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Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fruit (s ) of the Tree & the Beginning ( Genesis ) of Faith

Blessed [ are ] those who do His commandments,[g] that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. ( Revelation 22:14 )

'You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that [ is ] your neighbor’s'.  ( Exodus 20:13-17 )

Most people, I believe, would easily acknowledge that John is not talking about an actual city, with a physical address, although some have argued that he is, and that John's description in the previous chapter is meant to be taken very literally ( which it is; literal, anyway ), in a physical sense. The writer to the Hebrews told his first-century readers 'you have not come to the mountain that[c] may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness[d] and tempest' ( Hebrews 12:18 ), and, a little later, 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels' ( Hebrews 12:22 ), then clarifying ( describing ) that 'city' by telling them that they had come, not to an actual 'city', but 'to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ who are ] registered in heaven', etc, etc. So too, these are not actual 'fruits' spoken of here, but, as we are very familiar with, from phrases like 'by their fruits you will know them' ( Matthew 7:15-20 ), of the actions of 'just men made perfect' ( Hebrews 12:23 ), by Jesus the Christ, 'the Mediator of the new covenant', and 'the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than [ that of ] Abel'.


 Though these are not actual 'fruits', they do take 'form' ( Galatians 4:19 ) in the human beings that God has 're-birthed' ( again; not physically-John 3:1-21 ) 'from above' ( Isaiah 45:8 ( James 3:17 ). Paul describes some of these 'fruits' ( 'of the Spirit' ) in Galatians 5:22 & 23, as 'love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control', and in Ephesians 5:9, merely ( simply ) as 'in all goodness, righteousness, and truth'. James also, though not in so many words, also describes these 'fruits', or rather, those who exhibit them, as 'pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits ( actions ), without partiality and without hypocrisy.' ( James 3:17 ) In the famed 'love chapter', of I Corinthians 13; Paul revealed these 'fruits', although again, not in so many words. In this passage; Paul's main focus is true ( agape-'wide open' ) love, like James' 'wisdom', that 'from above'; he wrote, 'Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.'

When Jesus was asked by one called a 'lawyer', 'Teacher, which [ is ] the great commandment in the law?' ( Matthew 22:36 ); He replied, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind' Deuteronomy 6:5 ), and that a second, like it, was, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' ( Leviticus 19:18 ). On these two commandments, Jesus said, hang, or rest, the law and the prophets; in other words, these commandments, of which the uniting factor, the common denominator, is love, are the driving principle behind God's law, and indeed, God Himself, as revealed by the prophets! Soon to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men; Jesus told His disciples, 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another' ( John 13:34 ). In his first epistle; John wrote concerning love, of knowing God, told his 'brethren', 'I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning' ( I John 2:7a ), and wrapping up his 'discourse' on love; Paul told his readers, 'And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [ is ] love' ( I Corinthians 13:13 ). Love; apparently, is the point of it all; not the feeling, but the action as described above, by Jesus, John, James, and Paul. When we love; it is to be 'without hypocrisy', and 'without partiality', we are to be 'long-suffering' and 'kind', we are not to 'envy', but rather to have 'joy', to exhibit 'faithfulness, gentleness, self-control', 'in all goodness, righteousness, and truth', in other words, in God!

And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, [ was ] the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each [ tree ] yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree [ were ] for the healing of the nations. ( Revelation 22:1 & 2 )

It is well-accepted, in most, if not all circles, that this 'tree of life', as in Genesis 2:9 and 3:22b, is symbolic of Jesus the Christ. Reading this passage as it is, without the added words, in italics, one might get a hint that, not only the 'leaves of the tree', but the 'fruits' of this 'tree of life', are referring to the Christian, those who have been made righteous in, and follow Jesus the Christ, who 'keep His commandments' ( John 14:23 ( I John 2:4 ). I have made much lately of the fact that we are these 'healing leaves', which are said to be for 'the healing of the nations', but it was not till recently that I really noticed ( rather it was revealed to me ) that, given the sentence structure here, and that we have a correct translation of these words, that we are also the 'fruits' each ( of us ) 'yielding its fruit every month'. One might ask, 'why did Jesus make a point to reveal to John that their were twelve ( different ) fruits, and that they ( each ) bore their fruit in its ( their own ) month? Truly; John is using very physical ( although somewhat confusing, maybe ) language, but to describe a greater spiritual truth, that we, as Christians, followers of Jesus the Christ, 'having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets' ( Ephesians 2:20  ( Hebrews 11:10 ( 12:22-24 ), are 'called' ( I Corinthians 1:9 ( Romans 8:28 ) to exhibit these 'fruits', as mentioned earlier, in Galatians 5, Ephesians 5, James 3, John 3, etc., to 'shine' ( II Corinthians 4:4-6 ( Genesis 1 ) our 'light' ( Matthew 5:16 ) in a darkening world, to share the love of Christ that God showed His people, and using those 'fruits' to 'awaken' ( Isaiah 50:44 ) those who 'sleep' ( I Corinthians 15:34 )!

Have you ever heard the phrase, 'love ain't easy'? Not only is it not easy; sometimes it seems well-nigh impossible to 'bear' this most wonder, delicate, and delicious of 'fruits'. We can only 'suffer' so long, keeping the 'green-eyed monster' at bay, while still exercising 'self-control'. Even the best of us often suffers selfish tings, and finds him ( or her ) self easily 'provoked', and we would all like to think that we can stamp the 'evil' out of our minds: of course we never would even think of rejoicing over any iniquitous thoughts, but find joy only in thinking good, pure, and truthful thoughts ( Philippians 4:8 & 9 ) When it comes to bearing, believing, doing, and enduring ALL thing....Well........

Impossible, no? NO! With God, and only with God, is it possible to do all these things. Does that mean if we don't exhibit ( 'bear' ) this kind of unselfish ( agape ) love at all times, that our love is not true love, that we are fooling nobody but ourselves? I do not believe so; it simply means that wee have chosen at one moment or another, to make the wrong choice, and be selfish, and more often than not, we behave rudely, saying some we shouldn't, often before the words leave our mouth. Some may say that by writing these hings; I'm excusing bad behavior: I'm not! We should always strive for perfection, doing the best that we can, but the sad truth is, more often than not, it seems; we fail. All we can do, is look back at past mistakes, and with heartfelt and humble prayer to God, make up our minds to do better next time.

In the love of Christ, and in His strength,
Charles Haddon Shank

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