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The Necessary Fruit

6 April, 2010

How do I know if I’m a Christian?  How do I know that when I call out, “Lord, Lord” he won’t say, “Depart from me, I never knew you”?

Matthew 7.15-23
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Words spoken by Jesus.

I am guilty of talking about “cultural Christianity” over and over again, without really defining what that means (or at least what I mean when I say it).  So I want to do a little exegetin’ for a bit.  Don’t get bored.  If God says, “I never knew you, away from me!” what happens next will certainly not be boring.  So its better to know how not to be a cultural Christian now, rather than later.  Trust me.  I am a former cultural Christian.  Saved by grace through faith in the counter-cultural Christ.

Mark 4 may be the best description of what being a Christian in this world is all about.  Go figure, its the words of Christ again.  He knows all about what the reasons for being on this earth are.  He didn’t have to come here.  He didn’t belong here.  But he came anyway.  And he told us the reason we’re here.  So listen:

Mark 4.1-8
Jesus tells a story about a guy sowing some seeds in a field.  There are 3 types of seeds that fall, but are unproductive.  There is one type of seed that falls on “good soil.”  And what does it do?  It just grows up and looks really green and nice?  False.  It reproduces.  Some 30x some 60x, some 100x, but all the seed that falls on good soil reproduces.  It doesn’t just sit there.

Mark 4.9-13
Jesus says something quite funny, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Word.  Let ’em hear.  Funny thing is, most of the ears that are present don’t get it.  They ask why Jesus doesn’t just tell ’em straight up?  Jesus says, “if you don’t understand this, how do you understand any parable?”  Ha.  I think we better try, hard, to understand this one.  Don’t worry, Jesus explains it:

Mark 4.14-20
C’mon guys!  The seed is the Word!  Sometimes the Word falls on ears and the devil snatches it up, leaving no time for the person to even begin to be changed by it.  Other times the Word falls on ears, and it is received with joy!  The person gets pumped up about this Word that they hear.  But the root doesn’t grow deep, the faith is not true faith, and that which looked like faith burns out.  They fall away quickly in the face of persecution.  Then there’s the Word that falls on those ears that are also hearing a lot of distractions at the same time.  They grow up and look alright.  They are green, and different from the thorns and thistles (the deceptions) that surround them.  But they like the thorns and thistles.  And the thorns and thistles choke them out, making them bear no fruit.  But then there’s the one that falls on the good soil.  How do we know it falls on good soil?  Because it reproduces. It both looks like a good plant, and reproduces like a good plant.

Mark 4.21-25
This one’s pretty simple.  There’s no light in a room.  You light a lantern.  You put it under a basket?  False.  You put it on a stand so that other darkness can be illumined by it.  A light that doesn’t shine might as well not be a light.

Mark 4.26-29
A man sows crop, and even though he doesn’t know how it grows, he knows that it grows, and he harvests it.  He doesn’t just ignore it and watch it rot on the ground.  The purpose of the crop is the harvest.

Mark 4.30-34
The kingdom of God is like this y’all:  A mustard seed is small.  When you plant it, it gets huge.  Starts small, gets big.  Sound familiar?

So there we have it.  The parables of Mark 4.  In the ultra-paraphrased, bloggish fashion.  But I did that to show a point.  Do you see it?  In every single one of those parables Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God is all about reproduction.  So what is the purpose Kingdom-people on this sin-ravaged earth?  Our purpose is to make the Kingdom bigger.  And guess what.  Someone who says they believe in something, but doesn’t plead with others to believe the same thing, doesn’t really believe it at all.  That is why Jesus says we can judge someone by their fruit (back in Matthew 7).  Notice that he doesn’t say, “Those who produce bad fruit will be thrown into the fire.”  He says something much more scary:  “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” John the Baptist said the exact same thing in Luke 3.9.

So what is cultural Christianity?  Cultural Christianity is that seed that falls among thorns.  It looks like a good plant, with one exception: it has no fruit.  Somehow, that sort of fruit is rampant in our culture.  Cultural Christianity is this state of mind where someone says, “I am a believer in Christ as the way of salvation, but I don’t want to believe everything.  Mostly I don’t like all that stuff about telling people about Jesus.  And also that stuff about being the only way.  I mean, if my dad wasn’t a Christian, I wouldn’t be either, and that’s not fair for those people who’s dad wasn’t a Christian.”

A popular statistic being thrown around these days is that Islam is the fastest spreading spreading religion in the world right now.  I can assure you that is because it is a family (cultural) religion.  If your dad is a Muslim, you are a Muslim.  I can also assure you that people who say they are Christians because their family/country is Christian, and those that say they are Muslim because their family/country is Muslim are in the exact same predicament.  They are both going to end up in the same place.  And that is not in the Kingdom of God.

Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean you are a follower of your granddaddy who was a Baptist preacher.  That could be a great thing, and God could use it to grow your personal faith at a very young age (which is a beautiful thing that I pray will be true for my grandchildren).  But the reality of the Christian faith is that it must be a personal faith.  Faith that Jesus Christ is righteous and I am not.  Faith that being God incarnate, he suffered the wrath of the Holy God against sin, and he died.  He bledlike a man–and he died.  And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.  There is no forgiveness of MY sin without the shedding of blood.  The Christian’s faith is that Jesus shed that blood that was required to forgive MY sin.  Faith that He was the only one that ever could wash away my filthiness.  As the only God incarnate the world has ever known, he was the only “spotless lamb” that was ever spotless enough to wipe away every sin of every man that ever had or ever would put his faith in that lamb.  And then, after shedding the blood that was required, and dying the wretched death that was required, he defeated it.  He rose from the dead, making our faith in Him, to wipe away our own sin, legitimate faith.  Here’s the deal:  If we believe it, we will tell it.

If we believe that He can wash away sin, all sin, we must tell it! If it is our only hope, then we must tell those who are still in darkness, without hope.  How else will they know?  What other reason would we be left on this earth, instead of being swept up to heaven right now?

However, if we don’t really believe it, but it sounds nice, we can get away with not telling it.  While we’re here on this earth, we can get away with saying we believe in something, but not really believing it.  We can believe in the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things,” and then say we believe in Jesus. Because doesn’t he sound nicer than all that other stuff?

That’s what cultural Christianity is.  Unproductive.  Unfaithful.  Unredeemed.

But there is good news for you, if you realize you are just a cultural Christian.  I was the cheif of them, and only 5 years ago.  But the good Lord showed me that I am helpless without him.  He brought me to a place where all I could do was cry out to him to give me that faith.  And he did.  I wasn’t immediately filled with complete knowledge of him (as I obviously still am not full of complete knowledge of him).  But I was immediately filled with a desire to know Him more.  And to know faith more.  And to know Christ more.  I prayed for the first time.  I had talked to God before.  I had read the Bible before.  But when he gave me faith in eternal life, suddenly talking to my Redeemer was a lot more than vain repetitions.  Suddenly the Bible was real redemption stories.  It wasn’t just Sunday school stories.  It wasn’t (and still usually isn’t) just a feel-good book.  It is real.  Gripping.  Hard.  Joyful.  Faith full.  It was the truth behind what I was experiencing.  It is the truth.

And the Holy Spirit.  Man.  Makes a boy into a man of God, that is.  From what I’ve seen it makes a girl into a woman of the Lord too.

If you’re a cultural Christian, give up.  Let go.  Put your faith in Christ: not Christianity, not church, but Christ.  Only when you have faith in Christ for eternal salvation can you understand what Christianity and church are really meant for.  Freedom.

If you’re a true Christ follower, press on.  Keep reproducing.  Some 30 fold.  Some Sixty.  And someone hundred.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. K Dennis permalink
    6 April, 2010 20:11

    Thank-You for taking the time to address this head on with clarity and truth.

  2. Christine Clark permalink
    1 May, 2010 21:11

    This is such a clear, understandable message, I am going to share parts of it with my Sunday School at a devotional next week or so.
    You presented it in such a meaningful way that it really causes me to take stock of my own purpose and fruit bearing mission.

  3. 2 May, 2010 07:17

    Thanks for sharing!

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