2004 autumn, Beijing.
This could be my last year in Beijing studying for my Master degree in Electrical Engineering at CAS, the best graduate school in China. The stress of going to US to study overwhelmed me, indulging in alcohol and smoking, as well as struggling with relationship with guys. I was journaling to ask God to help me, though I had no idea who God and Jesus is. One day, I found out that one of my lab mates is a Christian, and he is going to get married in a church. Before we were all invited to his wedding in TianJin, he told me I could visit his house church if I’m interested. I did.
Biking over to a residential area and “sneaking” into an apt, I met about twenty people, different age and gender, some are like teachers, some are students of my age. Without any background about the bible, I found myself in a bible study on Matthew 7:15-20:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”. -Matthew 7:15-20
My first impression on bible is EASY, compared to my thesis on polarized radar system. Of course, good tree bear good fruits, bad tree bear bad fruits. Second impression is REDUNDANT. Of course, a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. I’m sure at that only bible study I’ve attended in China, they explained what trees and fruits mean, how our lives should bear fruits. For the Natalie back then, arrogance and pride made my ears, eyes and hearts closed, I didn’t understand the deep meanings and didn’t think I had the time and energy to figure them out. On my way biking home, an unexpected peace was filled me however.
Looking back, almost eight years have gone. How God brought me to US, led me to accept Jesus, to server God, to graduate with PhD and move to CA! One miracle after another one, nothing is as normal as just my “hardwork”. When I flipped bible and read same passage, what do I really know about the trees and fruits?
The parable is about us, followers of Jesus. We are trees, and the fruits are our characters, deeds and thoughts. To say we are good Christians are in vain without proof of good fruits. “But the fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. “-Galatians 5:22. It serves such a great reminder that we are in the process of being transformed to be more like Jesus, it is OK that we are not there yet, but we need to practice and should be willing to be transformed/changed! I don’t think anyone would want to be “cut down and thrown into the fire”, but if we take God’s words seriously, am I asking God to increase His grace to me when I sin and not bear fruits? Should not, Paul said “we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” So the old Natalie died. New Natalie in Christ Jesus was born.
I thank God whenever I read this passage on trees and fruits, not only challenging me to bear fruits, but also a great reminder how faithful God has been to me to even start His work in me back in China. What is your story? What is your experience with your first bible study?