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The Good Tree

by David A. DePra

Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Mat 7:17-18)

Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. (Mat 12:33)

Christian people seem to be obsessed with fruit. We have structured religion out of the Bible in order to produce fruit. We have taken the living Christ and reduced Him to a belief system. We have conjured up every imaginable gimmick and promised that submitting and practicing such will produce the fruit God desires. But we have completely ignored passages like the one above. We are busy fussing around with the fruit we think we ought to be producing. Jesus would say to us, "Your problem is the tree."

Jesus said, "I am the Vine and you are the branches." He made it clear that unless we were planted into HIM – and abiding in HIM – that we could bear no fruit. But the church in general has completely bypassed Christ. Instead of bearing fruit that is the result of abiding IN HIM, we are trying to bear fruit FOR HIM. In short, we are not planted in Him as our Vine, or tree. We are planted in ourselves, or in some other hybrid version of Christianity.

Of course, all of the words of Jesus in John 15, where He spoke of Himself as the Vine, and of us as the branches, are generally dismissed as pertaining to only salvation. But the context is clear – Jesus is talking about bearing fruit because we are in Him, rather than talking about the need to be in Him.

John 15 makes it clear that the fruit of the Christian life if fully dependent upon the source of our life. If Christ is our life then we will bear HIS FRUIT. Get that: HIS fruit. Not our own. But if we continue living from out of our own life, then we are not abiding in Him. And the fruit will not be His, but of the earthly, or natural man.

So the question is this: How do we make Christ our Vine? Our source of life? We have to LOSE our life. Only then can we find Him as our life.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 16:24-25)

Today this is rarely preached. Or if the verse is even quoted at all, it is made to mean something entirely other than Jesus meant. I heard a sermon on Christian television that twisted this passage into an admonition to give money. As if doing so was actually equal to losing your life as Jesus is describing. But you see, we have so watered down the meaning of the new birth – so watered down the meaning of Jesus Christ in us – that we have redefined Christianity itself. No longer is it about Jesus Christ as our life – we hardly even know what that means – but Christianity today has become about God blessing OUR life. And we don’t even know the difference.

Christians by the millions have been told that God wants to bless their life. And once told that, the goal becomes HOW to get God to bless your life. So we keep laws, principles, give money, serve at church, and make all kinds of sacrifices in order to get God to bless our life. And then if that doesn’t work, we get condemned and depressed, because God hasn’t kept His Word to bless our life. Or if we think He has blessed our life, we take credit for doing whatever it was that got His attention. The entire thing, from start to finish, is a system of religious law intended to get God to bless our life. It has little to do with the Christianity of the Bible. It is, in fact, error at best, and a terrible unbelief at worst.

Read Matthew 16 again. Jesus Christ tells us in that passage that He has absolutely no intention whatsoever of blessing our life. In fact, He tells us to LOSE OUR LIFE. He tells us that if we won’t lose our life, that rather than result in blessing, we will LOSE it anyways. Does that sound like all the teaching today that promises that God will bless our life, that promises, "Your Best Life Now," that promises that Jesus has come, "to bring out the greatness in you" – does it sound as if those teaches are even remotely close to the Truth?

So much of Christian teaching today is nothing more than teaching as to how to get God to bless a corrupt tree and dying tree. They say, "Here you are. You are a tree that is presently corrupt and dying. But God wants to bless you. Just do this or that and God will bless you and you will bear much fruit to his glory." That is a LIE. It is – simply by neglect and omission – a denial of the necessary that we come to the Cross. And any denial of the Cross is a denial of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus said that the problem with humankind is not the fruit we bear – it is the tree we ARE. And the only solution is that we come to Him and be planted into His death, and into His resurrection. Then we will His branches. Anything short of this is NOT Christianity. It is NOT the Truth.

The only life that God is going to bless is the one that already carries all blessing, all treasures, all light, life, and Truth. And that is His Son. But we have to LOSE our lives in order to find HIM AS OUR LIFE. Anything else is a waste of time.

The Sin Problem

Do you want to know why you cannot seem to overcome sin? You have prayed and tried. You have thought you had faith in Christ crucified. But perhaps you have not discovered the one thing you MUST do: Lose your life. You must lose the life that is earthly.

What is that earthly life? It is essentially SELF – expressed through self-ownership. That is THE SIN, and thus, the root for ALL other sin. To the extent that my self-life governs, the sin that belongs to it will govern. To the degree that I own myself, the power of Satan working through the earthly will bind me. Only if I relinquish self-ownership will the ground of Satan be undercut. Only then can I truly be free from sin.

If we are living from out of ourselves as the source – then we are living from out of the problem, not the solution. To the extent that my faith is in myself before God, or to the extent that my will stands aloof from God, I am planted in a corrupt tree. To the extent that my goals are earthly, I am a branch of an earthly tree. And that can produce ONLY bad fruit; earthly fruit.

Satan cannot possess a saved person. But Satan IS the god of this world – he is really the god of the earthly realm. Thus, to the degree that we align ourselves or make ourselves one with the earthly, we are on his territory, and subject to his influence. An earthly tree can produce only earthly fruit.

The Creation

The fallen creation is earthly – that is its nature. The fallen human race is likewise earthly. There is no fruit possible from out of the human race except corrupt fruit.

The root of this fact goes all the way back to the creation, and subsequent fall, of Adam. God created Adam out of the dust of the ground – out of the materials of the earthly – and then breathed into him, "the breath of lives." (Gen 2:7)

This is the proper translation – LIVES, plural. Before God breathed into him, Adam was a fully formed human being. But there was no life in him of any kind. Only when God breathed into him did he become a living creature. God breathed into Adam, yes, the natural life of a man. But more importantly, God breathed into Adam God’s own spirit – His presence, or life. Adam had received, "the breath of lives."

Thus, we see that there were two dimensions of life given to Adam. This explains how God’s warning, "in the day that you eat therefore, you shall surely die," did actually come to pass when he disobeyed God – but also explains how Adam was still naturally alive. Adam died spiritually when he rejected God. He no longer had the spirit of God within. But physically, his earthly life was able to continue for some time – even though even that eventually ended.

The important point to grasp here is that once Adam sinned, he no longer had anything of God within. His spirit died because it was no longer one with God. This left Adam with only the earthly. In other words, Adam – all of the human race – was now strictly an earthly or natural creature.

You will remember that God had also given Adam dominion over the earth itself. Indeed, Adam was given dominion over the entire natural realm. But this dominion was completely predicated upon Adam’s submission to God. In short, Adam had no power or control over the earthly except that God had dominion over him through the spirit of God. When Adam rejected God he was then overwhelmed by the earthly, including his own earthly nature.

So God had created a human being with whom He had made Himself ONE through His spirit. That was the core of who Adam was, and it was the source of life – and of everything else – for Adam. By virtue of this submission to, and oneness with, God Himself, Adam had the power, wisdom, and the authority for dominion over all that was earthly. This not only included the earth or earthly, but more importantly, it included dominion over his own earthly nature.

Do we not see this today? To the extent that we are one with God by faith in Christ, we will have dominion over our earthly nature. This is the key to freedom from sin, the flesh, and the realm of darkness. In short, we aren’t given, "a power," to use to exercise dominion. No. We are given CHRIST IN US – and to the degree that He has true dominion over us, we have dominion over everything else within the plan and purpose of God.

God intends that His spirit – in oneness with our spirit – have dominion over our soul and body. But if we do not have the spirit of God, then our soul and body are going to have dominion over our spirit. This is what happened to Adam. His very constitution was turned upside down. Instead of dominion over the earthly realm – including his own – he went into bondage to the earthly realm.

Now, there was another factor at work in the fall of Adam – a huge factor: That of Satan. When Adam rejected God, he no longer had any power over anything. Thus, the earth, and the human race itself, fell into the hands of the realm of Satan. The earthly realm, which was to be Adam’s domain, now became the territory and ground of Satan. This is why Satan is called, "the god of this world." But don’t limit this to the physical globe, or to governments. Satan is the god of the earthly realm. His territory is all that is earthly, including the soul nature of humanity.

When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, it signaled the death of all that belongs to the earthly nature of man – it signaled the death of Satan’s domain. Christ cut the ground out from under Satan, and by doing so, completely defeated him. In short, the death of Adam was NOT reversed by Christ. Rather, it was sealed, fulfilled, and finished forever. Christ, the LAST ADAM, brought an END to the Adam race on the Cross by bearing us all down into a final death.

But that isn’t the end. Through the resurrection, what we have is not a restored Adam race. No. What we have is a brand NEW creation in Christ Jesus – a NEW RACE. This means that Satan has no ground there. He has no power or dominion whatsoever because through the Redemption Christ has won full victory.

Now, did I just say that Satan has no power or dominion over the new creation in Christ Jesus? Yes. Then what about temptation? What about the warnings in the Bible about the devices of Satan?

Satan has no power over Christ in us. He has no power over the new creation. But the earthly CONTINUES to be the territory of Satan – including the earthly soul nature of EVEN BELIEVERS. Satan IS the god of this world – he is really the god of the earthly realm. Thus, to the degree that we align ourselves or make ourselves one with the earthly, we are on his territory, and subject to his influence. Indeed, his devices are geared to getting us ONTO that ground through deception or influence.

The New Man

What is, "the new man in Christ Jesus," or, "the new creation in Christ Jesus?" Failure to understand this Truth opens us up to error that Satan can use to get us on his ground.

The new creation in Christ Jesus is the spiritual union of our human spirit with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul said, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (I Cor. 6:17) When you and I are saved we are saved – not because God gives us a THING called, "life" – but we are saved because we receive Jesus Christ, who IS life. When we become one with Christ we become one with Life Himself. That union – that life, if you will, constitutes the new creation IN Christ Jesus.

You will notice that there is no such thing as a new creation, or new man, in and of itself. No. There is only a new creation IN CHRIST JESUS – Christ brings everything to this union. We bring only ourselves as recipients. But that union of our human spirit with the spirit of Christ is the new creation IN Christ.

But notice: If the new man in Christ is that spiritual union – then everything about us that is OUTSIDE of that union is most certainly NOT of this new creation in Christ. Or to put it another way, all that is of Christ is spiritual. All that is outside of this union with Christ remains earthly or natural.

So we see a restoration of the union of God and man that God intended in the beginning with Adam – this is the new creation. But what is outside of that spiritual union remains of the old creation. It is earthly or natural. And because it remains that, it remains the ground or access point of Satan.

This distinction between the new man in Christ, and the old man in Adam – within each of us – is referred to in the Bible a number of ways. There is the contrast given between, "the flesh," and "the spirit." Sometimes it is called the dividing of, "soul from spirit." There is, "the natural," or, "carnal," vs. the spiritual. Paul shows this distinction by saying that, "we have this Treasure in an earthen vessel."

Now, the reason that it is vital to see that there is a tremendous division in each of us between the new creation and the old, is that if we would see it, it would stop expecting the old creation to act like the new. Or, just as importantly, we would stop trying to make the old perform like the new. We would stop trying to live out the Christian life with our nature or soul power. No. The old is earthly. It is spiritually dead, and physically dying. But if we don’t clearly see the difference between the two, Satan will use our ignorance to get us on his ground.

Are you frustrated with yourself because you see how far short you fall of being a Christian? Of being holy? What are you looking at? Your natural man? Our faith and our focus is to be Jesus Christ. Does He ever come up short? This is a matter of faith. It is a matter of knowing HIM.

How do we come to see the division of soul vs. spirit within our own selves? Not by analysis. Not by pinning labels on various parts of our makeup. No. We see this distinction only by seeing HIM. We have to see and know Jesus Christ. Only then can we see what is not OF HIM.

And how do we come to live from out of the True Vine – out of the Christ who is in us? Well, that requires a progressive work of the Cross. The earthly must be crucified – come into the Truth of it’s death in Christ. Then the spiritual life in Christ will all the more emerge. This is where we must LOSE our lives. We have to renounce and relinquish ourselves to Him – ask Him to do whatever it takes to bring all of this to pass. And then we have to pick up the Cross that constitutes what it takes to bring it to pass.


The core of the earthly nature IS self-ownership. We think of the earthly as anything material, or as something that is unspiritual. Or maybe we think of it as something evil. But the earthly nature is, at the core, the nature of self-possession – I possess myself FOR myself. I am, in effect, my own god.

Now note this: The earthly nature IS self-ownership. But we have already seen that the earthly is also the ground of Satan. Thus, to the degree that we continue in self-ownership we are going to be influenced by Satan. We will be on earthly ground in that case – on HIS ground. Satan cannot come onto the ground of the new creation in Christ. But if a Christian person begins to operate from SELF – on earthly ground – then we are living upon his ground. Satan can then entangle us in our earthly nature.

Note also that all that is necessary to live upon the ground of the earthly – upon the ground of Satan – is to NOT live from out of Jesus Christ. The earthly is, if you will, the default position. Sure. Just as Adam became an earthly man when he no longer had the spirit of God in him, so it is that if we are not governed by Christ, we WILL BE governed by the earthly. And that means Satan will have influence in our lives.

Don’t think that to be influenced by Satan speaks of some kind of possession. No. Blindness, ignorance, or pride is sufficient. Indeed, there is a religious spirit – of self-righteousness – that is fully the product of being on the earthly ground of Satan. To the degree that we own ourselves, Satan will use our own earthly nature against us. He will use our own bias, emotions, temperament, and fears to frame for us a false perspective that governs us.

It has been said that for a born again believer, the only power that Satan has is deception. This is true. But don’t think of this as merely doctrinal deception. No. If I am lord of my own life, I might actually believe the right doctrines. But I will be deceived, because my entire view of God will be filtered through my self-possession. Or, to put it another way, instead of seeing myself through the Truth in Christ, I will see Christ through the bias of my natural and earthly self. This is the distinction between the spiritual mind and the carnal mind.

The solution here is clearly stated in scripture. To be set free from the earthly nature, you have to LOSE it into the hands of God. You have to lose your life in order to find Christ as your life. Why? Because YOUR life – the life YOU possess for YOURSELF – is what constitutes the ground of Satan. So you have to LOSE your life if you want to be set free from the influence of Satan that governs that life. Only then can you be free.

I want to repeat that. The ground of Satan is the OLD life – it is desire to possess ourselves for ourselves. To the extent that we operate from that earthly nature – even religiously -- we are operating upon the ground of Satan. We are operating OUTSIDE of the life of Christ. Thus, our earthly nature, with the god of the earthly behind it, will govern us.

What does it man to LOSE your life into the hands of God? Well, you relinquish self-ownership. But not just in the circumstances of life – although that is included. To lose your life means you let yourself go, and you let yourself alone, into His hands. You are no longer trying to be good enough, or trying to do for yourself what Christ has already done. You come to where it is all about HIS GRACE. This requires FAITH – you lose yourself into the hands of Jesus Christ because you believe that He has done all for you. If we get to that point most of the rest will fall into place.

If you examine the problems most of us have in our relationship with God, and we put aside obvious things like rebellion, most of the problems boil down to not believing and resting in Christ. But the primary reason we don’t believe and rest in Christ usually comes back to our frustration with OURSELVES. And yet our relationship with God never was about ourselves. Thus, we have caused the problem by NOT losing ourselves to Him. We may not realize this, indeed, would wish it were otherwise, but if our relationship with Christ is being hindered by our frustration or fears over our own spiritual condition, then we are very much in POSSESSION of ourselves – our faith is actually in ourselves. We still need to lose ourselves to HIM – in faith – and let ourselves alone in His hands. What do we think we are going to contribute to the finished work of Christ?

So we have to leave ourselves alone. But this really means that we have to leave God alone – by faith we have to realize that there is nothing we can add to Christ. We have to trust that He will do what He says He will do – His way. We have to stop our constant nagging of God to do this or that – instead, we need to ask Him to change us. That is a prayer God will answer – but as I said, His way.

Sin Problems

Why can’t Christian people overcome various sins? Because we try to attack the sin, suppress the sin, or eradicate the sin – but we have not lost the life in which the sin is planted. The ROOT of the sin, which is our earthly nature, continues to be the ground upon which we live. Sin belongs to the earthly nature. So as long as we continue possessing that earthly nature it will continue to possess us. We cannot win that battle. We have to lose ourselves by coming to the Cross and taking our place.

Self-ownership of any kind – even if it is religious and seems to be Christian – is the ground upon which sin operates. Sure. For ANY ground that is not the ground or life of Christ is going to be the ground upon which sin can reign. This is all or nothing. If my faith is not solely in Christ – if Christ is not my life – then it really doesn’t matter what form my self-ownership takes – sin will reign. It will reign even if my form of self-ownership is legalism. My sin, in that case, will be unbelief and self-righteousness. Only if Christ is my life will I be planted in THE LIFE that has victory over all that speaks of sin and death.

So we see that the only solution to any specific sin is to lose the life that fuels it. Lose the life that is the ground upon which sin, and Satan, can operate, and find power. In effect, you have to take your place in the Cross of Jesus where it all died. Only then will His life emerge.

We waste our time trying to figure out the right thing to do vs. the wrong thing to do. This is not about finding the right method or approach. Most of those attempts come from the same earthly nature – we are trying to make sure things turn out right for ourselves. No. We have to LOSE ourselves into the hands of God – we have to let Him crucify that earthly nature of self-ownership. Only then will Satan be undercut. Then we see the Truth.

The Carnal Mind

What does it mean to be, "carnally-minded?" It means to be governed by SELF. It means, yes, that I view all things through ME. But more importantly, it means that I am motivated by SELF. It is all I know to do, or can do. SELF is my frame of reference. SELF is my yardstick. SELF is, in effect, my god.

Now, we don’t realize this. I don’t think anyone walks around conscious of the fact that they are governed by self, or that this is wrong. In fact, because such a motivation is all we have ever known, it comes, well, it comes NATURAL. It is only if the light of Truth in Christ comes in that this blindness is disrupted.

Of course, to be governed by self is simply another way of saying that we are governed by the FLESH. It is another way of describing SELF-possession or self-rule. And it does not have to be ugly, rebellious, or conscious. No. It can be respectable, or even religious. SELF is what fallen man IS. It is all he can be.

The definition of, "the flesh," is self – it is self worked out through self-ownership. The definition of one who is earthly is one who owns himself. It is all that one who is earthly knows to do, because by definition, one who is earthly does not have the light necessary to bring expose what he is. Thus, he CANNOT see. He may not even know that there is any seeing to be experienced.

The CARNAL or NATURAL mind cannot – get that, CANNOT – receive the things of God. Neither can the carnal mind KNOW them. Indeed, Paul tells us that the carnal mind is AGAINST God. Add to this the many scriptures that tell us that the flesh will war against the spirit, and you get the picture. Jesus gave the only solution: The new birth. He said, "Unless you are born from above you CANNOT see the kingdom of God."

It would seem that very few of us believe that the carnal mind cannot see the Truth, indeed, cannot really know Jesus Christ. Probably this is because we don’t know the difference between the carnal mind and, "the mind of Christ." That is because we don’t know Christ. Every one of these problems go back to not knowing HIM.

But all that being said, WHY can’t the earthly man apprehend Jesus Christ? It is because the earthly man IS earthly. The earthly man – the entire being of man – is utter tied to, and geared to, this EARTHLY realm. We were born of it. And Jesus Christ is not earthly. He said, "I am from above. You are from below."

Sure. God created man out of the earthly, to have dominion over the earthly. And yet none of this would work unless man was joined to God spiritually. When Adam sinned, his oneness with God was severed. What was left was only the earthly. And because Adam forfeited his dominion, he became a slave TO the earthly.

When we read passages in scripture that tell us that the natural mind cannot see the things of God, it ought to begin to suggest to us a Christianity that is unlike what most of us have accepted.


God taking us as we are, and lifting us out of this realm, and putting us into another realm, is not how He gets us free from sin and darkness. No. We are earthly creatures. God cannot take earthly creatures and put us into a spiritual realm. Rather, He has to address the realm that is in US – the life that is in us. He has to set us free from OUR life and give us the life of His Son -- make of us NEW spiritual creations in Christ Jesus. Only then can we be set free from the earthly realm into the spiritual.

But that is only the beginning. We also have to grow. We have to continually – as new creations in Christ – learn Christ. We have to allow a growing knowledge of Him to renew our minds according to the Truth.

So if we want to know the root problem for most Christians it is that we are abiding in the wrong tree – even if we are saved we continue to try to live from out of the earthly nature. We are looking at ourselves instead of Christ. We are possessing ourselves for ourselves – even if we think it is for good reasons, such as obedience to God. Those who are in legalism are examples of this – they do not trust Christ, but themselves and their obedience – this is nothing more than self-ownership, using the law of God to accomplish it.

The only solution is to take our place in the death of Christ and LOSE ourselves to Him. Let ourselves go by faith. Let God alone so that He can be God without our help. We must be planted in the Vine. We have to deal with the kind of branch, or tree, that we are.

Again, ask: What do we think we can contribute to Christ? God says do only one thing: Lose your life. Then you will find Him as your life.

Christianity is not a religion. It is not a belief system, where, if I follow it, will result in God blessing my life, or bringing out the best in me. Christianity is Christ in us – His life in us. And that requires that I lose myself. This is good news.

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