E-Meditation Wednesday February 1, 2007
This week, please memorize the following Scripture: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth" (Isaiah 21:6).
By Their Fruit
by pastor David L. Burns
“Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:11-12).
When I played basketball, we had tryouts. Everyone who went out for basketball saw themselves as a basketball player. The gym clothes, the basketball tennis shoes, the freshly waxed basketball floor, the hoops, the sounds and the ball all made us feel like we were basketball players. But over the course of a week or two, a couple of coaches would watch for our fruit. They would take us through various drills to measure our fruit, to see if we really were basketball players. Finally, names would be posted of those who fruit told the truth.
James said that a fig tree cannot bear olive berries nor can a vine bear figs. It is the fruit, the apple itself that undoubtedly reveals the true identity of the tree.
The fruit of a man reveals the true identity of a man. Of all the questions and comments I receive from these E-Meditations, the most common concerns church troubles. In 1982 I was awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of gunshots and discovered that angry church members were threatening the pastor at a nearby church and he return fired some warning shots in the air to break up their attacks. What a mess!
It the coach picks players based on what they say instead of their fruit, the basketball team is a mess on the floor. Churches typically do not pick or choose their members. Leaders are called out and chosen based on their Biblical qualifications. Yet, isn’t the entire Bible a qualifier, instructions on what is expected of all believers?
A few times I’ve been asked to arbitrate church disputes. It is very sad to hear the different sides, to see the lines that have been drawn. Usually, it started out petty, a careless thought or word that could be easily withdrawn and forgiven. But let me tell you what causes most church trouble. It is when the fig tree tries to bear olives. It is when the maple tree claims to be an apple tree. It is when a false convert claims to be a Christian.
Now within the typical local congregation there are plenty of false converts. The church nicely calls them immature or nominal Christians, and tolerates their Spirit-less actions usually because they are related to members of the church or the church just doesn’t want to tangle with them because of the repercussions.
By the way, they are expert church hoppers too! Spiritually dull pastors are clueless when this unsuspecting visitor visits their church, slamming their last church, and tells the new pastor how much they like his church, how he is not like the last pastor. They lay low sometimes for years. Unless there is true repentance, they are destined to repeat the cycle, and move in and stake their claim on the church, voicing their opinions, consuming the pastor’s time discussing petty disputes and drawing a small group of dissenters around them to cause a church problem.
If they were truly Spirit-led, they would handle any difference Biblically, in love, through gracious communications and with forgiveness, grace and mercy. But as Spirit-less, they will eventually behave like a bull in a china shop, breaking the most fragile.
Even in times of congregational peace and tranquility, be on guard. Like a sly lion, they are sneaking up to make their attack and devour. They can say the right things for a decade, and support you with cards, gifts and encouragement. But beware because without true public repentance you and your church are next.
How can this be avoided? Not everyone who wants to “get baptized” wants to repent and cry out for a new life in Christ! Not everyone who joins your church wants to make Jesus LORD of their life. Not everyone who walks down the aisle during invitation time wants to live for Jesus. Some are just looking to Jesus for a temporary loan to get over a financial problem. Some are looking just to join a church to get over feeling lonely. Some are just wanting to play their instrument, to flaunt their skills. Few are truly broken and contrite, crying out to God to forgive them. Few go home so transformed that they transform their house, their hobbies, how they raise their kids, how they spend their money and what they do with their spare time. Most go home as “Christians” and live the same life. Oh, you know I’m preaching the truth, no matter how much you may want to disagree and wish for something better to be said, you know what I am saying is the truth.
So to avoid the production of false converts, church leaders need to truly consider those who want to “join a church.” Are they truly saved? Do they desire to live a truly transformed life? If they are transferring their membership, time should be taken to discuss their Spiritual health with their previous church leadership so the new church can grow them past their problems or lead them to true repentance. But, I am afraid pastors’ egos will get into the way. The congregational size is more important to most pastors than the congregation’s health.
Another verse in James sheds some more light. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:16-17).
The Bible is clear that church confusion, trouble and division is caused from envy and strife. But the truly Spirit-led man will bear good fruit, fruit of purity, peace, gentleness and mercy that will lead to a healthy resolve.
I pastor a congregation that is tough! They pull no punches. They can sniff out hypocrisy, demons, hucksters and everything else that is shy of the anointed of God. These men and women are Spirit men, Spirit women. They desire the raw presence of God. We are hard on each other! As a family of God we are expected to bear fruit as a family of God. And because of our desire to be led by the Spirit, we avoid confusion, envy and strife. Oh, that doesn’t meant the devil still doesn’t throw us some offers to go down his path, but because we preach true repentance and holiness, the devil doesn’t get a foothold for long!
In Genesis 24, when Abraham was old, he had his servant go and find the God-given wife for his son. The man went and it says in Scripture that the man watched her, observing whether the LORD had made his journey complete. He watched her, inquired of her to be sure. Why are we so unwilling to test the spirits, so unwilling to single out the wolves in sheep’s clothing?
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5).
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for true Spirit-led believers who bear good fruit, fruit that creates a healthy congregation. Protect Your Church against those who seek to bring division and trouble. In Jesus’ Mighty Name! AMEN!
Re-arranging my life for Christ,
David L. Burns
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