Apples to Oranges Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. --Matthew 7:20
In this discourse, preached on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus contrasts two types of people—the religious and the righteous. Jesus makes clear that they are very different groups of people. In Matthew 7, Jesus discusses the difference between the religious and the righteous when it comes to judging. The chapter is full of surface level contradictions, one sure to confuse and confound many readers, and too often believers. In the first short section, verses 1–5, Jesus tells us not to judge—but only in a certain way. Then verse 6, which reads, “do not give dogs (i.e. Gentiles) what is holy and do not throw your pearls before pigs…” requires making a judgment, as does knowing what to ask for (vv. 7–11), choosing which gate and path to take (vv. 12–14), and the section on false prophets (vv. 15–20). If we are to distinguish between a false prophet and a true prophet, we must make judgments. So Jesus begins this chapter by telling us not to judge, and then proceeds to tell his followers they must make many kinds of judgments over the course of their Christian lives. Avoiding the egregious cultural sin of judging in order to be politically correct or to be “nice” won’t cut it for the righteous as Jesus describes them. The fruit of a purported prophet’s life, Jesus says, reveals what type of prophet has come to us. But miracles and power aren’t the fruit or the evidence Jesus is looking for. The ability to perform miracles does not reveal the provenance of the prophet. Jesus tells some of these types of prophets that he “never knew” them. In 1 John, a lot of space is given to figuring out how to judge people for who they really are; and it is there we find a clue to the kind of fruit that reveals the provenance of a true prophet—love for others (1 John 4:7). John focuses in on Jesus’ injunctions from the Upper Room Discourse and says repeatedly in this short letter that the best “test of life” (or in Matthew’s terminology, the revealing fruit) is that a true believer loves others in practical, tangible ways, and this love is the evidence that they belong to Christ. (1 John 1:1–3 has yet another test of life.) These days, religious people avoid any and all judgments about others—at least they say they do. But Jesus calls his own, the righteous, to make many types of judgments, but to do so humbly, with a deep awareness that our righteousness is a gift and not earned. by Bill Bivin
We looked up the local disciples and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was "Don’t go to Jerusalem."
— Acts 21:4 msg
Okay, I admit this is confusing. Paul is convicted that he must go to Jerusalem. At the same time, he knows hardship awaits him. Now this warning and command: "Don't go to Jerusalem!" I don't know any way to understand this other than one of two ways. One, Paul is disobeying the Spirit when he goes to Jerusalem. Two, this is more of the Spirit alerting him that grief and hardship await him if he goes to Jerusalem. Here's the bottom line: either way, God uses this trip to Jerusalem to get Paul to Rome, where the good news of Jesus needed to be heard and where Paul was determined to go. Somewhere in the confusion we all face in trying to follow the Spirit's lead, we have to trust that God will get us where we need to be and doing what we need to do to fully honor him. The question is whether we are willing to fully invest and trust in the Spirit leading us no matter what the short-term consequences of our commitment may be.
Gracious Father in heaven, I trust that you will use the Holy Spirit to lead me where I need to be to do the work you want me to do. I ask, dear Father, that my life glorify you no matter where that is or what that entails. My deepest prayer, Lord, is that I never, ever, outlive my love and trust of you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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[Paul said,] "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."
— Acts 20:28 tniv
Paul reminds the Ephesian elders of three heavenly truths about leaders. First, leaders are to watch, feed, protect and care for ("shepherd") the people of God. Second, the Holy Spirit was involved in putting them into their leadership role. Third, those who lead must always realize that those they lead ("church of God" or "the flock") never belongs to them, but to God who purchased it at such a high cost. This is a powerful and sobering reminder of their call for leaders. For followers, this is a reminder to follow. For each of us, this is a reminder of just how precious the church is to God!
Almighty God, please be at work in our churches today through the Holy Spirit calling those you want and we desperately need into leadership roles in your church. I ask forgiveness, dear Father, for not valuing your church more highly and pledge to more fully cherish it as you do. In Jesus' name I offer these thanksgivings and commitments. Amen.