Bad fruit, bad trees
In my last longer blog I used weeds as an analogy for the bad ideas in our heads. Jesus uses fruit for products of our life. Here I am extending it to an idea, a concept.
Jesus said “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7: 15-20
“ Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But, the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control.” Galatians 5:19-23.
Earlier this week I read an article about Charles Finney by Dr. Horton (here: https://www.monergism.com/disturbing-legacy-charles-finney). I also recently finished reading The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher.
I’m really boiling down both of their arguments for my purposes here. Dr. Horton argues that Finney gave us the current obsession with emotional conversions. This runs against 1800 years of church practice. For these 1800 years we (short version) taught people the Gospel: the good news of Christ in Us, we trained them in the creeds, we baptized them, we prayed for the infilling of the Spirit, we celebrated the Lord’s Table (Eucharist) every week together, and we expected changed lives. None of this is easy. It’s very hard work. It takes encouragement from other, longer in the faith believers. It takes time to change a way of life. What Finney did was to use the emotions as the gateway. He essentially got people hooked on a feeling of conversion. Unfortunately, that is a weak tree limb. The emotion fades and people are left wondering if they lost their faith. It’s tragic in both it fails the person with constant doubts and it fails the church because the weakness of its members. It’s called revivalism.
Rod Dreher starts his narrative a few centuries prior to that: the enlightenment and the rise of romanticism. In this period we lost our ability to see the divine in everything. This mere sentence sounds weird to our ears. That weirdness illustrates how much our view of the world has shifted from the late middle ages. We have essentially imagined the work of the creator can be separated from the Creator Himself. This can not be true. Colossians 1:17 “and He (Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Rod goes on bravely from here to describe Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and its destructive effect on Christian youth culture and how we as Christians need to pull together into real physical communities to defend the faith and build up each other in Love. But that is a topic for a future post.
So, combining these two thoughts, we have weak Christians fed on a diet of emotional fluff (really nothing more that logical positivism) and a worldview that has eliminated transcendence: the world is nothing more than the physical matter and observable phenomena that can be explained rationally.
Enter the sexual revolution. The “if it feels good, do it” way of life. This emotional streak makes it very hard for the modern revivalist Christian to see its deeper error.
I think we can agree that marriage is hard work. But instead of trying to work it out, we choose divorce because we have “lost that loving feeling.” So the church caved on divorce. We “feel freer” with a new mate and ride the emotional high of the infatuation. So the church started remarry the divorced. Gone is dying to self, in is living to be happy. In came the prosperity Gospel. Out is building relationships, in is instant gratification in “hook-up” culture and rampant pornography. And there are numerous and regular examples of this behavior rampant among those who call themselves Christian.
We are made in the image of a Holy God. Emotions and sex are a mere part, a small slice of the totality that is a human being, a man or a woman. Yet we are constantly bombarded with images and messages of the “profound” importance of sex and the sexual act. It has become so important to the culture that one can now become another gender, as if it were possible to change XX and XY chromosomes. The outward appearance is all that is of importance.
So, I think the rotten fruit of this rotten tree is fairly obvious at this point: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry.” That so many churches and Christians have caved to this new “orthodoxy” is to me fairly obvious evidence of the tree being rotten. Our rejection of a God centered universe has led us down this dark path.
But that is a mere diagnosis. We all need Christ. The hard work is in BEING a Christian, a “little Christ”. It’s that present progressive verb. To be doing something in the present:
Having Divine Love. Being Joyful. Being at Peace. Being Patient. Being Kind. Being Good. Being Faithful. Being Gentle. Being Self-Controlled.
This is not a list of exterior attributes. This is a list that comes from a deeply ingrained trust in the Lord. It comes from the hard work of prayer, fasting and the giving of alms. It comes from reading scripture. Being in community with other believers. In celebrating The Eucharist together. In confessing our sins to one another. In forgiving others just as we are forgiven by God. In praying for one another. In not thinking of ourselves as superior to another.
So it comes full circle to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Trust in the Risen Lord Jesus in all you say and do; and look to the day when ALL will be revealed and we will be made new, resurrected to new Life in Him.
Soli Deo Gloria