Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption but the one who sows to the spirit will from the spirit reap eternal life.
God is God. The Alpha and Omega. He is all-powerful, and in Him all things hold together. As such, God is not a person who is beneath our consideration, someone we can shrug off or discount. It does us no good to make large professions of faith and put on great shows to convince others of a life we don’t intend to follow through on. “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (Proverbs 27:19 NIV). We may deceive others, and even ourselves, but not God.
If we invest our choices, our efforts, and our days into putting on a show, climbing ladders, and impressing people, but never truly give our hearts to God or follow His Spirit, we waste our lives. A life devoted to God is a life well spent. A life devoted to anything else, no matter how noble, is a life ultimately wasted, because it will lack its mark on eternity. The Word promises we will reap what we sow: relationship from the seed of relationship, or separation from the seed of separation.
Hebrews 12:5-11 (ESV)
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The relationship between love and discipline is often one that gets confusing if you have ever been part of an environment where discipline was improperly used. You may have been part of an environment where there was not enough discipline, and so you or others were free to do whatever you pleased and never really learned the benefit of discipline. This may have produced a sense that any discipline may seem harsh or unnecessary. Maybe you were part of an environment where things were on the opposite end of the spectrum, where discipline was used in a cruel way, and so the thought of any type of discipline seems off-putting.
When it comes to our relationship with God, and trying to understand and live in His love, these are things we must work through. God, in His perfect love, will at times discipline us in a perfect, proper, and healthy way. It will take us submitting to His discipline. and trusting in faith if He is disciplining us, we genuinely need it. The scriptures are full of examples of times when God has disciplined His children, and there are some truths that can help shape our views on God’s discipline.
First, as I already mentioned, the discipline of God is done in love. Secondly, God’s discipline is not punishment. I know this can become very convoluted in our brains, but Jesus already bore the punishment for our sins, so discipline is not motivated by Him wanting to inflict pain on us. Discipline from God is both corrective and used for training us. He wants us to become more like Him, and if there are areas of our lives that do not reflect that, and we are His children and disciples of Jesus, God clearly wants us to stop that behavior or sin. Ultimately, that behavior or sin can pull us from our relationship with Him, harm or damage our relationship with others, and finally, damage our own personal fullness of life.
This may lead to further questions, but the best way to discover if you are in a season of discipline is simply by asking God if there are any areas of your life where you are not walking with Him. Then take purposed time to listen and seek out His Word. Whenever you experience God’s discipline, receive it as love from God, and a complete honor that God loves you enough to make your life better.
Exodus 34:12-14 (ESV)
Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
In western culture, jealousy is viewed as a negative thing. We think of the jealous lover who slashes tires because she can’t have the guy she longs for, or we think of ourselves being jealous because others have that we do not. But jealousy, as used in this passage, is not only viewed as a positive, but God says His character is defined by jealousy (His name is Jealous).
Like the jealous lover who will not share the love of another, God demands His creation’s sole love and trust in Him. God’s love is exclusive. But the difference lies in the motive for God’s exclusivity. God’s exclusivity is not because He has a base need to be in control or limit His creation, but because He possesses a deep love for His people, who were designed to find the blessing and life they so desperately desire, in Him and Him alone.
God is a jealous God, but His jealousy is based out of a desperate desire to bless us and give us life in Him.
Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
This passage is hard hitting. It calls us out, and commands us to get our hearts in check. We need to evaluate how we treat “the least of these.” I used to think “the least of these” meant the poorest and destitute of humanity. But in studying this passage, I realize we have all had a time in our lives when someone reached out to us when we were going through a rough patch. A time when a simple hug or prayer sustained a tired spirit or exhausted body. I have been among “the least of these,” and someone loved me well. Those people who showed me love because God led them to reach out to me, truly were caring for someone the way that Jesus would.
It’s important that we understand the additional context in this scripture. God isn’t going to see favor in us “checking a box” by running out to serve at a homeless shelter or donate clothing to the Salvation Army in an effort to please Him. We must allow God to search our hearts and reveal the way He wants us to love others. Loving well is an exercise in true connection with God.
Remember, though, it’s not our works or our compassion that will get us into heaven. Because we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our hearts are changed. Our hearts now desire to do things for others, and to give generously in the manner Jesus did while He walked on the earth. By loving the way He loved, and demonstrating love and care to others, it’s as if we were doing it to Jesus himself. That’s powerful!
Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV)
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
This proverb is a letter from a mother to her son, Lemuel, who was about to become king. Her passing wisdom is focused around two themes: avoiding drunkenness in order to keep a clear mind to rule, and using his power to serve his people…to protect, speak up for, and judge justly for the poor and needy. Lemuel was to use his power, not for personal gain, but to care for those who needed protected by his rule. He was tasked to judge fairly, not to give favor to those who could benefit him. Not only was he to avoid corruption, but he was to actively speak out against it and defend the rights of those who had been taken advantage of, even if it was not the popular or most advantageous position to take.