Bad fruit is bad

Yesterday I wrote about the wind, meaning, the Spirit, blowing where it will. I wrote of how we can’t see the wind at the time but we can see its effects. One of the effects of the wind’s (Spirit’s) effect is fruit. The changed heart will be producing good fruit. A bad heart produces only bad fruit. The unsaved who profess but do not possess Christ will produce bad fruit at some point. False teachers will produce bad fruit also.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 NASB)

Please notice the certainty in the lesson. Jesus said ‘You WILL know them’. Not that it will be uncertain, or foggy, or maybe, or perhaps. But you WILL.

Not all fruit is produced quickly. Different fruit trees bear fruit at different lengths of time. After planting, fig trees bear figs after 1-2 years. Apple trees take 3-5 years to produce fruit. Pear trees take about 4-6 years. The point is, not all false teachers will quickly show their true nature, but at some point, no matter how long it takes, they will produce the bad fruit Jesus spoke of. And then you will know them.

They wear sheep’s clothing. This means that outwardly false teachers will appear on the surface to be like the true sheep. Barnes’ Notes explains here,

Who come in sheep’s clothing – The sheep is an emblem of innocence, sincerity, and harmlessness. To come in sheep’s clothing is to assume the appearance of sanctity and innocence, when the heart is evil.

Ravening wolves – Rapacious; voraciously devouring; hungry even to rage. Applied to the false teachers, it means that they assumed the appearance of holiness in order that they might the more readily get the property of the people. They were full of extortion and excess. See Matthew 23:25.

I remember watching an art interpretation show some years back. I like Renaissance art and this episode featured Caravaggio and his famous painting of the Bacchus. I have seen the actual painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Here it is.

Caravaggio_-_Bacco_adolescente_-_Google_Art_Project

I wish I could go back and really appreciate the art now that my spiritual eyes have been opened. I remember standing in front of it at the Uffizi for a short moment, and saying to myself, “Pretty! I like fruit.” And then moving on. Outwardly the painting looked good.

Let’s not move on. Let’s look at this scene for a moment.

Bacchus is a god of wine and ecstasy. Starting at the top, Bacchus’ cheeks. His cheeks are ruddy, but not a healthy ruddy like David, from being out in the air and working hard. (1 Samuel 16:12). No, Bacchus’ cheeks are red from dissipation, from drunkenness and licentiousness and debauchery and overindulgence. His eyes are glazed and drowsy.  He is half dressed, exposing skin, indicating sensuousness, but the mattress he is laying on is dirty. He is offering the viewer wine, a beverage that will make one take leave of senses. But his near nakedness is also indicating he is offering something more. His fingernails are dirty.

Now the fruit. Looking hard at the fruit, you notice that despite the lushness and the voluminous quantity, the fruit is overripe. It’s rotting. It’s bad. The apple has a worm. The pomegranate has burst open. The nectarine is rotten.

fruit

If you want an technical description of this bowl of disease, here it is

Exact in detail they include precise representations of disease symptoms, insect damage, and various abiotic defects. … The fruits include black, red, and white clusters of grapes; a bursting pomegranate; figs; a large green pear; three apples—one greenish and one red with a codling moth (Carpocapsa pomonella) entrance hole, a small, golden russet crab with two areas of rot, likely a form of Botrysphaeria; and a half-rotten quince. The basket contains two fig leaves both with a dorsal (abaxial) view and a grape leaf yellowing at the edge suggestive of potassium deficiency. The head of Bacchus is crowned with clusters of black and white grapes and senescing leaves, one of which is turning red, probably an indication of crown gall, induced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Source: Purdue Department of Landscape and Horticulture

Eww. The fruit of debauchery is rotten. The fruit is BAD. False teachers only offer bad fruit.

Do you want to eat the bad fruit? Bite into an apple with a moth worm inside? Consume sickly peaches dripping with its own rotted pus?

People often try to be charitable with false teachers. I understand wanting to be charitable, but there is a time and a place for charity. False teachers are evil. They are against Jesus. They are against you. They are against me.

Jesus said that there is good fruit and bad fruit. He didn’t say that there was fence fruit or sort of OK fruit or any fruit in the middle. The fruit teachers offer is either one or the other.

I learned my lesson with the art. Art takes a while to look at, examine, notice, and ponder. It’s the same with what teachers teach us. Good teachers and bad teachers offer us things. It takes time to look at, examine, notice, and ponder what they are offering. Once we discern the bad from the good, we are told to hold on to the good and leave off the bad.

but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

So there is no excuse for listening to someone generally and widely acknowledged to be a false teacher. A false teacher does not offer anything good. Their fruit is bad. You can’t follow them and expect them to produce one good fruit on the tree. Jesus said the tree is either all good or all bad.

Don’t eat of their fruit. Don’t quote them. Don’t buy their books. Don’t eat the meat and spit out the bones, which doesn’t even make sense because we are talking about fruit. When you are tempted to peek at a false teacher’s site/tweets/stream/Facebook/books, picture the debauched Bacchus with dirty fingernails on a dirty mattress offering you wormy rotted fruit.

Instead, we can imbibe of the sweet waters from the fountain of life and the pure bread from heaven.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
Psalm 36:7-9

—————————————-

Further Reading

Ligonier: False Prophets and their Fruits

CARM: You will know them by their fruit

The wind blows where it will

I was years and years upon the brink of hell—I mean in my own feeling. I was unhappy, I was desponding, I was despairing. I dreamed of hell. My life was full of sorrow and wretchedness, believing that I was lost. ~ Charles Spurgeon as a teenager

wind

Charles Spurgeon’s torments in wanting to be saved are well-known. Spurgeon knew he needed salvation because of his sins, but also knew he couldn’t decide to save himself. He needed the external specific call.

He didn’t just sit around and wait though. He read his Bible, he prayed, and he sought- resolving to visit every church in his district one at a time, repeatedly.

John Bunyan’s experience was similar. In his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he was tormented by his sin and knew he needed Jesus. He read his Bible, tried various things, until he realized conversion is all of God, election. He wrote,

With this scripture I could not tell what to do: for I evidently saw, unless that the great God, of His infinite grace and bounty, had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long, and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore this would stick with me, How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you should not? How then?

O Lord, thought I, what if I should not indeed? It may be you are not, said the Tempter; it may be so indeed, thought I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther; for if indeed, you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no talk of your being saved; For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that showeth mercy.

By these things I was driven to my wits’ end,

But Bunyan didn’t leave off, and didn’t sit and wait for grace to drop into his lap as Spurgeon didn’t wait around for grace to fall into his lap. Though conversion is only from Jesus, the sinner can prepare, inquire, be active. Bunyan kept reading the scriptures, pleading, and praying.

At one point in his faith journey, Bunyan had been wracked with torment, and he laid down to rest and nap. He had a dream that he was trying to get thru a wall to go from the cold side of a great mountain into the sun on the other side. Eventually he found a passageway but it was exceedingly narrow. He got his head in, barely, and wriggled his body sideways, very narrow and could hardly get thru. He realized he had dreamed of the narrow gate. He wrote,

that none could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unless also they left that wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.

But what now? Bunyan asked. What if one is not elected? And if one was elected, how would one know that salvation had come? Bunyan again-

Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ; but instead of having satisfaction here, I began to find my soul to be assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness, especially with such as these: Whether I was elected. But how if the day of grace should be past and gone? By these two temptations I was very much afflicted and disquieted, sometimes by one and sometimes by the other of them.

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

We don’t know who will be saved or when. We can’t control the wind.

We can see its effects, though. Here is my favorite Paul Washer story. It’s 3 minutes and I think it will bless you. It seems to me to be a good example of the Wind moving in a soul. When one isn’t saved one can read the Bible and read it and read it, but it will not make sense because one cannot discern spiritual things, as the verse says-

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).

But when the wind moves in a man’s soul, it moves so we can see the effect! Suddenly the scales fall and the Bible’s verses have extreme meaning!

The wind blows where it will…but keep praying for salvation for your dear lost ones, and keep looking for fruit in those who say they have felt the Spirit move in them. Tomorrow, more on fruit.

 

Sunday Word of the Week: Immanence

Last week the word was Transcendence. God is apart from His creation, different from it. This week the word is Immanent or Immanence,

God’s immanence refers to His presence within His creation. (It is not to be confused with imminence, which refers to the timing of Jesus’ return to earth.) A belief in God’s immanence holds that God is present in all of creation, while remaining distinct from it. In other words, there is no place where God is not. His sovereign control extends everywhere simultaneously. Source GotQuestions

Immanence: God’s presence and activity within the creation and human history. Source: Biblical Doctrine, MacArthur/Mayhue, p 931

God is so majestic! Mysterious! How can He be both apart from His creation, and present within it?! At the same time? It shows who our God is. It’s why I chose these two words one after the other to demonstrate His essential otherness.

One other notion that is important to emphasize.

Pantheism and deism twist many people’s view of how God relates to His creation. Pantheists believe that everything is God or is a part of God, making Him equal with His creation and unable to act upon it. Deists hold that God is distinct from His creation but deny that He plays an active role in it. Contrary to these and other false views of God, the Bible says that God is both different from His creation and actively upholding it.

We must not stress His immanence at the expense of His transcendence, and vice versa.

That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:27).

Note: Modern pantheism is seen in William P. Young’s The Shack, Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of Eckart Tolle, and in Ann Voskamps’s book One Thousand Gifts as an offshoot of pantheism, panentheism. It is easy to twist both immanence and transcendence, either by direct twisting or omitting one in favor of the other. It is why it is important to learn these terms so we retain a balanced view of God.

—————————-

Sunday Word of the Week 1: Justification

Sunday Word of the Week 2: Transcendence

What’s on my nightstand- and why

My church family is a family of readers. That’s good. I am a reader too. That means we are also talkers about books. We love to interact mindfully and intentionally about spiritual things. Our elders model this and encourage it. Our Family Groups, Book Clubs, and get-togethers are rife with conversations that are sparked with questions like, “Can you share any insights from your latest Bible reading?” “What do you think of the Bible Reading Plan segment for today?” “What books are you reading?”

The penetrating questions perform two functions. One function is that we are a like-minded bunch who love to read! We unite around literacy. This is good because it means we also read the Bible. Secondly, it keeps us accountable. It keeps me accountable anyway. When I read, I need to comprehend, and then retain and then share.

I’ve noticed that though I love reading and I’ve been a reader all my life, lately I was reading less. I read fewer books and the time I spent reading them was growing shorter and shorter. I was comprehending less too, and retaining almost nothing. I realized that most of my reading was done on a laptop. And that was weird because I dislike reading on screen.

I soon realized the type of reading I was doing was the issue. With my limited time to read after work, I was reading tweets, GroupMe chats, Facebook shares, short blogs, and the like. Digital reading predisposes us to reading superficially and quickly. Bible reading demands the opposite. Uh-oh.

In his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, author Tony Reinke exposed the issue. Several experiments had been done on reading and they were summarized in The New Yorker. (July 16, 2014). Turns out there is a difference in the way people read depending on if the text is on a screen or on a page.

On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, [Ziming] Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.

Of Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldmsith’s experiment, published in the Journal of Psychology Applied it was discovered,

The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate.

In addition, of Mary Dyson’s research, we read,

The online world, too, tends to exhaust our resources more quickly than the page. We become tired from the constant need to filter out hyperlinks and possible distractions. And our eyes themselves may grow fatigued from the constantly shifting screens, layouts, colors, and contrasts, an effect that holds for e-readers as well as computers.

Of Anne Mangen’s research,

The shift from print to digital reading may lead to more than changes in speed and physical processing. It may come at a cost to understanding, analyzing, and evaluating a text. Much of Mangen’s research focusses on how the format of reading material may affect not just eye movement or reading strategy but broader processing abilities.

Goodness! Reinke interviewed Trip Lee for the 12 Ways book, and Lee said the following. See if it resonates with you:

The more time I spend reading ten-second tweets and skimming random articles online, the more it affects my attention span, weakening the muscles I need to read scripture for long distances.

I certainly noticed a decline in my own analyzing, processing, and retention abilities. I needed to do something about this! I purposed to make a schedule of all the books I wanted to read this summer. I had a bunch laying around that were half read and others had been ‘on deck’ for over a year.

I’m blessed to have 9 weeks off from school during the summer, and my deep desire was to use the time well for Jesus. I also wanted to revive that atrophying reading muscle. So here’s what’s on my nightstand so to speak:

I am going through Exodus with Dr Abner Chou’s lectures, and Romans 1-8 with my church family on Tuesday nights. Also, I’m reading John MacArthur’s Romans commentary. Review: What can you say about the Bible! It’s great! A JMac Commentary? It’s great!

A few months ago, I  read Erik Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within, a summarized version of Puritan John Owen’s Indwelling Sin. I was irked that I remembered little of it. I decided to read it again, and pair it with Owen’s actual book Indwelling Sin (an abridged and slightly modernized version.)

I like this pairing. The topic is difficult, as it necessitates a deep look into one’s own heart to purposely uproot the sin there. Lundgaard’s version is sort of like a Cliff’s Notes which gets me ready to read the same chapters in Owen the next day. Owen’s Indwelling Sin in Believers is a monumental, wonderful, convicting book. I highly recommend it. I bought the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperbacks version.

Here is a resource for Owen. He wrote three towering books on the subject of sin, a trilogy if you will, Indwelling Sin as mentioned, Mortification of Sin, and Overcoming Sin and Temptation. This writer has created a “Monster Cheat Sheet for the Mortification of Sin in Believers” that you might find helpful if you decide to read that Owen book.

Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners is a book by Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan, another Puritan. The version I’m reading has not been modernized and I love it. Owen’s language is dense with lengthy run-ons. Bunyan’s isn’t, hence is easier to read. Hugh Martin said of the book,

Grace Abounding is among the greatest stories of God’s dealings with the human soul– to be put on a shelf beside such treasures as Augustine’s Confessions, Law’s Serious Call, and Baxter’s Autobiography, and Wesley’s own account of his spiritual travail.

One great thing about reading the Puritans and older books is that the thread of sin, evil, guilt, despair, salvation, comfort, and assurance is the same no matter what century one lives in. Here is a resource on Bunyan’s works- 3 Lessons from the Life of John Bunyan.

Art and the Bible is a small book dealing with the topic of beauty. We should use the arts to the glory of God, author Francis Schaeffer wrote, and I agree. “Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art.” Recommended.

For secular books, I’m into Moby Dick, with cliff’s notes. Here is RC Sproul on Moby Dick in his essay The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick:

It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.

I agree. Moby Dick is THE Great American Novel. It’s towering, lyrical, breathtaking. It is also demanding, difficult, cumbersome. Is it worth it? YES. But again with this one, I needed notes. I use Read Moby: A Guide for First Time Readers. Why did Sproul believe this is one of the greatest hundred books, ever?

its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism.

Read Dr Sproul’s recommendation above for why we should read this book.

Some Writer! The Story of EB White by Melissa Sweet. This is a graphical book, one that includes ephemera, notes, and drawings. It’s a sweet and lovely book and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

PS if you like graphical books, Up The Down Staircase is another one that contains ephemera to tell the story.

“largely assembling her story through an accretion of found objects: bureaucratic circulars, homework assignments, wastebasket contents, doodles, and interoffice memos among teachers”

I am also reading a hilarious and wildly interesting book about the summer of 1927 in America by Bill Bryson aptly called One Summer 1927 America. He is such a good writer that the detailed sections on aviation (It was a Charles Lindbergh summer) and baseball (Babe Ruth summer) interesting, and I don’t gravitate to either subject but he makes them so fascinating I can’t put the book down. Recommended.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows. A friend sent me this book and it is soooo good. It is a story told through the exchange of letters. This, like Up the Down Staircase the Some Writer! are episolary novels.

Fun Fact: An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic “documents” such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived from Latin from the Greek word epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).

The Elusive Mrs Pollifax is on deck for August when school starts again.

I am noticing that when I push away from the laptop and just read, whatever book it is, I feel more relaxed. Moreover, my mind is slowly adapting to literature again, and my comprehension is lengthening. Slowly.

Watch out that digital reading might be changing your mind for the worse. Set aside a time to read without distraction some good theological books, leisure books, and of course the Bible. The Bible demands attention, study, and meditation. Our minds are being shaped away from that kind of reading and this impacts our Bible reading.

The thing I hated worst was that after I read the Bible, I’d remember some fun insight or nugget about it to share the next day at work. Of late, I’ve not done that, because I can’t really remember. I dearly want to proclaim His glories among the people with whom I work. Hence, my summer of reading recovery.

I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:15-16)

 

Magnet Fun and Irresistible Grace

First, the original intent of the video, to show science. Here is the original poster’s comment:

Nice slow-motion footage of smaller magnets engulfing larger magnets. The self-organization is beautiful to watch…

I love magnets. Don’t you love magnets? I remember in grade school, science lessons where they gave you magnets to experiment with. It was fun and absorbing.

As is this video is absorbing, mesmerizing, actually!

And now for the spiritual twist. As I was watching the little magnets be drawn to the Master Magnet, I was reminded of the verse from John 12:32,

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Salvation is like that in the video. The little magnets were minding their own business, at enmity with God, apart from Him. And along comes Jesus, inexorably drawing the ones He has elected since before the foundation of the world, to draw unto His grace, His body, his faith.

“God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it.” RC Sproul

Think on that ladies. He sought us, easily overcame our formidable enmity, cleaned us with His righteousness, and is now interceding for us at the throne as we draw ever nearer to Him!

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25).

There is nothing that will happen to us today that is stronger than that reality.

All that the Father giveth me will come to me. (John 6:37).

 

He did this … so He could do this

Satan tempted Jesus with hunger. (Matthew 4:3)

Satan tempted Jesus with suicide. (Matthew 4:6).

Satan tempted Jesus with power. (Matthew 4:9).

Satan tempted Jesus with life, to avoid the cross. (Matthew 16:23).

Jesus resisted it all, answered with the word of God. He remained sinless, never falling into any of satan’s wiles.

He went to the cross, taking all of God’s wrath, dying as a humiliated sacrifice, separated in darkness for hours, “Father why have you forsaken me?” and then He died.

He did this,

powers

Illustration by Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com

The Father resurrected Jesus. He took our wrath because God placed our sin onto Him…He gave us His righteousness, which we could never possess.. Double imputation. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So He could do this:

robe

Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen

Let us take a moment to praise, honor, and glorify our precious Savior.