Saturday, July 30, 2011

Prayer for Today

Blessed be our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
and our God and Father--the God Most High.
You are the Most High as Your throne is
standing in the heavens and the train of Your
robe fills the temple.  Majestic in Holiness,
there is none like You.  Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spiritual Fruit--Part I

One of the most poignant metaphors to describe the life of a true Christian, and therefore describing a true Christian, is bearing fruit.  This metaphor is used by John the Baptist to describe true repentance. This metaphor is also used by Christ throughout his ministry and therefore is used throughout the synoptic gospels.  We also see this metaphor used by Christ with His disciples in John 15, in his final discourse only a few hours before His crucifixion.

In the synoptic gospels, Christ tells us this in regard to false teachers, "You shall know them by their fruit."  In regards to the difference between professors of Christ and possessors of Christ He says, "Good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit."  In the parable of the four soils, He tells us that only the good soil produces fruit, and that the other three don't. Immediately following we have a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven, in which Christ tells us that there will be tares sown among the wheat by the enemy.  What is the difference between a tare and a stalk of wheat?  The wheat produces the fruit of the grain, the tare does not.  Later He curses a fig tree because it should be producing figs and is only looks the part.  He goes on to tell the Jews, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it." See (Matthew 7:15-20; 13:3-8, 18-23, 24-30; 21:19, 41-43), and there are parallel
passages in Mark and Luke.

In John 15 Jesus tells His disciples that bearing much fruit proves that they are His disciples and brings glory to God; and that the Father prunes the true believer so that He will bear much fruit.  In this chapter He also tells us that it is only those that abide in Him who can bear fruit, and that those who truly abide in Him will bear much fruit. 

Of those who do not bear fruit, here is what is said about them:  They shall be cut down. They shall be taken away. They shall be gathered together and burned. They are cursed. They are workers of lawlessness (bad fruit, sin). He has never known them. They shall not be part of the kingdom of God.

Wow, pretty telling isn't it?  Christ isn't waffling here when He uses this metaphor.  There is no salvation shuffle going on, just plain and to the point, in language that paints a picture that we can understand.  Why?  Because salvation is at stake!  So there should not be any waffling or shuffling going on when eternal destiny is on the line.  Just as Christ does throughout the gospels, He draws a distinct line in the sand so that we can see which side we are standing on.  And as blunt as it seems, and is, it is the grace of God to be this direct and this black and white.  As I have said to the people in my church many times, "A proper presentation of the gospel should always leave people with the understanding of which side of the fence they are on."

The questions, though, that would be logical here are: Okay, what is spiritual fruit? What does it look like? How would I know it if I saw it, and how do I know if I am producing it?

Fortunately, as is always the case with spiritual questions, the answers are in the Scriptures.  Let's take a look at what the Bible tells us about spiritual fruit. 
  • It is the result of the gospel, and is the obedience of faith.
Colossians 1:5-6 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.

The key here is that the gospel is constantly, consistently, bearing fruit and increasing.  And this is taking place in the life of the believer.  Remember the parable of the seeds in Matthew 13.  The seeds represented the word of God (the gospel) and when the seeds fell in the good soil they produced fruit...some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred fold. The word of God is the seed from which spiritual fruit is born. 

Romans 1:5-6, 13 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ...I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.

What is this fruit that Paul is wanting to obtain among the church at Rome.  It is the obedience of faith.  The basket in which all spiritual fruit is gathered is the obedience of faith.  All spiritual fruit is a result of obedience.  So when we as believers grieve or quench the Spirit, we are not producing spiritual fruit.  Being obedient to the faith is being obedient to the revealed word of God, and out of this obedience comes spiritual fruit. See also (Isaiah 55:10-11; James 1:18,21; Mark 4:26-29)

  • It is the fruit of the indwelling Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

Notice how each aspect, each facet, of the fruit of the Spirit is an inner quality, a settled disposition of the soul.  Each of these facets will manifest themselves in a myriad of ways as we go about our daily lives (See Luke 6:43-45).  They stand in sharp contrast to the claims of those who are clamoring to get into heaven in Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who say to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter (remember the obedience of faith). Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord,' did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' "  It is easy to get caught up in what people do for the Lord, versus being mindful of who people are for the Lord; but it is the manifestation and working out of who people are for the Lord in which we see true spiritual fruit.
  • It is the opposite of deeds of the flesh.
We can get a more complete picture of spiritual fruit by knowing what it is not, and obviously what is listed here would be considered bad fruit.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these...(so this is not a complete list).  But Paul adds to that list in Ephesians 4.  They are: greediness lusts of deceit, falsehood, stealing, unwholesome words, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.

And these verses still do not contain an entire list, but are enough to give us a picture of what bad fruit looks like.  And who produces bad fruit? Not the good tree!
  • It is born out of the dynamic qualities of faith.
II Peter 2:5-8 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing , they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So if these qualities are ours and we are growing in them, maturing in them, then we will be fruitful in our Christian life.  We will be bearing mature fruit, rich fruit, and more fruit; just as a mature tree produces more abundant and richer fruit than a young tree. 
  • It is good works
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip (katartizo--to render fit, to fully train, to furnish completely) in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Colossians 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Remember, in John 15 we learn that our producing much fruit proves we are Christ's disciples, but is also brings glory to God the Father.  So following the logic in the verses above....
  1. God has prepared beforehand good works for us to do.
  2. He equips us to do these good things that please Him.
  3. In these good works, good things, fruit is born...manifested.
  4. In the producing of spiritual fruit God is thus glorified.
Follow the trail of good deeds in Titus 1:16, 2:7, 2:14, 3:1 3:5 verse 3:14 where we learn "Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful."  Good deeds, deeds that bear spiritual fruit, are important to God, and they should be important to us.  The good deeds talked about in this short epistle to Titus result in the confirmation and adornment of the gospel.  They give validity to the gospel, and in many instances pave the way for the gospel.

To be continued....italics mine for emphasis.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Speaking of God

We can speak no better of God,
than He has spoken of Himself.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from
heaven, and do not return there without watering
the earth and making it bear and sprout, and
furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
it will not return to Me empty without accomplishing
what I desire, and without succeding in the matter
for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8-11

Friday, July 15, 2011

Christian Maturity

Those who have the Spirit, and who therefore come to grips with the message of the cross (I Cor.2), are expected to mature rapidly.  Such maturation will disclose itself in a growing ability to take in more and more Christian truth (3.2).  It will also show itself in a large-hearted attitude that avoids quarreling and jealousy, and refuses to sink into narrow factionalism.  If some who have the Spirit are slow to display this rising maturity, the kindest interpretation is that they are "worldly."  In these matters they are acting like "mere men" instead of like Christian men and women, men and women empowered by the Spirit of God.  They are wretchedly, unacceptably, spiritually immature.

Don Carson
The Cross and Christian Ministry
Pages 74-75

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Speaking of God

We can speak no better of God,
than He has spoken of Himself.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to Your name give glory
because of Your lovingkindness,
because of Your truth.
Psalm 115:1

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Speaking of God

We can speak no better of God,
than He has spoken of Himself.

Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.

I Timothy 1:17

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whom Shall I Please?

Those who are servants of Christ, those who are entrusted with the secret things of God, do not see themselves winning popularity contests--not even within the church's borders....There is only one Person whose "Well Done!" on the last day means anything.  In comparison, the approval or disapproval of the church means nothing. 

It is not even your own estimate of your service that is important.  Feeling good about your ministry may have some limited utility somewhere, but surely it has no ultimate significance.  You may think more highly of your service than God does; you may think less of your service than God does.  But if you are constantly trying to please yourself, to make self-esteem your ultimate goal, then you are forgetting whose servant you are, whom you must strive to please.

Don Carson
The Cross and Christian Ministry
Page 97

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the favor of men,
or of God? If I were still trying to please
men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
(This includes seeking to please ourselves)

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Christian's Devotion

As Christians, our devotion to Christ
must come before our devotion to our
church or our denomination.  We must
not substitute devotion to church or devotion
to denomination for devotion to Christ; nor
should we assume that devotion to these is
the same as devotion to Christ.

This should be particularly true for pastors.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Friday, July 08, 2011

Who Me?

"God chooses whom He chooses in order that
He might receive the glory.  He chooses weak
instruments so that no one will attribute the
power to human instruments rather than to God,
who wields those instruments."

John MacArthur
Twelve Ordinary Men
Page 13

Yes, you!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Our Fears and the Adequacy of God

Whence comes the nervous, dithery, take-no-risks mood that mars so much of our discipleship?...

One reason, it seems, is that in our heart of hearts we are afraid of the consequence of going the whole way into the Christian life.  We shrink from accepting burdens of responsibility for others because we fear we should not have strength to bear them.  We shrink from accepting a way of life in which we forfeit material security because we are afraid of being left stranded.  We shrink from being meek because we are afraid that if we do not stand up for ourselves we shall be trodden down and victimized, and end up among life's casualties and failures.  We shrink from breaking with social conventions in order to serve Christ because we fear that if we did, the established structure of our life would collapse all around us, leaving us without a footing anywhere.

It is these half-conscious fears, this dread of insecurity, rather than any deliberate refusal to face the cost of following Christ, which make us hold back.  We feel that the risks of out-and-out discipleship are too great for us to take.  In other words we are not persuaded of the adequacy of God to provide for all the needs of those who launch out wholeheartedly on the deep sea of unconventional living in obedience to the call of Christ....This, at bottom seems to be what is wrong with us.  We are afraid to go all the way in accepting the authority of God, because of our secret uncertainty as to his adequacy to look after us if we do.

J.I. Packer
Knowing God
Pgs 269-270

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Speaking of God

We can speak no better of God
than He has spoken of Himself.

I, even I, am the one who wipes out
your transgressions for My own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
Isaiah 43:25

Let the wicked forsake his way
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
and let him return to the Lord,
and He will have compassion on him,
And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:7

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Monday, July 04, 2011

Steady Love

We need not suppose that God's love for us
 is as fickle and undependable as our own emotions.

Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:16, James 1:17

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Dying for Certainty

Without election there is only the potential for salvation,
not the certainty of salvation.  So would Christ die for
those who might possibly be saved, or would He die
for those whom He knew for certain would be saved?

If He died for all to be saved, and all are not saved,
then His dying on the cross for their sin was a failure.
If He suffered for their sin, and they are not saved,
then His suffering for them was in vain.  And if
God is omniscient, then why would He impose the penalty
of sin upon Christ for those whom He knew would not come to faith?

II Thessalonians 2:13, I Peter 1:1-2, Isaiah 53:10-11

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Seeing the Measure

We see the measure of love in what it gives.
We see the measure of mercy in what it withholds.
In salvation, love and mercy are inextricably linked.

Romans 5:8, I John 4:10, Ephesians 2:4, Isaiah 53:4-11

Friday, July 01, 2011

Why NOT the NIV

As many know, I have had a long bias against the NIV, as I feel it has dumbed the Scriptures down, and numbed the reader from the punch that is provided in the Greek language.  Yes, I know for some it is easier to read, but making something easier to read should not be the litmus test for any translation of the Scriptures.  Accuracy and communicating as close as possible what the author really said should be the litmus test for any and all translations.  And that is the problem with the dynamic equivalency method of translation. 

Dr. Jim Hamilton gives a wonderful example of the difference between the dynamic equivalency and the formal equivalency methods, and why the dynamic equivalency is inferior.  See the link below.

Speaking of God

We can speak no better of God
than He has spoken of Himself.

Remember the former things long past,
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
declaring the end from the beginning,
and from ancient times things which
have not been done.
Saying, My purpose will be established,
and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.
Isaiah 46:10-11

God's Giving

God's giving to us, His free favor towards us,
 did not stop at the cross.  In fact, it began
before the cross, and will continue for all eternity.

Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:4-8