Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Not The Original Tree

                Do you realize that you are not the only one going to heaven? Do you realize that your church is not the only church going to be in attendance when Jesus appears? You are probably thinking to yourself right now, “What in the world is this woman talking about”? But unfortunately these thoughts are deep in the hearts of some of us in regards to our own self and the churches we attend. I once had a sister in the Lord tell me that a former church we attended together acted like they were the only ones who were going to be in heaven. I was convicted when she said that because I she was right. She was not only right about the church, but she was also right about me and what was buried deep in the depths of my heart.  But it was there. Just like the Gentiles who were boasting in the time of Paul, we too are boasting today about our churches, about our outreaches, and we are boasting against one another.
             
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   Paul writes to us in Romans 10-11 about his heart for his people and how he desires to see them come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to walk in the salvation and the promises of God. But he also tells us in chapter 11 that it is not all hopeless, not all have rejected Jesus, and that some of their rejection has happened so that we, the Gentiles could be brought into the promises as well. Paul writes that blindness has in part happened so that our fullness could be ushered in. (Romans 11:25) He reminds the Gentiles of that day, and the Gentiles of our day, that we have nothing to boast about, and our boasting is wrong.
                Paul writes in Romans 11:16 that because “the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” The nation of Israel is the first fruit. They were the natural olive tree that God originally planted in Abraham. Remember Abraham was not a Jew until God called him from his home and promised him that through him a nation would be born. (Genesis 12:1-2) Abraham was not a Jew until he stepped out in faith and left his family and his home and followed the Lord God. Israel is the first fruits of God’s original olive tree that was planted in Abraham through faith.
                But some of them fell away. They did not remain in His root, but became blinded, so God gave them a “spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear.” (Romans 11:8) What grew from Abraham was broken off because of unbelief. That is where we Gentiles come in.  Paul says that some of the branches were broken off, and we, the believing Gentiles were grafted in. Paul says some, not all. We must remember that the Lord knows who are His. (Romans 11:4) We were not of the original olive tree; we were of a different tree, a wild one. But because we believed in Jesus we were grafted into the root of holiness through faith.
                “And if some of the branches were broken off and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. ” Romans 11:17-18
                Paul’s imagery would have meant a lot to the Greeks and Jews of that day who were reading this epistle. Throughout their regions wild olive trees grew. These wild olive trees would be cut back and slits would be made in the branches. They would break off the bad branches, the branches of the cultivated tree that were dead or not producing fruit and they would place the wild olive branch that they had just cut off in the place of the dead one. Then they would take mud made from clay and they would join the branch to the tree. They would then tie the branch to the tree until the tree and the branch became one. The cultivated tree would then be rejuvenated and begin bearing fruit again and the wild olive tree would gain all the benefits of the cultivated tree. Eventually the two would become one and the same tree and you would not be able to tell the difference between the natural branches and the grafted in branches.
                We have been grafted in. We have rejuvenated God’s original tree and we have gained all
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the fullness of God’s love, mercy, grace, goodness, etc. All of who He is and was to His people in the Old Testament we have become partakers of in the New Testament. We will and should thrive spiritually because we have been grafted into the fullness of our God through faith in Jesus Christ. All the promises made to the original cultivated olive tree have become our promises as well. We have become partakers of every promise God has ever made to His people. We are no longer wild; we have been grafted in by grace through faith.
                “do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Romans 11:18
                We are no longer a separate people. We are all now, of the same tree. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29) We have nothing to boast about. We are no better than anyone else. We do not support the root, the root supports us. He is the vine, He is the tree, and we are the branches. We are all part of a greater tree, a greater vine that is tended to by the loving hands of God our Father, our Husbandman. (John 15:1-5) We were once wild, but now we have been grafted in. We have been accepted into the original tree. We have nothing to be boastful about or prideful of.
                “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.” Romans 11:19
                We must be humble before our God and before one another. We must remember that we are a part of God’s cultivated tree, because He cut us out of the wild and grafted us into the original tree. We are partakers of all the divine blessings and promises because He has grafted us in by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have nothing to be boastful of. Boasting produces pride, and pride leads to blindness. Pride is blindness, and Paul warns us not to travel down that same path of pride that the natural branches traveled.
                “Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” Romans 11:19b-20
           
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     Their pride led them into blindness. Our pride will lead us in the same direction. Let us not be haughty in heart, in mind or in spirit. One is not better than the other. If anything you are less then they because you were grafted in, they are the natural branches. Your church, your walk, your life is not better than anyone else. The church you attend, the knowledge you have, all that you pride yourself in is useless and will eventually lead you down a path of blindness. Remember, if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) I am no better than you, and you are no better than me. I like the building I attend every week, what some call church, but it is no better than yours. You will not be the only one in heaven, and neither will your church. Be careful, do not be haughty, but fear. If God did not spare the natural branches, be mindful, because He might not spare you.

                Father, I pray that we would let go of the pride that we have against one another and that we would open our eyes to see that we are all grafted in. We were wild, and we were growing astray, but by the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ we have been grafted in. We have been lovingly placed into Your Original Olive Tree by Your grace. Let us not be boastful, but let us be humble, let us remember that we are here because You have cut us down and brought us in. We are Your branches, You alone are the Tree and the Vine, and in You alone can we make our boasts. May we come together today and see that we are all the same tree. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.