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Posts Tagged ‘fruitfulness’

To Spend and Be Spent

September 29th, 2017

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you… (2 Cor. 12:15 KJV)

There is more than one currency in this world.

There are the currencies of time, effort, energies, opportunities, power, influence, praise and reputation, and we could name a thousand more that, along with money, we will spend on this earth for some purpose. The purpose of Christ, however, redirects all of our currencies to serve Him and not ourselves. Christ, who “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) calls us also to go out into the world to serve and not to be served.

There are obligations we have to care for those of our household, and we are taught that the neglect to fulfill that obligation makes one “worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8), even if this neglect is done in the “name of God.” So none of us can use the excuse, whether pastor or layperson, that we’re too busy serving God and are unable to fulfill our family obligations. Yet all of this can be placed in the hands of God, under the Lordship of Christ, in faith that He will lead and guide and remain faithful to His promises. We should model for our children not the fear of the greedy man but the confident generosity of the man of faith, who trusts that goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life (Psalm 23:6).

And there are also obligations we have to protect our health, as Paul wrote to Timothy instructing him about both diet and exercise (1 Tim. 5:23 and 1 Tim. 4:8). Jesus often led His disciples on mini-retreats to recharge them spiritually and emotionally.

Risk is inherent in this matter of service, for no one can be spent for other lives and know always for certain that those lives will be terribly fruitful. Most of us have a mixed record in that regard, that we have done just a little in some areas and the people were very fruitful with our sacrifice and investment in them, and we have done a great deal of work for those who are less fruitful. The parable of the Good Samaritan never reveals to us what became of the Israelite that the Samaritan rescued, and most often on this earth we are left in a similar fog with regard to the future value to the lives we save and serve.

So service and sacrifice, spending and being spent for others, is a value in itself alone. Just as Christ loved this fallen world and emptied Himself and was obedient to the cross, so He calls us to serve out of His love for others.

But let us take heart and remember that no service for Christ among His people is ever wasted. He has promised that He will complete the work of salvation in every believer’s life (Phil. 1:6). “Faithful is he who calls you and he will do it” (1 Thes. 5:24). This is why Paul said that his calling was for building up and not tearing down (2 Cor. 13:10). God is at work in every believer’s life and each is precious and worthy of our investment and sacrifice. Certainly some are growing more slowly than others, and some will enter heaven as those escaping through the flames (1 Cor. 3:15). Yet God is working in each life, and who, other than God, can say that the effort invested in one generation that seems almost wasted will not pay off in great dividends for the kingdom in future generations, as the younger ones in the family, or even those not yet born, rise up from those seeds of truth planted in that family and become more for Christ than we could ever imagine.

There is only one direction of call of God in each life and that is upward, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 ESV).

Are you willing to spend and be spent for Christ?

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Pleasing the Lord

June 28th, 2016

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

How can our lives please God?

Faith is essential: According to Hebrews 11:6 we must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. The knowledge that he exists is gained through general revelation -through observing the created order, as Psalm 19 proclaims. But the knowledge that he rewards those who earnestly seek him comes only by special revelation, through the inner witness of the Spirit of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ upon our minds and consciences.

The great question we must ask ourselves is whether we believe the witness of the Word and the witness of the Spirit, whether or not we see the benefit of believing in God, in having a relationship with him through Christ. Once the Spirit enlightens our minds and calls us to him, we must respond in trust. “I believe that you can save me and give me a new life, Lord Jesus.” This is a simple pray of faith.

Bearing fruit: The very nature of the Christian life is not one of striving but one of bearing fruit. A servant must serve and to bear fruit means that we are both being changed by God in our lives and that we are his instruments to help others. Walter Marshall wrote:

Christ’s resurrection was our resurrection to a life of holiness, as Adam’s fall was our fall into spiritual death. And we are not ourselves the first makers and framers of our new holy nature, any more than of our original corruption, but both are formed ready for us to partake of them. And by union with Christ, we partake of that spiritual life that He took possession of for us at His resurrection, and thereby we are enabled to bring forth the fruits of it; as the Scripture showeth by the similitude of a marriage union. Romans 7:4: ‘Married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.’

Christ said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The Christian life is one of constant abiding in Christ and through this abiding to bear the fruit of his own character.

The devotional reading of the gospels, simply following the life of Christ and meditating on his example, prepare us to be of use to God. We are of use not because we have decided to go out and do our own work for Christ, but because we have allowed him to simply be himself in us and through us. “Not I, but Christ” (Gal. 2:20), is the constant reality of the Christian life.

None of this means that we do not plan our lives or our ministry, nor that we do not need to exercise discipline, for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives also includes personal discipline (Gal. 5:23 and 2 Tim. 1:7). In fact, the one abiding in Christ will be more intentional in his life than ever before – “By wisdom a house is built” (Prov. 24:3). Yet he will also have the divine freedom of being spontaneous at the same time as the Spirit leads.

Increasing in knowledge: Too often there is a division among Christians in this matter of knowledge versus fruit-bearing. We tend to make them enemies of one another when they are cohorts and colleagues. It is a strange teaching indeed that suggests there is some conflict between following the Spirit and reading the Bible – He is, after all, the Author of the book. So as we follow Christ and please him, he will lead us more and more to his Word, to know it and to take its truths into our hearts.

But the knowledge spoken of here is not merely head knowledge, not merely the memorization of scripture, but the grasping of the personality of God that is described in the scripture. You can never understand any sport simply by reading the rule book. You must see a game and especially play a game yourself to grasp what it means. And with the knowledge of God, there must be more to it than just knowing scripture. We must let the Spirit lead us to the Father himself.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The original Greek used the word rhema for “word” and it specifically means the instruction or proclamation of Christ. This is the knowledge that is not merely set apart from life on the printed page, but the teaching that relates directly to our lives, that takes the eternal truths of God and the eternal Person of Christ and applies them to our circumstance today.

Please God by believing that he rewards those who seek him, by letting him bear his fruit in your life, and by growing in the knowledge of who he is.

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