The Christmas Tree & the Christian Life

When I was in seminary my Hebrew professor Jack Scott spoke in a chapel service right before Christmas. He used an illustration of the Christmas tree symbolizing what it means to be a new creature in Christ. I have used this many times over the years and if you have heard it, bear with me again. If you have not, I think you will find it most interesting.

He said that when we buy a Christmas tree from a lot it is already dead. We bring it home, put it in a stand and decorate it with many lights and ornaments. We are making something dead look quite beautiful. When Christmas is over, we take down the ornaments and the lights and place the tree on the lawn for the garbage man to pick up. His point was that that is how many people see the Christian life. It is more religion than relationship. We can get caught up in the emotion of Christmas time and celebrate with parties and family activities and even get sentimental about the Christ child. But when the celebration is over, life returns to what it was. That’s what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

Many do not realize that religion and sentimentality do not save. The point of my professor’s illustration is that the Christian life is lived from the inside out, not the outside in. Jesus gives us two examples of this. The first is Luke 17:20-21: “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘the kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ for, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.’(emphasis mine) “In you” could also be translated as “in your midst”. The Greek word “Entos” literally means inside. The Lord Jesus was reinforcing a point. The spiritual kingdom is eternal and not manifested by observable signs.

John MacArthur said: “The kingdom of which Jesus spoke is, as Paul wrote, marked by ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17).  It exists in the hearts of all those in whom the King lives. The wonder of wonders is that the Trinity takes up residence in the hearts of those who embrace Christ and enter the spiritual kingdom. In John 14:17 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell believers, while in Verse 23 He added, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,  and we will come to Him and make our abode with Him.’”

In John 4 Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. Jesus asked her for a drink. She was quite surprised for the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered her in Verse 10 and said to her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, ‘give me a drink’, you would have asked  Him,  and  He  would have  given  you  living water.”  The woman asked Jesus where do you get that living water? She then asked Jesus if He was greater than their father Jacob who gave them the well and drank from it himself as well as his sons and his livestock. Then in Verses 13 and 14 Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

No one has ever seen a well of water springing up. Only the water in a spring springs up. The water in a well just lies there. So Jesus is not talking about a well. The woman had come to a well. Jesus invited her to a spring. Now He adds that if she allows Him to place the spring within her, the spring will never stop but will continue to bubble away forever.

James Boice gives us a perfect illustration of John 4:14. “Imagine, if you will that you’ve just purchased a piece of property upon which you are going to build a house. There is water on the property. If the water is in the well, the water will give you no trouble. If you are there with your bulldozers to clear the ground for your house, all you have to do is push some dirt into the hole and the well will be gone forever as far as you are concerned. It is entirely different, however, if the source of water on your property is a spring. Try to do the same as you did with the well. You push some dirt over it and it seems to be gone. Five o’clock comes. The workmen go home. But the next morning, when the workmen come back, the stream will be there again. A well can be covered. A spring seeps through anything you may place over it.”

This is what Jesus is saying. He is promising to place a spring within the life of anyone who will come to Him. This is the message of Christmas and the Christian life.

Merry Christmas. See you Sunday.