"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3)
What is the heavenly Husbandman's pruning knife? It is often said to be affliction, but is this the tool He uses? How is it that there are many who experience long seasons free from adversity? Why does it appear that there are some to whom God bestows lifelong kindness?
No, it is the Word of God that is the knife - sharper than any two-edged sword - which pierces even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit. It is the Word that is quick to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Only when affliction leads to this discipline of the Word can it become a blessing. The lack of this heart-cleansing through the Word is the reason why affliction is so often unsanctified. Not even Paul's thorn in the flesh could become a blessing until Christ's word - "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9) - had made him see the danger of self-exaltation. Only that could make him willing to rejoice in weakness.
The Word is God's pruning knife. Jesus says, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." How searchingly that word was spoken by Him. How His words were as a sharp two-edged sword as He had taught them, "Except a man deny himself, lose his life, forsake all, hate father and mother, he cannot be My disciple, he is not worthy of Me." How strong was His message as He humbled their pride, reproved their lack of love, and foretold of their all forsaking Him.
From the beginning of His ministry in the Sermon on the Mount to His words of warning on the last night, His Word had tried and cleansed them. He had discovered and condemned all there was of "self". They were now emptied and cleansed, ready for the incoming of the Holy Spirit.
When the soul gives up its own thoughts of what Christianity is, and yields itself- heartily, humbly, patiently - to the teaching of the Word by the Spirit, the Father will do His blessed work. He will prune and cleanse away all of nature and self that mixes with our work and hinders His Spirit. Let those who want to know all that the Husbandman can do for them, all that the Vine can bring forth through them, seek earnestly to yield themselves entirely to the blessed cleansing through the Word. Let them, in their study of the Word, receive it as a hammer which breaks and opens up, as a fire which melts and refines, and as a sword which lays bare and slays all that is of the flesh. The word of conviction will prepare them for the world of comfort and of hope. And, the Father will cleanse them through the Word.
All who are branches of the true Vine, each time you read or hear the Word, wait on Him to use it for His cleansing of the branch. Set your heart upon His desire for more fruit. Trust Him as Husbandman to work it. Yield yourselves in simple, childlike surrender to the cleansing work of His Word and Spirit, and you may count on His purpose being fulfilled in you.
Father, cleanse me through Your Word. Let it search out and bring to light all that is of self and the flesh in my faith. Let it cut away every root of self-confidence, that the Vine may find me wholly free to receive His life and Spirit. O my holy Husbandman, I trust You to care for the branch as much as for the Vine. Only You are my hope! Amen