You’ve caught up with the weeding duties and the garden is back on track. Loola’s chair sits open at the edge of your one tree orchard. For now, your tree is doing well, but you feel as if there are probably things you ought to be doing to ensure its health.
You plop down in Loola’s old garden side seat and begin to thumb through the pages of the gardening almanac. You have changed the way you interact with the book. You usually read a little from it each day, but you’re not on a schedule. Your reading comes naturally, since hardly a day goes by that you don’t have some question you’d like answered. Since you don’t have Loola, you consult the book.
It doesn't take long before you recognize a question forming in your mind. You thumb toward the section you’re looking for. Another few seconds, and you locate the portion on fruit trees. You run your finger down the page and discover a chapter titled "Feeding Your Fruit Tree." Like a hound dog on a scent, you chase down the page number and begin following the trail. The voice of your inner-monologue, verbalizing the text, is Aunt Loola's.
Although you already had a vague sense of what the tree needs, it comes into focus as you read. Feeding the tree requires watering and fertilizing. You quickly discover that it's not yet time of season to fertilize, so you focus on the trees watering needs. You discover that if the tree has too much water, whatever grows will wilt prematurely, and the leaves will be yellow and brittle. If you underwater the tree, its canopy will be unhealthy and won't support the fruiting process. If you get it wrong in either direction, you won't have fruit.
But how can you know how much is enough? You let your eyes drink in the words as you skim down the page. A small paragraph near the bottom reveals the answer. You have to check the soil. It instructs the conscientious arborist to take a long screwdriver and plunge it into the soil near the base of the tree. If it is difficult to push the screwdriver into the soil, then give the tree a drink. If the screwdriver glides into the soil and doesn't feel firmly held in one place, then there is too much water. Since this test is easy, you can do it often. The last line of the paragraph catches your attention. It was not long ago that you heard Loola say these exact words.
"Water the soil, not the tree," the Almanac warns. It's as if Loola's own words echo through the air. You read on as the warm wash of reminiscence cascades over you.
The Gardener's Almanac offers a more thorough test that can be done occasionally. It gives instructions to dig down six to eight inches and retrieve a handful of soil. It should be moist and cool. If it crumbles, the tree needs more water; if it's soggy mud, the tree needs less.
You lay the book on the garden chair, rush to your shed, and get the needed implements. In another few seconds, you're on your knees examining the dirt. Within a minute, you know what you need to do.
To have abundant life, you need transformation. Transformation happens when your mind is set on things above. Studying God’s word gives you the thoughts you need to stay focused upon. When you’re mindset is right, God grows spiritual fruit in you. As the fruits of the Spirit grow inside you, there is less soil for sin to take seed. Thus you are transformed.
In talking about this concept, King David said, I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.1David's goal was to have a heart and mind so packed with God's word that it transformed his actions. Remember, the key to transformation is where your mind is set. If your mind is full of Scripture, there will hardly be any room for a flesh-powered approach.
I think this is why Paul once said to his star student, Timothy, that there were those who resist the truth" and thus have "corrupt minds.2 The truth of God's word needs to work its way into our minds in one way or another. If we resist taking in the truth of Scripture, then we can expect to have our mindset fall back to that old default, the flesh.
That’s why Paul goes on to say, All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live. Using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and will have everything they need to do every good work.3
If you rely on the Spirit and use the Scriptures as your guide, you have what you need to succeed in the Christian life. If you intend to serve God as you study the Scripture, it will drive you toward a Spiritual mindset. It will lead you to a place where you not only think Spiritual thoughts but good deeds will grow out of the spiritual thoughts. That's where the fruit is.
Paul once said that he wanted his friends to Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.4 Fruit is an analogy for good works. There is a relationship between a growing Godly knowledge and the ability to do good works. This knowledge must come from God's word. The knowledge you get from Scripture strengthens your ability to do good works, which is bearing fruit. Once again, transformed life comes from your engagement with Scripture and the resulting mindset.
In another letter, Paul said, And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.5
Transformation occurs when you contemplate, which is another word for setting your mind on, the Lord's glory. When you simply think about God and Godly things, something happens. You are mysteriously being transformed into a person that looks a little more like Jesus. This isn't by your power of will, determination, or grit. It's accomplished by the power of the Spirit that is inside you. Now, this raises an obvious question. Where do the concepts you should contemplate come from? Scripture!
You need to fill your thought tank with Spiritual concepts to contemplate. You do this by engaging with the Word of God. Now, it's important to note that one can fill their mind with facts but never really contemplate those facts. If you read your Bible, constantly gaining knowledge, but never contemplate the implications of what you learn, then you're missing out on the transformation. You're leaving a feast on the table untasted. When you take in God's word and focus on its meaning the transformation begins to occur. It's sad to think about how many people are mechanically reading God's word but never spending a moment to consider its implications.
When we contemplate those high concepts, like God's Glory, it's like we are staring into the radiant majesty without anything to cover our faces. Moses was transformed into a glowy-faced guy when he entered the presence of the Lord. When we contemplate things we've learned in Scripture, we, too, are transformed. When you focus on God, the Spirit works on your flesh to bring it in alignment with righteous living.
Your ultimate goal is not to become a person who reads their Bible for a certain amount of time each day. You could read it for hours a day and still miss the point. You need to become a person that longs for the transformation the Spirit offers so that you can live an abundant life. That desire for transformation, and a deep-seated wish for the abundant life that comes with it, can drive you to the pages of Scripture. Such love, joy, peace will well up from your time in prayer and in the word that you can't stand to go too long without it.
There is one more major category of helpful habits that we will examine in the next section.
1 Psalm 119:11 ESV
2 2 Timothy 3:8
3 2 Timothy 3:16-18
4 Colossians 1:10 NKJV
5 2 Corinthians 3:18