A Fruitful Profession of Faith
"And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Gal 6:9-10).
"…that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." (Titus 2:10).
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious Throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we se You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt 25: 31-46).
In the endless debate over the place of works in the Christian life, one certain truth will always emerge from Scripture. While no amount of works can make an individual a Christian nor justify him or her before a thrice-holy God, neither can a man be considered a Christian without possessing some sort of works. A barren profession is incompatible with genuine faith in Christ Jesus as is evidenced from an abundance of Scriptures, most notably:
"even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." (James 2:17)
"For as long as these qualities (diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love) 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." (2 Peter 1:8-9).
So then, it is not a question of whether or not one who calls himself by the name of Christ should possess a life of fruitfulness, full of good works. How could he or she not when the seed of God abides in them:
"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him…" (1 John 3:9)?
Long ago, in the creation story in Genesis, we learn that each "seed would produce after its own kind". Now, in conversion, the very life of God is imparted to the soul of man. This life is likened to a seed. Thus, wherever you find the life of God, there you will find the character of God in some degree. This must be so by the very nature of the thing. It is therefore just as much a natural thing for one who possesses this life of God to produce the fruit of holiness, righteousness, and goodness that is in accordance with the nature of God as it is for a grain of corn to produce a cornstalk with a full ear of corn.
In the book of Isaiah, we find the prophet referring to the people of God as "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." (Isaiah 61:3). Now, in an agrarian society such as existed in Israel, a man planted trees for one reason – to obtain fruit from them. He looked forward to the day in which all the toil and labor of his hands would be rewarded by an abundant crop of delectable fruit. A tree that failed to produce fruit therefore was an anomaly, an aberration. It served only to take up useful space in the grove that could be better utilized by another, more productive tree. Observe carefully how the Lord Jesus uses the general awareness of this proposition to declare his sobering parable as recorded in Luke the evangelist’s Gospel.
"A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and I do not find any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’’(Luke 13:6-9).
These are certainly words that should produce a sobering effect upon all who would bear the name of Christ Jesus. How many opportunities this tree had been given to produce a crop. How it had basked in the sunshine of heaven. How the dews had fallen upon its leaves and the rains had given drink to it. Yet for all that it was barren and empty. To prove the longsuffering of the vineyard-keeper, one more chance would be given it before it would be rendered into fuel for the fire.
In a similar vein, the author of the book of Hebrews speaks:
"For ground that often drinks the rain which falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." (Hebrews 6: 7-8).
What both of these texts speak of in particular might best be termed, "the perils of privilege". Our Lord Jesus spoke poignantly to this issue when He stated, "To whom much is given, much is required". It is an inestimable privilege to be brought out of the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of light. It is an inestimable privilege to have had one’s "heart of stone removed" and a "new heart of flesh" put in its place. It is an inestimable privilege to have had one’s mind opened to understand the truth of God as it is contained in the Scriptures. It is an inestimable privilege to have been made aware of one’s lost and desperate condition by nature. It is an inestimable privilege to have been given, "eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to know". It is an inestimable privilege to have been among the number of God’s elect, to be called by His Name. In short, it is an inestimable privilege to have been made a recipient of the grace of God.
In consequence of this, those who would lay claim to belonging to this privileged company would do well to keep in mind the solemn obligations that rest upon them. In light of this it is an easy thing to see that a barren profession will bring nothing but the wrath and displeasure of God. Those upon whom He has bestowed so much, are expected to show forth the work of His Spirit within them. Though not all Christians are expected to produce the same quantity of fruit as the parable of the Sower and the Seed makes abundantly clear, they are all expected to produce fruit, "some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold".
On the other hand, a tree that abundantly produces fruit is prized by its owner. He takes great care with it, prunes it regularly, waters it, fertilizes it, all with the intent to keep it healthy, flourishing and productive. Now this is precisely agrees with the words of the Lord Jesus in the gospel of John.
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit…by this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples." (John 15:1-2,8).
What is it therefore that the Lord desires from His people that He might be honored by their lives? The answer is quite simple – fruit! Long ago the answer came from the Most High to the question – What does the Lord require of me?
"And now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and love Him. And to serve the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good". (Deut 10: 12-13).
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8).
The true Christians therefore are those who long to be as fruitful as possible so as to bring as much glory to their Lord and Master as they are capable of. They are constantly looking for opportunities to practice acts of kindness, compassion, gentleness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. They learn to look at the circumstances in their life as those which the Providence of God presents them with in order to exercise their graces and call forth these qualities which the Lord desires and so greatly approves of. They view the people that cross their pathway in life as agents sent by their Lord to become recipients of these various gracious acts of kindness and goodness. In short, they desire to exit this life and enter their eternal dwelling in heaven as heavily laden trees, full of fruit for their God who has so gloriously saved and redeemed them.
Christian, how stands it with your profession of faith? Do you actively pray and ask the Lord to grant you opportunities to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness? Do you seek out occasions in which to display the grace of God before the people that He has brought into your life? Or do you hide your light under a bushel basket of self-centeredness and withdraw into your own world of exclusivity? Are you marked by kindness towards all, even your enemies? Or are you fierce tempered and implacable? Are you known as one who is thoughtful of others? Or have your next door neighbors never once seen you go out of your way to do something thoughtful for them?
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus speaks to us who would be His disciples the following words:
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." (Luke 6:27-39).
Christian, either you live for the glory of God or you are no Christian at all. What a horrible travesty is it that so many who claim to possess the gospel in truth show so little evidence of Christ-likeness towards their fellow man. They have walled themselves off from the sufferings and heartaches of many of their brethren in Christ. They take no interest in the personal lives of their fellow brothers and sisters and hence never once lift their voices in prayer for them. They are content to make no sacrifice for others. They will not inconvenience themselves in the slightest to come to the aid of their friends and neighbors. While the One whom they call Lord was willing to stoop and wash the feet of His disciples, they will not even they will not take the time to get to know their fellow saints to see how they can better serve them. They give no words of encouragement to a struggling pilgrim on the way to Zion because they are too wrapped up in their own lives to do so. Words of comfort and consolation are scarce found on their lips since they have closed the door to both their heart of compassion and to the available time that they are willing to give of themselves to others and yet somehow they blithely feel all is well with their soul. Oh how these words of Matthew 25 will ring in their ears on that great day! How their own conscience will smite them! What reasons will they vainly plead to excuse their selfishness?
I would challenge you who bear the name of Christ to seek to emulate your Master.
Keep uppermost in your minds the words of the Lord Jesus who said:
"I am in the midst of you as one who serves." (Luke 22:27).
And let us all seek grace from above so that we might more fully obey the apostle’s injunction:
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Gal 6:10).
Yours in Christ Jesus,
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