The Fruitless Branch & The Gardener
As I continue to mature in this Christian walk, I find it interesting how my understanding of scripture is constantly changing. By changing I don’t mean that I once believed one thing and now I believe something totally different. I mean my understanding of passages is going from one level to another. For example I use to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, now I do not. I do however still believe that there will be a rapture of the saints. Just don’t agree with the pre-tribulation timing. I use to think that Christians would be With Jesus in Heaven for all eternity, now I do not. I whole heartedly believe that Christians will be with Jesus; however, I believe it is a contradiction of scripture to think we will be in Heaven. I use to think that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Holy Spirit but now I do not. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still functioning today; however, I do not believe that scripture teaches these are “signs” or “proof” of his indwelling. Now some of you will disagree with my stance on these subjects and that’s fine. In my opinion none of these are salvific issues and any discussion that should be had in these areas are discussions amongst fellow believers. And even tho these are all hot button issues, the most shocking change in my understanding of scripture is the topic of salvation. Before I dive into this more I feel it important to express that I hold firm to the biblical teaching that Salvation is Solo Gratia, by grace alone and Solo Fide, by faith alone.
Now unto the nuts & bolts. There are several passages of scripture that I feel every believer should be aware of. And if for no other reason it’s because we often hear a lot of people say that God is love and he loves me for me. And that’s all fine and dandy but I caution you not to be deceived. Yes God loves you where you are but his love will not leave you where you are. God’s love will meet you where you are but if you deny his precepts his righteousness will crush you where you are. People only want to talk about the love of God but very few are focusing on his righteousness. God is Love and Righteous. Neither one of these attributes are greater than the other and both are always present. I would like to spend some time looking at several passages of scripture and see what God’s righteousness means for us as believers.
15.“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
~ Matthew 7:15-23 ESV
When you read verse 15 through 19, conventional wisdom will have you think Jesus is talking about non believers. But when you continue to read verses 21 through 23 you see that he is actually addressing people who claim to be believers but are not. You see in the Kingdom of God there is no stagnation. and true believers will bear fruit and not just any fruit. But fruit that forwards the kingdom of God. Notice what Christ says in verse 16 & 20. The fruit we bear is the evidence of our salvation, Not speaking in tongues. Not saying a Prayer. James picks up on this same concept in Chapter two of his letter.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
~ James 2:14-19 ESV
James makes it very clear that our works are evidence of our faith. Not so much the things that we say but the things that we do. See when you walk in a room, you don’t just see an empty chair and say that this chair can support my weight. But you see that chair assess if it can support you, then you exercise your faith by sitting down on it. The same can be said about our proclamations about Christianity. This is not just something that we tell people about every now and again or listen to on Sunday mornings. We have to exercise that which we believe by walking out our faith everyday of our lives. This means holding fast to biblical principles, preaching and living the Gospel of Christ, running from sin & living a holy life. Now I know there are those who say “I do these things but I don’t do them perfectly and often times I fall short in my life. And because I fall are you saying I’m not a Christian?” No No No that is not at all the point I’m trying to make. For I firmly believe that no one is perfect and we all fall short of the standards of God as Romans 3:23 declares. I am, however, saying that if you are and individual who proclaims to be a Christian, as 75% of the American culture does, yet there is no evidence of that in your lifestyle, you should re-evaluate your worldview. As Jesus said in Luke 14, that we should count the cost of following him. You can not pay your way into fellowship with Jesus; however, it will cost you something:
- It will cost you your will. For Jesus said if anyone wants to follow him he must deny himself and take up his cross. For whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will take it up again. as the scripture declares in Matthew 16:24-25, John 12:25, Luke 17:33.
- It will cost you your body. For the scriptures declares that we were bought with a price and are now the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit; furthermore, we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Romans 12:1.
- It will cost you your mind. For the scriptures declare that we must no longer think the way the world thinks, but we must renew our own minds so that we may discern the will of God, and we must not accept the arguments of the world that are contrary to God’s word but tear them down, and take captive ever wayward thought and make it obedient to Christ. Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5.
This Christian walk will cause you to give up some things. And many times these things are that which we hold in high regards and will struggle to walk away from. Other times it may be something that is so small that at the drop of a dime it is out of your life. Rather it is the former or the latter, if you are willing to sacrifice these things for Christ sake he will reward you.
Today I plead with you that you will work to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. Everyday you wake up seek to further his Kingdom in some way. Not because your works will ultimately contribute to your salvation. But because your works are evidence of your salvation. Evaluate your life. Spiritually audit yourself to see rather your actions line up with your tongue and if it does. I pray the Lord will continue to give you grace and favor to continue to do so. But if it does not I pray the Lord will give you grace and favor to change your ways. Because Jesus declares in John 15:1-8 that he is the true vine, his father is the gardener and we are the branch. Every branch that is in the vine that bears fruit will be pruned so that it will bear more fruit, and every branch that is in the vine that does not bear fruit will be taken away and cast into the fire. But if he abides in us and we abide in him, we will bear much fruit and glorify God in the process.
My friends it is with love and hope that I write this message to you. Never intending for it to be viewed as something that causes doubt, for doubt is not the aim of our ministry; however, I pray that this is a splash of ice water in the face of those who are spiritually sleep. Please hear me on today. It is time to wake up, while there is still time to wake up. Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!