Tree of Life – Part 3
Under the Bark
“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love of the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way (fear and selfishness), wanting everything for yourself (greed), wanting to appear important (pride)- has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but who ever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
1 John 2:15-17 The Message (emphases mine)
Let’s have a good look at Genesis chapter 3 again and see how the roots of the TKGE branch out in the limbs of the tree and bear fruit that is definitely not good. The serpent questioned God’s character and integrity by making Adam and Eve wonder if God had their best interests at heart. Pride and greed were stirred in the people.
The root of pride hidden under the dirt where eyes can’t see, branches out into a limb that becomes visible to all. We can call the tree limb control, an obvious expression of pride. The serpent was offering what sounded like a better level of control. Now the people could see and know good and evil for themselves. They now could decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They now could determine success and failure. They now had a new value system, not coming from God. They now had a new world view, not coming from God.
Once this limb of control has developed, what is the fruit it produces? We could call it superficiality. Mankind convinces himself he is really in control of his life and has his act together. He no longer is totally dependant upon God, no, far from it. He now has become his own god. This results in mankind having to wear masks in addition to fig leaves to keep up the facade of success. So, if you have the most dynamic worship band in town, you must be a great worship leader, or even senior pastor. If you had more baptisms at your church last year than any other church in town, you must be successful leader who’s got it together! If your youth group appears to be well organized and disciplined you must be the best youth pastor in the state – even if you have to use strong threats to keep them in line! So what if they call you Saddam Hussein behind your back – as long as it all looks good in public!
Modern man finds this fruit of superficiality manifest in ten thousand activities that define success – while their relationships with spouse, children, God and brethren suffer and die. A Tree of Life leader understands Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, and relationships take first precedent over “busy-ness.” A Tree of Life leader understands the life flow of God is through dynamic relationships, not religious activities.
Have you ever been eyeball to eyeball in an important conversation, two human spirits interacting with the flow of the Holy Spirit present – and the other persons cell phone rings? Suddenly, the live, one on one conversation is dropped like a hot potato, and the unknown invisible caller on the other end of the call is given first priority.
“Hello, uh, no, no, I don’t want to buy a year’s supply of cat food. No, no, thanks anyway. Goodbye.” The TKGE has long-reaching vines into every area of life. Destroyed relationships is it’s common fruit.
Greed is another long dirt covered root of the TKGE. The serpent appealed to Adam and Eve’s desire to be more like God. The desire turned evil, and became greed. The desire to be like God overwhelmed the desire to obey God. For modern man, greed often manifests in materialism, or perceived power or influence over others. This branch or limb of materialism or influence produces a fruit we can call distraction. Adam and Eve were distracted to the point of disobedience. How often are we so preoccupied with tasks and obtaining and achieving we are distracted from a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus? Again, we see the contrast between the two trees. A Tree of Life leader will focus on knowing and relating to Jesus more everyday, understanding God’s life flow is through that relationship.
How many pastors and ministry leaders have I met in the past thirty years who have had so many goals and visions they ended up missing out all together on a wonderful rest with Jesus and in Jesus? Far too many. There are the pastors who read every church growth book ever printed, and still the church doesn’t grow – but in the meantime the pastor’s children have grown up and moved out and he doesn’t know it yet! How many believers spend half their life and most of their money racing from conference to conference to hear the latest greatest speaker, hoping somehow “it” will all come together and their Christianity will work for them? For some, the endless conferences are the “addiction kick” you get when you attend your monthly multi-level marketing meeting on your way to riches, fame and fortune – or great heartache.
Distraction is often the opposite of focus. Don’t be the ministry leader who is going to save the whole world. Focus on your gifting and become a pillar in that area. Become the expert in a small area, and leave plenty of time for Jesus – after all he is the center of the plan – not you.
Fear is another major root in the TKGE. The visible limb is called insecurity. It causes us to run and run hard like Adam and Eve. The fruit is called, driven. We want to feel secure. We don’t like failure. We want everyone to believe in us. We drive ourselves, and sometimes we even drive others to the breaking point. Fear causes us to hide, hide from God, or mate or reality.
Drivenness is not the classic Type A personality that is so admired and worshiped here in America. As a Canadian living in America I am always amazed how the very roots of American culture going all the way back to 1776, are incorporated into American Christianity. Success in life, business and sports are all part of the American version of the Gospel. I have always been amazed how many of the apostles and early church fathers would have been labeled total failures by the expectations that are preached in many pulpits today.
Drivenness disguises itself sometimes as godly commitment, dedication, sacrifice for the Lord, and a dozen other terms. Jerome Daly says it well in his excellent book, Soul Space, “Drivenness is not a quality of the Kingdom of God. Passion is, perseverance is, determination is, but drivenness is not! If you regularly feel pressured, stressed, and always behind, then you probably struggle with drivenness.” Much better to simple rest (Matt 11:28) in the very spirit of Jesus.
So, what do these roots of the TKGE look like – fear, pride and greed – in a ministry leader? A ministry leader who lives and operates in the TKGE will have a lot of secrets and insecurities. It will be very important that the ministry look good on the outside, and a level of legalism (control) will be incorporated to insure this. Fear religion will creep in and signs of control and more control will grow. A negative dark spirit (attitude) may become very evident, and the sermons, or teachings will have a corrective tone to them far more often than inspiration or encouragement. The unconditional love of Father will not be talked about much if at all, and God may be presented more in judgment language than in love language.
People will not be given their freedom, and the only way things should be done is the way the ministry leader would do them. This expresses itself in constant evaluation of people and actions and the giving of unsolicited advice too quickly and too frequently. Freedom and creativity are stifled in the group, and love is not the most obvious quality followers notice in the ministry leader. God forbid you should ever have a different interpretation of scripture then the ministry leader in the TKGE.
- Do or did you desire more control in your ministry?
- Did you wear a mask, or were you who you truly are?
- How big is your carnal ego? How important was it for everything to look right on the outside?
- Honestly, how much do you worry about what people think?
- Are you more relationship oriented, or task oriented? Are you sure? Does it bother you when tasks are not done and therefore things look disorganized?
- How much does it bother you when tasks are not completed? Does your wrath sometimes spill out on the brethren or your own family?
- Would others describe you as a relationship oriented leader with sharp focus, or a person of endless goals and dreams?
- Have you started building your “pillar” in the church so many times in so many different avenues that you look back on your ministry and what you see are a dozen pillars of various heights, but none of them reach the roof?
- Can you clearly see the difference between passion and drivenness?
- Do you have secrets and insecurities?