A Deep-Rooted Tree

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5–8 NLT)

“God meets us in our messy reality.”

This is one of the eight axioms from Having the Mind of Christ by Ben Sternke and Matt Tebbe. Throughout the book, the authors provide these axioms, or truths, about God to help us, based on what we see in Scripture, reframe how we understand who God is and, ultimately, how we can best relate to him.

This particular axiom addresses, in part, the misconception many of us have that we need to get our act together before we can approach the throne of God. This idea is often based on Scripture, such as Habakkuk 1:13 – “you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.” Verses such as these, taken out of context and translated from the original language, help to form an incomplete understanding of how God relates to sin. Instead, as Sternke and Tebbe write, “Like a good doctor, God does not detest the patient with the cancer. Rather, God detests the cancer in the patient.”

There is nothing we can do to change how God feels about us. There is no human effort or strength or feat that will allow us to approach God’s throne or to experience the abundant life described in Jeremiah 17:8. It is only through Christ that we find the life abundant. Sternke and Tebbe continue, “In Christ God is at work to cut away that which destroys and bind up that which is injured. God isn’t opposed to us; rather, to save us, God opposes sin and death in us. Over and over in the Scriptures we see that God is not driven away by our sinfulness, but actually draws near to us in the midst of it.”

Of course, God only draws near to us in our sinful state when we acknowledge the reality of who we are and what we have done. God will not use his will to overpower our own; to continue the doctor analogy, the patient must first ask the doctor for his ministrations before he will bring them to good health.

God does not love us because of who we are; he loves us because God is God. And the only way we can experience thriving, abundant life like that of a tree “planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water” – the shalom-filled life God intends for us all – is to place the fullness of our trust in Jesus, allowing him to be a part of our lives on the cellular level.
Michael Benson is the NAB communications director.