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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Scripture: John 8:31-38
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Explanation: These verses cap off the week by reminding us that there is no freedom when we give in to sin. Sin can promise freedom, or captivate in a way that convinces you that true freedom is experiencing what sin has to offer, but Jesus teaches us that with sin there is only slavery. Take a moment and think about the brutality of slavery. Let the evils of it fall heavy on your heart. Slavery to sin leaves us in a state of unrest, unsettled, with constant internal and external turmoil, being owned and unsure of our liberties. The threat of death is not just looming but certain to come, because the hope of conditions changing in the state of slavery are slim to none. Heavy, yes? My friends, this is what sin brings. Not the joy, satisfaction, hope, peace, rest, or whatever else it promises, but death to whatever it touches. This is precisely what Jesus is so profoundly communicating to us in these verses. He says sin brings death, but belief and abiding (remaining) with Him and the truth of how He calls us to live is where we find freedom. He says this freedom is not just a potential freedom but an “indeed” freedom. It will happen as He says it will happen. Let His Word into your hearts and let it take residence there, so the voice of truth is there to lead you into a life of freedom. The voice of the father of this world (satan) will say, “Choose sin,” which we know leads to slavery, but the voice of the Savior, the voice of real truth, says in Him “you will be free indeed.”
Scripture: Deuteronomy 28:15-19
But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
Explanation: For just a moment, I want you to put on your parent hat. You don’t have to be a parent to understand that a good parent knows better than to overlook or reward a child for disobedient behaviors. What if you have established in your home that it is proper to wipe your feet off every time you come in from the outside? However, you have a child who continually refuses to do this. A natural by-product (curse) that follows this behavior would be physical and relational consequences. For instance, the flooring could physically be damaged, and unnecessary tension, frustration, and discord could occur relationally between parent and child. On top of that, you most likely will take further steps to ensure the behavior does not continue to occur, by providing appropriate disciplinary consequences, in hopes the behavior will improve. This isn’t unloving or punitive. In fact, it’s a very loving thing to do, because you know if your child continues in those behaviors, it most likely will lead to further trouble in the future. The last thing you want for your child is unnecessary trouble.
On a spiritual level, as a loving, just, omniscient (all-knowing) Father, God knows what is best for us, and establishes commandments for OUR betterment and the betterment of His kingdom. These commandments lead us away from both the natural and disciplinary consequences that occur as a result of not following the commands of God. He does not want us to experience these unnecessary consequences, so He will curse (resist) those disobedient behaviors, to lovingly and hopefully lead us back to a life where we experience His blessing. For Him, this is the ideal condition for us, but we must choose to trust and follow what He has established.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 28:1-6
And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
Explanation: God is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:5, 15; Jonah 4:2). He even offers grace to His enemies (Romans 5, Ephesians 2, Colossians 3). But He is unashamed in His claim that the only way to find peace, blessing, and full life is by trusting Him and walking in His ways. The idea that these things (peace, blessing, abundant life) live outside of God’s design is foreign to the biblical story. Instead, the Bible paints a picture of abundant life being found IN a relationship with God, operating IN the design of God, for those trusting IN God’s promises. The amazing grace is that God tells no one they are excluded from having this life available to them. This is why salvation, life, and grace always start with repentance (a rejecting of an old way or different way of doing things), and an acceptance of God’s way.
Have you ever made this statement before? “I will forgive them once they say they are sorry for everything they did to me.” I have been there, done that. We want to be right, and justify our anger and bitterness toward a person, which makes us a slave to that anger and bitterness because we are stuck there. So, when we see the person we are still angry with, we only see through our glasses of anger, and not for who they really are. God asks us to forgive, not for His benefit, but for ours, so that is no longer attached to our hearts.
My parents got divorced when I was young, so I was the every-other-weekend kid with my dad. We sort of had a relationship, but not one where we knew each other well. I felt like I had to please my dad and show him what a great kid I really was. Every time he would do something wrong, it was another check against him of what he didn't do right, which wasn't fair to him. When I became an adult, I felt like God was calling me to forgive my dad and look at God to be the Father I truly needed. God started breaking down walls, and I started to forgive my dad for leaving our family. I forgave him for forgetting about some of my birthdays. I just started forgiving, and God started to change my heart and soften it toward my father. I’m still human. and there were sometimes when hurt would creep back in. When that would happen, I would give it back to God. I just wanted to please my heavenly Father, because He is the one who created me to be who I am. God’s plans are way better than my plans. He wants us to obey and follow Him because He knows it is better for us. When following God, you can trust He will walk with you through everything, even when it is hard.
Take a minute and ask yourself these things: What are some things that you feel like God is calling you to do, and you keep saying “no” because it is just too hard? What are you a slave to in this world (unforgiveness, money, worry, etc.)? Then take some time to ask God to show you what your first steps can be to follow Him.
Prayer: Father, I want to trust the things you have called me to. I know that I am holding onto things I have become a slave to in my life. Please forgive me for not following You. Help me and show me the next steps You want me to take in my life to follow You. Thank you for always loving me! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!
Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away:
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Explanation: Being in relationship with Jesus should change our lives completely. But the reality is that the list of things Paul lays out to rid ourselves of, always stands as a temptation to us. Paul knows this about himself, he knows it about his church in Colossae, and he knows it about us. The temptation to sin is never far from us. So, he reminds and encourages the church (and us) that life in Christ looks different, and for those in Christ, a different choice is available. He goes on to encourage the church to “put on” certain behaviors that are befitting of Jesus. He is not saying they won’t be tempted with the first list, but they need to choose to put on the second list. The believer always has a choice to put on either the sinful nature or put on the image of Christ.