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Archive for March, 2015

Fruit-Bearing People

March 31st, 2015

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.

Matthew 21:43-44

Nothing will satisfy the Holy Spirit of God other than complete surrender to Christ Jesus – and our complete surrender will always render us fruitful for Him.

If He is within us, if we are in Him, then His nature will become ours, and we will bear fruit – eternal fruit that bears the mark of the Creator. This is the consistent message of the New Testament, and especially is this truth found in John 15:5, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The second half John 15:5 – that we can do nothing apart from Christ – not only is the logical outworking of the Spirit-filled life. It is also the prophetic voice of old, testifying the truth to the second part of the Matthew passage above.

The “stone” Christ spoke of was Himself, as Matthew 21:42 plainly reveals. Christ quoted Psalm 118:22-23, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” – a passage that refers to Him. There is no working around Christ in our message or in our walk. He must be first and everything else must point to Him. (See also 1 Peter 2:4-10.)

What the Spirit inspired Matthew to write is a message for the whole world, but in particular his gospel spoke to the Jewish mind. These words of Christ of being broken to pieces would remind his hearers of many Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 8:12-15 about the false prophets, “Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken…” Or Daniel 2:35 that spoke of the pagan kingdoms that lift their wills against God and against His Christ being ground to powder “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”

Christ described two separate negative responses to Him – one that falls or stumbles on Him, that results in being broken to pieces. This first describes not eternal condemnation, but the “stumbling stone” effect of the gospel among many Jews such as Saul who became Paul. He stumbled at first, and had to be broken to pieces that Christ could mend him and heal him and make whole and useful. This is a fact for all of us, even if we are raised in Christian families, that we must be broken by God to be of use to Him. We have all in some way or another stumbled on the Christ and have had to have Him mend us and complete us. This represents the crucified life that is central to the teachings of the Christian life in the New Testament (Luke 9:23-24 and John 12:23-26).

But for others whose hearts are stubborn, who never bow to the authority of Christ, they will be ultimately crushed in judgment, when they have rejected the righteousness that Christ alone can give to cover their sinfulness.

For you and I the application is simple. God is creating a new people in the gospel of Christ, a new “ethnos,” and in Him we find our truest identity. A new brotherhood, family, nation, or kingdom is being formed from among the people of the world. Christ must come first and He must be central. We produce this fruit as we remain or abide in Him and let Him abide or remain in us. He changes our hearts, and thereby changes our directions and our actions. Honor Him first and foremost, and He will use and honor you.

Gospel of Matthew

Preferred Citizens

March 27th, 2015

Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

Matthew 21:31

Grace means that salvation is not earned, period. We do not deserve heaven by our worship, good works, repentance, promises, or anything we can offer. God’s blessings and our eternal relationship with Him come only from His merciful love.

The preferred citizens of heaven, therefore, are not those with long lists of personal acts of piety, but rather those with the utmost awareness of their unworthiness. Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), so our best boasting of what we have done is empty and vain. And why would we think to compare ourselves to another, saying, “My filthy rags are a bit less filthy than yours”?

“There is no one who call on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7), said the prophet to God. God reaches down in His love and mercy and takes hold of us, and the only things we can offer are repentance, humility, and faith in Him. He is the Master Potter and we are the clay, and we must let Him make us what He desires to make us. The best we can do is to come to Him as lumps of clay, ready to be molded into the shape He desires.

To the brother or sister who comes to Christ from a religious background, the devil will tempt them to take pride in themselves. But to the ones who come from lifestyles far from God, the devil will tempt them to believe they are too far from God to change. Both need to hear the message of grace – that we are accepted in Him through faith on the basis of His work. Wherever pride or lust have distracted us from grace – either to deny our need of it or to reject the notion of it – we must repent and come to Him. It is His love for us that will continually draw us to Him.

He molds us as we abide in Him, as we remain in Him through faith, through openness to His Word and His Spirit, and through being with Him. The miracle of grace means that He is able to transform anyone into a citizen fit for heaven. The saddest cases are the ones who take pride in a little knowledge and remain for decades in the spiritual equivalent of second grade, while an abject sinner comes to Christ in humility and grows far beyond them in a relatively short time. Those are the preferred citizens of heaven – humble, hungry, and available to Him.

Gospel of Matthew ,