A Fruit Bearing Life – October 15, 2021

Just had a conversation with one of the Bible teachers here at WOGF who is teaching on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:26-27) and it brought to mind a piece written by Dr. Ryrie (my teachers’ teacher, including my predecessor and boss for three years). I hope it’s a blessing and a challenge to you, as you take time to consider all the ways we can and should bear fruit! 

Fruitful Blessings,

Pastor Scott

What is fruit? Actually, the question ought to be phrased in the plural: What are fruits which a Christian can bear? The N.T. gives several answers to the question. 

  1. A developing Christian character is fruit. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms in Galatians 5:22-23, and Peter urges the development of seven accompaniments to faith in order that we might be fruitful (2 Peter 1:5-8). Two of these terms are common to both lists: love and self-control. The others are joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, virtue, knowledge, endurance, piety, and brotherly love. To show these character traits is to bear fruit in one’s life. 
  2. Right character will result in right conduct, and as we live a life of good works, we produce fruit (Colossians 1:10). This goes hand in hand with increasing in the knowledge of God, for as we learn what pleases Him, our fruitful works become more and more conformed to that knowledge. When Paul expressed how torn he was between the two possibilities of either dying and being with Christ or living on in this life, he said that living on would mean fruitful labor or work (Philippians 1:22). This phrase could mean that (1) his work itself was fruit, or (2) fruit would result from his work. In either case, his life and work were fruit. So may ours be. 
  3. Those who come to Christ through our witness are fruit. Paul longed to go to Rome to have some fruit from his ministry there (Romans 1:13), and he characterized the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the first fruits of Achaia (I Corinthians 16:15). 
  4. We may also bear fruit with our lips by giving praise to God and thankfully confessing His name (Hebrews 13:15). In other words, our lips bear fruit when we offer thankful acknowledgement to the name of God. And this is something we should do continually. 
  5. We bear fruit when we give money. Paul designated the collection of money for the poorer saints in Jerusalem as fruit (Romans 15:28). Too, when he thanked the Philippians for their financial support of his ministry, he said that their act of giving brought fruit to their account (Philippians 4:17, KJV). 

Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, 1989, pp. 49-50.

Adiaphora – Oct 8, 2021

Last week I challenged us to make the main thing the main focus of our conversation and to not allow “adiaphora” to divide us.  My editors encouraged me to find a different word, despite adiaphora being the very best word, because we don’t use it anymore.  I was a bit shocked that it’s not even in my most often used online dictionary!  I did, however, find it on a Bible site: 

Abstract – Most lay Christians probably have never heard of the concept adiaphora (plural) or adiaphoron (singular). Adiaphora, a word borrowed from the Greek, means “things that are indifferent.” It has its origin among the Greek Stoic philosophers (4th Century BC) who first used the concept to indicate a given act was neither a virtue nor a vice. The Greek word diaphoron means “difference,” but when the letter alpha (a) is prefixed to diaphoron, the word means “indifferent.” Hence, in regard to given theological or ecclesiastical beliefs or practices, adiaphora refer to beliefs or practices that are biblically indifferent, that is, neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. Adiaphora are those matters that Christians in their God-given liberty are free to do or not to do.       

Alvin J. Schmidt

I need to thank a pastor from my youth, who was rather youthful himself, for using that word so often in my hearing.  Pastor Nathan was instrumental in challenging my thinking when it came to dividing tradition or habits from biblical truths.   

It’s NOT wrong to form convictions.  It’s not wrong to have those convictions produce habits that allow us to walk in godly patterns.  Both the convictions and the habits may be based on application of biblical principles.  But principles are not precepts.  And when we have been believers for a long time, especially if we’ve been multi-generational believers or grown up in a strong tradition, it’s easy for us to start to think of our principles as precepts. 

It’s not a huge leap from there to judging others or even to creating roadblocks to faith!!  I personally struggle in both directions, despite what I KNOW.  I have strong personal convictions that I know to be adiaphora.  Yes, for me they have a principled basis, but in the absolute they are neither commanded nor forbidden, yet I struggle to watch believers who have freedom.  On the other hand, as a watch people get “religious” about their diets or about complying with various health recommendations; it’s equally as easy for me to be pridefully comendemning.   All of those principled but non-spelled-out issues are adiaphora when it comes to unity in the Church.  I’m all for controlling our children, but we don’t need to try to control each other beyond the precepts of scripture.  Amen?!?!

Pastor Scott

14 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bend to me,

    and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning

Romans 14 (New Living Translation)

The Third Strand – October 1, 2021

Like the Apostle Paul did in Ephesians 5, I want to use marriage to launch into a brief point about the Church.  Here’s a sermon illustration that appeared in Leadership Journal, c. 1993. 

A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair.  But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all they would quickly unravel.

Herein lies the mystery: what looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strands tightly woven. In a Christian marriage, God’s presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together.

This is a powerful little illustration and we, who are married, ought to make sure we haven’t sort of “pushed” God out of our relationship by filling our lives up with so much busyness or entertainment, that He has no place. But that’s not really the point of this article. I want us to think in terms of relational connections at church.

There should be a single strand that runs between each of us in a community that keeps us united. Paul calls it being “of the same mind,” or having “the mind of Christ,” or being “of one accord.” Since the Reformation, people have been gathered in churches based on doctrinal affiliation and later based on polity and even worship style. We might not always agree with specific choices made, but at least these choices are along biblical or “religious” grounds. So the single strand may be rather thick – doctrine, polity, and worship style. But at least the focus, we trust, is how can we best worship the Father of our Lord and Savior!

Something different has been brewing in our churches* with the advent of 24-hour news, the 365-day election cycle and social media. The small talk is starting to sound a lot more like what Paul was encountering all over Asia as dispersed Jewish believers were trying to figure out church with first generation Gentile believers. Each carried personal convictions and/or practices that threatened to shatter the unity of the church. We, these days, are no longer just talking about how work is going or about family life. Politics, and even national health care directives, are now divisive Christian talking points. We need to be reminded, as were the Corinthians and the Romans, that our gathering is about Jesus, not about whether the orange man was good or evil! Or whether vaccines should or shouldn’t be mandated! Or whether you should all be doing keto! (This is fun!)  

Romans is known as Paul’s great treatise on the Gospel; it ends with two chapters on unity.  Chapter 14 is about unity despite differing personal convictions. The conclusion is, essentially, that we each directly answer to God, not to each other. So stop condemning and/or judging (even with our facial expressions, body language, and Facebook posts)!  In Chapter 15, Paul explains why Abba doesn’t want His kids snipping at one another while worshipping Him, any more than you want to try reading a story to kids on your lap who are wrestling one another (or even name calling).  It robs those moments of your joy in them!  Something to think about. 

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Romans 15:5-6

Let’s allow our Third Strand  – Christ and His Cross – to grow so thick that nobody knows or cares about whether we root for Donkeys or Elephants every four years!  After all, we are rooting for our neighbors to be loved into faith every day!

Blessings,

Pastor Scott

*I’m aware that politics and church have been interwoven for generations, but I’ve not seen this kind of invasive division before, unless you count all of you ganging up on the Broncos fans who moved here in the 90’s!  LOL