Read Ephesians 4:22-24.
In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old man and the new. We are to put off the old and put on the new!
As with a garden, if we don’t dig up the roots of the weeds in our hearts, they will overtake our hearts and choke the life right out of us! The fleshly roots of our hearts wrap themselves around and cling to the most distasteful and worthless things, making way for the weeds of sin to sprout in our hearts. However, if we instead dig up the weeds, all the way down to the roots that are wrapped around our sins, and separate them from the roots of righteousness in our hearts placed there by Christ, we enable the good roots to penetrate deep into the rich soil – into Christ – into the river of living water. A color-filled, fragrant, and abundant life will begin to blossom. We will be rooted and established in Love himself.
As we move through this process of searching our hearts, we must always remember the gospel. Always remember who He is and what He has done. If we are in Christ, we have been given new hearts. We have been given the desire for righteousness, holiness, and truth. We have been rescued and cleansed and have had our sin paid for in full by the blood of Christ! When we are in Christ, the Father sees us through Him. We are precious in His sight, and He adores us with a love we have a hard time comprehending. Will you choose to believe that He loves you, right where you are – imperfect, sinful, yet distinctly His? He loves you, not because of your performance, but because of your position in Christ. Be patient and allow Him to lead and do His work, His way.
The idea of a root that leads to a thought that leads to an action does not only apply to sinful roots, thoughts, and actions. These principles can be applied to righteous ones as well. A root of true repentance in the heart will produce new actions in our lives.
We want to allow the Lord to replace our root of sin with a root of righteousness. For example, if you have found pride to be your stumbling block, you would want to replace it with humility. So you would look up Scriptures referring to humility, the humble, and humbling yourself before God Most High. If you are filled with fear, you would look up Scriptures about faith and replace your root of fear with the root of faith.
Here is what our tree graphic might look like for righteousness (see today’s sample image). Let’s say that we want to replace the sinful root of pride with the righteous root of humility. You would write “HUMILITY” in all capital letters in the roots of the tree. You might even jot down a Scripture reference next to this root to meditate on and pray through. A couple of the thoughts and attitudes that humility should produce are keeping your eyes on Christ and thinking of others above yourself. You would then write “Keeping eyes on Christ” and “Thinking of others” in the trunk or branches of the tree. A specific fruit that this might produce in your life could be blessing others in various ways. So you might write “Visiting a friend who is lonely, struggling, or going through a hard time” on one of the pieces of fruit.
Begin to replace your wrong thinking with biblical thinking. Try to imagine what the right behavior, right words, or right attitude would be. Fill in the root, trunk, branches, and fruit of your tree with these and then proceed to practice them during the week.
Yesterday we looked at thoughts and attitudes that produce sinful behavior. Today we will get to the root sin in the heart that is at the base of those thoughts and attitudes. In dealing with sin, the heart is the most fundamental of all. Read what Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23.
Yesterday we labeled “Fear of rejection” as the attitude that led to yelling or lying. The root sin here is simply fear. In the roots of our tree graphic you would then write, in all capital letters, “FEAR.” We also identified a self-focus as the attitude that led to tuning others out. The root sin here is pride. You would write “PRIDE”—again in all capital letters—in the roots of the tree (see today’s sample image).
Once we have identified the root sins that produce sinful thoughts that then produce sinful actions, we can begin to use Scripture against them! Be washed with the water of the Word by finding and meditating on Scripture that specifically targets those root sins. Find two or three verses that best describe your wrong thinking regarding your root sin and write them on a 3×5 card or in the Notes section of your phone to meditate on, memorize, and pray through.
So, for example, when dealing with a root sin of fear, you might pray through and meditate on Isaiah 43:1. Or if you are fighting against a root sin of pride, you might use 1 Peter 5:5. Read those verses now. How appropriate they are for combating these root sins!
Ask the Lord to help you begin to see the root cause of your wrong ways. Ask Him to give you wisdom. Do your ways stem from pride, fear, self-centeredness, bitterness, or unbelief? Fill in the roots of your tree with the two or three main sources of your sinful ways and begin to make the connections to your thinking, your actions, and your words. As you boldly continue to ask God to search your heart and as He continues to reveal those deep and hidden things to you, choose to bring them before God’s throne and receive His grace.
Today we will begin examining our hearts by looking at our outward actions. In Christ, we are good trees, yet the old sin nature still remains this side of heaven and sadly continues to produce bad fruit. So let’s zero in on some of the bad fruit in our lives, using our tree graphic. In today’s tree graphic, the fruit is represented by hearts.
The fruit of the tree, depicted by hearts in the graphic we provided, represents outward actions. At this point in time, don’t focus on your thoughts or your feelings, which we’ll get to later. Strictly focus on outward, observable behaviors and spoken words. So, for example, if you yelled at your husband yesterday, you would write “Yelling” on one of the pieces of fruit (one of the hearts). Or if you told a lie, you would write “Lying.” Or if you have a habit of not listening to people when they are talking to you, you would write “Tuning others out.” Write each outward action on a separate piece of heart-shaped fruit.
Now it’s your turn. Ask the Lord to help you observe your actions and your words. Fill in the fruit of the tree with any ungodly actions and words you observed.
We don’t simply commit sinful actions. Those actions spring from a deep root in our hearts. The fruit on a tree doesn’t simply appear. It comes from the kind of tree that bears it. Our hearts are similar, and the metaphor of fruit is a good one to describe what goes on there. Our actions spring from something deep within us. So when we struggle with sin, it is not primarily outward actions that we are really dealing with. Sinful actions are the fruit that comes from a sinful root in our hearts.
Outside of Christ, we have no hope. Our hearts are wicked and, like those that Jesus describes in Matthew 12, will only bear bad fruit. However, those of us who have believed in Jesus have been given a new heart. That new heart can now bear new righteous fruit. The process of Christian sanctification is to continually and increasingly uproot any remaining sin in our hearts that is leading to sinful actions and allow the Lord to plant seeds in the soil of our new hearts in Christ that will grow into a harvest of righteousness.
As you look at an image of a heart tree, think of your actions as the fruit on the tree—the fruit that ultimately springs from deeper roots that lie below the surface. Each day we will progressively walk you through how to use this tree image to see the roots that are producing sinful actions and to allow the Lord to plant righteousness there instead.
Read Psalm 139:23-24. Like David, let’s ask the Lord to look at our hearts.