Friday, June 15, 2007

fruit inspection

The Bible talks a lot about our lives and churches producing fruit. What does this mean? Let me take a second to explain it, and then I will give you some perspectives on how this effects all of us as individuals and as a church.

We are all planting an orchard called "the kingdom of God" and in a sense we are all johnny-appleseed every moment of every day in the seeds we leave behind in other peoples lives through our words, attitudes, and actions.

Thus we have 2 impacts. One is our personal impact and legacy; and secondly what our corporate [group / church] impact and legacy will be.

Personal fruit the Bible talks about:

  1. Good works. While the New Testament makes it clear that these have no effect on our salvation, they do effect our standing before both men and God. Paul says that we are "predestined" to certain good works which may be a reference to our own personal life-purposes and destiny. But it also includes the basics of kindness, respect, and working hard for our boss. The reputation of all of Christianity is to be found in the good works of individuals. This is also the light-side of holiness. The Bible has lots of "do not..." but sometimes Christians focus far more on these negatives to avoid than on the things to pursue and embrace that God tells us to do. Widows, orphans, and those in prison must be served with love.
  2. Character. Sometimes called virtue which is the opposite of vice. This is the hidden fruit of internal ethics that only you and God really know about. The thoughts, attitude of the heart, and choices we make deep inside. Personality is what people see and character is that which lies beneith. Character is built bit by bit and forged through struggle and temptation and testing. And a persons true character is seen by all when placed under the pressure of circumstances. God tells us that our character is to be be godly...God-like. This is seen through virtues like longsuffering, patience, endurance, etc.

Group fruit the Bible talks about:

  1. In the Old Testament towns, families, cities, and nations are all told they will be judged as individuals and as groups for what they have done. In our American individualism it is hard to imagine this, but it remains in the book. Thus, Ashland, Ohio, and the USA will be judged as a unit as well as individuals in the future. This makes for interesting assessment of being green, foreign policy, etc.
  2. Churches will be judged for a variety of things as seen in the letters to the churches in revelation. These things include: being ashamed of Jesus in front of unvelievers or being courageous in evangelism; loving one another as brothers and sisters...or not; and standing up for truth or ignoring heresy [like the Nicolatians] Paul also says that church discipline is something to be done to keep people on the straight and narrow through tough love.

Interestingly there are also crowns given to individuals who produce specfic fruit through thier lives.

Thus we end up with some practical questions for all our lives. To answer these questions you need to be able to point to real-life experiences and not good-intentions.

  • What is my life-long life-purpose and am I aimed at developing it?
  • What good works am I doing in the lives of the unchurched? When was the last time an unchurched person felt you love them deeply in a practical way specifically because you were a jesus-follower!
  • Is my internal character a well kept garden or a sewer about to explode? What am I doing about it!
  • Is our church loving one another and am I doing this in a practical sense? When was the last time you gave money, stuff, dinner...some act of practical loving to a fellow believer as an individual!
  • Is our church telling people about Jesus or are we ashamed? Besides hoping vaguely that that magically come to church!
  • Is our church courageous enough to discipline one another and bring out the best in each other through tough love? When was the last time a mentor said "I love you enough to talk to you about..."
  • Are our children becoming 'religious' or missionaries? Are they mimicing church culture...or...experiencing God and expressing God!
  • Are our teenagers sucked into the matrix of Americana or are they becoming truely subversive and revolutionary by moving beyond hedonism and cynicism to dare to be holy and loving? Is church a stop-gap in hopes they will turn out ok or is it a training ground for eager explorers, artists, and leaders!
  • Are our Seminary students being prepared for a lifetime of service by what they learn from our church? Beyond school are we helping them get the experience they need.
  • Are the unchurched who come in contact with us pleasantly surprised by how fun, loving, joyful, hopeful, and good we are?
  • Are we serving the students at Ashland knowing this is a crucial time in thier lives? Are you gonna show up on move-in day and carry luggage for them...or not?
  • Are we on page with what God wants to do through us, or, are we searching for what God will do for us? This is the #1 problem with american christianity...the increasing assumption that God wants to serve us and the decreasing assumption that his followers are people who live to serve him.



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