Tag Archives: holiness

Fruit Trees

For a good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit; neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit.
Luke 6:43, 44

No doubt we all encounter well-meaning Christian people who constantly emphasize that we must do the will of God — that we must prove our love for God by what we do for Him.  With some, it seems to be an obsession.

I understand the passion for holiness.  Yes, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His words, or commandments (John 14:21, 23).  And James was writing in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 — see James 2:14-26).  I want to be ever so much like Jesus — holy, pure, kind, and loving.

But the obsession that some have with doing bothers me.  I think perhaps their motives are good, but they have gotten the cart before the horse.  As I thought on this, the Scripture about the good and bad fruit trees came to mind, and my light bulb went on.

Think about the fruit trees in your acquaintance.  Do they strain with all their might to produce apples or cherries?  If a tree could think, would it say to itself, “I MUST produce fruit!  I must!  I must!  Oh, this is so hard, and I’m so worn out making it happen, but I will produce fruit if it kills me!”  Does one fruit tree whack its fellow tree with a large branch and exclaim, “Produce!  You’ve got to make it happen to show you are a fruit tree!  Can’t you crank out a few more oranges, Brother Tree?”

Fruit trees produce fruit because they are fruit trees, not because they strive and strain to do it.  They draw continual strength from the sap that flows through them.  They put their roots down deep, and receive the nourishment of the soil, and the fruit comes as an automatic product of what the trees already are.

We can learn from the fruit trees of Luke 6 and the vine of John 15.  So many believers are exhausting themselves, trying to prove to God and each other that they are good fruit trees or vine branches by what they produce, rather than abiding in Jesus and letting the fruit come as a natural by-product.  So many are cracking the whip over their fellow believers, goading them  to perform, instead of encouraging each other to rest in the presence of Jesus and let Him bring forth the fruit His way.  It reminds me of the Egyptian taskmasters demanding more bricks from the Israelite slaves!

We say we are saved by grace, but the way many of us try to walk out our Christian life after salvation is a mixture of grace and law.  I dare say a goodly portion of Christianity is heavily into this mixture, and it is not God’s way.  But it has been interwoven into our church life for such a long time that we fail to recognize what has happened to us.  We know all the right doctrines, but our mindsets are quite another thing.  Our emphasis on what and how much fruit is produced has become bondage.

Abiding in Christ and expecting fruit to come about naturally does not mean we sit around and do nothing but “soak” in the Lord.  When we stay in close communion with Him, He leads us by His Spirit, and the outflow of being sensitive to Him will be good works.  If the fruit never shows up, we’ve got an unhealthy tree.  In the Christian, there is then some kind of disconnect with our Source.

What I’m suggesting is that, instead of striving to DO for Jesus, if we will BE in Him, the fruit will be a reality.  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) will outflow into righteous acts which will convince the world that our God truly is worthy to be worshiped.

Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 1

I’ve been trying to discipline myself to do “soaking prayer” for many months now.  Basically, soaking prayer is quieting oneself before the Lord for an extended period of time for the purpose of intimate contact with Him, giving Him the opportunity to speak.  It hasn’t always been a fun adventure for me.  Sometimes it’s so frustrating that I want to permanently pitch the whole idea out the window.

My particular circle of Christianity is the charismatic, prophetic community.  Most of the people around me insist that soaking prayer is a must, if one does not want to be a pygmy Christian.  I’m not so sure they are completely right.  The following five-part series explains what soaking prayer is and how my own experience with it has been to date.

Soaking prayer became very popular during the Toronto Blessing revival, but it’s really been around as long as the Church has.  Some people weird out about it, thinking it is “meditation” or “mysticism” and therefore it’s Eastern religion, not Christian.  Soaking prayer is not yoga and such things, however. Psalm  104:34 says, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.”   And Genesis 24:63 tells us Isaac was “meditating in the field” when he first met Rebekah.  There are lots more references in the Bible to meditating on God and on His Word.  And, if you use a concordance to look up words like “mystery” and “mysteries” in the New Testament, you will find that Jesus and the apostles spoke frequently about the mysteries of the Kingdom, or the “hidden wisdom.”  So “mysticism” — which involves mysteries (hidden things) — is not necessarily bad.

I’ve heard many ideas from a variety of  people about this type of prayer.  Sometimes it has sounded very ooky-spooky, depending on who was talking about it.  I’m finding that there are some expert soakers that I trust, and some that I do not, based on what I see happening in their lives.  The people who are balanced, godly people, who exhibit wisdom and grace, I listen to.  Those who are not showing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, I do not like to listen to — no matter how stupendous their heavenly experiences sound.

I am mystified by people who are into soaking prayer for hours a day and say they are seeing all sorts of heavenly visions, but they do NOT exhibit Christ-likeness.  There must be some kind of disconnect going on in their lives that is not normal.  If we are truly connecting with God, and seeing into His supernatural realm, our lives should be changing.  When Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-8) he said he became “undone.”  I hear that phrase thrown around a lot.  I don’t think, for Isaiah, that being “undone” was a momentary experience of chills and thrills.  It was a life-changing deal.  He took on a new purity.  The revelation of God’s holiness became a deposit of holiness in Isaiah himself.  Encounters with The Holy One should mean we take on a measure of the character of Jesus.  Transformation into His likeness should be the fruit of spending great amounts of time with Him.  This seems pretty basic to me.

I think sometimes the problem is that some of the expert soakers are not spending much time reading the Bible.  I mean reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, not just the portions that talk about heavenly visions (like Revelation and Ezekiel).  I like spending time with the Lord in prayer.  But I also know I need to commune with Him through His Word.  Sometimes in reading my Bible, I sense God is speaking directly to me through a verse or passage.  Sometimes I go for days where that direct speaking is not the case, but I am still learning general concepts that I need to be reminded of.  For instance, God talks a lot about how to relate in a godly fashion toward other people, especially in the New Testament letters to the Church.  I don’t always feel like God is giving me special, personal conviction or instruction when I read the Bible, but He is still speaking to me.  I am taking in His way, His concepts.  I still become like Him by absorbing these truths in a general way on a regular basis.

All Bible reading need not take us up into heavenly visions in order to be productive in our lives.  I don’t believe all time spent in prayer communion with God must necessarily involve heavenly visions, either.  It’s about Him, not about what glorious visions we can get out of Him — which is where I’ll pick up next time.

Next — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 2

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