Why do Christians see so little transformation in our lives, our churches, and our communities? We preach with our whole hearts, we engage people in ministry programs, and we grow in knowledge, so why don't bear more fruit?
The analogy of a fruit tree can help us get our minds around how God actually brings about transformation in our lives:
The roots represent our beliefs, those matters we take as truth and build our lives on.
The branches represent our behaviors, the decisions we make and the actions that we take in our work, church, and relationships.
The fruit represents the result of our behaviors. Our decisions and actions have either positive or negative results. This is the fruit we bear.
The trunk (you thought I forgot, didn't you?) is the often-overlooked, but absolutely vital piece. It represents our faith. Faith is what connects our beliefs to our actions.
If we aren't bearing much fruit, seeing much transformation in our lives, churches, and communities (and, let's be honest, in many places we aren't), then we need to look back at our behaviors and see if there's a problem there.
When we examine our behaviors, we find that many Christians simply do not act like Jesus. Their actions and priorities are far from the admonitions of Scripture.
Overwhelmingly Christian leaders try to "fix" a lack of fruit and behavior by telling people to "do better." The central theme of most Christian books and messages is related to people's behavior. How do you fix behavior? You tell people to behave differently, right? Actually, no. This makes no logical sense. Neither does it make any biblical sense. If our behaviors aren't producing fruit, then we certainly need to change them. But, simply telling someone to try harder is ineffective and irresponsible. It doesn't bring the desired change, nor does it reflect the pattern of teaching laid out in the Bible.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8 )
Analyzing our root system, we may discover that there are core beliefs that are out of line with the Bible. When this is the case, we need to replace erroneous beliefs with true ones. If I believe God is a moral monster then it's unlikely my behaviors will align with his instructions. If I don't believe Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, I'm unlikely to access the power necessary for real change.
Many Christians, however, have a root belief system that is basically in line with the Bible, but it still doesn't affect their behaviors. This reality often comes in the question, "How do I get the truth from my head to my heart?" The answer is faith. The missing link is faith, which connects our beliefs with our behaviors. It isn't so much that people don't have any faith, it's that they lack a strong and robust faith.
Faith isn't like a light switch, either on or off. Faith is like a muscle, which can be weak or strong, little or great. At least a dozen times in the gospels Jesus comments on the strength of people's faith. He describes faith as "little", "great", and "the size of a mustard seed." Our faith can be strengthened, and as it grows, our behaviors will be more aligned with our beliefs and our fruit will multiply.
God is not unwilling to bring the transformation we long for. In fact, Jesus says that bearing much fruit glorifies the Father. He only waits for us to join him as he seeks to grow our faith.
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