Analogy

Recognize Them By Their Fruit

There are three kinds of fruit: Good fruit, bad (or no) fruit, and genetically modified fruit.

Let’s have a look:

Based on Mt 7:15-23, “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.”

Jesus was well aware of the false prophets of the Old Testament, those enemies of the truth who allured people and excited them with hope when there was no hope. Those who made people to believe all is well, when nothing good was in them. Jesus warned us that there will be falsehood in his community. He warned way ahead of time that false Christs will appear and perform in a way that even the elect, if they are not on guard, will fall prey to their deception. In today’s fast and high-tech, socially-networked world, where people compete to be on the cutting edge, to know the latest truth that trends in and changes every 15 minutes, it is hard to recognize and discern those who say ‘Kingdom, Kingdom’, yet violate the truth of the Kingdom. Outwardly, they may pass as fellow disciples of the King. At first glance, they say all the right things: ‘Lord, Lord, we prophecy, we drive out demons, we do miracles, we pray, we fast, we make disciples, we do good-will to the widows, the orphans, the poor and the needy…in your name.’

Yes, they use the name of Jesus to deceive, even the elect. From a certain distance they look like fig trees, but if you come closer, you will see their true thistly nature. From a certain distance you hear them shout “Kingdom, Kingdom”, but as you get closer you get to hear the muffled “my” before the word “Kingdom”. From a distance they deceive you to believe that they are grapes, but eventually the thorns will reveal themselves for what they truly are. Have you ever been fooled by such duplicates?

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I have been. Quite often in the Body of Christ. They are usually afraid of closer scrutiny, lest they are found out! They will not allow you to come close to them for fear of being betrayed by their own true nature. They like to rather talk about the speck of sawdust in your eyes and pay no attention to  the plank in their own eye.

So, how do we distinguish between the fig tree and the thistle; the grapes and the thorns? Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” Not by their flowers, their leaves, their looks or even their fragrance. These outward things, these images and reports on social media can fool you. And, what is so special about the fruit? The fruit is where the seeds are protected. These seeds have the amazing ability to multiply into next generations. They contain the DNA that is needed to reproduce another tree that reproduces another tree and another. It is the continuity of life. Likewise, says Jesus, there are good trees and bad trees. Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. You cannot expect a bad tree to produce good fruit or a good tree to produce bad fruit.

As I walked my dog one morning, I saw a farmer cut down cherry trees and pile the wood next to the tree stump. I asked him, “Why are you cutting them down, I enjoy its flowers during Spring season.” The farmer simply said, “Their fruit is not edible; they have worms. They are useless.” A good cherry tree cannot produce bad fruit, but it can produce fruit with worms in it. Sin can wiggle inside a good fruit bearing tree and corrupt it with worms. These trees then become useless to the Lord of the harvest. They are no more good trees for him, therefore, he will cut them down like a good farmer does and throw those into the fire.

Genetically Modified Fruit: Then there are trees that do produce fruit, but their seeds are genetically modified by human hands. Their DNA is changed using genetic engineering techniques to increase sales profit. Just like genetically modified vegetables, they are more colorful, bigger in size, and produce bigger quantity. More and more of Christianity is using genetic engineering techniques to sell itself better. Some capture a moment with their cameras and then market their experience on social media to get attention. But if you look at their DNA, the creational order of the Creator is absent in them. Their seeds look like seeds, but they can’t multiply. Their fruit smell like fruit, but do not taste like fruit. The multiplicative fruit is modified to please the eyes of the public. It attracts attention, it is colorful, exciting, different, smart, high tech, and high yield – but it is man-made. Its fruit does not reflect the image of God, nor his Kingdom standards.

There will be a moment of truth. In the presence of Christ, some, with fervency will cry out ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we, in your name, prophecy, drive out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, disciple others, do good deeds to the poor, pray, fast, preach…? Such cries will be insufficient in that moment of truth. Jesus answers: I don’t recognize you. You don’t reflect me. Your fruits are of no use to me. They are infested with worms. “Away from me, you evil doers.”

That is a strong statement from Jesus mouth, and I hope none of us ever will have to hear it. So let us make sure that we are good trees, yielding good fruit.

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Blessed Fruitfulness (Part 2)

This is the continuation of “Leafy Christianity”

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

Many times we wish things, while being disconnected from him, and expect the results that are for the privileged – only for those who remain in him. We expect God to bless us, while we disobey his commands and do not respect his boundaries. We think everything is fine with us, God somehow has to do it! Whatever “it” is. God may say, grow within the way I mold you and direct you, and you will be a fruitful harvest, a blessing to many! You are blessed if others are blessed through you. This is what fruitfulness does.

Well then, how to remain in Jesus?

It starts with love. It does not start with Bible knowledge or theological debates about what is correct in Latin and Greek and how much Hebrew you know and how well you can formulate your speeches.

As the Father has loved me,

so have I loved you.

Now remain in my love.

And how do we remain in Jesus’ love?

Yes, he has answered this question more than two thousand years ago. But we have not preached it in our churches. We have simply omitted the core of greatest importance. Jesus says, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love,” (Jn 15:10) Think about it: when was the last time you have heard a sermon on “obedience to the commands of Jesus” from your pastor? I guess, he will be fired by his own church members before he would have even finished such a sermon! In a church that is fruitless, the one who comes to prune to make it fruitful for harvest is cut off. It’s too hard; it’s not our policy; what about our donors; and the church committee; we have not done like this before; our traditions! These churches just remain to be leaves, not fruit clusters. They like to suck all the energy and strength from the vine and look lush and lavish, but bear no fruit. The scary thing about them is that they will have all the characteristics of a vine plant and deceive others into believing that they are fruit bearing branches. They look alike, until you see the difference in how they love others and keep the commands of Jesus. To love your neighbor is to lay down your life for your neighbor. Jesus has already modeled it for us. As he has loved us, so should we love others. He calls those who obey his commands friends! He welcomes them into his exquisite club!

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this,

that he lay down his life for his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command.pruned

To remain in the Vine begins with selfless love, obedience to Jesus’ commands, which in turn will guide you and shape you into a pruned branch that bears much fruit. Remember, to remain in him is to be pruned daily, to bear fruit. No fruitful blessing without pruning. There is no other alternative or a shorter route to this. I have watched the farmers cut off up to 70% of the growth in the vineyards in the hilly slopes of my village, for a fruitful harvest. This happens every year, around the year. Just 30% of the plant is all the farmers need to see it bear fruit. That 70% can harm the 30% fruit-bearing potential within you. They are just energy suckers: ego, pride, jealousy, greed, lies, hate, anger… cut them off, you don’t need them in your lives. They produce disease and death. It destroys your life and others’.

What unnecessary 70% needs to be removed from your life to love others like Jesus laid his life for you? What dead woods (deeds) keep you from obeying the commands of Jesus? Would you allow Jesus to come to you with his pruning scissors to shape and guide you as he wants you to be – fruitful.

Leafy Christianity (Part 1)

I live in a small hilly village whose slopes are filled with vineyards. I take my evening walks among the vines and marvel at the work the farmers do there. Growing vine is a year round work. I have watched how the farmers carefully plant the vine, care for it, kill the weeds around the young plant and tenderly grow it. They let the new canes spread on the constructed wires. Then comes winter and most of the growth is cut off except for two or three dead looking leafless twigs. And I have wondered how they are going to survive the cold and the frost.

As Spring and Summer come again, miraculously these dead looking twigs grow buds and life kicks in. The farmers carefully select the potential canes and remove every other extra shoots and even fruit clusters because they first want the vines to grow strong roots and trunk. Again in Winter, the canes are cut back. As the trunk gets strong and firmly rooted, new growth happens once again next Spring. The farmer watches every little bud grow into a branch and decides whether he removes it or lets it remain.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener,” said Jesus.  

And what does the gardener do to his vines?

He prunes them to see them bear fruit.

Jesus is the true vine, rooted firmly in his Father he said, “I do nothing on my own, but speak just what the Father has taught me” (Jn 8:28). Jesus came to do the will of his Father; not his own will. He remained in his Father and was one with him.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. 

Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 I am the vine; you are the branches.

 If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;

apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4,5).

I have watched what the farmers do to the branches that want to grow in their own ways, stretching out long twigs and bearing many leaves but do not have any fruit cluster in them. They are mercilessly cut away from the vine, collected and burned in fire. Whereas, those that bear fruit are pruned. They are carefully down-sized in their growth. So the energy from the vine can go into bearing fruits and not be sucked away by the many leaves.

You can easily differentiate between those who bear fruit and those who don’t by just looking at how their lives are pruned. Pruning is not a one-time experience. It happens daily. Pruning scissors come in many forms: lack of financesleafy-vine, rebelling teenagers, unanswered prayers, people lying about you, and so on. All these test how you come out bearing godly fruits, how you can still love your unlovable teenager, and how patiently you trust God while your bills are still unpaid and reminders keep coming. Every situation exposes that which needs to be cut-off from within us. The reason for pruning is to bear fruit and be more fruitful!

Pruning is nothing else than shaping and guiding how the branches should grow. Pruning is the removal of unnecessary growth within us. And we do have a lot of unnecessary things in us, like ego, pride, hate, jealousy, greed, lies, hypocrisy, double standard life, a private and a public life, cheating, cursing, deceiving and more. These are the dead wood that bring death to oneself and others around them. It destroys life, not produces life. They are dead because they are disconnected from the main Vine; they do not receive life from the main Vine. Death has to be removed and buried.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,

while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes

so that it will be even more fruitful, (Jn 15:2).

It is just not good enough to be a branch that only bear vine leaves and suck away the energy that is supposed to go to those branches that bear fruit clusters. There are lots of leaf-bearing branches in God’s vineyard that suck the time and energy and every effort of those who bear fruit. When the gardener goes through his vineyard he will mark those “energy suckers” to be mercilessly cut off from the vine. To remain in Jesus is to be fruitful. Fruitfulness means multiplication, which leads to filling the earth. This is the original and true blessing of God. Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.

Being successful, especially measured in the amount of wealth and splendor one has achieved, is not a blessing. That may be a payment of mammon. You work for mammon and he pays you with what is his. The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours” (Lk 4:5-7). Wealth can be a deception that mammon blinds you to believe a blessing. Wealth can make you greedy and can strangle you from not being a blessing to others. If that is true in your life, check out, you may be worshiping, serving a wrong god!

God’s blessing is always life-giving, birthing, being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth with his presence and glory.

To be continued in “Blessed Fruitfulness” (Part 2)

Waiting For Her Moment

I am not the kind of person who watches TV shows like this. My husband emailed me the link saying, ‘you got to watch this’. I looked at it and thought, ‘a 7 minute youtube video! That is too long!’ Anyway, I clicked on the play button and I watched it. I silence my words now and let you watch it yourself.

All of a sudden, my eyes were weeping and my nose was running. My  22 year old son next to me exclaimed, “You are crying watching an old lady dance salsa!” Yes, I was overwhelmed. The Spirit of God impressed on me something about his bride. He dreams of her. He has equipped her from birth to be who she is supposed to be. But she gave it up after much abuse. Her past story tells us that she was persecuted in the very beginning. She fled Jerusalem. She had to compete with other philosophies and heresies within her. She was chopped up into different doctrines. She was confined to monastic orders. They made her into something that she is not – a theology! Those who defended her were martyred. Then those that wished to represent her hung titles on themselves like ‘pope’ and ‘archbishop’, discrediting her very being. They crowned emperors in her dwelling and launched tragic crusades ravaging innocent and ignorant people in her name. All she wanted was to be his bride.

Politics and institutions wasted her. The power of the institutions strengthened and the poor in her suffered and those who stood for the truth, burned in stakes. Reformation began, movements started, suppression increased and persecution continued. She ran disoriented and lost, not knowing who she really is. She was later dressed in new terms like ‘confessions’ and ‘denominations’. People liked her new clothes and made a global business out of it called ‘mission’ to export these clothes to other nations. She is not a business. She is not a theology. She is not a confession. She doesn’t play politics or institutions. She is not a denomination or a doctrine. She has sacrificed much too much to be  everything to everybody. What she really wants is her bridal dress.

She has travelled such a long journey. She is so tired, almost exhausted. Her clothes are smelly and worn out. Yes, she may look wasted and useless; she may look old and wrinkled, But somewhere deep within she has hope. She has hidden her strength to one day shock every institution, theology, politics, every title and doctrine. Watch out! Her moment will come! She will clothe in her spotless bridal dress and her youth will be renewed. She will steal the show because she remembers who she is – his bride.

Should Christians Be Circumcised? Part 3

“I am God almighty, walk before me and be blameless.” To walk before God means to walk before no other, to stand before God means I cannot stand before any other. To serve God means to serve Him alone and not expect the applause, acceptance, appreciation and approval of man. This decision is the blade that cuts us from following the patterns of this world. If we still were part of this world we would be worrying about such things and would be doing our best to please man – and miss God.

When a baby leaves the 9 months of comfort, safety, provision and care and enters into the real world what happens first? The cord is cut around off the placenta; the very cord that gave life for those 9 months of growth. Why would any doctor with a sound mind do that? Does he not know that this is the life giving cord? Yes, he knows that and in fact he knows that this very cord of life will become the cord of death if not cut. The very thing that sustains life to a baby will be the very thing killing it once it is out of the womb.

Picture a grown man with his umbilical cord still attached to his mother to sustain his life. Isn’t it awkward? And yet the Church exhibits that picture! The household of God cannot let go of the “onions and the garlic”. Nu 11:5-6 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna! We want the Kingdom, but we can’t let go of the world and the protection and security that it gives. Seek ye first a secured employment, a financial security, safe neighborhood, cool friends, and then if you have some energy left, debate and argue your own opinions about the Kingdom of God and block it from expanding, if possible. This is how we have understood Mt.6:33! The world in us that we so strongly rely upon to give us security, comfort, safety and identity is the very thing that strangles and suffocates the life that God wants us to have. This is surely putting confidence in the flesh and not learning to live by the Spirit. We live by calculation – not by faith. Phil 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh. The household of God is not there yet, but behaves as if it is.

Many of us want to experience the resurrection but are unwilling to pay the price of suffering and death. There is no resurrection without death. There is no born again life unless we are dead to our self-driven and self-fulfilling lives. Col 3:1-3 set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. Only the dead can be hidden not those who still breath. No one wants to be dead; it is the most unnatural thing to want to be cut off from the land of the living and hidden. But it is the way of the cross, the way of being circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ. Christ is the place to live in, to be rooted, built up and strengthened.

We live in human traditions, and basic principles of the world, following its ways and affairs, believing it to sustain our lives. If we not cut away from this, the very sustenance will suffocate us from living a life that calls to walk before God and no other; to serve God and not please man. “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless”.

Click here to go to Part 1

Should Christians Be Circumcised? Part 2

Phil 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh… We are the circumcision? If we do not know what circumcision is, how will we ever understand that we are the circumcision? According to the covenant made by God with Abraham, the cutting of the foreskin of the penis is a symbolic performance of the act of circumcision. “Every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised” was God’s deal. Many Jewish people do this as a traditional ritual on the 8th day of the male child’s life.

Simply put, circum is a prefix that means ‘round about’ and cision has to do with cutting, from the word incision. Circumcision means to cut around, cut out or completely cut off without any attachment.

When God promised Abram about his descendents as numerous as the stars and as countless as the sand, he was 75 years old. He went through circumcision as a 99-year-old man and his son Ishmael as a 13-year-old teenager. What old man or a teenager wants to be circumcised? The point was to get rid off of that confidence in the flesh; to be completely cut out, with nothing attached to. Circumcision is an unpleasant thing, it is bloody, painful and it is public. It is humiliating and it is shameful.

 “We are the circumcision” requires a lifestyle that is willing to be publicly unpleasant, publicly bloody, publicly painful, humiliating and shameful. This is the only way that God empties us. We may not be 99 yet, but when we allow God happen to us, we may feel like one. It is the way of the cross, the baptism of fire; it is the dying to Self. It is the circumcision done by Christ. It is not about you at all, Abram; it’s all about me. It is not about your ability, not your gifts and talents, your image, your identity, your brain, the good things that you cherish, it’s not about you, it’s all about me. Get rid off of that confidence in your flesh.

Without this detachment, we will never be able to live with Christ, because we have not died to the uncrucified desires and lusts of our Self. We will continue to do “dead works”– works done motivated by flesh, the way the world thinks and works, which is the very first thing newborn followers of Christ need to repent of.  As a result, we end up fleshly – people who do what we know we should not be doing, and not doing what we know we should. Torn, limping on both legs, lukewarm – an abomination to Jesus and others around us. Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.

 “My Kingdom is not of this world” says Jesus. “My Kingdom is from another place”.

And yet how much world we try to bring into the Kingdom of God! How difficult it is for us to be circumcised and live detached from the world and its ways!

He prayed this for his disciples while he was still on this earth:

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world

I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me;

for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

but they are still in the world, Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory

Jesus was praying on the act of cutting away from the world and its pattern, its standards, its affairs, its wisdom, ways and principles, everything that gives us confidence in our flesh; things in this world that give us security, identity and safety. If we cannot permit public humiliation and shame, public bloodshed and pain and unpleasantness happen to us, then we cannot see His glory.

Are we circumcised yet? Are we cut out of the world? Are we cut around completely off the flesh? Are there still some things attached? Are we still dancing religion in a holy masquerade? Let Jesus publicly put us to shame, humiliation, pain and blood. It is unpleasant but it is necessary to empty us.

Col 2:11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.

To be continued.

Should Christians Be Circumcised? Part 1

Col 2:11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.

We sing about this, preach about this, do Bible studies on this and graduate in our exams. What does it really mean to be circumcised in Jesus with the circumcision done by Christ? Circumcision is a covenant made to Abraham by God when he was 99 years old. You can read the origin of circumcision in Gen 17:1-14

What was the covenant all about? The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.”  To walk before God, to stand before him and to serve such a God is not easy. All our human frailties, weaknesses, failings and indecision are stripped naked in front of Him. There is nothing to boast about one’s Self. No flesh can stand such a presence. There is nothing left in us to glory before such a being, “I am God Almighty”. It makes your feet to melt like wax and you of course fall face down – even faint or die.

What to make sense of the being – “God Almighty”?

I will confirm my covenant between me and you.

I will greatly increase your numbers.

I will make you very fruitful.

I will make nations of you.

I will make kings come from you.

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant.

I will be your God.

I will be the God of your descendants after you.

I will give the whole land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you.

I will be their God.

The only sense to make out of this is: I WILL

I WILL MAKE YOU – AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!

Today, there are many who say, “we are”, “we will”, “we do”, “we stand” “we make it happen” but few who walk before him. One of my favorite verses that often challenge me is Ge 5:24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. This is what it means to walk before God and with God: you are “no more”! The call of God to the ultimate walk with him, in total perfection is the challenge that we need to decide about in our hearts. When we do this, He will do that because he has said, “I WILL” and it has nothing to do with “we will”. I will because I am God Almighty and you are not.

Paul could have boasted and rightly so about himself. He had all the true reasons to put confidence in his flesh but he knew the One with whom he walked. He was circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ. He was able to say: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”. This is the 24/7 lifestyle of the circumcised.

Question still is: Are we circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ?

To be continued.