a few weeks ago, my dad spoke at our church, and i was scheduled to speak the week after him. at one point during his message, i thought, “man this is really good, i wish i had spoken before he did.” but then i was talking with some people after the service and someone said to me, “well now we can see where you get your speaking gift from!” at that point my thoughts towards who went first shifted, and at the same time i began to see those thoughts unfold into something bigger than me and my dad speaking back-to-back.
what came to my mind was the phrase,
“the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
i thought about the parallel between me and my earthly dad and my heavenly dad. my earthly dad preceded me in speaking, and his skill and the way he went about doing it made me think, “i wish i went first because this is better than whatever i’ll come up with.” but then when i thought about it more, i thought, “well of course it’s better, it’s my dad.” he went before me in life, has lived longer and therefore learned more, so he has more to teach. and then practically, a lot of people only know me only in the context of me, but when they see and hear my dad, who, what, and how i am has greater context and just makes sense. i have never had anyone see me and my dad and doubt that we’re related. so my father being on display first, gives greater weight to who he is and then who i am because of him.
it’s the same with God. if you met me before meeting God, my heavenly father, i could tell you all about Him, give my best impression of Him, or tell you things He always says. but regardless of how well i can explain or embody Him, seeing Him for who He is is the only thing that will allow you to truly understand Him. then, after you have met my father, when i bring Him up in conversation, say something He says, or tell a story about Him, you now have an understanding or picture of who He is. there is only so much you can know someone if you only know them through someone else, you must meet and get to know them for yourself.
Genesis 1:26a (CSB) says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’” if we are made in the image of God (which we all are!), then when people see us they have to also see Him. but, our being made in His image isn’t meant to supplement someone seeing and knowing God for themselves, it’s to make them want to. 2 Corinthians 5:20(CSB) says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” when we were adopted by God and grafted into His family, we were at the same time appointed to share with the world that we don’t have to fend for ourselves as orphans anymore. it’s like what my dad shared with my church, we are called to live our lives in a continuous posture that bridges the gap between heaven and earth, between our Father and His kids.
i want to dive into the concepts of falling, grafting, and growing.
falling. Romans 3:23 (CSB) says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” now, when this verse was brought to my mind i was still in the vein of the saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” i was struck by the fact that the verse says fall short, not fall away. God is the tallest of apple trees metaphorically, and because we ate of a different fruit we fell into sin and from the high place we once were when we were abiding in Him. but, if God is not just the highest branch, but is the tree, then regardless of where we fall we are still close to Him because He is not too far to reach the ground.
in Genesis 2:17 God says, “but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
then Genesis 3:1-7 (CSB) says, “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ”
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
then in Genesis 3:17-19 (CSB) God responds to what happened: “And he said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”
this is the first place we see the orphan spirit take root: the deceiver planted the idea and belief that “God is holding out on you and doesn’t want you to have what’s best.” Eve and Adam allowed that lie to take hold, causing them to either forget or disregard what they’d known to be true about God. He is incredibly generous! He created this beautiful garden as close to perfect as the earth would ever be, and gave them charge over all of it! and yet one little lie caused them to focus on the one thing the couldn’t have. what Adam and Eve craved was beneath them! they had been given all authority and dominion over the earth, and God didn’t see it beneficial for them to be tainted by them clashing of good and evil. God was taking care of the matters of the tree of knowledge so they wouldn’t have to, but they thought God keeping it from them was an act of selfishness when in reality it was a gift to free them from having to worry about it.
we fall when we seek to be self-sustained rather than abiding in the vine and letting Him grow and sustain us.
it is an orphan mentality that makes it difficult to trust that if we fully lean into Him he will not only graft us in, but won’t later cut us off. orphans don’t trust because they have been let down too many times. they don’t let people in because too many people have walked out. they don’t share because there is never enough to go around. that is how we will know when we have not only been adopted as sons and daughters, but have adopted the identity, mindset, and behavior of sons and daughters. your environment changing from an orphan on the street fending for self to having a seat at God’s table as His child will have no impact if you don’t take on the identity of a child that has been brought in, grafted into the family of God. Adam and Eve forgot that they were children, and took matters into their own hands. because they desired knowledge over trust and connection, they became orphans, sewing their own clothes and now having to work hard for everything the eat, a stark contrast from being completely taken care of by their good Father.
God’s heart was and is broken by the fall, and by the little “falls” that happen daily, every time a choice is made to fend for self instead of letting God be the Father He’s always been. God’s heart is not for punishment, He wasn’t content to leave them to think about what they did, He immediately started working out a plan for how to bring them back, which brings us to grafting.
i did a lot of research on grafting in preparation for my message, and for a brief moment i was concerned i’d gotten a little to far into the metaphor but i went for it because it fits, and the language of grafting is very biblical! when I was reading about grafting, how it works, and why it’s done, i learned a lot of information i will probably never use hahaha, but something i had never heard before is that most fruit trees are grafted, not planted. everything that grows has a parent. there’s the part of a plant that is the pollinator, and others that are pollinated, male and female. like any other living thing, when two things created one thing, the one takes on different traits of both. so if we were to plant an apple tree from the seed of a gala apple we eat, and every generation of that tree was planting from the seed of the fruit, eventually that apple would taste nothing like a gala because it has been pollinated by so many other trees. it’s flavor isn’t pure. so fruit tree farmers instead harvest branches of the trees they want to reproduce, and every spring they buy rootstock, which is basically the generic base of what you graft something to, and they create the trees they want more of. in doing so they guarantee the type of fruit that will be produced because the fruit already existed, so the branch will just continue to grow what it was already growing. in verse 4 of John 15 (CSB) Jesus says, “remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”
Romans 6:18-23 (CSB) says, “and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification — and the outcome is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
any fruit that is produced outside of the Vine that is Christ is death. remember, the fall took place because they tried to sustain themselves, to be their own source, and in doing so they ate of a tree whose fruit brings forth death. so if we are not abiding in the vine of Christ, then the only other option is abiding in the tree of knowledge, which is doomed to die. so God, in His mercy, created a way for us to be brought back into the tree of Life. Jesus stretched out His arms to and for us so we could be restored to Life with our Father. this part right here is what gets me pumped!
when i was searching online for pictures of grafts i stopped in my tracks, or scroll haha, when i saw this one, and the verse that came to my mind was Isaiah 53:5 (CSB), “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.” in order for a branch to be grafted into a tree, both pieces must be cut. the tree has to be pierced in a way that will match the size of the branch being brought in. the branch needs to have its outer layer cut away to be brought close to the tree. Jesus was pierced and wounded so we could be brought close and made one with the Father. but in order for what Jesus did to take affect, we must first die, and be cut away so we can line up with Jesus. we have to first die to our old ways. in being united with Christ in His death, we are also united with Him in resurrection and life (Romans 6:5). being reconciled to our Father has brought us from the tree of knowledge which bears the fruit of death, to the tree of Life and life abundantly!
what I love about God and His kingdom is that He has not just united us with Himself, but with His body; He has united us with each other! all of us being grafted to Him causes us to be close to one another as well. i love love love that grafting is such a beautiful physical picture of what this looks like!
in my grafting research i found what has many names, but i saw it called a lot a rainbow tree or a fruit cocktail tree.
these trees are a beautiful picture of what unity looks like. this is the (literal) fruit of us recognizing that there is more than enough room in the tree of Life for all of us, regardless of denomination, race, status, position in the church, amount of time as a Christian, anything. there is an unmatched beauty in unity, and while we have no say in who God grafts in, we can choose how we love and accept the people grafted into the branch next to us. we have a say in how well we love our neighbors, as we were commanded to.
a man named Sam Van Aken grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, and was taught how to care for orchards by his grandparents. in 2008 he started working in grafting. he was seeing that there were a lot of types of stone fruits that weren’t being commercially grown and were dying out, so he bought an orchard to preserve them, until he came of with the most extravagant grafted tree alive. it’s called the Tree of 40 fruit.
there are 40 different types of stone fruits on this tree, and this is a picture of it in spring when they’ve all blossomed. i think each one of these types of fruit trees would be beautiful on there own, all of these colors are just amazing, but together?! one tree just can’t compare.
Sam made a diagram for which fruits he would put where, and he intentionally made it to be this diverse in its color and pattern. he didn’t just haphazardly place branches, he chose each branch specifically, and placed it intentionally.
“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good:” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (CSB)
when God called you to Himself, He knew who you are and what He placed in you. He knew what you would look like, what color you would be when you blossomed into the fullness of your identity and calling. He planted you where you are for a reason because He is thinking big picture. where you are isn’t just for and about you, it’s about the fullness of what God is doing in the earth as a whole.
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