Seed.
God expects us to develop the capacity to bless, nourish, guard, and cultivate the Seed. He gives us the nine tools of the Gardner for cultivating Kingdom fruit:
1. Scriptures: God’s love letter to His own Bride
2. Prayer: Returning God’s affection in as pure a form as possible
3. Church: Mutual encouragement, breaking individuality, producing community
4. Lord’s Table: Giving and receiving the Bread of God and the wine of forgiveness
5. Deliverance: Release from cyclical behavior and ungoverned desires
6. Worship: Declaring our love privately and corporately
7. Forgiveness: Freely receiving and giving unlimited forgiveness
8. Fasting: Humbling our soul by governing food, talk, and activity
9. Abiding: Resting in faith and keeping ourselves in the Agape of God
v Explain why Father is a Gardner rather than a sheriff.
v Why is it necessary to turn in our sheriff’s badges for gardening tools?
v In what ways has your Gardner cultivated fruit in your life?