Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Examination is Important part 4

What is fruit?

James tells us there will be works. When I was growing up I thought works or fruit in a Christian's life was how many people I brought to God. I am not really sure where that thinking came from. It was definitely the focal point of churches, Christian events and missionary success.

However, salvation is in the hand of God. We cannot make anyone believe. So, it is wrong to use that as a sign of fruit.

I think God does give us a very clear picture of fruit. I think it would be describe better as change. We change as a believer. That change becomes evident to others and affects how we interact in the world.

There are too many verses that support this to be able to list more than a small fraction of them. Just read the whole New Testament. Well and the Old Testament :)  also supports this idea of change, Ezekiel 11 so beautifully tells us that God does this work. "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, [fn] and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God."

Titus 3 says, "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,"

He saved us from what? From being foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. We were ONCE that way.

2 Peter 1:"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral [fn]excellence, and in yourmoral excellence, knowledge,and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in yourbrotherly kindness, love.For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;"  (underline my emphasis)

 Galatians 5 tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is and gives a clear difference between walking in the flesh and Spirit. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.17 For the flesh  sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you  please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
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You see there is a battle going on. In that battle the Spirit is stronger and God will complete His work. God will bring change for His glory! We are saved from our previous life, death controlled by the flesh. What power is it of God to save us from hell but not the flesh that binds us. None at all! Salvation is done, salvation is being done and salvation will be completed. The same grace that freed us from hell is working within us to free us from our flesh. Change! God is powerful. I love Paul Washer's story: (paraphrased) If I stand before you tonight and tell you that I was hit by an 18 wheeler before coming here tonight, you would claim I am crazy or a liar. You know that if a truck ran over me, I would definitely look different. I would not be standing here. Isn't God bigger than a truck?

1 John tells us many things about a believer and non-believer. I would recommend meditating on the whole book. A believer will love God's laws, will walk in the light, will love his brother, will keep His commandments, will not love this world or the lusts of this world and abides in Him.

Could a person not show ANY fruit and be saved? I don't think scripture supports that, but I would not be one to judge it. Scripture calls for God's judgment on those who don't.  (1 Corinthians 11:30-32)  However, I would strongly advise that person to do what scripture commands: EXAMINE YOURSELF.

Why Examination is Important part 3

Cautions:

This has more to do with how we interact with others and examination.

I have noticed a trend among conservative Christians that teach evidence of salvation. I have noticed a "spiritual gift" of fruit inspector arise. I have even heard of churches refusing people because they don't see a person have enough faith or fruit. I have seen people criticized, condemned, and disheartened to the point of leaving Christian fellowship. Then I have seen these same people justify it as these people were not really saved. This saddens, but doesn't surprise me. Satan will cause extremes to try and  make the work of Spirit ineffective.  I think that is why the Bible mentions so often how we should love each other. It is love that stands out and speaks volumes to unbelievers.  Yet, on the other side, we are not to "love" to the  point we throw out doctrine. The Bible IS doctrine and God finds it important enough to have written a whole book about it.  It is a delicate balance. I picture truth and love on opposite sides of board balancing on a point of a rock with a chasm on each side. Leaning too much either way is dangerous.

We must teach examination of fruit. Why? Because the Bible commands it. We must show mercy, love, grace, support, and help bearing each other weaknesses. Why? Because the Bible commands it. Again it is a balance thing. Everything we do must be done in love. If we approach another confessing believer with sin, our motivation must always be love. We see a path a person is traveling or a stronghold in someone's life and can see the destruction it is or will bring. We approach that person because we are concerned. It hurts us to see this in their life and the fruit of it. We can see it affects their relationship with God and others. If they are unrepentant, yes the Bible lays out a plan of action.

This is different from imperfections and working out of faith. This is different from the natural struggle and growth of one's faith. This is different from being weak. A Christian who is growing is humble and willing to be taught. It doesn't mean they will agree with everything being taught... there is room for interpretation and application to different lives to "grey" areas. However, they will have a desire to know God's heart and follow it. 1 John says we will love His commandments and desire to walk in the light.

 We do not know what goes on in the heart. I do not think the Bible really says we are to judge one's salvation. We are to judge their works.  James tells us that faith without works is dead and useless. Therefore if we don't see works/change in a life what does it tell us. There isn't evidence of salvation. The sinful man in 1 Corinthians was the repentant man in 2 Corinthians. In the first, they were told to "treat" him as an unbeliever or actually worse than an unbeliever. The standard is higher for those who claim to be Christian and the consequences harsher. We are not to judge those of the world.  Was the man in 1 Corinthians "saved"? ... yes. It is evidenced by his repentance in 2 Corinthians. They were then told to embrace him. You see, they didn't judge his salvation.... they judged his actions. It brought the man back to God. Evidence of a true believer.

Now most professing Christians don't have such blatant sins in their lives. What are we to do with them? If they are not mature, they won't be leaders. If they live immature Christian lives, love them and teach them. If they live worldly lives, I would treat them as unbelievers. How do I treat unbelievers? Well love them and carefully choose my involvement in their life and their influence in mine. Pray and pray and continually pray for everyone. Does my consideration of their salvation change the truth of it in their lives? No.

Examination needs to be taught. It could be a matter of heaven or hell. It especially needs to be taught that a person needs to examine his self. That is what is the most beneficial. Be careful teaching that saying a prayer saves you or telling someone that you think they are saved. We need not to judge but constantly point to scripture. Only self-examination can really work that out in someone's life. Let God confirm or convict ... do not interfere in the work of God.

Why Examination is Important part 2

In my previous post, I briefly explained the reasons for examination of one's life and the few examples of examination of other's lives.

The most important (and probably the least done) of all examination is of one's self.

Lam 3:40 Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.

2 Cor 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

Gal 6:4  But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.

American is so against anyone doubting their faith. "Oh just remember that day you are saved.... write it down in the back of the Bible and look at it when you doubt." I never see that in scripture. Not once. Test yourself to see if you are in the faith Paul says, he does not say think back to the day we told you about Jesus. What are you examining? To see if Jesus Christ is in you! IF Jesus lives IN you there will be evidence of it. WILL BE! Always! Read the end of James chapter 2. He calls them foolish to not believe that faith without works is useless. It has no use. It cannot save. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Why are people reluctant to examine themselves? Many become angry. One I think is the Spirit convicts them and their life. Some I think are afraid self-examination will lead to constant fear and doubt.

I do not think this is the case. 1 John is a book packed with evidences of salvation. 1 John 1:3 states the book is written so we may have fellowship with them. In the last chapter he states, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."  A whole book on the evidence of salvation in a person's life. This is what your life will look like and this is what is will not look like if you are saved. However, he ends with I have written these things so you will KNOW you have eternal life. Examination leads to assurance of salvation.

I struggled for a year after hearing Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, John Piper and reading Spurgeon, No Holiness No Heaven and many other great preachers. I really fluctuated weekly with whether I was saved or not. I had my highs in Jesus and my spiritual walk and then the lows where I prayed I wasn't going to hell. However, God revealed much to me in that time. I no longer struggle. I actually have no more doubt (99.9% of the time and the .1 is so short lived). That peace came through examination of MYSELF. In the adapted words of Voddie Baucham "I am not the woman I should be, but thank God I am not the woman I once was!" It is the change in my life that gives me assurance. I see God's hand, I see His change brought out in me. Some of it is visible to others, but much is deep within my heart and soul. When I doubt, I look at who I was and who I am. The change is evidence of His work.

Another reason I believe in the examination of self. It brings about worship. My life has truly become a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). It isn't my work but His. I can see His Spirit changing me. I can see power in overcoming things that I know isn't from me. It is all to His glory. When I see my life, my faults, compared to God's goodness I am overwhelmed with a spirit of awe and worship. I am so humbled that he chose me. I am grateful for his mercy and grace. I am more compassionate to those struggling. I want to point everyone to Jesus. Thank God that He is removing the blemishes and making me holy as He is. Glory always to God!

Why Examination is Important part 1

You don't have to know me long to realize one of my passions is teaching evidence of salvation. When about 75% of Americans call themselves "Christian" (Less call themselves Christian - cnn article) then wouldn't we be a "Christian" nation. However, Jesus says in Matthew 7 that not all that say Lord Lord (emphasis in scripture ... Lord you are Lord!!!) are saved.  Matthew 7 also teaches that the way is narrow and FEW find it.  Again Matthew 22:14, many are called but FEW are chosen. This is consistent with a remnant being saved throughout the Bible. Even among the Jews, many were called out of Eygpt... not all of them were chosen. Many died quick deaths choosing idols over God ... even more never made it to the promised land.

However, in America if you say a prayer you are saved. No! Not biblical. The Bible consistently in all scripture teaches change of life with salvation. Though I will not go into that in this post, I have touched on it in other posts. So do I think we need to go around and check the fruit of everyone we meet. No I would never want that. I do think there are instances when we need to look at the fruit in someone's life and respond to it. Unrepentant sin is one of those times. Everyone sins. Believers walking in the light are repentant about sin brought to their attention. The Spirit that dwells in us cannot allow us to live comfortably in sin. Thus God disciplines those He loves.  If in love, we approach, with much prayer, a confessing believer about sin and through much prayer and council that believer remains hard-hearted, we are commanded to expel them from the church and not fellowship with them. Why? God demands purity in the church. Look at Ananias and Saphira. Just because God doesn't strike people down as dramatically as He did then (and honestly I am sure God does still remove people from the church in His way, possibly even with death) (1 Cor. 11:30) God still doesn't change. He desires the church and us to be holy.  Why judge blatant sin? Because it is love for a person leaving God's will and love for the purity of the church of God. God's long suffering with us is in no means justification for lowering our standards.

Do a search on the words reprove and rebuke in the Bible.

Two: We are to judge those in leadership. They are to to be mature spiritually. People in the church should clearly see that maturity. It is a judgment call to look at their lives and determine whether or not they are worthy to fill a position of authority in the church.

Third: We are judge people's live to determine those we should join up with. We are told not to be unequally yoked. This goes for marriage, business or any kind of close friendship. The lives we choose to be close influence in our lives calls for careful discernment. (1 Cor 15:33)

Fourth: Most important, we are to judge ourselves. We have a holy calling and commanded to be holy.  (To be continued)