Test the fruit

There are some truly hard teachings when you get into the Word of God. I think that the church skirts around these too often. For those of us pursuing the Father, we cannot set these aside.

Some of the hardest teachings are found in the Gospels. Many paint a picture of Jesus that is not Scripturally accurate. Too often He is painted as someone who will condone all sin in the name of love. I say “in the name of love” because that is what it is – what people name love, not what love truly is. Pure love does not condone sin. Those walking in the love of God do not condone sin. Walking in step with the Spirit means bearing fruit of repentance. It means walking the narrow road. It means standing up for truth despite the personal cost.

Looking at our fruit production

A perfect example, which has been on my heart lately, is found in Matthew 7. Let’s go through some of the hard verses.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14).

Are you willing to walk by the narrow road? Many in the church today cannot be distinguished from the world. Can you? Do you know Scripture? Do you know the teachings of Christ? Do you apply them? The gate to salvation is narrow – and the way hard – that leads to life; believers should not be expecting an easy life in this temporal existence. We are called to lay down all we have, all we are and all we desire, to follow Christ as He leads us.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus tells us that we can recognise false prophets by their fruit. It is easy to get carried a way by a charismatic leader, or someone with strong giftings. Before you fly away on their words, pause and look at their character.   First line up the fruit of their life to what Scripture says will be produced by those walking according to the Spirit. God can still use false prophets and teachers through their gifts, but we should not attempt to immolate their lives! And we must be very careful to discern what is good and sound, and what is erroneous, of their teaching.

The African Horned Melon grows quickly and looks intriguing, but is bitter in taste

How can you look into someone’s character? See how they respond to stress, or how they react when no one is looking – particularly the home life/ family. Consider what works of the flesh are apparent in their lives:

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. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Let’s see that list again through a modern translation (Galatians 5:19-20, Amplified Bible*):

Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. 

If the above are the fruit f the flesh, what is the fruit produced by someone walking according to the Spirit?

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 5:122-23).

Producing sweet fruit

The passage in Matthew gets even tougher and should inspire godly fear in our hearts. Those walking with the Spirit and whose hearts seek God and seek Christ have nothing to fear, but those who preach the Gospel for self-gain, and walk according to the flesh should take note:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Let us not worship God in word or deed only, but through our very being. We are to present our whole selves as a living sacrifice and walk contrary to the ways of the world.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

How can we be wise? How can we produce good fruit? Get into the Word, reading it with the Spirit. Pray and ask God to help you to read and study the Bible. Ask Him to speak application to your heart. Don’t know where to start? Start with one of the Gospels – which follow the life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Revelation is also a great book to see Jesus, our coming Conqueror; I hope to do a blog series on it soon.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

May we be recognised as children of God by the fruits we produce.

Bear fruit in keeping with the Spirit

 

*Amplified Bible (AMP); Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

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The Happiness Myth

“Nothing is worth it if you’re not happy” said a post on Facebook the other day. This seems to be a commonly held view in society, but I beg to disagree. Let the world pursue happiness, Christians have something better – joy. Joy in the Lord is our sustenance. Unlike happiness, joy springs within us independent of circumstances.

Consider what Apostle Paul endured:

but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).

Yet Paul could declare:

. . . In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (2 Corinthians 7:4).

James agreed with Paul:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Joy enables us to consider the needs of others, taking the focus off of our own needs:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

We are called to a life of joy in the Spirit, not a life of happiness. I can testify that the season where the most people have commented on seeing my joy was during the season of greatest heartache. They weren’t seeing a feeling that came of circumstance, but an inner condition gifted by the Holy Spirit.

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 5:22-23).

Joy may come with costs, but it far surpasses temporal happiness. Seek after intimacy with the Holy Spirit and receive His joy.

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Psalm 4:7).

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Are you pursuing joy or happiness?

Rotten or Fresh Fruit?

I had one of those “ouch, Jesus” moments this week. You know when you get to that place of self-righteousness and then God shows you just how far you are from well in the heart.

This week has been spent reflecting on Galatians. There is never enough time to study Galatians. You can simply never do it justice with Paul throwing theological punishes left, right, and centre. But if all you take away from this book is that those of us in Christ are no longer slaves to the Law (working for salvation), but are free, and sons of God, then you have nailed the book on its head!

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1).

Paul was furious that the Galatian churches had turned back to trying to work for their salvation. Judaisers had arisen proclaiming that faith in Jesus alone was not enough for salvation, circumcision was also needed. Never do we see Paul as angry as when someone is trying to add to the message of the free gift of grace for salvation. He essentially says to the Judaisers: “Why cut only a little off? Chop it all off!” Paul makes it clear: faith in Jesus is all that is required for salvation. This is the Gospel of Grace.

But does living under grace mean that we can do whatever we want? Paul hardly addresses grace abuse because he felt that anyone who had a true revelation of grace would not consider abusing it.

Doesn’t God want us to do good works? Yes, He does. BUT they are not required to earn salvation. Rather, once free from the Law (earning salvation) and from slavery to sin, we are called on to good works in Christ.

So what does this look like?

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. (Galatians 5:19-21).

Contrasting with:

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 5:22-23).

As I mentioned at the start, this week I was big-time convicted. I was walking in opposition to Christ’s commands:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42).

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45).

It is so easy to fall in to the trap of arrogance, believing you are in the right. But even when we are in the right, Christ calls us to a higher standard. It is humbling to look upon your actions and see that you are NOT being patient, NOT being loving, NOT seeking peace, NOT being kind, NOT preferring others, and NOT loving your neighbour as yourself.

Christ calls us to a higher standard. He calls us to the highest standard. He calls us to love, just as He loved us. How did He love us? He laid down His life so that we might live.

I felt injured this week and unjustly dealt with. But it wasn’t true. It is scary how wrong and narrow minded our perceptions can be.

You have been set free from sin so that you can walk in accordance with the Spirit.
This week I challenge you to ask God for a revelation of your heart.
This week I challenge you to ask God to produce a plentiful crop of the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
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 5:22-23).