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Showing posts with the label #Fruit

Bad fruit: The “works of the flesh.”

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Galatians 5.19-21. In Paul’s letter to Galatia, before he even got to his list of the Spirit’s fruit, he made another list of τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός / ta érya tis sarkós , “carnal works,” KJV “the works of the flesh.” It’s not the Spirit’s fruit; it’s our fruit. There’s a recent fad where cake-makers create something which looks like something inedible—a shoe, a purse, a toy—then they sliced into it and revealed it’s cake. There’s a much older fad where vegetarians create fake meat, like a veggie burger: They’re doing amazing things with veggie burgers nowadays, but for the most part whenever you bite into a vegetarian “hamburger,” or “chick’n,” you’re expecting meat… and it’s not meat. It’s close; it’s not bad-tasting (well, usually), but it’s wrong. Flesh instead of fruit is the same thing. It’s popular, and most definitely appeals to us humans. But it’s wrong. It is technically fruit; Jesus refers to it as bad fruit when he speaks about fake and fruitless prophets

Some people don’t wanna argue. And they’re entirely right not to.

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Back in 2017 an acquaintance of mine started an “apologetics ministry.” It’s kinda defunct now. Initially it consisted of his blog, his Twitter account, and a whole bunch of his spare time. (You know, like TXAB —except I don’t do apologetics.) Except he also created a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, got some friends to be his board members, and solicited donations. He was hoping to turn it into a full-time job… and got really irritated at me for calling it “getting paid to sit in his pajamas all day and argue with strangers on the internet.” But that is what he was doing. In his mind, he was doing it for Jesus. He figured apologetics is a vital, necessary ministry, and there simply aren’t enough Christians out there… arguing with strangers on the internet, whether they spend all day in their jammies or not. Like I said, his “ministry” is defunct now. He’s taken to arguing politics. Political organizations aren’t allowed under the 501(c)3 tax code, so I’m pretty sure he’s ei

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

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

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

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

Fake goodness. (Yes, it can be faked.)

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It’s been long taught the opposite of goodness is badness, or evil. That’s not precisely true. The proper opposite of goodness is non-goodness. Which can take the forms of active evil, apathy (i.e. standing around doing nothing when we could be doing good—or stopping evil), or hypocrisy (i.e. pretending to be good when we’re not really). We humans don’t like to think of ourselves as evil. Even when we totally are: We seek out ways to justify our misbehavior. Good excuses, like “It wasn’t my responsibility,” or as Cain ben Adam put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ge 4.9 KJV Semantic justifications, like “It’s not technically doing evil, and here’s why,” like you’ll find in theodicy whenever determinists try to explain how their view of God doesn’t really make him culpable for all the evil in the cosmos. Our self-preservation instinct means we’ll do our darnedest to defend ourselves… or get high so we don’t ever have to think about it. The usual route I find Christians take

Be good. It’s what God expects of his kids.

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Ephesians 2.4-10 KWL 4 God, being rich in mercy, loves us out of his great love. 5 Us , being dead in our missteps. He makes us all alive in Christ: You’re saved by his grace. 6 He raises us and seats us together in the highest heavens, in Christ Jesus— 7 so he can show the overabundant riches of his grace in the coming ages, in kindness to those of us who are in Christ Jesus. 8 You’re all saved by his grace, through your faith. This, God’s gift, isn’t from you, 9 isn’t from works; none can boast of it . 10 We’re his poetry, creations in Christ Jesus, for doing the good works which God pre-prepared. We should walk in them! Too often Christians get the idea that once God saved us—once we said the sinner’s prayer, and gained free admission to God’s kingdom—there’s not a whole lot left for us Christians to do. We don’t have to earn heaven; we don’t have to do anything . We can just kick back, bask in the knowledge of our election, and wait for the sweet re

Humility, and the “cage-stage” Christian.

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The first principle of theology is humility —knowing who and what you are, and not claiming you’re anything more. Or, as we so often see in false humility, less. That means we’re fully aware we’re wrong, and Jesus is right. The purpose of theology isn’t to believe we’ve “arrived,” and defend our newly-acquired high ground. It’s to correct our beliefs, poor character, and bad attitudes. Because they’re misbegotten and wayward. We may be redeemed, but they’re not. Bearing this in mind, with the Holy Spirit’s help and power, the goal is to get those traits to match Jesus’s. The problem? A lot of Christians have utterly skipped that first theology lesson. Or weren’t paying attention, ’cause they were too busy staring at the syllabus. Or promptly forgot all about it, ’cause all their new knowledge puffed ’em up. However it happened. Hence they imagine theology’s first principle is, “I was wrong—but now I’m not. Jesus fixed me.” When he gave us new life, supposedly he gave u

Patience. Or longsuffering. Either.

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How angry Christians lack it, and how to work on it. Years ago I casually mentioned to someone I was praying for greater patience. He. “Aw, why would you do that to yourself?” Me. “Why, what’s the problem?” He. “You realize how God teaches you patience, right?” Me. “Of course. He’s gonna make me practice.” He. “And life’s gonna suck. You’re gonna wind up in more situations where you gotta be patient. You’ll have to wait for everything .” Me. “So everybody’s been telling me. They’ve been about as encouraging as Satan itself. You sure it didn’t send you? Get thee behind me.” Yeah, don’t tell the dude who’s struggling with patience that his life’s about to suck. He’ll turn on you. But it’s something we Christians need to strive for. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, one of the ways love behaves, and impatient Christians wind up exhibiting works of the flesh like anger, unforgiveness, argumentativeness, and unkindness. Much of the reason Christians get a bad reput

Submission. It’s not domination.

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It has two definitions, and evil people are promoting the wrong one. Submit /səb'mɪt/ v. Yield to or accept a superior force, authority, or will. Consent to their conditions. 2. Present one’s will to another for their consideration or judgment. [Submission /səb'mɪs.ʃən/ n. ] Notice there are two popular definitions of submit in use. The more popular of the two has to do with acceptance, obedience, and blind capitulation. To turn off our brains, do as we’re told. And most sermons instruct Christians to do precisely that. Submit to one another, as Paul ordered. Ephesians 5.21 NIV Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ’Cause we kinda have to. If we can’t submit to God—if we insist on our own way, our own standards, our own values, our own lifestyles—it’s a pretty good bet we’re outside his kingdom. Romans 8.5-8 KWL 5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things. 6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind,

“Tough love”: Anger disguised as love.

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Contrary to popular belief, it’s as unlike love as we can get. Tough love /təf ləv/ n. Promotion of a person’s welfare by enforcing certain constraints on them, or demanding they take responsibility for their actions. 2. Restrictions on government benefits, designed to encourage self-help. When I wrote about love, I mentioned there are plenty more things our culture calls “love.” C.S. Lewis listed four, though he was looking at classical antiquity. Your dictionary’s gonna have way more than four; I bunched ’em into eight categories. I also pointed out it’s important for us Christians, whenever we’re talking about love, to stick with Paul and Sosthenes’s definition as closely as possible: 1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL 4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontrolled emotion. It doesn’t draw attention to how great it is. It doesn’t exaggerate. 5 It doesn’t ignore others’ considerations. It doesn’t look out for itself. It doesn’t provoke behavior.

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

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All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you. “Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees. SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?” ME. “It’s still Christmas.” SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.” ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember? ” SHE. “ What lasts 12 days?” ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.” SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?” ME. “ I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.” SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.” ME. “You mean the second day of C