A Tree is a Tree

The Christian life involves several inexorable crises. Our first crisis took place even before we became a believer when it became plain to us that we didn’t follow the law of God. This is a necessary prerequisite in our awakening to God. The law exposes us as sinners and our only escape in our despair is Christ whose blood cleanses us from all sin. The second major crisis arrives when we discover our helplessness. The law that we once didn’t adhere to we now find we cannot keep. When our self-righteousness now collapses we are in dire need for a new footbridge for our self. It is at this point the Spirit offers us the vessel analogy. Our humanity is a vessel, a pot, a jug which is filled with something, and that something is God. He has through our failures plainly showed us that He is the only one who can live the Christian life in, through and as us. This becomes the new foundation for our self.

However, the vessel analogy isn’t a perfect image of our true humanity. We know from the natural that a vessel can be empty, half-full or filled to the rim. If we do not move past the vessel-self we might fall easy prey for the enemy’s deceits and lies. One of his favorites is to tell us that we merely are half-full, a lie which propels us into a new round of self-effort to fill ourselves. Of course, we cannot fill ourselves. We are filled by Another.

The glorious fact is that God has created us as persons in His likeness. We are derivatives of the One Person in the universe. A person is something far more complex than a vessel. But to be safe and free in our personhood it is vital that we are well grounded in who lives in us. The vessel analogy also fails to convey a distinct image of our union with God on account of that a vessel is of a different kind than what fills it. The human union between man and women gives us a more accurate image of the actual realities. Man and woman are of the same kind and hence they can establish a unity. Marriage is only possible between humans because they are of the same design or of the same likeness, as it were.

It is thus imperative that when we are firmly settled as vessels that we move from the vessel analogy to the vine-branch relationship Jesus so lucidly accentuated. When we observe a tree we do not divide it into trunk, root, branches and leaves. We see a tree. The tree is compounded of different parts, but it is the tree as a whole we behold. What we call branches is the tree. What we call trunk is the tree. The use of the vine-branch equivalence in Jesus’ own words is no coincidence. There were two trees in the garden. Each tree is a potent representation of two possible unities, either a person in union with God or in union with the deceiver. Each tree forms a unity. The Tree of Life is light and love. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is darkness and self-for-self.

Paul wrote that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. When we in our inner consciousness behold the Tree of Life in its magnificent glory we behold the unity of God and man, neither becoming the other as Norman Grubb put it, but nevertheless a most stunning interleaved fusion.  This image mirrors only One. It works, operates and functions as One. This tree can only produce one kind of fruit – the fruit of the Spirit. On this backdrop it thus becomes utterly meaningless for us to speak in terms of condemnation. How can there be condemnation or wrath in a tree of life?

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11 Responses to A Tree is a Tree

  1. Fred Pruitt says:

    Thank you, Ole Henrik, for this clear word. We must both be tracking along the same trail for the moment, because we have been sharing this same emphasis. Your words are simply said and power- and meaning-packed. There is much to see and understand here. Wonderful!

  2. vagabondsoul says:

    This is so great! Wonderful, liberating truth! 🙂

  3. cindi estep says:

    Neither becoming the other, yet One….Never to sever♥

  4. Brian Coatney says:

    Hi Ole, the cup and the coffee illustration used to leave me not quite satisfied since a cup is inanimate, and God made us in His image, which is to desire, will, and know — all on a spirit level. Like calls unto like; creator calls unto His birthed image. Yet I will say that one morning in 1994, I woke up and found myself spontaneously saying to myself, I am not God.” I experienced an overwhelming sense of relief, and the curious thought came to me that up to that point, I must have on some level thought that I was God, though all my protestations had been vehemently the opposite. But lo, I had been an unconscious blasphemer. The vessel images don’t bother me now really since I see them as making a basic functional point of containing, and they imply who made whom. Actually, if we want to be mischievous, we’re not tree limbs either, but we are sappy by association. It’s all fun, really, enjoying the pictures of how we unite to the living God. Sometimes something in scripture just doesn’t appeal like something else. I know you know what I mean when I say that I had to let go and let the Holy Spirit quicken the image of the moment and not try to “see.” Blessings to you bro. B

  5. Jesus er i min kar says:

    My friends, it sounds like we’re discussing once again the journey of going from being self-centered to that of being Christ-centered.
    When we’re self-centered, we focus on the vessel, that is, our own disconnected so-called “independent” perspective, with all its insecure needs, desires, shortcomings, etc.
    Eventually, though, as Ole puts it so well, we have the inevitable “crisis” event that re-defines us as Spirit people, and we say, “hey, what about that Person called the Holy Spirit that was given to us “as a deposit” to lead us into ALL righteousness- how does that interact with the vessel called (your name here)? We take that vessel out to sea and it gets tested in the storms of life. Great!
    The answer to that biggie came to me, at least, by asking the Source, the One who put all of this adventure in faith into action. In my case, I had always wondered about the descriptions about God being “Omnipotent” and “Omnipresent”, so, on the day I was baptized, God shared that with me in a powerful vision. He took me away in the Spirit with Him, and after that I knew what those things meant. It spoiled me, probably for the rest of my life, because at that time, He answered all of my questions, and my identity became fixed in Him. A real WOW moment !
    Point is, this “crisis of identity” that we go through is a good thing. It gets our attention, puts our focus on the captain of our salvation, and makes us go to the Source for the answer. Hopefully, in time, we “put no confidence in the flesh” and move into our new Spirit home where Christ abides, and then the fruit of the Spirit starts to manifest Himself as us. That’s where I want to stay.
    The battle comes when we try and negotiate with God, “Please Lord, can I bring the old man with me, huh, can I?”. “Uh, no, child, you won’t need that here, there’s no room for him where we’re going- follow Me”. It takes faith and trust, but He gives us those things anyway. Eventually, we focus not so much on ourselves, but on Him. And, you know what? It works!
    Tim

    • Ole Henrik says:

      Awesome, Tim! I have never been taken away in the Spirit. Some days I wish I had had that experience, but evidently God is taking me along a slightly different path. Anyway, everything you put down here, Tim, spoke to me. I am so encouraged by your wisdom and insights and I am proud to call you my friend!

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