Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:24–27—NKJV)

Life is full of trends as “night follows day.” A baby’s problems start small, but trend bigger as the child grows toward adulthood. Impoverishment trends toward restlessness while satisfaction trends toward lethargy. A state of political peace trends toward lethargic vigilance while fearful danger trends toward self-protective strategy. A good friend of mine who is qualified to make such an observation told me that the general trend throughout the lifetime of a Mohammedan is toward fruits of meanness, anger, and moral blindness compared to the trend of a genuine Christian toward fruits of kindness, grace and moral sensitivity.

There is an explanation for these spiritual trends given to us in the Bible. I like to call it the “Root, Shoot, and Fruit Principle.” When a plant grows there are stages to its development and consequences produced by letting the plant continue to mature. In a garden, a seed is planted with a view to the harvest of the fruit. To get that fruit, the plant must be well rooted so that the it can maintain the support structure of greenery that will allow it to successfully set fruit and bring it to the harvest.

All men are born with the root, shoot, and fruit principle already active within. The unregenerate man continues to nurture roots, shoots, and fruits which will bring them into a Christless eternity with nothing but condemnation for their sin under the verdict of the Just Judge of all men. At work in all men is the root of selfishness (most easily recognized by the promptings of lust), which gives life to the shoot of sin, ultimately yielding the fruit of prideful arrogance. James 1:14–15 puts it this way: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” This is the natural state of mankind. 2 Timothy 3:2–4 warns, “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

For those in the business of hoodwinking people this natural trend of the flesh is the easiest way to manipulate a man: simply appeal to his selfishness. Without fully realizing it, every man’s selfishness is a catalyst to his actions and very often a cornerstone of his worldview. Selfishness operates as a “behind the scenes” personal director for mankind and a “prime directive” for many among us. As Spurgeon reminded us, “The best of men are men at best.”

Only for the truly regenerated man is there a different possibility. Read Romans 6:20–23 and see the root, shoot, and fruit of the faithful believer. When a believer is born again it is through faith which has come from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The root is faith that must grow deep in the love of God. Ephesians 3:17–19 states, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ.” The root of faith nurtured in the love of God gives life to the shoot (Romans 11:20) of love in the believer’s life and that gives structure for the fruit of obedience in every believer’s life.

The Ephesians 3 passage is followed by three practical chapters which illustrate the root, shoot, and fruit principle. Ephesians 5:2 teaches us to walk in love (and 5:8 to walk in light) which explains what the shoot is to look like. The rest of chapters 4–6 proclaim the fruits which come from the root of faith and the shoot of love. The fruit of the Spirit, the usefulness of believers to all those around them, and their worthiness for the use of the Lord generally describe the things enumerated as fruitfulness.

The foolish man builds his life on the shifting sand of the root, shoot, and fruit principle common to unregenerate mankind—lust driven selfishness leads to sin, which in turn leads to blind pride and death. The wise man builds his life on the solid rock of the Word—visible to others as rooted faith, the shoot of love, and the fruit of obedience. What trends are at work in your life? Trust and obey.