Have you ever looked at a Christmas tree and wondered why there was a star at the top? One reason could be representative of the star that the wise men followed; I’d like to offer up another one.
1. The tree of life
What if that’s God at the top and we start out our Christian lives following Him from the bottom of the tree? It’s pretty hard to climb a tree isn’t it? You have to step on branches and work against gravity to get up the tree. Compare gravity to the advice the world gives us and what it tells us to do (ie fulfill our fleshly desires, follow our hearts) and branches as events, people, passions, hobbies, and objects placed in our lives.
As we go along, God gives us branches to step on momentarily while we pursue Him to know Him more. But then we stop and think in our foolish minds: “It’s quite a bit easier just to step out on a branch and walk along it for awhile”. Here’s the problem, once you walk out even a little bit on that branch, you can’t look up and see God as well as before; there are other branches blocking your view; you might be able to see part of Him-until you get even farther along that branch. Additionally, it makes it nearly impossible to progress towards God if you aren’t climbing towards Him-it’s dangerous and difficult to jump from one branch to the other. Doing such a jump as this can cause us to fall off the tree completely. Additionally, it’s very dangerous to go out on a branch too far, otherwise, the branch will break under your weight and you will fall.
When we are in following Christ to know Him more, we are given branches as steps to get closer to Him. We need to recognize and appreciate these branches God has placed in our lives, but He never intends us to step out and actually walk on the branch he has intended for us to step on with one foot, maybe two.
2. The tree of life in our lives
New age belief and moralistic thematic deism assume that we will be able to get closer to God in different ways, but these ways require jumping from branches. Think of these branches as excuses and easy ways out of not pursuing God. They can seem inherently good but can ultimately lead to death.
Here’s a classic example: health and well-being. Inherently, this is an excellent thing to apply to your life, but don’t let it become a branch. If you tread too far out on the branch, you will keep striving for the next step to reach perfection in human form and will never reach it; also, you won’t be growing closer to God. Often we can’t see that the branch has an end so we keep walking it. Also, branches are pretty hard to walk on alone aren’t they? Think about trying to keep your balance-it’s nearly impossible unless you go on your hands and knees and give everything you’ve got. We may not have gravity against us, but that ends up being harder, because we don’t have the trunk to hold on to.
The biggest problem is all of us want progress. So we make this branch even more of our life, afraid to step back to the trunk of the tree, not realizing that the greatest progress we can make in our life is to make Him increase and us decrease (John 3:30-It seems like I’m putting this verse in every blog post…)
3. Biblical relations
This analogy of a tree helped me better understand the narrow gate leading to heaven that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13-14. Truly, it is much easier to go off on a branch and focus on that than on something we can’t physically see. Just look at all of the instances in the Old Testament where people make statues their gods just so they can see them. Every Christian faces branches; in fact, we all have had a skewed view of God at some point because of going too far on a branch and not being able to see God (the star at the top of the tree) through the other branches.
If we are climbing towards God, He will give us branches to step on and support us as we climb closer to Him. We should appreciate and acknowledge these branches He gives us! Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things” (the Gentiles seek) “shall be added to you.”
In Ecclesiastes, we are told even more directly to appreciate these things.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20: 18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
The things that distract us from God are innumerable. It could be argued that anything in this world other than God is a branch, only meant to be stepped on with one foot-two feet at the most. It’s no wonder Jesus said to enter by the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s difficult to climb against gravity, keeping are focus on God even when we step on branches that are so easy to step off on and take the easy way out. Thankfully, God gives us a plan laid out in The Bible so that we can focus on Him alone; it’s not easy to climb a tree.
Matthew 7:13-14: 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
4. Navigating the tree
So how do we navigate this tree trunk with branches you ask? Read the Word that God has given us through Jesus Christ and follow Him. The surefire way to navigate this path is to read The Bible, given to us by God Himself. Following other things, even if you are focusing on a famous pastoral figure, will be tainted by sin, which is why it’s good to keep our gaze heavenward. (1 Corinthians 4:18)