A few years ago we had an ornamental bush in our front yard that never lost its leaves and remained exactly the same size year after year. No, it wasn’t an evergreen, and it wasn’t one of those plastic Christmas trees, the kind with limbs that fold out or have detached branches to stick into holes in the green metal trunk.
This bush used to be alive and growing. It needed watering, sun, and nourishment. But something happened; we really don't know what. Suddenly it dried up and died. For some reason the leaves didn't fall off that first year, they just turned brown.
I suggested digging it up and planting a new bush in the same spot. But my late husband Ted complained about its size, that the root system was extensive, and he wasn't keen on trying to do such excavation. Then he got an idea and disappeared to the hardware store. On a calm day with no wind he used up an entire can of dark green spray paint on that dead bush. The bush looked terrific! No one would have guessed that it wasn't alive and well. We called it our "Hypocrite Bush." A private joke, but now I've told you the secret.
Some deceiving and deceived Christians have a similar problem, even some of us in our more mature years. They may be advanced in age but not advanced in spiritual growth and maturity. As the years go by, they allowed their spiritual life to wither and dry through lack of spiritual nourishment or exposure to the Son. They may have been busy making a living, pursuing the legitimate responsibilities of this world, but concerned mostly with material things. Not necessarily bad things, but ordinary "cares of this life," in Bible terms. Such cares can gradually consume the hours and days and years of our daily lives.
Whenever my grandson Jeffrey, a sprouting eleven year old, comes to visit, he stands as tall as he can and measures himself against the basement door where we’ve marked his growth through the years. “Make a mark, please. Am I taller than last month, Grandma?”
We do well to check our growth, to measure our progress spiritually since we first became alive in Christ when we were “born of water and of the Spirit.” (John 3) Or perhaps we didn't wither and die—we were never alive; we only gave the appearance of being Christian? We may have been like artificial, plastic Christmas trees. We may have fooled other people, but we never fooled ourselves or God. We sprayed ourselves virtuous green to hide our lack of life. Or perhaps we allowed others to spray us green, people who simply assumed we had life when we didn't. Our deception is sure to catch up with us.
Any of us can, all of us should aspire to become saints in the biblical usage of the term “saint” as one who is becoming holy, a genuine "planting of the Lord." We can go directly to the Giver of Life to receive His Life and then begin to grow “...to mature manhood to the extent of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4:13)
When we become spiritually alive, we won't need green spray paint to camouflage our lifeless condition. John 11:25, 26, is a genuine evergreen passage with a supernaturally wonderful promise: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'"