Fruit vs. Root
As Christians (either reborn believers or Christians in name only), we often make the mistake of striving to replicate or copy fruit (works) rather than the seeking the root (the Holy Spirit) of those works.*
We take the fruit (some good, some bad) of our forefathers – writings, ideas, theology, creeds, and church practices – the fruit of ancient men and women – and try to copy-paste these things into our lives today. We create doctrines and precepts and rules out of these ancient fruits or good works, neglecting to pursue the heart behind that fruit, a heart which is one with the Spirit of God.
Rather than sitting at the feet of God, we sit at the feet of theologians, Bible commentators, and famous orators. We trust their interpretation of God’s voice more than we trust or listen for God’s own voice. We look to them to interpret the scriptures for us rather than asking the Holy Spirit to illumine the scriptures for us and feed us.
We continue to feed on predigested milk rather than hunting for our own meat.
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
We rely on others to be the voice of God, because we are uncomfortable talking with and hearing from him ourselves, or perhaps because we aren’t truly saved, and therefore aren’t as familiar with the sound of his voice, and perhaps believe that we can’t really encounter Him personally.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me
Religion attempts to replicate the fruit of old times, rather than allowing God to replicate in us the root of that fruit – the seed, water, and light of the Holy Spirit.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
When we copy and paste the fruit, we create a counterfeit – a dead, deceitful, and defective imitation of the real deal.
In our insistence upon adhering to tradition for its own sake, we take on the style of the Pharisaical Jewish church leaders of Jesus’ time – and become just as empty and dead as they were. They relied on tradition and placed heavy burdens of man-made laws (the precepts of men) on people’s shoulders to follow, equating these things to righteousness and godliness.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
But for all their rules and “piety”, they didn’t recognize the Spirit of God at work.
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”Matthew 12:24
Many religious people are good at attempting to follow Christian “rules”, morals, virtues, and traditions, but they don’t recognize the leading or moving of the Holy Spirit when he’s at work.
Many religious people doubt that the Spirit can speak to us in places other than the scriptures or perhaps the traditions, reasoning, and precepts of theologians.
Unless one knows Him personally, the very present and constant reality of the Spirit’s leading and guidance within the heart is difficult to grasp.
We read about the work of the Spirit – and how the ancients encountered him – but the present reality of His nearness, His power, and His voice is still foreign.
I’m not saying that everyone who appears to be speaking in tongues or getting “slain in the Spirit” is necessarily truly being moved by the Holy Spirit. Many are easily deceived, and the church is indeed permeated with many charlatans.
But the Holy Spirit’s presence and interaction with us is very real. You have a direct line with God because of the blood of Jesus, and if you sit before the Lord and listen for his voice, you will hear him.
Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?
2 Samuel 7:18
He will answer in his way and in his time.
Quite possibly through prayer and listening. Through talking with Him.
Quite possibly through the scriptures.
And quite possibly in our patient waiting on him as we steward what we’ve been given – the responsibilities and calling(s) we already know and have.
Through any means he sees fit, he will respond in his time, with the answer that is best.
Maybe even through your favorite theologian.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to read or find value in the works of famous Christian writers and orators – from present or ancient times. But we have to seek God first.
Seeking the wisdom of Man before seeking the wisdom of God is futile. Equating the wisdom of Man to the wisdom of God is fatal.
The words of Man must be interpreted through the filter of God’s vision, not the words of God through Man’s vision.
Talk to God like you would a father or friend, because he is both. Listen to God’s voice like you would to that of a counselor, because he is your greatest Counselor. His Spirit is more real than everything we perceive with our senses.
The Spirit speaks to us in many ways – including through men and women – but we must learn to listen for Him first, rather than first seeking the wisdom of Man to try to hear Him.
God knows more about Man than Man knows about God.
God knows more about you than you do about yourself or about Him. Or than other humans know about you or Him.
Religion seeks the wisdom of Man to know God. Relationship seeks the wisdom of God to understand Man and God.
If we honor or adhere to certain theological statements and spiritual proclamations from our forefathers – in an effort to capture and copy fruits and wisdom of the Spirit from ages past – while neglecting a personal relationship with Christ, our traditions and theology are meaningless.
Our own works – and the words and wisdom of other humans – apart from the power, guidance, and counsel of the Spirit are death.
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
According to tradition or the reasoning of men, some religious groups consider circumcision – or a rite which they deem equivalent – necessary for salvation.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
Only through the Spirit of Christ, by faith, do we wait for the hope of righteousness.
The Word of God
The Spirit will not contradict the word of God, but we must rely on both the written word of God and The Word (God himself) living within us – His Spirit – for guidance.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
The Word of God lives inside you. It’s not just something you read.
It’s something you listen for, and that you will begin to speak as you walk in His Spirit.
If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law. The Spirit guides us, leads us in Truth, and indwells us with the Word of God.
How to Know if You’re Truly Hearing From the Holy Spirit
How do you know if you are truly hearing from the Spirit or just your own deceitful, selfish heart?
There are some tests and measures we can take:
– Asking for complete peace or lack of peace from the Spirit. He has given me each (peace or a lack thereof) at different times.
– Ask if there’s anything in the scriptures which contradicts what you believe/think you are hearing or being called to do, say, etc.
However, do not rely solely on the scriptures for wisdom. They are the word of God, but the Word also lives inside you, and can tell you when you’re misapplying the written word for your own convenience.
Many people have gained false confirmation for their wishes, conclusions, beliefs, or decisions, because they proof-texted their wishes or beliefs with Scripture, or they simply didn’t find anything contrary within the scriptures, and therefore assumed that this was a green light for their plans or wishes.
Or they justified their behavior with precedents from the scriptures.
Just because something was the right calling or action for someone in ancient history in a particular situation and time doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right calling or action for you.
Precedent does not necessarily equal precept, principle, or practice.
The problem with “religious” Christianity today is that it often replaces an honest, open dialogue with the Holy Spirit with tradition and “reason” for guidance.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s reasoning – His wisdom, ways, and thoughts – far surpass ours. Our “reason” – our intellectualism – is not sufficient to help us achieve or reach the wisdom of God. It falls far below His wisdom – something we can only know by knowing His Spirit and through His Spirit’s illumination of the written word.
If we are going to hear his voice, we must actually have a relationship with the Spirit, and know his voice (and the difference between his voice, the world’s, Satan’s, and that of our flesh and “reasoning”). The Holy Spirit’s voice is different.
Religious people who don’t know the Holy Spirit find it difficult to accept this – that you can actually hear from the Holy Spirit (just, like, through prayer or thought and not through human reasoning or tradition) – and know that it’s the Holy Spirit speaking.
To be sure, many have deceived themselves, claiming and believing that they have heard from the Holy Spirit when they truly haven’t.
Here are some tests:
– Does the thing you believe you’re being “called” to do involve personal glory, pride, comfort, or self-worship? If so, you can be sure it’s not from the Spirit, because the Spirit is at war with the flesh.
– Does the thing you believe the Spirit is telling you conflict in any way with the written word of God? If so, then you can be sure that it’s not from the Spirit.
– Is this “calling” something you believe you can accomplish by your own strength? There’s a good chance that it’s not from the Spirit. Or at the very least, your confidence in your own strength is at war with the Spirit – seeking to glorify and trust your flesh rather than depend on Him.
– Are men and women with the Spirit’s discernment warning you in a dire way about problems that they are seeing? It’s probably not from the Spirit. At the very least, this matter requires more prayer and thought.
– Do you see red flags? Are you ignoring or justifying them? The Spirit may be speaking to you through these flags.
– You know you are truly hearing and living by the Spirit – speaking and living the Word of God – if you are allowing the Spirit – the fire of God – to gradually put your flesh to death. The Spirit will not call you to glorify the flesh. The Spirit will not feed your pride, lust, or sufficiency apart from God. The Spirit will crucify your flesh.
– You know you are walking in the Spirit when you cease striving to please God in the flesh – in your reasoning (“wisdom”), tradition, or strength (“power”).
– You know you are truly hearing the Spirit when you seek the wisdom of God over the “reason” and intellect (flesh) of man – to include man’s “reasonable” interpretations of the scriptures. When you seek first the Word of God dwelling within to illumine his written word.
If you are walking within your God-given gifting and roles, seeking His face and will, and have received the complete peace that comes from Him alone, then you are operating in the Spirit.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Consequences of Following Man’s Wisdom
In the garden, God spoke directly to Adam.
You know what broke Adam’s perfect fellowship with The Word? His direct line?
His own wisdom.
“Did God really say…?”
An “intellect” which believed Satan’s lies.
Exaltation of his own flesh and understanding.
Through Christ, that fellowship – that real-time communication with God – has been restored.
His Spirit lives within us, counseling us.
But when we ignore His voice – when we listen to our own intellect rather than the voice of the Spirit speaking to us in the garden of our hearts and souls – we exchange the truth of God for a lie.
We buy into the deception that our own reasoning and wisdom (or that of Augustine, Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi, John Calvin, John Knox, Thomas Aquinas) will get us closer to God – or make us more like God.
We must know the difference between God’s voice – God’s wisdom – and our “reasoning”. Man’s wisdom.
Human reason falls short of the infinitely wise reasoning of God.
In matters of faith – of knowing God – human reason is not a virtue. It is the handle for the casket that is religion.
We must know the voice of God first, and then we will understand what is true reason and wisdom.
We must seek God’s voice, and not simply follow the teachings of some ancient theologians because we grew up doing so and/or because our parents’ parents did so.
We need to ask God what his will is for us – now, at this present time. How would he have us worship him in Spirit and Truth? Are our hearts truly worshiping him, or are we simply worshiping him with our lips, while our hearts worship the wisdom of men?
Perhaps he wants us to visit other denominations. Expose ourselves more. Shatter our myopia. Learn to worship with other Christian brothers and sisters in unity and not judgmentally. Step away from the things we’ve grown up with – the things we’ve accepted without really sufficiently questioning or learning of the beauty in the broader church – the entire Bride of Christ.
If you’ve been raised in a particular denomination, you’ve probably acquired a lot of head knowledge about that denomination – how it interprets the Bible, how it views other denominations, etc.
But you haven’t necessarily learned to know the voice of the Spirit. To read, understand, and hear his word for yourself. You rely on the interpretations of others in your denomination – or your religion.
Christ desires unity in his Bride.
If we’d all stop thinking “my way [denomination, worship style, etc.] is right” (human reasoning), and listen to the wisdom and voice of the Spirit instead, we would draw closer together. Our unity would be greater, because we’d be uniting over and through Christ rather than dividing over human reasoning (flesh).
What God Wants in Our Worship
And at the end of the day, God looks at our hearts – not externals, ceremonies, or head knowledge.
He wants to know if we seek him with our hearts, and doesn’t delight in performance. (Christ already performed all works necessary for salvation and for us to be pleasing in the sight of God.)
God delights more in our honest conversations with him than our religious repetition of certain prayers, words, or practices.
And I think our prayerful, passionate, engaged questioning or reflection over one small verse for the day is more worshipful than our lifeless, “dutiful” memorization or recitation of a whole chapter or book of the Bible.
He wants a relationship with us, not fear-driven performance.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18
We must allow the living water of the Holy Spirit to work in us anew to discern all things with wisdom, and to produce fresh, good fruit, as appropriate for the times and the moment.
*Thanks to my brother for sharing the “fruit vs. root” analogy with me – wisdom which is, of course, original with the Spirit and not with Man. 🙂