Let's say I have an apple tree in my backyard. Each year its apples are dry, wrinkled, brown and pulpy. After several seasons my wife says, "It doesn't make any sense to have this huge tree and never be able to eat any apples. Can't you do something?" One day my wife looks out the window to see me in the yard, carrying branch cutters, an industrial grade staple gun, a ladder and two bushels of apples.
I climb the ladder, cut off all the pulpy apples, and staple shiny, red apples onto every branch of the tree. From a distance our tree looks like it is full of a beautiful harvest. But if you were my wife, what would you thinking of me at this moment?
If a tree produces bad apples year after year, there is something drastically wrong with its system, down to its very roots. I won't solve the problem by stapling new apples onto the branches. They also will rot because they are not attached to a life-giving root system. And next spring, I will have the same problem again. I will not see a new crop of healthy apples because my solution has not gone to the heart of the problem. If the tree's roots remain unchanged, it will never produce good apples.
The point is that, in personal ministry, much of what we do to produce growth and change in ourselves and others is little more than "fruit stapling." It attempts to exchange apples for apples without examining the heart, the root behind the behaviour. This is the very thing for which Christ criticized the Pharisees. Change that ignores the heart will seldom transform the life. For a while, it may seem like the real thing, but it will prove temporary and cosmetic.
This often happens in personal ministry. From a distance it looks as if the person has really changed. When held accountable, the person does and says different things. The husband seems to be gentle and attentive to his wife. The teenager seems to treat his parents with respect. The depressed person is up and out of the house. The broken relationship seems to have been restored. But the changes don't last and in six weeks or six months, the person is right back where he started. Why? Because the change did not penetrate the heart, so changes in behaviour were doomed to be temporary.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Another quote from the excellent 'Instruments in the Redeemer's hands', by Paul David Tripp: