Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Plastic Fruit Generation

When I was a child, I remember visiting numerous homes that had a bowl of plastic fruit on the table. The apples, bananas, pears and grapes looked absolutely perfect. They looked just like the real thing … only they weren't the real thing. No matter how they looked, you couldn't eat them. They were stunning representations of fruit, yet they were completely hollow inside. They were not genuine. They were fakes.

Such fakes are abundant among the contemporary church. Congregations celebrate their anniversaries – 50 years, 100 years, 150 years – yet they cannot celebrate spiritual growth. There is a deficiency in biblical knowledge and moral excellence that rivals any time period in human history. So many people call themselves Christian, but the claim is like the plastic fruit – false and hollow.

If I pass a flock of sheep on the road and see that every one of them is suffering from malnutrition, then it would be logical to assume that the shepherds are at fault. If one or two were thin and gaunt, I could perhaps blame it on the sheep. Maybe they refuse to eat. Maybe they're sick. But if an entire flock is deficient, it is because the shepherds have failed in their duties. If preachers are not preaching … if shepherds are not shepherding … if the flock does not receive food that is either sufficient in quantity or quality … then it is no wonder the churches are dying.

Where is the REAL fruit of the Spirit?
Galatians 5:22-23 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

The modern church claims to be bearing such fruit, yet it is clear upon further inspection that – despite its perceived beauty among the community – it is not a genuine fruit. Love is acceptance, joy is happiness, peace and patience are tolerance, kindness and goodness refer to good works, faithfulness is applied to church attendance and giving, gentleness means keeping your mouth shut and not rocking the boat, and self-control is pasting on a Christian face, which in truth is hypocrisy.

So what's missing? The word of God! There is no fruit of the Spirit that is real without a foundation in and connection with that which has been the primary work of the Spirit. “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). If so-called fruit of the Spirit does not define itself against the backdrop of the Scriptures, then the fruit is fake.

Love is so popular in the church today, yet Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; [5] but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:4-5).

Joy is used interchangeably – and wrongly - with happiness. Happiness is based on physical stimuli, while joy is the product of a spiritual relationship with the Lord. I'm happy when my day goes well and sad when it goes bad, but in Christ I can be joyful despite a bad day, knowing that it has no affect on my eternal status. Again though, there must be an attachment with the word of God. “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, [7] so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). The Thessalonians were not happy to receive tribulation, but they accepted the word of the Lord joyfully, knowing it was producing something eternal.

Everyone wants peace, but the peace which is in the Lord's fruit basket isn't a peace with the world or with your fellow man. Jesus asked, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). This is about peace with God through Christ. “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, [35] but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. [36] The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:34-36).

Patience is what we show to those who are resisting the word of God. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Kindness is what we have received from the Lord … and what we must show to others in the same manner. He was kind enough to give us His word. We must be kind enough to share it with others. “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, [3] if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Goodness is excused in almost every congregation I've ever attended. The excuses pour forth … “We're just sinners.” … “We're imperfect.” John Welsey's “social holiness” is substituted for real holiness and moral excellence. This is not what the Bible teaches. Paul says, “Walk as children of Light [9] (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), [10] trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Faithfulness is falsely associated with records of regularity in attendance or giving. It is properly associated with the word of God. “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Gentleness does not mean you are a pushover. As one of my college professors used to say regarding the beatitude, “Meek does not mean weak.” We must confront false doctrine. We are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Thus Paul writes, “The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, [25] with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

And self-control implies that knowledge alone is not enough. It must be tempered with wisdom. Consider Peter's words, “in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, [6] and in your knowledge, self-control” (2 Peter 1:5-6). To those who say they have faith, show me your moral excellence. To those who depend upon their moral excellence to save them, show me your knowledge of the Scriptures. To those who claim to be experts in the Scriptures, show me that you have the wisdom to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

A bowl of fake fruit may impress the world. It may look good on the cover of “Better Homes & Christians.” All the bad apples will applaud and invite the top fake banana to speak at their conventions. The hollow grapes will whine for a copy of the latest bestseller from the popular pear. To me, it just looks fake. I wouldn't eat it. And I'm certainly not going to claim that it's real. If I'm going to worship, I want to worship with those who do so “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

“Oh, you shouldn't judge!” someone screams out. “Jesus said so!” What did I say earlier about knowledge without wisdom? In that same chapter – Matthew 7 – Jesus said very clearly, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? [17] So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).

I'll take the eternal wisdom of Christ over the tolerant wisdom of the weak. Watch out for the fakes! Pay attention to the fruit! See if it's hollow or rotten. If so, then it's of no value. Stay away from it! Check to see what kind of a tree the fruit's attached to. If it isn't attached to the word of God, it's a bad plant … a destructive plant which will eventually be thrown into the fire.

I want more than plastic fruit! I want real fruit! Thus I will fix my eyes on Jesus – “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). “He is the radiance of [God's] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). I will also look for those who are fitting “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) … those who understand that we also are to be exact representations of God's nature. “As He is, so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

It's up to us to inspect the evidence. That was Christ's intention. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8). The proof is in the fruit bowl. All you have to do is look. Would you like plastic or perfect?

1 comment:

  1. Do not judge, oh lord. Most religious people are bigger judges than anyone. Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." I like that saying meek doesnt mean weak. Just because Christ said turn the other cheek he didn't say 'hey come at me bro and punch me in the face again'


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