Growing up, I loved climbing trees; it was one of my favourite pastimes. In secondary school, during break times, I’d strap a small bag behind me that contained my lunch, run very quickly to the tree at the back of my class, and climb up high excitedly. After hanging my bag on one of the firm branches of the tree, I’d find a comfortable spot and perch quietly like a bird, gingerly bring out my lunch box, and begin to eat, beaming with smiles at finally accomplishing my mission of tree climbing for the day. What I liked the most about climbing trees was the opportunity it gave me to see everything and everyone from the top, more like a bird’s eye view of things, whilst being detached from the personal interaction with ‘mortals.’
After a while, my elder brother, who was also in the same school got wind of my tree-climbing escapades, and reported to my Mom. I was given a stern instruction to desist from this risky adventure and my brother was mandated to keep tabs on me. I disobeyed a few times, and my brother reported me each time. After numerous beating and warnings, I had to give up this pastime.
Zacchaeus, like me, also liked climbing trees. Jesus was visiting his community. The crowd was huge. He knew his height would make him unable to catch a glimpse of the man who was the rave of the moment. Because of this, he climbed a tree, to make up for his deficiency in height so he wouldn’t miss out on this historic visit of the Messiah to his town. His plan worked, even more than he expected. He not only saw Jesus. Jesus saw him, and even went as far as inviting himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner.
Plain and simple as this story is, it holds some precious truths that I hope to be able to unpack in this short piece.
So many church-going and Christ-professing believers are deficient in one area of their life or another. Coming to church and/or listening to sermons is how they compensate for this deficiency. They don’t miss Sunday services and mid-week sermons because there is a deficiency they are trying to make up for. They know they don’t know God enough; there is a desire in their heart to draw closer to God, to know God, to see God, to grow and become like Christ. In achieving these, they climb trees of church attendance, sermon listening, not missing out on conferences and seminars where the word is preached with power and the pulpit is pulsating with energy. They understand the Bible through the eye of their Pastor and the ministers that preach at conferences they attend. They are comfortably seated on this tree, ever learning from men of God, ever receiving revelation through God’s vessels and servant, ever conscious that because of their deficiency, they must never come down from this tree where they receive nourishment, and are constantly fed.
But staying on the tree is only half the story. The Master has invited you to dine with Him one-on-one. Can you get off that tree, and take Jesus to your house? Can you take him home and feast with Him in the word?
Beloved, the transformation that we seek cannot happen from the pulpit alone. The character change, the spiritual growth and maturity, the Christ-likeness that is the need of the hour require personal communion with your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is great to listen to sermons week in, week out; this amounts to climbing the tree and seeing the view from the top of the abundant revelation knowledge that God desires that you interact with once you come down from the tree. Sermons instruct, guide, but should ultimately inspire you to leave church to have a one-on-one encounter with Jesus.
Let Jesus Himself show you scriptures in the word that will furnish you with clarity for your destiny. He wants that. The Holy Spirit desires to feast in your house. If you remain on the tree and admire that experience alone, you’d be missing out on the incredible adventures in the Spirit that only those who meditate and fellowship in their private time enjoy.
Worse still, climbing religious trees of isolation connotes a separation and from fellowship with other believers who may have similar deficiencies. As long as Zaccheaus was up on that tree, he was disconnected from other people. He was by himself, warts and all, missing out on the restorative privileges that fellowshipping with other believers provide. The Christian life was not designed to be lived in isolation. That’s why it’s called ‘the body of Christ.’ We are all parts of one body. Don’t be an online church member alone if you can come to church. Also, don’t come to church and not mingle, meet people and interact.
Your destiny finds expression in fellowship. Growing in love is impossible in isolation. It is as you connect and relate with people that you practice what you know and find true nourishment and fulfilment. Even the blood of Jesus does a more effective job at cleansing us from iniquities as we fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7). This is precisely what climbing the tree of seclusion and isolation precludes a believer from enjoying.
If there was anybody in scripture who learned this lesson, it was Peter.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him on the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts — 2 Peter 1:16–19
Whilst still spiritually immature, Peter basked in the euphoria of the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration to the extent that he requested that Jesus build tabernacles for their permanent residence on the Mount. Years later, post-resurrection, he will come to acknowledge the folly of his request. Life on the Mount is not the real deal; Life in the Word is the Big Deal.
God’s Word is ‘a More Sure Word of Prophecy.’ To say it is ‘A Sure Word of Prophecy’ could have sufficed but to further buttress its validity and reliability, the word, ‘More’ is added. God’s Word is a zillion times more of a prophetic book than any other book on the planet.
It’s a Prophetic Book, not a Novel; Not a Newspaper; Not a Textbook. it’s a Prophetic Book with your entire life in it. Your whole life has been prophesied. Your future has been prophesied. The house you’d live in, the spouse you’d marry, the job you’d do, the children you’d have, your life’s mission and the very essence of your purpose have all been prophesied to precision. No Preacher, Pastor or Prophet on Altars and Mounts can show you this effectively as the Word can.
And this is why Peter’s recommendation is stern and places the responsibility back on the individual. You’ve got to take heed to this Word as a light shining in a dark place until revelation knowledge dawns in your heart. Peter learned that his experience in the Word trumps a million times over that on the Mount. He learned to descend from the mounts (trees) of reliance on prophets (Elijah) and priests (Moses), and began to exalt the place of personal fellowship and communion in the Word.
This is what the Holy Spirit is also wooing us to — to esteem the treasure-trove of God’s Word more than our necessary food, so that He can unveil to us mysteries that will give us unique advantages in a competitive world of billions as we passionately live out our convictions.
Meditation on God’s Word is what births clarity and potency of convictions. Convictions can begin on the Mount of powerful sermons preached from altars, but they are forged and furnished in the place of consistent meditation.
Climbing trees and mounts are good; they give you an experience. But meditating on God’s Word gives you the knowledge behind the experience which is the back-end of convictions. Climbing the tree will refresh you, but coming down will refine you. Climbing the tree will inspire you, but coming down will define you. Climbing the tree will grow you, but coming down will build you.
The Holy Spirit is rearing to show you incredible possibilities about your future.
Would you be like the Berean Christians and prepare a feast with your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to check and know more?
Would you abandon whatever attracts and distracts and passionately prioritize Bible study and meditation?
Would you place premium on your experience down here with the Word than up there on Mounts and Trees?
I can assure you; a lifetime of missteps and mistakes would be avoided if you do.
You won’t regret it!
God and the Hosts of Heaven are counting on you to come down!
Do have an incredibly refreshing time in the Word this week and forever!
Push Buttons is a weekly devotional of The Powerpoint Tribe.