Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Danger in Depending on Status


John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."   Luke 3:7-9  NIV

Grace and the finished work of Christ are the shoes upon which the Gospel walks, but John the Baptist's statement above should put a wrinkle into the casual way many Christians look at those shoes. Granted, John was the last of the OT prophets, and prophesied under that economy, but I think he still speaks to NT faith. What he says is wake up and don't be presumptuous.

The people he leveled these statements at were depending upon their birth status to make and keep them acceptable to God. What occured in a moment in time (through no fault of their own, no less), at the begining of their journey on earth was sufficient, in their minds, to carry them to the end of their time. They knew whose child they were, or so they thought!

John said the fact of their birth in the household of faith was not enough. It was not their history (especially an isolated moment in it) that mattered so much as their present. It seems the religious have ever been satisfied trying to establish labels written in indelible ink rather than in faithful practice, but there is no better way to give faith shoes than practice. Hence, John's comments about stones and fruit.

Fruit, like manna, has a limited shelf life. It needs to be fresh to be useful, to provide sustenance. The faith that recognizes God and therefore turns to him from sin and self is not something that can be stored on a shelf either. Faith, it seems to me, is not a status but a state, and an active one at that! Grace may not be established on works, but the one in grace will most definitely work.

For those made right by God, there's no getting past the need to bear the fruit of repentance today. You may say, "but I was born again on such and such a date, I'm signed, sealed, and delivered." I would say in response that your dependence on a birth experience seems as hollow as that of those that came to John. There is a danger, you see, in depending on status rather than fellowship with God.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent point. Seems to me that pne of the real problems facing the church is the failure to distinguish between works of the law and works of faith. And between works of the flesh and works of the Spirit. For sure, our salvation is sealed in a one-time transaction, but one has to wonder if "sola fide" has become the excuse to do nothing.

    I recently discovered the difference when I wrestled with Jesus' commands to help the poor that the leader of an on-line bible study at a 3D community presented to us. I had worked in prison ministry, and was aware of the fact that much poverty springs from disobedience and was predicted by Proverbs, but it seemed foolish to me to attempt to help facilitate what was effectively rebellion against the Scriptures when Jesus' commands were presented to me.

    After some false starts, I finally let the Spirit 'walk me through' my issues, and I realized where my problems lay. When it came to getting saved, I was in a church that told me "God blesses you, BUT YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF!" Well, WRONG. while I was wrestling with porn, the entire christian community seemed to say "God is with you, BUT YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF!" Last year, after I figured out how to work with the Spirit, those online porn compulsions went poof. So they were WRONG.

    And NOW, when it comes to helping the poor, the christian community seemed to be saying "God orders you to help the poor, BUT YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF!" Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me thrice, shame on ME.

    I decided I was DONE with "YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF" religion, and decided it was time to follow what worked for me, which was "WE WILL DO THIS TOGETHER!" That is, the Spirit and I working together to get the job done.

    The moment I asked about helping the poor, the Spirit brought forcefully to mind a recent problem brought to me by our youth minister that there were FIVE kids needing to go to Winter Extreme at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, an extremely effective youth happening that we have seen God use to save young people in earlier years. I had told her earlier I'd send one or two to Gatlinburg, but FIVE was a BIG jump!

    I took the clue and began to figure out how to break to my wife the news that our christmas budget was gonna evaporate, when the Spirit distinctly scolded me for being such a PIG. Should I not, He pointed out, share the BLESSINGS that would come from what God promised to all those who helped the poor? And if these five kids were selected by the Spirit in this way, wasn't it because the Spirit knew who was truly poor?

    At ten till ten, that next Sunday morning, I walked into our Church a bit doubtful of my salesmanship skills (which are atrocious). By ten after eleven, I had gotten four other men to support one kid each to go to Gatlinburg, all of whom was already sending one or two to the same event. One had to back out when the flu struck their breadwinner, but the very next person I asked stepped up to the plate. Each person was "tagged" by the Spirit in that the Spirit told me to ask them, and I didn't bother asking anyone who the Spirit didn't "tag".

    Amazing! I never could sell a thing during high school sales campaigns, but in 80 minutes I raised $600! I KNOW I am no salesman...

    ...But I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens me!

    A big danger is to listen to MEN when the Spirit is silent. It took me a while to realize that when the Spirit says nothing when you ask a question or need some guidance, the thing to do at that moment is to WAIT, not let some neo-circumciser waltz in and tell you what to do in the belief THEY are an authorized replacement for the Holy Spirit!

    But then again, isn't the current problem with many churches is that their leadership doesn't walk after the Spirit, and believe they are the authorized replacement for the Spirit?

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  2. Gerald,
    Great comment. I think you must understand well the force of Romans 8 and Galatians 5. Jesus gives us the Spirit as a source of stepping into his experience. We don't do things for God, but with him.

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  3. "We don't do things for God, but with him."

    I love that! My belief exactly...


    About the original post, I wouldn't myself talk about the need to bear fruit but the need to abide in the Vine, which will of course cause us to bear fruit. A young branch may bear little or no fruit at first and it may take a long time to bear much fruit, but of course you're right that anyone who never bears any fruit must not be alive in Jesus.

    I'm not sure manna and fruit is a good comparison either since I think manna was a temporary shadow of the eternal Bread from Heaven, but still I get your point.

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  4. Hey Jul.
    Nice to hear from you.

    Since I wasn't using manna in any typical sense, its figurative qualities really never entered my mind. I was hearkening back to an earlier post in which I used manna illustrating the fleeting nature of spiritual qualities, specifically fruit (this post) and faith (the prior post). The bottom line: spirituality doesn't make the transition from present to past well-- it lives in the present with Christ. I do like your point about abiding, that is a very present tense kind of a thing.

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