The Fruit Reveals the Root
Passage: Genesis 3:1–3:13, Luke 5:31–5:32
Your view of God grows the fruit in your life.
We have this little kiddie pool for Hudson. Usually we fill it up on the deck and leave it there for a few days. But we can’t leave it for too long, because over time it collects all this junk in it: dust, pollen, pine needles, leaves, probably bird poop, and whatever else. Even with all that stuff in it, the water still looks pretty clear if you are just standing on the deck looking at it. But as soon as you put a kid in it and they start splashing around, you’d quickly see how dirty the pool really is because all that stuff would get kicked up from the bottom.
As people, we work very much the same way. When everything is calm, we might look totally pure and clean like nothing is wrong with us. But as soon our environment gets disturbed, all the dirt sitting at the bottom gets churned up and you see everything that was hiding deep down all along. Many have said that a person’s true character comes out not when things are calm and going well but when things are difficult.
I’m often met with challenging situations in my life that churn up dirt and muck in me that I wish weren’t there and I don’t want others to see. Many times it’s the same dirt and muck that I’ve been trying to get rid of for a long time that maybe I thought got better but it just turned out that it had only settled to the bottom during a calm season.
We have all been in a long stretch of time where our environment has been disturbed not only by the global pandemic of COVID-19 but also by our nation trying to reckon with the racial inequality that has existed for centuries. On top of this, we have all the regular stressors of life to worry about. All of this creates an environment that shakes us up to see what’s really inside us.
I’ve been praying and thinking about what our church needs during this time when our environment is so disrupted. It’s easy to put our hope in things going back to normal, but when will that be? How do we live in our world right now in a way that honors God? How do we deal with the dirt being stirred up inside us right now by everything going on?
So I’ve been asking God: “What do we need? What do your people need right now?” The answer that came to me this week was that we need to remember who we are. And in order to remember who we are, we need to remember who God is. The risk for us in the middle of trying to deal with everything changing in our world is that we will forget who we are. Our world has changed; who God is and who we are because of him hasn’t. So this week we are starting a series that’s simply called “Good News!” with an exclamation point. We are going to spend eight weeks reminding ourselves of who God is and who we are because of him.
Now let’s go back to the picture of the pool and the dirt and muck that gets stirred up when things are difficult. Today is going to be a diagnosis sermon. When you go into the doctor’s office and tell them your symptoms, a diagnosis tells you what is causing those symptoms.
How do we go from bad to good?
If we find that we have this bad stuff in us, how do we go from bad to good?
We can get the answer to this question by asking a different question: how did we go from good to bad in the first place? In order to know how we go from bad to good, we need to know how we went from good to bad in the first place. If you have a Bible, you can turn to Genesis chapter 3.
When God created the world, God said it was all good. When he created humans, he said it was very good. There was nothing bad. God created a good world and humans were created good. Humans had a good relationship with God and their relationship with each other was good. But in Genesis chapter 3, it went bad. How did it go bad? It didn’t go straight from good to bad. There was a process. The serpent, whom we now know as Satan, came to the first humans, Adam and Eve, and had a conversation with them. Let’s see how it goes bad in Genesis chapter 3 starting in verse 1.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
The serpent brings what God has said into question. There is surprise in his question. It’s like the serpent is looking around and saying, “God really said you can’t eat any of this good stuff?” The woman answers him in verse 2:
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)
Eve corrects him by saying, “No we can eat from all the trees except one. If we eat from the tree God told us not to eat from or even touch it we will die.”
When God created the world, he placed Adam and Eve in a garden with one rule: you may eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree represented a choice: the choice to trust God to define what is good and what is evil. If they ate from it, they would be choosing to define good and evil in their own way instead of God’s way. Think about it in parental terms. Parents define good and bad for their kids. When a child does the opposite of what a parent says, they are choosing to define good and bad in their own way. The child decides it’s good to do what mom and dad say is bad. The same goes with the government. When we break laws, we are deciding it’s good to do what the government says is bad. We are defining good and bad in our own way. And there are consequences. The same is true with God. God told Adam and Eve that if they eat from this tree and choose to define good and bad in their own way, they will be choosing death. It will break their relationship with God.
But without even mentioning the tree that God said is off limits, the serpent has got the woman thinking about it and talking about it. The serpent’s opening question portrayed God as overly strict. “God really doesn’t want you to eat from any of these good trees?” The woman corrects him, but his portrayal of God as a strict party pooper has already infiltrated her thinking because she says they can’t even touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said nothing about touching it, so the woman has added more prohibition than God originally gave.
The serpent responds in verse 4:
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
Now that the Serpent has got her in conversation, the serpent directly contradicts what God has said: “If you eat of that tree, you won’t die like God said you would. In fact, God doesn’t want you to eat from it because he knows that if you do, your eyes will be open and you will be just like him. You’ll know good and evil just like he does.” Now the serpent has tempted the woman with the possibility of being like God.
We can see what the serpent’s end game here is. He wants her to eat from that tree. He wants her to do this bad thing. But he doesn’t start by saying, “Do something bad! Eat from the tree God said not to eat from! Just do it!” Where does he start? He starts with an attack on who God is and what God does. He portrays God as overly strict and holding out on them for selfish reasons. “God doesn’t want you to eat from this tree because he knows if you do, you’ll be like him and he doesn’t want that. He lied to you about the consequences. You won’t die if you eat from it.”
Then he moves to telling the woman something about herself: you will be like God. If you disobey God, leave him behind, stop depending on him, and eat from this tree, you can be god. This is about who we are as human beings.
The serpent has hooked her with a lie about God and a lie about herself. So what happens in verses 6 through 13:
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:6-13)
Here is where things go bad. Now she looks at the tree and she desires what God has said is off limits. She disobeys God by taking it. Then she also gives some to her husband, including him in her sin. Then both of their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. Instead of openness between them with no shame, now they feel exposed so they cover themselves with leaves. Their relationship with each other has been broken.
When they hear God coming, they are afraid and hide from him too. Before everything was good between them and God, but now their relationship with him is broken. When God asks what happened, the man blames the woman. When God asks the woman, the woman blames the serpent. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate from the tree,” she says. This chapter ends with separation from God: cursed and sent out of God’s presence in the garden.
We see where this all ends: wanting what God said is bad, doing what God said is bad, disobeying God, shame, broken relationships, afraid of God, hiding from God, blaming others. Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this show up in your life?
But where did it all start. Eve gave us the answer: the serpent deceived me. It was a process. The serpent didn’t just say, “Hey, you should eat from that tree.” No, he led Eve to believe a lie about God. “God is too strict. God is holding out on you. God isn’t doing what’s best for you. God doesn’t have your best interests in mind. God isn’t trustworthy. God has lied to you.” Have you ever thought of God in this way? Or have you had other thoughts about him that weren’t true?
Then he led Eve to believe a lie about herself: that she could be like God. The truth is that she was already made in God’s image and likeness, but the serpent was tempting her to live independent of God, to run her own life, to be the queen of her own kingdom. He was telling her that she doesn’t need to rely on God. She doesn’t need to depend on him. And what does it lead to? All the bad that we see.
Have you ever lived this way? Perhaps you didn’t say these things out loud, but you have tried to live independent of God, running life your own way, doing what you want instead of what he wants? Have you relied on yourself and depended on yourself instead of God?
The Bible often uses the image of fruit to talk about our actions. Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. So picture this as a tree. At the root of this tree are the lies about God that the serpent led the woman to believe which opened her up to believe lies about who she is. Those roots grew the bad fruit in her life.
Here’s our big idea for today: Your view of God grows the fruit in your life. Your view of God grows the fruit in your life. What you think about God, what you believe about him, what you think he’s like is going to determine how you live.
In his book about what God is like, A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Why? And he explains why: it’s because what we think about God affects all of life. We will never rise above what we think about God, it predicts someone’s spiritual future, and how they will live.
Tozer saw this principle: Your view of God grows the fruit in your life. What’s at the root - your beliefs - grows the fruit - your character, your attitude, your feelings, your actions. If our beliefs about God are bad, the fruit in our life will be bad. Bad beliefs grow bad fruit. Good beliefs grow good fruit. The fruit in your life reveals what you are believing. If you have bad fruit in your life, you are believing bad things about God. Your view of God is bad.
But you may be thinking: “I don’t believe bad things about God. I don’t think bad things about God. I believe the Bible says about God. I believe what our Statement of Faith says about God. I believe what the historic creeds of the Christian faith like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed say about God.”
But your view of God grows the fruit in your life. We may have a lot of truth about God in our head, but it hasn’t worked it’s way into our hearts. We may know a lot of facts and agree that they are true, but we have not let them change the way we live. The fruit in your life reveals what you are believing.
You may not always be viewing God in bad ways or believing bad things about him. But in that moment or in that situation you have a wrong view of God. So what’s the solution?
Repent and Believe
Jesus is God’s Son and walked the earth as a perfect representation of God. He came preaching a message of good news, telling people, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
“Repenting” involves “turning from” something. “Believing” involves “turning to” something. Our Scripture reading for today was from Luke 5:27-32. We read in Luke 5 that Jesus came for those who are spiritually sick. He came to call sinners to repentance (check out Nik's excellent testimony on these verses). In other words, Jesus came for people who are the bad tree. Jesus came not for the healthy but for the sick. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Later in Luke 19 he says he came to seek and save the lost. He came to call people back to God who is waiting to embrace them with love and forgiveness because that’s who he is.
We are a bunch of sick, dead trees with bad fruit. We had and still have wrong views of God at our root and bad fruit that needs to go. Jesus’ mission was to reconnect people like us with God. His mission was to reconnection spiritually sick and dead people with God. Jesus’ mission was to bring people back to God who are full of bad fruit: sin, disobedience, evil, broken relationships, shame, hiding from each other, hiding from God, blaming others, and everything else. Jesus calls people like us to repent - to turn from the lies about God we believe and the bad fruit we are growing. He calls us to turn from all that to believe the good news about who God is and what he’s done. He calls us to turn to God.
And what has he done? To bring people back to God, Jesus had to die for those people. God’s love is shown in dying for the spiritually sick who are living as his enemies. God’s love is shown in dying for those who have rejected him. Jesus gave his life to pay for our rejection of God and our disobedience and sin. There are consequences to defining good and evil on our own terms. But God himself came in the person of Jesus to pay for those consequences. That’s called grace - giving us the opposite of what we deserve.
Repentance can’t just happen at the level of fruit. We can’t just turn from our bad actions and start doing good things. That’s just modifying our behavior. It’s surface level. It doesn’t get at the root. Repentance can’t just happen at the level of who you are. Some people are making a lot of money selling books to Christians that basically tell us we need to think better thoughts about ourselves. We need to have higher self-esteem. We need to repent of bad thoughts about ourselves. It’s independent of God with no humility or reliance on him. That’s exactly what the serpent offered Eve! We don’t need to repent just at the level of who we are. We need to go deeper.
Repentance has to go down deep to the roots of what you believe about God. That means when we confess it needs to go deeper. We need to not just confess our bad actions. We need to confess our bad beliefs about God. Then we need to turn from them to believe what’s true about God. When we confess, acknowledge that we are this sick tree full of bad fruit in need of forgiveness and healing. We turn from our sinfulness and our self-reliance and our false beliefs about God and we turn to God.
What is true about God? Let’s hear God’s own words about himself from Exodus 34:6-7:
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Then who are we? We are defined by him. We are loved, we are forgiven, we are blessed, we are taken care of, we are beloved children.
We are Good News Church
Our world has changed; who God is and who we are because of him hasn’t. We are Good News Church. This good news about who God is and what he has done in Christ is what defines us.
The song we are going to sing after this is Good Good Father and the lyrics in it have been my prayer for each of you this week. They say: You’re a good good Father, it’s who you are; and I’m loved by you, it’s who I am. My prayer is that you would know God as a good, good Father. And that you would know that who you are is loved by him. What defines us is something given to us: God the Father’s love. And it’s all made possible by Jesus.