Point of Reference
by Fred Price
God's initial instructions to his newly-formed overseers of creation was for them to be fruitful and multiply, in part a natural consequence of their coming together in thought, word and deed; and in so doing provide order as they subdued and ruled this new world in partnership with God. (Genesis 1:27,28) I don't believe it is too much of a stretch to say God expects us to do likewise through the church as the bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:32)
God's intent for mankind and the church is multiplication through fruit-bearing, Jesus declaring that by our fruit- the deeds a life of commitment and faithfulness produces - we will be able to recognize others and be recognized. (Matthew 7:16,20) The forerunner of Christ's ministry - John the Baptist, Jesus himself and Christianity's preeminent theologian and missionary the Apostle Paul all preached repentance from sin and the consequent bearing of fruit or deeds verifying new direction and creation in Christ. (Matthew 3:8,4:17; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17) For when all is said and done (James 1:23), Jesus reminds us that the identifying mark of a Christian will be the love we express to others in tangible ways that both declare our intent and reveal our purpose. (John 13:35; James 2:14-26) The fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in acts of love joyfully expressed; radiating peace and patiently offered in kindnesses generated by the goodness of our hearts; faithfully obeying our Lord's commands and gently turning the other cheek when ridiculed or spurned; exercising self-control in all we do and say. (Galatians 5:22,23)
The somewhat odd incident recorded in scripture of Jesus cursing an unproductive fig tree was not to my mind only an illustration of his miraculous power, but an indication of the seriousness with which Christ expects those things capable of bearing fruit to do so. (Matthew 2:18-21) This is further borne out in the parable related in Luke 13:6-8 which implies that we may be given time to realize the need of personal fruitfulness but that there will come a point when our lack of faithfulness will no longer be accepted. (See also Matthew 21: 33-41,43) As the well-grounded and nourished tree of Psalm 1 yields its fruit in season and does not wither, so the followers of Christ can and must prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3) Jesus characterized his relationship to us as a life-giving, life-sustaining vine while we serve as his branches; declaring that on our own we will be barren and useless but in connection to the source of all life we can do nothing but bear fruit. After describing himself as the vine through which our abilities flow, he then describes God as the gardener who cares for the vine, even if that means cutting away dead or non-bearing branches, shaping and pruning those branches that can so they will become even more productive. (John 15:1-6)
In explaining to the disciples the core motivation and benefit of their lives: "If you love me, you will obey what I command." and "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, "; he went on to remind them that, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit " John 14:15; 15:10; 15:16 His choices, appointments and expectations have not changed! Paul understood this principle and passed it on to those he ministered to, praying for them, " and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work " Colossians 1:9,10 Knowing God's will leads to obedience, loving him and others compelling us to acts of kindness and sharing of the Gospel. For, " the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." James 3:17 But punishment awaits those who do not know God nor obey the gospel of our Lord. (2 Thessalonians 1:8)
This call for obedience often sets off fervent debate. Paul does rightly insist that, " it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8,9 Yet James asserts that, " faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17 But there is no contradiction and should be no controversy here. Paul is absolutely right in declaring that we can do no work worthy of salvation while James is equally right in proclaiming that faithfulness will generate good works; people being saved by grace, justified by their actions. (James 2:24, see also Romans 1:5) Paul assured the Thessalonians that, "we continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, " 1 Thessalonians 1:3; and preached that, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:6 For the man who championed grace and faith as the means of our salvation (Romans 1:17,3:22,5:1) also realized the all important purpose in our being called to follow the example of Christ. (John 13:15) " we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 John adding that, "He who does what is righteous is righteous, " 1 John 3:7 (See also 2 Corinthians 9:10; Revelation 19:7,8)
Jesus encourages us all to, " open your eyes and look at the fields.! They are ripe for harvest."; and laments, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." John 4:35; Matthew 9:37 And Paul cautions us to, " continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:12,13 In doing so we will escape the consequences of the acts of our sinful nature which, " bore fruit for death." Romans 7:5,6 (see also Galatians 5:19-21); and be, " filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ " Philippians 1:11 "For the Son of Man is going to come in his father's glory with the angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." Matthew 16:27 "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth, there will be wrath and anger." Romans 2:7,8
Finally, "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked,. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:7-9
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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