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Showing posts with the label #Fruit

Our holiness and God’s holiness.

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Your average person thinks holy is a synonym for awesome: Something’s holy because it’s significantly great, worthy of honor, pure, perfect, or good. They figure God’s holy because he’s so… well, clean. Whereas we humans get awfully dirty.Nope, it’s not what holy means. The Hebrew word qodéš/“holy” means separate—set apart from anything else. The Greek word ágios/“holy” means set apart, specifically for the gods—which the translators of the Septuagint used instead of the similar Greek word agnós, which does mean clean and perfect.It’s this misunderstanding which produces a lot of the vengeful-God ideas about holiness. Because we’ve confused holiness with perfection, God’s holiness (and the constant emphasis the scriptures put on his holiness) leads a lot of us to think God’s really fixated on moral perfection. To them, “God is holy” means “God is good,” and because God is “holy holy holy” Is 6.3, Rv 4.8 —super-duper holy, as the angels describe him—they conclude God must have a very l…

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 when it comes …

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

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Ephesians 2.4-10 KWL4 God, being rich in mercy, loves us out of his great love.5Us, 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 release of death—to be followed by the joy of res…

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.Wemay 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 us a new nature—his nat…

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 reputation with pagans is because of ho…

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 NIVSubmit 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 KWL5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things.6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind, life and peace.7 For a flesh-led min…

“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 KWL4 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 doesn’t plot evil. 6 It …

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 Christmas.”SHE. [irritated scoff]Tell many a C…

The fear of phony peace.

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When “blessed are the peacemakers” gets ditched in favor of popular End Times theories.So as I said yesterday, we Christians aren’t necessarily known for being peaceful. ’Cause we lack peace. ’Cause we’ve adopted one of the typical incorrect notions as to how to attain it, and haven’t correctly chosen to follow God and pursue his kingdom. Mt 6.25-34And sometimes it’s ’cause we don’t trust peace. Especially societal and political forms of peace. When our secretary of state brokers a treaty between warring nations, or between the United States and some other nation we’re not really getting along with. Definitely when the United Nations tries to do likewise. We don’t believe any of that stuff is real peace—we suspect there’s something underhanded and devilish behind it.Why’s that? Well, in Revelation there’s this vision John had of a Beast who’s gonna take over the world. Rv 13 And according to one of the more popular End Times theories, the Beast is gonna gain its power by pretending to…

Peace be unto you.

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Too many Christians lack peace, ’cause they’re trusting anything but God to grant it.God’s into peace. It’s an aspect of his character we really don’t spend enough time on. But it’s a fruit of the Spirit, and something he wishes upon us, his creations, his children—as articulated by his angels when Jesus was born.Luke 2.13-14 KWL13 Suddenly there was a large number of the heavenly army with the angel, praising God,saying, 14 “Glory in the highest heaven to God!Peace upon the earth to the people he’s pleased with!”Problem is, we Christians aren’t known for being peaceful.This may be a fair assessment, and it may be unfair. After all, when Christians aren’t peaceful, it makes the news. When we are peaceful, it might become one of those happy-news stories at the end of the video, or in the back of the newspaper; it might go viral if it’s heartwarming enough. But it doesn’t always. It may very well be we Christians are doing a good job of demonstrating peace, and since the agitated minori…

The supernatural without the Spirit’s fruit.

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Yeah, contrary to popular belief, bad Christians can work actual miracles.1 Corinthians 13.1-3If phony supernaturalism irritates you, you’re hardly alone. It annoys me too. Just because I believe in the supernatural, a lot of folks expect I’ll believe any stupid thing. Those who don’t believe in the supernatural at all, presume I believe in every single one of the outrageous behaviors we find in the loonier fringes of Pentecostalism. Those who do believe in the supernatural expect me to accept their appalling behavior as legitimate—and are very annoyed when I won’t.But I can’t. Jesus warned us there’d be frauds out there. He told us to keep our eyes open, look out for them, and judge whether they’re legit or not. And some of these self-described apostles, prophets, healers, and ministers are simply frauds. People always try to make counterfeits of something valuable. It’s our duty as Christians to test these would-be miracle workers, see whether there’s anything to them—and call them …

Gentleness: Take charge of your emotions!

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“Gentle” doesn’t mean “nice.” It means, like a well-trained horse, you don’t spook easily.When Christians go through Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians—love, joy, peace, etcetera Ga 5.22-23 —we tend to skip gentleness. ’Cause we figure it’s just a synonym of kindness. Gentle people are kind, right? Gentle Jesus is meek and mild, according to Charles Wesley’s hymn; we assume gentleness is therefore meekness and mildness. Nice, friendly people.Or gentle people are patient. They handle others softly, not roughly. Like the washing machine on the gentle cycle: Treats your clothes softly and tenderly, kinda like the way Jesus is calling, “Oh sinner, come home” in Will Thompson’s hymn.What’re the chances I’m gonna tell you both those definitions are incorrect? Better than average.The word Paul used for gentleness is prahýtis. It describes someone who’s prahýs/“gentle.” In classical Greek literature, it’s used to describe people or animals who were angry, sad, or fearful… but they…

Joy.

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Are you truly happy? ’Cause the Holy Spirit wants you to be.Joy /dʒɔɪ/ n. Feeling of great happiness and pleasure.[Joyful /'dʒɔɪ.fəl/ adj.; joyous /'dʒɔɪ.əs/ adj.]You’d think I wouldn’t need to include a definition of joy before writing on the subject. You’d be wrong. Not everyone agrees with, or even approves of, this definition.Joy’s a feeling. An emotion. A positive emotion, one which God wants us to feel. He wants us to experience joy on a regular basis. He wants us to be filled with pleasure and happiness. It’s how his kingdom’s meant to be. No more tears; Rv 7.17 nothing but joy.But there are a large number of joyless Christians who claim it’s not a feeling of happiness; it’s not an emotion whatsoever. Instead it’s a “state of well-being.” Once you decide, regardless of your circumstances, you’re gonna be okay with things—despite suffering, chaos, or general suckitude, you’re gonna tamp down those feelings of despair and just tough it out—that’s joy. God gives us the pow…

Bad fruit: The “works of the flesh.”

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St. Paul didn’t even wanna call them “fruit.” That’s how bad they are.In his letter to Galatia, before he even got to the Spirit’s fruit, Paul made another list of the érga tis sarkós/“works of the flesh.” Ga 5.19 It’s not the Spirit’s fruit; it’s our fruit. Fruit gone wrong. Rotten fruit. He didn’t even wanna call it fruit.Galatians 5.19-21 KWL19 Fleshly works are obvious in anyone who practices the following:Promiscuity. Uncleanness. Unethical behavior.20 Idolatry. Addiction. Hatred. Rabble-rousing.Too much zeal. Anger. Partisanship. Separatism. Heresy.21 Envy. Intoxication. Constant partying. And other people like these.I warn you of them just like I warned you before:Those who do such things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.Here’s the disturbing thing: You know Christians who are totally doing such things. The weed-smoking Christian who’s never not high. The partisan Christian who’s pretty sure if you’re in the opposition party, you can’t be Christian. The Christian who doesn’t mind ly…

Be kind. For once.

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Christians know better than to pass off certain things as love… but we often overlook this thing.We Christians don’t have a reputation for being kind. More like a reputation for being easily outraged, quick to judge, holier than thou, shunning, condemning, impatient, unforgiving buttholes. And if you were immediately offended by my using that word, you just proved my point: Our bad reputation is totally deserved.What’s with all the Christian jerks? Largely it’s our lack of love. Love is kind, 1Co 13.4 but we Christians largely substitute the charitable, unconditional love of God, for the vastly inferior substitute: The sort of love which expects payback or reciprocity. We only love the worthy, not the undeserving; we only love good people, not sinners. Our so-called “love” has no real connection to grace.And that’s a huge problem. Hristótis, the Greek word we translate “kindness,” Ga 5.22 actually means “graciousness.” True, kindness involves being friendly, generous, and considerate,…

Love and romance.

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Is romance appropriate for Christians? Within the appropriate context, absolutely.I’m posting this article on Valentine’s Day, the day named for several ancient martyrs named Valentine: Bishop Valentinus of Terni, Presbyter Valentinus of Rome, Valentinus of Raetia, Valentinus of Genoa, Valentinus the hermit, and Valentinus of North Africa. All their stories and myths got frapped together… and nobody cares about ’em anyway, ’cause Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday. It’s meant to get people to buy stuff, or make various other expensive materialistic declarations of love, for the person they’re currently boning.By “love” I mean one of the eight definitions of love. On Valentine’s Day, among Christians who know charity is the ideal sort of love the scriptures point to, there might be some expressions of that: They love their partners with godly love. They want the best for their loved ones, even if that means sacrificing themselves. They expect nothing in return; it’s not a love whi…