In March of 2006, my mother & I made a visit out to my Uncle Chris and Aunt Audrey’s old farm in western Illinois. At that time they had a place on 80 acres, where they raised corn, soybeans, a handful of cattle & some chickens. One thing I remember helping them with is tearing down some dead branches & taking them to a burn pile behind one of the barns to be burned. The following year, we did a similar thing, helping them cut down dead branches from trees bordering the pasture. Now, it goes without saying that the reason that we were doing these things was because these trees & branches were serving no use and bearing no fruit.
In Matthew 3:8-11, we read John the Baptist’s words to the religious leaders: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Now, I’d like the briefly touch on the notion of regeneration, which I believe I already touched on before. In fact, this is the cause of our fruit. In 2nd Corinthians 2:17, we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And, we get a picture of regeneration in Ezekiel 36:26-27, which states: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
I’m sure that we know the “fruits of the spirit,” found in the Book of Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-230
Now, I want to be clear about what I'm not talking about.
I’m not advocating works-righteousness. But, what I am saying is that if you are a true Christian, YOU WILL BEAR FRUIT!!! To be completely honest, often being “born again” has been simply reduced to praying the sinner’s prayer, or coming forward at an altar call. Then, the supposed convert can go on living in a continuous state of worldliness, but God bless them, they’re saved because they prayed that prayer.
To quote Paul Washer: “The doctrine of a Christian living in a continuous state of carnality is ABSOLUTE HERESY!!! Do Christians sin? Yes. Can Christians fall into carnality? Yes. Can Christians walk in immaturity for a while? Yes. But, can Christians live a godless, worldly life, all the days of their life? Absolutely not!!! Why? Because Salvation is a supernatural work of God wherby if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, and new creatures live a different way!!!”
That being said, we read in 1st John: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1st John 2:3-5)
He also writes: “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit…. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4:13, 15 & 19-21)
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1st John 5:1-4)
Hear the words of Jesus: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love…. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:5, 9-10 & 16)
James writes: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18)
Now, it’s possible for a false convert to temporarily bear fruit. "Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Matt. 13:18-23)
And, as I once told a friend, I would connect Matthew 13:18-23, particularly with the person who is described as “rocky ground” to this passage in Hebrews: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)
I want to be clear that I believe in the doctrine of eternal security> I also want to stress that I believe each Christian will have different strengths, weaknesses & struggles. In fact, I remember once making, what I believe to be, the mistake of trying to gain assurence of my salvation by measuring my fruit against his & felt bad because I wasn't struggling with the same things that he was.
However, we also have this commandment: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2nd Corinthians 13:5) Also: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2nd Peter 1:10-11)
What I’m talking about is not sinless perfection. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) referred to Christians as being "simultaneously saint and sinner"
In fact, the Apostle Paul admitted: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin… For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-15, 17-25)
In the same breath, I’m not trying to whitewash sin. It’s a heinous offense against God!!! Furthermore, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2nd Corinthians 5:10)
But, as John wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9) He also noted: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1st John 2:1)
In conclusion, I must agree with the Puritan George Swinnock (1627-1673), who commented: “It is not one or two good actions, but a consistent conduct, that tells whether a man is a true Christian. . . . Sheep may fall into the mire, but swine love day and night to wallow in it. A Christian may stumble, he may even fall, but he gets up and walks on in the way of God’s commandments; the bent of his heart is right, and the scope of his life is straight, and thus he is considered sincere.”
Monday, March 22, 2010
I thought this to be rather interesting. Although this is briefly mentioned, Dave Hunt is co-author of the "Berean Call." Now, I commend Mr. Hunt for his counter-cult work. However, that being said, he's twisting the truth regarding Calvinism, which Jim McClarty points out.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
"Jesus makes it clear who men are to fear. It is not the government, the religious leaders of the day, the employer, or the influential people of the community they Jesus tells us to fear, but rather we are to fear God. It is God and God alone who should cause mankind to tremble...A healthy fear of God is what is greatly needed in our churches today and it is the very thing that will bring lost men to repentance...Jesus says, 'Fear him!' Jesus says he will tell us who to fear and then he specifically shows that we had better fear the one who holds man’s eternal destiny in his hand. Eternity! Eternity! The word is filled with fear and it is filled with hope. Mankind will have to stand before this God some day. Man will stand before the One who utters his voice and causes the earth to melt, who judges in righteousness and truth and who will not allow anything unclean to enter into his presence." J. Randall Easter
Thursday, March 4, 2010
When a friend posted this on his wall on Facebook, all I can say is "wow." I was floored when I heard this.