Does God Really Only Call Us to Be Faithful, Not Fruitful?

Quite often lately, I have heard the phrase, “God calls us to be faithful, not fruitful.”  Working as a campus minister in the Midwest, we can pull that statement out to make us feel good about ourselves when moralistic college students don’t respond to the gospel.  There are two ways to interpret this sentence.  One is biblical; the other is not.  The non-biblical interpretation says, “Just do what God calls you to do, but don’t worry about results.  You don’t have to bear fruit.”  The biblical interpretation of this phrase is simply this: “Our faithfulness to God’s service will produce eternal fruit, proving that we are truly God’s people.”  This has to be the case, because after all, God does call us to be fruitful.

Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit [my Father] takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
– John 15:2, 8

John makes it pretty clear.  If you don’t bear fruit, you will be cut off.  In other words, if you don’t bear fruit, you prove yourself to not truly be in Christ.  However, who is the one actually causing the fruit to sprout, blossom, and mature?  It’s Jesus.

[Jesus said,] I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
– John 15:5

If we look in Paul’s epistles, we see this same theology of faithfulness and fruitfulness.  Paul would say, “God has called me to be faithful.  If I am faithful to his kingdom’s work, he will bear much fruit in and through me.”  Look at how he puts it in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:

What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth.

If you are a sower, then plant.  If you are a sprinkler, then water the ground.  Be faithful in your work, then expect with faith, in the power of the Spirit, that God will give the increase.  He will grow the fruit and he will credit that fruitfulness to your account and not cut you off.  In this, God is glorified and it proves you to be a true disciple of our Lord and Savior.


Thirsty? Don’t Drink From the Toilet

In Hosea 5, God gives a bone-chilling indictment to Israel and Judah.  He says, “The spirit of whoredom is within [Israel and Judah]” (v. 4)  That’s not what you want to hear out of God’s mouth.  If you read this entire chapter, the outlook doesn’t get much better.  In fact, it gets worse.  Israel will stumble in its guilt (v. 5); God has withdrawn himself from Israel (v. 6); Israel’s joyful festival times will now be a curse to them (v. 7); God is going to pour out his wrath on Israel and Judah (v. 10); God will be like a moth and pus-filled sores to Israel and Judah (v. 12); and God will tear apart Israel and Judah like a lion and carry them off so that they cannot be rescued (v. 14).

That’s not very encouraging.  In fact, if this were the last chapter in the Bible, I might just doubt the joy and purpose of this whole Christian thing.  Thank God it’s not the last chapter in the Bible.  It’s not even the last chapter in Hosea.

Amidst all those afflictions that God is bringing on his people, I noticed something significant in verse 11.  It says, “Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth.”  What’s significant about that?  Ephraim (which is another name for Israel) deserved this punishment because they were determined to do evil.  The “spirit of whoredom” had taken them astray so they pursued dirt instead of God.  They were so far gone that muddy, clouded toilet water looked clean, clear, and refreshing.

The phrase for “go after filth” in Hebrew is literally “to follow human precepts.”  Now that narrows it down a bit.  “Human precepts” sounds a lot like religion.  This is very similar to an issue Paul addressed in Philippians 3.  There, Paul lists his pedigree as a Jew and Pharisee.  But what does he say after his list of accomplishments?  He writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (v. 8).  A lot of controversy has been spilled out over the word “rubbish.”  Daniel Wallace, Ph.D., is a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and he argues that the word “rubbish” is somewhere in between crap and s**t.  Whatever the case (but for the record, I side with Wallace), Paul makes the point that his Pharisaical and fleshly accomplishments are filthy compared to the person and work of Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

Hosea and Paul communicate the same truth in two different ways: If you are thirsty, don’t drink toilet water.  It’s disgusting.  Go to the Fountain that gives the living water, which will never leave us thirsty again.

In light of this, where is the hope of Christ in Hosea?  Where is the deliverance for God’s people?  Read ahead to 6:1.  “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”  Israel is honest: God has caused their harm.  They are confidently persuaded that God is a just God and that he will by no means let the guilty go free.  But they are just as confidently persuaded that God is merciful and he will forgive the people that he has purchased for himself.  He has done it for their good and his glory.  Still, this seems to be an insincere cry.  Verse 4 says, “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim…O Judah?”  Nevertheless, God is a good dad who loves his kids and wants them to be holy like him and so often discipline is required in order to bring about holiness (Heb. 12:3-11).  He says in Hosea 6:11 that he will restore the fortunes of his people.”  Therefore, though God slay us, let us praise him (Job 13:15).  More than that, let us praise him for his Son, Jesus, who was crushed and grieved by the Father so that he might bring us peace with God (Isa. 53:4-6, 10).

By the way, what does the last chapter of the Bible say?  Five verses from the end, it says, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

Our application?  If you are thirsty.  Don’t drink toilet water.  It’s gross.  Drink the water Jesus gives.  It’s the most satisfying, most clean, most free, and most important drink you’ll ever take.


I’m Really Fascinated by Wordle

So I love the Wordle word clouds.  The one below is from an essay I wrote about the doctrine of instantaneous sanctification.  Some Christians think you can be perfect in this life.  The Bible makes it clear you cannot.

Check out each NT book in the ESV.


Spirit Baptism and the Body of Christ

Here is a very unique, biblical, well-written treatise of Spirit baptism, and what it is supposed to accomplish in the body of Christ. 


I Have Nothing, Yet I Posses More Than I Could Ever Imagine

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

– 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

As I was reading 1 Peter 1:5-7 this morning, Peter said, “In this [the living hope we have], you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in prise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  The Christians to whom Peter was writing were joyful, yet sorrowful.  They were exceedingly glad that God has elected them, caused them to be born again to a living hope and eternal inheritance, and that they are being guarded by God’s power.  Still, they were sorrowful for going through trials and tribulations.

With this dichotomy from 1 Peter on my mind, I flipped over to 2 Corinthians 6 to read about how Paul described himself and the apostles.  Two of the clauses jumped off the page: 1) “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” and 2) “as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 

The first one is for the obvious reason that it related to 1 Peter.  Is there ever true, undefiled rejoicing in this world without some sort of pain and sorrow attached?  Of course not.  We need to live on the fine line of knowing how to rejoice amidst pain and suffering.

The second for reasons that have become so much more evident to me over the past nine months.  I work for Campus Crusade in Nebraska.  I’ll be in Africa this summer for a month and then again for a year starting in January.  I have to raise financial support.  I don’t make much money.  People in my own family think that I am wasting my life and time with what I’m doing.  Others on the outside hear “ministry” and they think that I’m just some religious nut who will never be able to mortgage a home because I make peanuts for a living.  In the world’s eyes, I have nothing.  I buy clothes from Target and Wal-Mart.  Eating out means going to Subway.  Truly, I have nothing — in one sense.  But in an altogether different sense, I have never been richer in my entire life.  I have seen people go from death to life, darkness to light, and from a purposeless life to a living hope.  I have developed deep, meaningful relationships that will continue throughout my life.  I have grown with the Lord in mighty ways so that I now truly taste and see that he is good.  I might not have a large bank account in this world, but my savings account in heaven is no doubt growing by the day. 

God deserves all glory and praise and honor.  How blessed is it that he invites us undeserving people to be a part of what he is doing in the world.  For those in the economy of God, though we appear as if we have nothing, we are really more wealthy than could ever be imagined.