We went to our Minnesota annual home school conference last weekend. A friend asked me to summarize one of the messages we heard from Greg Harris, the keynote speaker. Here is my attempt.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Mr. Harris told us that he went to a place where they believe an apple tree was planted by Jonny Appleseed. He said the tree was very large, unkept, and had minimal fruit from it’s branches. He said that most of the apples were small and worm infested. He looked through the apples that hung from the branches until he found one that he believed he could take a bite out of and not nibble a rotten spot or a worm. The bite tasted delicious and sweet.
A little distance from this uncared for tree was a crabapple tree. This little tree had been cared for very diligently. The branches had been pruned, the weeds had been kept away from the base, and the soil was moist from a fresh watering. Mr. Harris found a ripe crabapple to sink his teeth into. This fruit was unlike the apple; it was not sweet in the least, even though it obviously had been cared for.
The point is that no matter how much you care for the crabapple tree, no amount can produce a bumper crop of sweet apples. Likewise, no matter how little care is given to the apple tree, the fruit, as minimal as it is, will still be sweet. This is because it is the nature of the apple tree to produce sweet apples independent of the care given to it.
Secondly, John tells us in 1 John 3, “the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God…”
If Mr. Harris were standing on the stage of the auditorium with an orange ball and shooting it into a hoop that stood ten feet from the ground; would it be obvious what he was practicing? What if, in a full day’s time he never made one single basket; would he still be practicing basketball?
In the same way, whoever is born of God will practice righteousness even though they may not be any good at it. They may hardly ever do what it right; yet it will be obvious to all what they are trying to do. The cry of the heart will want to do righteousness.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them.”
When we become born again, God changes our wanter; our heart. We will want to do what is good and pleasing to God even though we, at first, may not be any good at it.
If you place a wolf in a cage with a large bale of hay, it will starve to death. Likewise, if you place a sheep in a cage with a nice juicy raw steak inside, it will also starve. Why? Because it is not in the nature of the wolf to eat hay, nor is it in the nature of the sheep to eat steak. It in not a matter of ability but rather desire or want. The wolf could eat the hay and live. The sheep could eat the steak and live. Yet neither animal will because they don’t want to. They could, but they don’t want to, so they won’t.
In the same way we are born into this world fallen and estranged from God. We could do what is good and pleasing to God, yet we don’t want to, so we won’t. It is not a matter of ability, rather desire.
Mr. Harris gave three simple tests to see whether our wanter has been changed through the new birth. We are each to answer these questions on paper; answering either “never, rarely, or often.”
- How often do you pray when no one else is around? Not in a prayer meeting or before a meal; but during the day when no one else is around. Never, rarely, or often.
- How often do you read the Bible just because you want to know what it says? Not because you have a study you have to prepare for. Nor because you know another person is going to ask you what you read today. Rather, just because you and you alone want to know what it says. Never, rarely, or often.
- How often do you obey God in some way, large or small, that costs you something? This will be something that no one else will probably know about. Some struggle you have in your heart where you are seeking to obey God just because you want to and you know he is there and watching. Never, rarely, or often.
How are you doing? Did you pass the test? Does you life give evidence that your wanter has indeed changed? Do you find that you have not been believing upon Christ even though you thought you were? Do you find that you were just suspending your disbelief in order to just get along with those around you; not truly believing?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world as a baby. He was born of a virgin. He lived upon this earth in perfect obedience to the will and commands of God the father. Instead of being honored in this life, he was instead crucified upon a cross. He was put to death for crimes he did not commit. Three days he remained in the grave. He defeated death, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father. He offers his hand to you so that you will trust him. He bids you to believe that the crimes he was put to death for were yours. And that he bore the penalty of death that you deserve. Then he rose from the dead to give evidence that you have been declared just and innocent in the courtroom of heaven.
How about now
do you find yourself believing now? Do you find that your wanter has changed now that Christ has been offered to you again? No matter how little pastoral care the Christian has been given, if he has been changed from a crabapple to an apple tree; his fruit may not be a bumper crop, yet the apples he does have will be sweet. It should be no question as to what the Christian wants to practice.
Blessings to you in Christ!