And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 16, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
Nobody likes rotten fruit. There is nothing appealing about it. It stinks and it’s slimy. It attracts flies and other unsightly insects. Scavengers eat it. Have you ever wondered how rotten spiritual fruit must look to God? The Lord’s reaction to the lukewarm Christians in Laodicea gives us some insight; the Lord said He would vomit them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:15-16). Rotten spiritual fruit is repulsive to God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). Christians should be bearing fruit that does not rot. Think about some of the properties of fruit that will be present in our lives as we bear the fruit of the Spirit.
1. We commonly call fruit “produce.” Most of the fruit with which we are familiar is the product of nature and nurturing. Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit is produced when one is “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25). We are to live by the direction of the Spirit-inspired gospel--the faith He revealed (Gal. 3:2; 1:11, 23). The only way to bear fresh spiritual fruit is to abide in Christ (Jno. 15:1-5). Is spiritual fruit being produced in your life through your obedience to the gospel of Christ? Or, has your fruit rotted due to negligence and disobedience?
2. Just as fruit identifies its plant, our fruit identifies us. Jesus said bearing much fruit (which happens when we abide in Him) shows we are His disciples (Jno. 15:8). Bearing the fruit of the Spirit marks us as belonging to Christ. Remember, “by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20). The fruit of the Spirit in one’s life marks him as belonging to Christ. He has “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). The fruit we bear should identify us with Christ, not the world (Gal. 5:24, 19-21).
3. We know that fruit must grow to maturity. We do not plant an apple tree expecting ripened fruit to appear the next day. Spiritual fruit also takes time to develop and mature. The Scriptures often encourage us to grow to maturity or perfection (Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:13-14; Heb. 6:1; 1 Pet. 2:1-2). Spiritual growth happens as we obey the word of God (Heb. 5:12-14). We need diligence and endurance to grow in faith and obedience. But, we must be growing. Just as we cut down a fruit tree that never produces fruit, God will not receive us into the eternal kingdom of God if we do not bear good fruit for Him (Lk. 13:6-9; 2 Pet. 1:5-11). Is your fruit ripening to maturity?
By following the word of Christ we bear the fruit of the Spirit and show Christ to the world. So, is your fruit ripe or rotten? Do you draw people to Christ as they see your good works, or are they repulsed by the putrid fruit of unholy living (Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:11-12)? Does God approve of the fruit of your life, or does it make Him sick to His stomach (Rev. 3:15-16; Matt. 7:21-23)?
Joe R. Price
When Peter and John were severely threatened for teaching the gospel of Christ they called on their accusers to judge whether it was right “to listen to you more than to God”, then concluded, “for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 5:17-20). Their example when threatened emboldens us to speak the truth instead of being silent (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
It can be intimidating to talk with others about the Bible. For a variety of reasons, Christians may hesitate to the point of silence instead of speaking to others about the faith. Fear of what others will say and do to you if you speak up is one reason some stay silent. Others, wishing to avoid controversy, refuse to involve themselves in the unpleasant (yet necessary) task of reproving and rebuking error.
And then, there is the whole matter of relationships. The anticipation of hurting feelings and harming relations is enough to silence good people from saying what needs to be said to inform and to warn those lost in sin and confused by error. Perhaps Solomon’s wisdom is helpful here: “A word fitly spoken is like applies of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear” (Prov. 25:11-12). Solomon addresses both the speaker and the listener. A word that is carefully placed is of great valuable, being suitable to the circumstance (Col. 4:6). Additionally, the obedient person will value the person who gives wise rebuke. Christians must speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). We cannot be silent when the truth is twisted and souls are deceived by sin and error (Jude 3). We know some will receive us when we speak God’s word, and some will reject us (Jno. 15:20). But, like Peter and John, we must speak truth in order to try to save some (Acts 20:20).
A modern example of such intimidation just arrived in my email inbox. Ahead of “LGBT Pride Month” (June), the U.S. Department of Justice sent out a resource brochure to its employees on how to create “a workplace climate that is welcoming to and inclusive...in which LGBT employees feel welcome and included” (“LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers”). Among its “practical tips” on inclusion is this: “DO use inclusive words like ‘partner,’ “significant other’ or ‘spouse’ rather than gender-specific terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ (for example, in invitations to office parties or when asking a new employee about his/her home life).” This is a blatant effort to remove certain words from our vocabulary because their use offends those who violate their meaning! Incredible! A climate is being set in the DOJ, the U.S. government in general and throughout our society that says if you use “husband” and “wife” with their common meaning you are the one who is insensitive – or worse, a bigot. Why? In order to silence criticism against sin.
Here is another piece of counsel from the brochure, where managers are advised: “DO let your employees know they’ll be treated with fairness and respect...by ‘coming out’ as a straight ally. For example: Display a symbol in your office (DOJ Pride sticker, copy of this brochure, etc.) indicating this is a ‘safe space.’” So, is a Christian who is a manager at DOJ going to follow this advice? Not and be true to the Lord Jesus Christ! We treat everyone with kindness and respect, but we do not become allies with sin; we reprove it (Eph. 5:11). These are the types of situations where our faith is tested to stand for what is right before God without compromising the truth, being willing to suffer due to conscience toward God (1 Pet. 2:19).
Here’s another example of intimidation from the brochure: “Know How to Respond If an Employee Comes Out to You – DON’T judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval. DO respond with interest and curiosity. Asking respectful questions will set a positive, supportive tone.” So, the straight person is to respond to one “coming out” with supportive words and tone. And what if you do not? Will your job be on the line? Will you get reprimanded? At the DOJ, you are expected to respond to LGBT people with acceptance, approval and accommodation.
Sadly, we see similar tactics of intimidation among Christians. Efforts to silence the truth on controversial subjects keep elders, preachers and teachers from speaking the whole counsel of God. Some subjects are off limits (like divorce and remarriage and fellowship, social drinking, immodest clothing, etc.). Speak the truth and the ministers of the evil one will set out to smear your reputation and destroy your influence (3 Jno. 9-10). We are told to be accepting and inclusive, otherwise, we are troublers of Israel. If we relent, truth is silenced and error advances. Brethren, we must stand up, stand fast and speak the truth (1 Cor. 16:13-14)!
An atmosphere of intimidation, intended to reshape societal attitudes by silencing critics, is beginning to prevail across the land. We know this is nothing new; it has always been so with worldly, ungodly people. Like Herod cutting off John’s head to silence his dissent, these purveyors of evil metaphorically cut out the tongues of those who speak the truth about sin, all the while disguising themselves as the truly tolerant and compassionate ones. Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked. Each one will reap what he has sown (Gal. 6:7-8).
The temptation to remain silent when we ought to speak the truth of the gospel to those lost in sin can be very strong. Of course, our Adversary, the devil, wants us to be silent. And so, through intimidation, manipulation, isolation and more, his ministers attempt to inject fear and doubt into the hearts of God’s children. Our Adversary says, “Marginalize them, threaten them and keep them silent”, for he knows the power of salvation is in the word of God (Rom. 1:16). Keep it from being spoken and souls remain lost. Speak it to the world and good hearts will hear it, hold it fast and bear fruit (Lk. 8:15). Will you and I speak up or be silent?
The Day of Salvation (Acts 3)
Scripture Reading: Acts 3:22-26
The gospel had a glorious beginning on Pentecost, Acts 2.
I. A DAY OF HEALING,
II. A DAY OF GOSPEL
PREACHING, Acts 3:12-21.
III. A DAY OF
DECISION, Acts 3:22-24.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Joe R. Price
According to one Cambridge University professor, religion may spread over the earth due to a “believers’ gene”:
Cambridge University economics professor Robert Rowthorn theorizes a “predisposition toward religion” in a paper published in “Proceedings of the Royal Society B,” a prestigious journal of Britain’s Royal Society of scientists.
Rowthorn suggests that people with strong religious beliefs tend to have more children and that this, combined with a genetic predisposition to believe, can explain the expansion of religion. (“Study Links Spread of Religion With ‘Believer Gene’”, Al Webb, Religious News Service, huffingtonpost.com)
Over the past decade there has been talk of a “God gene” when molecular biologist Dean Hamer published “The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes”, putting forward the suggestion that spirituality is “hot-wired” into humanity. (This hypothesis grows out of a purely evolutionary view of human beings.)
Please note the following:
1) Human beings are more than chemical reactions and molecular interactions. Put simply, we are more than flesh and blood; we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). This does not argue for a “God gene”. We did not evolve from lower life forms; we are unique in this world. Whenever people refuse “to retain God in their knowledge” they rebel against a crucial element of their very being (Rom. 1:21, 28-32).
2) Human beings are made to respond to the evidence and work of our Creator. Paul said God’s rule over the nations of men is a reason for people to “seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him...” (Acts 17:26-27). Evidence, not genes, brings us to God.
3) Attributing belief to genes allows people to escape personal responsibility for their moral and religious choices. Freewill concerning God is minimized by a “believer’s” gene. We make decisions about truth; it is not in the genes (Jno. 8:24; Matt. 28:18; Gal. 6:7). Will you choose to believe and be saved (Mk. 16:15-16)?
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 05/26/2013
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA