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Showing posts with the label #Fruit

“You don’t know his heart.”

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No, this article’s not on the End Times. But I got a coworker who loves to talk about End Times stuff, ’cause he’s kinda obsessed with it. I don’t know that he’s from one of those dark Christian churches that’s likewise obsessed about it. I think it’s more like he’s young and enthusiastic, and End Times stuff just happened to get under his skin. It did me for a while, when I was a little kid and Hal Lindsey said Jesus had to be coming back soon, ’cause lookit the newspapers! Yes, when I was a little kid; I had an End Times comic book and my church taught on End Times stuff regularly. Little kids get exposed to this stuff all the time; my own nephews have recently discovered the Left Behind youth novels. Unless level-headed adults are around to guide and correct you through it, it can really mess you up. So he likes to bring up any little thing which might be an End Times harbinger, just to get my take on it. And most of the time I tell him he’s worried over nothing: Ye

Resolutions: Our little stabs at self-control.

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Speaking for myself, I’m not into new year’s resolutions. Because I make resolutions the year round. When I see changes I need to make in my life, I get to work on ’em right away. I don’t procrastinate till 1 January. (Though I may procrastinate just the same.) Here’s the problem with stockpiling all our lifestyle changes till the new year: Come 1 January, we wind up with a vast pile of changes to make. It’s hard enough to make one change; now you have five. Or 50, depending on how much of a trainwreck you are. Multiplying your resolutions, multiplies your difficulty level. But hey, it’s an American custom. So at the year’s end a lot of folks, Christians included, begin to think about what we’d like to change about our lives. Not that we want to change. Some of us don’t! But it’s New Year’s resolution time, and everyone’s asking what our resolutions are, and some of us might grudgingly try to come up with something. What should we change? Too many carbohydrates? Not eno

The seven deadly sins.

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The “seven deadly sins” confuse a lot of people. Back in 2008, a rumor spread that the Vatican declared more deadly sins. It came from an interview with Gianfranco Girotti, the head bishop of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary. (I know; this sounds like the Vatican prison. It’s actually the theologians who handle questions about sin, repentance, and forgiveness.) Anyway, in Girotti’s interview with L’Osservatore Romano on 7 March 2008, he listed certain present-day practices which he believed have a harmful global impact: Pollution, drug trafficking, embryo-destroying research, other unethical human experiments, abortion, pedophilia, and economic injustice. Somehow the press converted this into “The Vatican announced there are new sins!” And since your average reporter (lapsed Catholics included) know bupkis about the seven deadly sins, they just assumed there are now 14 deadly sins. Now littering is gonna send you to hell. Like I said, they confuse people. Most people

The fake fruit of fidelity.

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So as I wrote previously, the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians is πίστις / pístis , “faith.” Not, as too various bible translations render it, “faithfulness.” Like the ESV . Galatians 5.22-23 ESV 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Faith is also a supernatural gift of the Spirit, and various Christians wanna make a distinction between gifts and fruit. (Usually ’cause they have some problematic beliefs about the gifts.) So they prefer the interpretation “faithfulness.” By which they mean fidelity —you can be depended upon to do as you say, to stand up for those you love. And hey, fidelity can be an admirable trait. But that all depends on whom we show fidelity to. As humanity has demonstrated lots of times, we can show fidelity to some really godless people, ideas, and institutions. We can do profoundly stupid or evil things in their support—because

The fruit of holiness: Let’s get weird.

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Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians 5 isn’t comprehensive, and isn’t really meant to be. I gotta point that out every time I talk about a fruit which isn’t on Paul’s list, ’cause there’s always some numbnut who says, “That’s not in Galatians 5.” Usually someone who doesn’t like the fruit I’m talking about, so here’s their loophole. Yeah, well, there are other apostles who wrote bible, and some of ’em talked about other fruit. Like Simon Peter: 1 Peter 1.13-16 KWL 13 So, “girding the loins” of your thinking, being sober, hope till the end for the grace which Christ Jesus’s revelation brought you. 14 Do it like obedient children, not conforming to the same old patterns of your ignorant desires, 15 but like the holy one who called you. Become holy yourselves, in your whole lifestyle. 16 For it’s written, “You’ll be holy, because I ’m holy.” Lv 19.2 God expects us to be holy , which we misinterpret as “good” or “clean,” but really means separate :

Affection—versus love.

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Affection is one of the eight things our culture defines as love. It—or more accurately a Greek word which gets translated that way, στοργή/ storgí —took up a chapter of C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves , in which Lewis described it in some detail. Mainly to talk about what traits of storgí might be sorta-kinda godly. For even though affection isn’t at all what Jesus and his apostles meant by αγάπη / agápi , it’s got its positive qualities. But no, it’s not a fruit of the Spirit. Anybody can be affectionate. Plenty of pagans are. It can be a good thing, and have positive effects: People tend to be accommodating to those for whom they have affection. But as you know, “accommodating” can be either a good or bad thing. Looking the other way as your kids commit crimes isn’t a good thing. People are way too affectionate towards our favorite vices. Years ago I was curious to find all the instances of storgí in the New Testament, to see how various translators interpret it. To my

The fruit of faithfulness, or the fruit of faith?

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Where Paul lists the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians , a lot of bibles translate one of the words he used, πίστις / pístis , as “faithfulness.” But that’s not the usual way pístis gets translated in the bible. Typically it’s translated “faith.” And that’s what I believe Paul meant: Faith. Not faithfulness. Not that faithfulness isn’t an admirable trait; not that good fruitful Christians aren’t faithful to God—and faithful to fellow Christians, even when we mess up or sin against one another. But then again, nontheists, pagans, and people of other religions, are frequently faithful to their beliefs and principles, and notoriously stick to them even tighter than Christians will to ours. Heck, dogs are faithful. Loyalty doesn’t take the Holy Spirit. Misbegotten loyalty proves that. Whereas faith is obviously the product of the Spirit: When people don’t have the Spirit, we won’t trust the Spirit. We won’t believe the bible. We’ll invent all sorts of reasons why we needn’t believe i

Goodness, and lawless Christians.

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If you know Jesus—really and truly know Jesus, not just know of him—you’re gonna want to follow him. You’re gonna want to do as he teaches, and actually try to obey his commands instead of shrugging them off with, “Well, they’re nice ideals, but they’re not gonna be practical.” You’re gonna want to be good. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. A rather obvious one: God is good, so shouldn’t those who have the Holy Spirit in us be likewise good? Shouldn’t he encourage us to be good, empower us to do good deeds, be gracious to us when we drop the ball and help us return to goodness? Shouldn’t he point us in the direction of sanctification , of living holy lives, unique from the rest of the world—where goodness is a huge factor in why we’re unique? Likewise if you don’t wanna be good, not only do you lack the Spirit’s fruit: You’re probably not even Christian. And yes, bluntly saying so has a tendency to really offend people: “Goodness doesn’t make you Christian! That’s lega

Faking the fruit of the Spirit.

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Way easier to pretend you have it, than actually grow it. Y’might know we Christians need to be fruity : We Christians have to do good works and produce good fruit. Namely the Spirit’s fruit. You know Paul’s list in Galatians — Galatians 5.22-25 KWL 22 The Spirit’s fruit is love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faith. 23 Gentleness. Temperance. The Law isn’t against such things. 24 Those who follow Christ Jesus crucify the flesh with its pathology and desires: 25 If we live by the Spirit, we can walk by the Spirit! Problem is, there are plenty of hypocrites who don’t live by the Spirit, don’t walk by the Spirit… but want everyone to think they do. So they fake the Spirit’s fruit. There are three ways to do it; all of ’em rather easy. The most common method is to change all the definitions. The popular culture has its own definitions of all these things, so hypocrites simply borrow those definitions and claim they’ve got fruit. Love is an obvious examp

The sinner’s prayer isn’t proof of your salvation.

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Back in grad school I heard this ridiculous story from a preacher. Goes like so. There was this Christian who was feeling unsure of his salvation. He hoped he was saved, but was just full of doubts. A little voice inside his head kept telling him, “Oh you’re not saved. Not really.” The preacher figured this was Satan. [Considering how such baiting will simply drive Christians to find some way to be certain we’re saved, I’m pretty sure the devil isn’t that stupid. But whatever.] Anyway, this doubting Christian got an idea. First he said the sinner’s prayer. Yeah he’d probably said it ages ago, but bear with me: Next he made a sign with that day’s date on it, attached it to a stake, and pounded the stake into his backyard. Now every time the voice in his head told him, “ You’re not saved,” he could look out the backyard window, point to the sign, and say, “I am so , devil. Get thee behind me.” Followed by a rash of students placing signs with various dates on ’em in the ya

Redefining joy “because happiness is fleeting.”

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Ask anyone what joy means and they’ll tell you what the dictionary usually tells you: It’s happiness. It’s pleasure. You feel really, really good. Ask a Christian and they’ll give you the very same answer. That is, till you bring up the fruit of the Spirit. Then suddenly the definition of joy changes to contentment . To being okay with whatever befalls us in life. To gritting our teeth and buggering on. All the happiness gets sucked right out of the meaning. What’s wrong with these people? What, have they never experienced joy before? No, they have! The problem isn’t that they don’t know what joy is, nor what it feels like. The problem is they don’t understand fruit of the Spirit. Christians have some really odd, wrong ideas about what it’s like. So these odd ideas worm their way backwards into the definitions of the individual fruits, and distort what we mean by love or any of the emotions encouraged by the Spirit. Emotions, y’see, come and go. We all know this. Joy fa

Fake joy, evil joy, and joyless Christians.

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There are a lot of joyless people in the world. Sometimes it’s a clinical problem; I’m not talking about them today. If you need medication, get it. Same as if you have too much joy. Nope; today I mean the fruitless Christian who rarely experiences great happiness, the proper definition of joy, because their fleshly attitudes simply don’t reflect the attitudes the Holy Spirit brings out in us. Instead of joy, they’re angry, argumentative, bitter, divisive, envious, faultfinding, hateful, humorless, pessimistic, and unforgiving. When they encounter joy, they’ll actually try to stamp it out. What do they do instead of joy? As is typical of fruitless Christians, they’ll find something else in their character which they’ll try to pass off as “joy.” If they lack fruit, fake fruit will do them. The most common false definition of joy is “a state of well-being.” It’s not happiness; it’s being content, comfortable, okay with the way things are. Happiness is fleeting, they explain

Are Mormons Christian?

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I’ve written more than once that we’re saved by God’s grace —which means we’re not saved by our orthodoxy. There are a lot of Evangelical Christians who’ve got it into our heads that we’re saved only once we have all the correct beliefs; a situation I call faith righteousness . Faith righteousness is easily disproven by the fact God saves new Christians. Does any newbie hold all the correct beliefs about God? Of course not; they don’t know anything yet! None of us did. (Some of us still don’t.) But we’re pursuing a relationship with God, and as we screw up time and again, God graciously forgives our deficiencies. Might be moral deficiencies; might be doctrinal deficiencies. Makes no difference. Grace covers all. Of course, when I teach this, people occasionally wanna know just how far they can push God’s grace. They wanna know just how egregiously they can sin before God finally says, “Nope; you’ve gone too far; you’re going to hell.” Not necessarily because they wanna sin

Joy and the “happy Christian.”

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Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. It’s a great feeling. It’s a fruit of the Spirit too, y’know: Anyone who follows Jesus, who listens to the Holy Spirit, oughta experience joy more often than not. We should have a positive, optimistic view of the world—not because it’s good, for holy shnikes it’s not; but because God’s fixing it and saving people. We should be friendly, engaging, helpful, and be fun to be around. Our joy oughta be contagious. And yet. Yeah, you know where I’m going with this: We’ve all met “joyful” Christians who just plain rubbed us the wrong way. A little too happy. A little too friendly, too cheerful, too pleased. They’re so chipper, you kinda want to feed them into one. They’re off-putting. Whenever I express my discomfort about such people, most Christians will respond, “I know, right? What’s with them?” But every so often I’ll get rebuked by someone who wants to know why I have a problem with joy. I don’t. I have a problem with fake

Gossip, prayer, and trustworthiness.

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Sometimes it’s not a prayer request; it’s gossip. The gossipy prayer request. High school likely wasn’t the first place I encountered it, but certainly the first time I became aware of it. We were in a youth group meeting, the pastor was taking prayer requests, and one kid raised her hand and proceeded to give us way too much detail about a girl most of us knew. Definitely gossip. But that’s how gossips have discovered a loophole: Gossip may be bad, but praying for one another is good! So now they can gossip freely, on the grounds it’s all stuff we need to know. Right? Wrong; rubbish. We don’t need to know a thing. All we need to know is someone needs God’s help, and that God can help. If your friend ( let’s call him Vasko ) needs prayer, all you gotta tell the prayer leader is, “Please pray for my friend Vasko; he’s having a rough time, and that’s all I can tell you.” A gossipy prayer leader will pry, but a wise prayer leader will say “Okay,” and respect it as an unspoken pray

Is faith a gift?

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Mixing up the types of faith, is why a lot of Christians don’t develop their faith. Oh, I won’t bury the lead. Is faith a gift? Well, supernatural faith is a gift. The other types of faith? Nah. I know why various Christians claim faith, all faith, is a gift. It’s usually ’cause it says so in their church’s catechism. Fr’instance the Heidelberg Catechism: 65. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: Where then does that faith come from? A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments. Various scriptures indicate that people have faith after hearing the gospel, Ro 10.17 and the writers of the catechisms kinda stretched these verses to imply it was the gospel, and God granting us the ability to understand the gospel, 1Co 2.10-14 which generated the faith in us. It wasn’t our ability to trust what we heard; it was God sorta flipping a switch in us so that n