We are like trees bearing fruit, not laborers picking fruit.
To use Paul’s language: The fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the law.
The one who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night and finds his delight in the truth of God, man and life revealed through the instruction of God, “he is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
It is absolutely essential that we understand that the Christian life is fruit-bearing, not fruit-picking.
We’re not laborers, we’re trees. We have roots down by rivers.
Our life is coming from a river. It’s coming from streams. It’s coming up, and fruit is growing as we live by the river.
You don’t fight legalistically. You don’t make your list and say, “Wickedness, no. Sin, no. Scoffer, no. Kept the list. It’s in my pocket, and I’ll get it out when I’m tempted.” But that’s not the way it works.
Psalm 1:3 says the way it works is that when you go to the word and you see God and all his ways and works in faithfulness spread out there before you, it’s like sending your roots down into a stream, and life comes up and you’re shaped in your thinking and your feeling, and fruit comes out. And if it’s not coming out, you don’t pluck yourself up and start walking around going to the fruit store. You just say, “What’s wrong? There’s a river down there.”
This is not mechanical and it’s not automatic. The way roots and water in this stream work is not automatic.
The connection between my root system and God’s stream of life-giving truth in the Psalms is meditation.
Learn how to do this. Learn how to linger over, for example, Psalm 23. Almost everybody knows Psalm 23. Linger over this. Pray over this. Immerse yourself in this. Wrap this thing around your head. Don’t let go of it — like Jacob and the angel — until it blesses you, changes you, affects you in the morning.
Don’t just say, “I read my Bible.” The devil knows the Bible by heart. He used it on Jesus.
It’s about lingering there, loving this, and pleading with the Lord to open the eyes of your heart: “Unite my heart to fear your name, and incline my heart to your testimony. Shape me. Delight me. Satisfy me. I won’t let you go until I’m changed. Open my eyes, O God.”
That’s connecting with the water. That’s where the battle is fought.
I must have an alternative set of delights, or I will be a chaff leaf in the wind of the wicked — just blown wherever they want me to go. Just a little thing on the Internet will capture me. This little thing on television will capture me. And this little thing in the bank will capture me. And I’ll just float to and fro.
The battle is at the level of our emotions. The root system must touch the life-giving, joy-giving water.
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is author of more than 50 books, including “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” and most recently “Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.”
A version of this article previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline “Linger Long over Your Bible.”
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