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ROOTS AND FRUITS ? yES,
BUT DON'T FORGET TO BE PLANTED
In the preceding Chapters, we have traced some of the vast pilgrimages of history, things on a large scale; but even there, reference was made to the individual side of things, the personal, the relationship of a person to his God. This was seen in the reference to Isaiah 53:10*1, 44:4-6. In the end, what does it matter what aggregates do this or that; that is their affair. To be sure, compassion calls, pity prevails, but when inordinate and unordained will seeks beyond the limits accorded to man, there is only doom or salvation to come; and with the latter is repentance and humbling, which is foul fare to pride. There is a limit, not of the love of God, but of its application, for man is not made as a god (Isaiah 57:14-16, cf. II Timothy 4:2-4), and his conscience can be seared, his mind conditioned to the point that the scars of the falsely sacred, like atomic radiation, spell unremitting disaster (Hebrews 10:26ff.*2).
Nevertheless, the kind marvel is this, that if you really WANT reconciliation, and repenting in reality receive the Lord, then the peril is avoided; and if you do not do so, then the darkness is preferred. The only and the ultimate tragedy for man is his own doing, though it be superintended by the Lord, in His ultimacy of pity and resurgent love that does not willingly let any perish (John 3:19,Colossians 1:19ff.).
Thus the need is for each person to consider whether to take the path of pilgrimage, to regard this world in the light of an eternal home elsewhere, the real 'home', for which this world is a preliminary, either a prelude in preparation, or a site for negation.
In consideration of this aspect of pilgrimage, we turn to Luke 14.
THE SPIRITUAL SITUATION
It is well-known how forgetful the old can be, things scurrying from their minds, at times, almost like scurrying mice, giving place to the cat. We can pity their predicament, resolvable by faith plus resolution, as when one is growing up, on the opposite side of the scale, when one has to learn how to use new abilities and facilities without gaucheness.
However the young can be forgetful in their own way too. In fact, at no age is there exemption!
Thus you can hear talk of bearing fruit, and that is good, if you conceive of yourself under the image of a plant; and "much fruit", and that is entirely a Christian concept, straight from the mouth of Jesus the Christ (John 15:8); and if you abide in Him, as vine branches do in the vine, so you will do this. Good, clear and honourable.
It is then pointed out that though this is true, it is not all. Thus a vine has to have a root. That is focussed in Matthew 13:21 in the parable of the seed. It falls on shallow ground, that is where the base is hard and impervious to penetration, so that although there is some kind or form or fashion of germination, of action in the soil, it is useless because "it has no root in itself," being a purely superficial phenomenon. It shrivels with the sun is up, that is, when heat is applied! That is WHY it does so. It has no operational roots. No repentance, no breaking up of the ground, is there, so no penetration of roots.
But then, with all this done and said, there is still more, and even more important. You could take even from the nursery a substantial plant for transplant, and forget ONLY ONE THING. What is that ? It is perfectly fatal if you do this. You forget to plant it. It shrivels, as if refused life, and you are left looking ridiculous, but worse, a kind of killer, a killer of opportunity and of the fashion and joy which life brings and can bring. Thus we find in Matthew 15:13, a pertinent and parallel point: "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up." Truly, this is not a case of forgetting to plant, but it is the same kind of principle. It shows the same sort of forgetfulness, but at a yet deeper level. Suppose then you were apt and savvy about the need to plant, that you even despised or disdained the thought of the sheer incompetence or listless folly of failing to plant, and seeking a far more sophisticated plan, planted away to your heart's content.
But what is the PURPOSE of this planting of yours ? It is your very own, done in your very own soil and with your own hands and handsome is the doing of it! Yet was it not for a life, a human life which would bear fruit of the kind for which it was created ? or did you just metaphorically plant, and REALLY just make up your own grounds and try to settle down in them ? What then has that got to do with life ? It is merely to make of yourself the judge, criterion, power, import and significance and how on this earth or out of it do you pretend that COULD be the point! You are not the wisdom of the ages, the designer of your life which now is, and in fact your gifts in genes and generation you did not at all invent. Yet here you are, making a ground of your own devising for yourself, by yourself, and imagining that this is a ground for living ? You are making your pile almost too literally, as if the centre of the universe, its point of purpose and meaning, all wrapped up in one, from your nappy days with shawl, till now.
UNLESS, says Christ, the heavenly FATHER plants you, you will be UPROOTED. You can imagine such former misplanted, self-centred plants, if they could talk, encouraging each other before the burning, saying, Oh I say old chap, poor show what ? Here we took special care to look after number one, oh with nice thoughts for others and all that sort of thing, and keeping out of trouble for the better contentment, and what do we have now ? I tell you, some of my roots went right down towards the river where there was just that little bit more moisture, and I have thrived! or I had. But now ...
The French have a word for it, in a slightly different setting, the déracinés! the uprooted. These not only have no operative roots, but have lost what they did have, and are doubly disappointed and degraded. It is not the foot but the seed which needs to be planted. It is not speed but seed. According to the seed, so the plant. If a godly plant is in mind, then God does the planting, for He knows the seeds, and is the nurseryman in this image!
THE BIBLICAL BASE
Return with me now to the fruit part. You find in Proverbs 25:6-7 a basis for Christ's utterance in the realm of fruit. Don't go for the highest places, at a feast, lest the host displace you with someone intended for that place, but start low and then be elevated if need be. Why suffer contumely or shame! be realistic and let those who do these things, do them without collision or being high-minded. In this original case, it is in the presence of the king that the thing is done, but it is the same principle, exalting yourself and being humbled very justly. Keep me back from presumptuous sins! cries David in that utterly delightful Psalm19, at verse 13: let them not have dominion over me. Amen to that!
Christ brought forth this case in a feast format, in Luke 14:7-11. He went further and applied it positively. Before however we see this, let us realise that the Bible is not just a book of entries or entrants, but a unity of theme and substance as if it had one author with a wonderful array of styles and specific fields. I saw a book at the secular level like that, namely ISRAEL, by Barry Rubin. He was in fact the Editor! How could one man have held such more pure specialty knowledge! Not at all, he was equipped to edit it well, but there were various compositions and components to meet his mind for review, indeed for selection and inclusion, with due regard to the completeness, at least as planned, of the whole.
In the Bible, it goes yet further. God, who DOES have the complete knowledge, could and did select those to whom He would not only give counsel, but conference and confidence, so that they might find not only the substance, but the words for its expression (as specific in I Corinthians 2:9-13, cf. Matthew 4:17-20), so that His will, word, work and way would be translated into clarity, precisely as He wished it. Hence you find resonances, things which are as intimately related as words from the one author, but with special emphasis that cares nothing for viewing various aspects, either supplementing or extending, or even challenging understanding by making one see the facets as a jewel, made one in the light. This Proverbs case is an illustration. Such are very numerous and bring a joy to the pondering heart.
THE POSITIVE APPLICATION
But there is more. This you find in Luke 14:12-14. A feast ? Yes if you have one, don't do it as a pay-back routine, getting back indirectly what you give in the social round, providing and then being provided for in feasting, but rather bring to your home what cannot pay back, and being generous, bring light to the lost, joy to the faint, help to the troubled. Blessed, one of them noted at this, is "he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of heaven," Luke 14:14:15. That followed a special statement from Christ Himself concerning it. Those who so act, He indicated, would be "repaid at the resurrection of the just."
Never yield to the unbiblical concept that the resurrection is some waffly, incoherent, dreamy or vague concept, where it does not really matter and becomes hard to differentiate from a form of poetry, really concerning this world and its shallow, sallow ways. You WILL be resurrected either to shame or in His name! (Daniel 12). Then the unfolding of the bud of life, will be seen in the flowers, flowers of evil or of His planting, via the prelude, the seed!
THE MATTER OF TIMING AND TRUTH
Now this leads to possible misconception, for everything must be seen in its place: first the PLANTING, then the ROOTS, deep and living, then the FRUIT. There is a certain logical order which, if transgressed, leads to entire disappointment, and indeed folly. It is in this, as in nature so in the supernatural. Thus, it is well to observe the facts and to keep to them, either following your own devices and so finding doom where light has no room, or the facts from God who made you, for His purposes, realising these out of sincere awe, love for Him, and faithfulness in thankfulness, repenting of the evil, delighting in the good because He IS good.
For this, you need to KNOW Him, as you constantly know and apply a mathematical or chemical formula. For that, you need to be in His hands, for He is a spiritual being, source of your spirit, maker of your mould, speaker of your DNA in all its physical, and meta-physical ordered marvels of law, order, command and first principles ruthlessly and aptly applied. Preventing misconception, you realise the error, as if you could EARN your way to God, with neither repentance (wrong seed, back to store, indeed find first the divine store-house!) nor planting. Not so. Instead of reviewing the matter in some academic mode, Christ chose here to tell a parable, as seen in Luke 14:15-24.
There is the FEAST, the CALL to come to it, in a munificent series of invitations. Next come the PREVARICATIVE REFUSALS, as first for one reason and then for another, people decline this great offer, and continue to be pre-occupied with this or that, as if their very hearts could not abide either the feast or the interruption of their own self-centred enjoyments, either FOR themselves or AS they themselves evaluated on their own sweet notions, founded on nothing but preference, without ground, basis or anything other than presumption, like those who glancing at a chemical, feel they can ground in themselves its formula.
Further, as you see in a parallel to this parable in Matthew 22, their declinings are so forced and foolish as also to be PROVOCATIVE REFUSALS. Do you brush your teeth when the house is on fire, or ignore a king when he calls!
The one sending out the invitation, hearing of their clottishness, tells his servants to "go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind." When this is done, the incandescent liberality of the master is such that he even adds, "go into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled." Comment: "None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper." In the Matthew 22 case, it was a King and one c ame without the proper garment, that is, unclothed in the given righteousness of God, available only through the ransom of the cross, which not only pays but brings to the site of divine liberality, enabling cover for all sin and WITH the divine righteousness as a liberating and characterising gift.
That is parallel to the case of not being planted. Preference, here to avoid the feast, does not validate morals. Life is not a spiritual democracy in which God placidly watches you exalt yourself over truth and creation as if a god. You are not made for that or like that. It is not works but will in the last analysis, known to God, orientation, prioritisation, preferences, pre-occupation leading to coming or not to the feast of factuality and acceptance on GOD'S terms: it is this, which matters.
Virtual gods and morals cannot alike be moulded and made by the mind of man, for this is mere illusion, a sickness in which our own nation seems about to show rampant fever. Rampant and unrestrained desire does not equal right or realism. Virtual gods and morals cannot be made but in fancies, which may then be taught in schools and applied in society by what is effectively a declaration of war on God. This is putting of the secondary in the primary place exactly as in the parable, leading on to eventual shame, as in the parallel in Matthew 22:11-14, concerning the missing wedding robe, and the condemnation of the presumptuous guest.
Similarly, there is ONE feast which is determinative. In the Matthew 22 case of the king's feast, those neglecting the invitation take to wounding and killing the messengers from the King, and he sent out forces to kill the murderers, in judgment. Whether in pure neglect as here, or in lack of cover as required, this was life and death. ALL is now ready, we read in Luke 14:17.
You need to die only once! Thus ONCE Christ came with the direct invitation, ONCE He died, rose and returned to heaven (Acts 3:19ff., Hebrews 9:12ff.), where He remains till NEXT He returns, at the phase of restoration of all things. When that comes, inner rooms (Matthew 24:26) in all their mystic rebellion are them more starkly seen as "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits," as the 39 Articles of the Church of England rightly put it. There is one door for one invitation (John 10:9, 14:6). When Christ Himself DOES return, it will not by mystic but majestic, scintillating like lightning, and sudden (cf. Revelation 1:7), producing rapturous joy in some, misery in others. Don't then try to change or extend the door of entry. That door is His, and He Himself so operates. It is His residence to which it gives access, and He runs His house in His own way. Don't try to move or extend the address, for then you simply build your own house, where He is absent. Put your heart into so entering and living in His house, and He will love you (John 14:21-23).
Thus you see the point. The Almighty and His place and face and grace is unavailable to presumption, and must be found in terms of His call, the Gospel, which relies so little on good works and valuable contributions that in come the lame and those from under hedges (Luke 14:23), for it is free (Romans 6:23, 3:23ff.), and there is only one way, to respond to the invitation, HIS.
He is not another, His mind is not that of another, His terms are not those of your mind nor does He yield to intimidation or intimation (Isaiah 55:8-11): AS He calls, SO you may come. Galatians 1 makes is SO very clear that you find that if you (Paul includes himself in this!) give out any other invitation, gospel, way, or operate in any other mind than in His terms, then you are not only illicit, but cursed. That is the force of the case of the man who 'came' to the feast of the King, but this, without the gracious garments made for the meeting! It is as in Isaiah 61:10. You get what He gives or go empty and naked (Romans 3:23, 5:17). The absolute gift of HIS divine righteousness is integral to the Gospel. NO ONE has ANYTHING to boast of when even the clothes are as given.
WHEN you are so come, so covered, or to put it botanically, WHEN you are PLANTED by the heavenly Father, a matter of the nurseryman including the seed selection (I John 3:9), which of course transforms the case utterly, then the roots grow (as in Hosea 14:5 and II Peter 3:18), and then the fruit comes, as in John 15. Then the abiding is supernaturally natural: that is, the seed and the care being divine, the result is as to KIND, a kindly one and utterly sure (I John 5:11-12).
See Bible Translation 3, n. 20.
In Hebrews 10:26, with that deliciously beautiful care of the Lord, it is found that the tense of "sin" in sin wilfully, is expressed in the present. This implies, unlike the aorist which is not here used, a certain continuity, condition or state, one that goes on. The case here would amount to a state of wilful sin, a condition of heart and life. As with David and Bath Sheba, not to mention Uriah, there are many who slip here or there, fall but are raised even after 7 times. None approximates perfection (Philippians 3:8-14). Only a delusion in self-will imagines it (cf. I John 1:7). This is not a statistical spirituality, but a question of the heart, of fighting against the flesh (Galatians 5:17), the world and the pride of life, not bowing, as against the confines of evil cultures; and while victory is the norm, we are not our own judges (I Corinthians 4:1-4).Indeed, the regeneration of the Lord is real, and the faults and failures are for remedy, not ruin.