Posts Tagged 'christians'

Friends,

This past Sunday I preached from Isaiah 5:1-7. These are powerful verses and, to be sure, it is terribly difficult to miss their point. They speak of a people, Israel (Judah), specifically planted and given one task: To bear good fruit. And the vineyard God planted was given every possible advantage and ability to do just that. As we learn, however, ‘He went out to look for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit…He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress’ (2c, 4b, 7). God is looking! God has expectations! The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will he be disappointed with what he finds?

But there are more questions we must ask about this notion of fruit bearing–especially in light of the fact that Jesus practically repeated this song, this parable, verbatim in John 15. There is no doubt here that God is judging us: ‘I looked for good grapes, and it yielded only bad fruit.’ This is no different than what Jesus says in John 15: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.’ God is judging us; God is shaping us; God is making decisions about who is and is not worthy of continuing as a part of the vineyard. I wonder if we ever stop to consider that?

Sometimes, in my opinion, we get so caught up in our own judgments about who is and is not producing fruit that we fail to consider that God himself is making those decisions far in advance. I wonder if we trust God’s discernment in these matters or if we are more than convinced that He needs our help?

There are other questions, questions such as: Are we bearing fruit that is edible? I mean, if God finds it detestable, how do others find it; that is, the lost? Are we starving the world because the fruit we produce is worthless? Are we bearing fruit that is pleasing to God first? Are we bearing fruit in keeping with God’s character (righteousness, justice, love)? Are we bearing fruit at all?

Assuming we are bearing fruit, do we stop to consider that God himself is not unaware of our vintage, that he makes the ultimate and, presumably, the only judgment about its quality that matters? I mean, if God is the one who prunes and pares the branches, well, does that mean that only his judgment ultimately matters? Does God need additional fruit inspectors? Or do you think that God’s judgment is sufficient?

So, if God himself has defined the nature of the fruit we are to bear (good & righteousness & justice [Isaiah]; love & lasting [John]), and told us how we are to do so (by remaining in Jesus), and told us for what purpose we are to do it (bring glory to God, John 15:8), and told us that by doing so we demonstrate conclusively to whom we belong (Jesus, John 15:8), then are we, the body of Christ, doing that very thing: Producing fruit in accordance with our call? (John 15:16). Are we producing fruit that is pleasing first to God? Or are we producing bad grapes, a wasted crop, a poor vintage, a harvest worthy of only the fire?

I see this as a serious issue in the church because, as I pointed out in my other post, people are dying and being killed and killing themselves while the church is playing games. Sometimes I think we spend more time inspecting fruit than we do actually producing it. Am I the only one who sees that as a serious, serious problem?

Always For God’s Glory!

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I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping the past few weeks and I’ve gotten in the bad habit of staying up late (this comes naturally to me anyway).  The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson comes on during the 11th hour and one of his guests tonight was author/singer/musician/producer Tom Sullivan.  Tom was on the show promoting a new book and as usual much of the interview ends up being more about the person than the product (which I think is good attribute of the late show genre). 

Immediately we find out that Tom is blind and soon discover that he was born that way.  During the course of the interview, Craig asked Tom if he thinks about what it would be like to see, or about the possibility of him to have his sight restored.  Tom paused for a moment and then he told a story about his morning run on the beach.  Tom gave one of the most extensive, concise, and beautiful descriptions of one of the more mundane routines of life that I have ever heard.  The way he was talking I thought he might be a Christian.  His appreciation for creation, life, and others expressed in words is befitting of a Psalmist.

You see, Tom is not defined by his lack of eyesight.  That is not who he is and that is not how he lives his life.  He has a vision for life that pervades every aspect of his life, from recreation (golf & skiing) to work (see above) to his personality.  When we Christians allow ourselves to be defined or to define others by anything other than who we are in Christ, we wind up treating eachother in an unChristian manner.  We lose the vision for life that God has given us in Christ.  Our world becomes negative, full of complaining, grumbling, anger, pride, and even malice.  We revert back to the kind of people we were before the Spirit of God took up residence in our lives.  There is much to say about this, but I want to share with you this passage from 2 Corinthians which really resonated with me:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was,  will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:4-4:6

I once was lost in the decrepidness of my evil desires, but I was found by Christ and given a new heart, a new identity, a new vision.  I am being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Who am I?  I am Christian.

*Added material in this post is italicized.

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