Today’s guest post is from Kenny Silva. In addition to being a close, trusted friend, Kenny is a Nashville-area realtor who is also passionate about leadership coaching and development. You can learn more about Kenny on his blog and follow him on Twitter.
One day, I happened upon an apple tree in my back yard. Unfortunately, there were no apples on it. This was a shame as I’m sure it had the potential to produce some beautiful, wonderful apples. I wanted so desperately for that to happen, so I committed myself to making it grow those apples.
First, I went out and bought an apple tree manual. In that book, I found every bit of information about what makes an apple tree great. I thoroughly searched out every instruction on cultivating the ‘ideal’ apple tree. I trimmed the failing branches and pruned the ugly leaves, just like the book said.
Still, no apples.
Next, I got some friends together in a cute little circle and we studied that manual together. We had a ferocious debate about what exactly the healthy tree should look like. Some of the people in my group lectured me on how I could’ve better taken care of that tree. Eventually, we brought the whole crew out and performed a few more superficial fixes on the tree.
Still, no apples.
I would study that book day and all night, memorizing quotes about the perfect apple tree and reciting them aloud. I would kick and punch that tree all day long; screaming, crying and proclaiming all of the reasons why it should straighten up and produce.
Still, no apples.
And Then I Realized…
My tree was dead. How could I expect apples from a dead tree? Everything I knew about a good and healthy tree was all good and true, but worthless for a dead tree. Nothing I could do to that tree would make it capable of producing the fruit I so desperately desired.
If only I had the power to reach into the very center of that tree and revive it. If only I could dig into the root structure and breathe new life into it. Only then would I have a chance of cultivating the ideal tree.
Only then would I begin to see fruit.
People are Like Trees
The Bible says this about people who don’t know Christ.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV
Spiritually, we were dead… Terrifying words if you stop there.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4,5 NIV
God made us alive with Christ… That’s the Gospel.
What Does This Have to Do With People and Trees?
If people are trees and apples are moral character, then how can anyone expect a spiritually dead person to produce spiritually beautiful moral character? If someone does not know Jesus, then how could you ever expect that person to live a life as “one approved?” [2 Tim 2:15]
We seem to be under the impression that we have the power to fix people; that we can simply tell them to stop sinning and that they will. We even go so far as to expect people to make that life change before they’re allowed to meet Christ.
This is a lie called “religion.”
Throwing Rocks at Religion
“Religion is the default mode of the human heart.” Martin Luther
The problem with religion is that it’s all predicated on the idea that you have to work your way up to God. Essentially, religion says that you need do enough good stuff to make yourself favorable in the eyes of God. The opposite of religion is grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV
Preach Grace, Not Religion
Next time you want to call a sinner out on their sin, ask yourself…
“Do they know Jesus?”
When you’re tempted to criticize a non-believing friend’s lifestyle, ask yourself…
“Has anyone ever shared the message of Grace and Truth with this person?”
Before you to tell the seeker they’re not “clean” enough for your church, ask yourself…
“Did Jesus ask Levi the tax collector to go clean up his act? Or, did He simply tell Levi to get up and follow Him?” [Luke 5:27,28]
Lead them to the Cross. Tell them about Jesus. Watch what happens…
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV
When dead people come to life, the good works will come. The strong moral character will develop in response to the in-dwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. Lives will radically change in light of the promised seal of salvation.
Apples will grow.