Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fruitless Lives

 Fruitless Lives

When John the Baptist saw the unrepentant Pharisees come to his baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:2), he said unto them “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7)?  Then John the Baptist said to them, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  In other words, by the authority of God in the prophet, John the Baptist expected an amended lifestyle and amended beliefs BEFORE he would baptize anyone.  Genuine repentance always manifests itself with an amended lifestyle that corresponds with the will of God and an amended belief system that corresponds with salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!
Perhaps there is no greater anomaly to the Christian life than a fruitless believer professing to have been “born again of the Spirit of God.  Such an anomaly is a contradiction of the greatest proportion.  Jesus speaks of this anomaly in Matthew 7:15-29 in no uncertain terms.  Jesus equates fruitless professors as “wolves” who are “in sheep’s clothing.”  These “wolves” come to the Church looking like sheep, talking like sheep, but then Jesus says “ye shall know them by their fruits.”  The main point of the New Creation is recreating “wolves” into “sheep.”  “Wolves” come to church services with a completely different feeding agenda than do the “sheep.”  “Wolves” are takers.  Sheep are givers.  It is readily apparent how easily true “sheep” can be taken advantage of by “wolves.”
There was a whole industry of Rabbis and Rabbinical schools at the time of Christ.  Young men were sent to these various schools to be trained in the Mosaic Law and the interpretation of Rabbinical schools of thought.  Almost every educated Jew was trained in one of these Bible Schools.  However, once these people professed faith in Christ, they simply added the teachings of Jesus to what they had already been previously taught.  Most of that previous teaching was legalistic both in regard to the issue of salvation and practical sanctification.  Many of these men did not repent of these false beliefs regarding salvation and sanctification.  They simply began to integrate these false teachings in with true Christianity.  These are the “wolves” to whom Jesus refers in Matthew 7:15.
The local churches involved in Contemporary Christian music and making church service appear as little like church services as possible are filling their churches with empty people.  They have compromised the Gospel message to the place where repentance is never mentioned.  People can come to Christ while trusting in their own self-righteousness (meaning they do not think themselves so bad that God would send them to Hell).  They come to Jesus with no knowledge of what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus accomplishes on their behalf.  They have no more than a superficial knowledge of the Lordship of Jesus and what that entails for them as they “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” (Romans 10:9).
There is no preaching repentance of sin and “dead works” in these churches pastored by “wolves” in sheep’s clothing.  These “wolves” are nothing more than the devil’s carnival show hucksters trying to fleece the sheep for all they have.  They are so busy gathering crowds they give no thought, nor do they care, that Jesus will not show up.  He will not show up because they do not gather in His Name, which is holy and separate from the very things they so tenaciously promote.

“15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:15-29).

There are two major problems that dominate most local churches:

1. Members who have walked the isle, prayed the prayer, been dunked in the tank, but who have never repented of sin and been converted in their hearts
2. Members who have never been taught that the Christian-life is supernaturally produced and is available ONLY to the fully surrendered, Spirit-filled believer seeking to live totally separated from worldliness and unto God

It is critically important that we understand the audience to whom Jesus is speaking in Matthew 7:15.  We must go back to Matthew 5:1-2 to see this.  “1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying . . .”  Therefore, why was it essential that the Apostles and true disciples of Jesus understand the warning of Matthew 7:15-29?  Every believer must understand that the greatest enemies of the Church and the mission of Christianity are often found inside the Church.  These “wolves” are people who have a false agenda.   The agenda of these people is about what the “sheep” offer them.  These “wolves” have in “inward” contradiction that testifies against real conversion and Christianity.

According to the context of Matthew 7:15-29, these “wolves” propagate lifestyles that disconnect the believer from knowing doctrine and living according to the things Jesus had just taught in Matthew chapters five and six.  However, the context asserts a much more complex reality to the false teaching of these “wolves” that enter into the flock (local church).  The false teaching creates false professions and false Christian lives.  The failure to properly teach repentance in salvation creates professing Christians who will come before Christ at the judgment expecting rewards for their “good works” when in fact they are not converted.  It is to these people that Jesus addresses the test, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

These hypothetical false converts come to Jesus at the judgment testifying of miraculous deeds and having “done many wonderful works” (Matthew 7:22).  However, according to the context of Matthew 7:15-29, the most basic of the evidences of genuine conversion is absent – personal obedience to live the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters five through seven.  “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Matthew 7:24). 

We must be extremely clear here.  It is not that doing the things that Jesus teaches in Matthew chapters five through seven will saved anyone.  The point of the word “fruit” is that doing the things that Jesus teaches in Matthew chapters five through seven will be the outcome (“fruit”) of a genuine conversion and progressive transformation of the “born again” believer’s life.  If the person’s salvation is genuinely rooted in repentance of sin and “dead works,” then the “fruit” of that root will be living the teachings of Jesus (doctrine).  The purpose of right doctrine is to change the way we think, feel, and live.  Therefore, the foundation of right doctrine is repentance of all false doctrine; wrong thinking, wrong feelings, and wrong living.  The truly converted person is consumed with knowing right doctrine so as to abandon all falsehood in thinking, feeling, and living.  This is the context of Paul’s warning regarding the “wolves” of the last days of the Church Age in II Timothy chapter three.

“1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (II Timothy 3:1-9).

Historical records tell us that Jannes and Jambres were the two princes of the Pharaoh’s magicians mimicking the miracles that God performed through Moses.  The main import of these two imposters is that they were hindrances to Pharaoh seeing that Moses was the messenger from Jehovah and that Pharaoh should listen to Moses.  The comparison to the “wolves” of false teachers of which Paul warns is that these false teachers “also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (II Timothy 3:8).  False teachers are dangerous.  False teachers produced false conversions and false disciples.  What is Paul’s solution to false teachers, false doctrine, false conversions, and false lifestyles?  Paul’s solution is right doctrine beginning with belief in verbal, plenary inspiration.  Right doctrine exposes false teachers and corrects false conversions.  Right doctrine biblically defines genuine conversions, practical sanctification, and sacrificial lifestyles.

“16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine {learning the will of God}, for reproof {to convince men of the will of God}, for correction {to straighten men out when they stray from the will of God}, for instruction in righteousness (training in moral ethics and principles of moral equity; i.e. justice}: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17).

The subtlety of the teaching of “wolves” is very dangerous because this teaching sounds so good and oozes the honey of false love.  The false teacher comes teaching unity without establishing any doctrinal perimeters for this unity.  Anytime you have someone purporting unity at the sacrifice of doctrinal purity or practical holiness, you are listening to a false teacher – a wolf.  Anytime you have someone minimizing doctrine to maximize unity, you are listening to a false teacher – a wolf.

This is to what Jesus refers when He says theses wolves “come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).  These wolves dress like sheep and take on the innocence of sheep, “but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).  The word “ravening” is from the Greek word harpax (har’-pax).  This means these people are motivated by greed and will try to achieve their goals by distortion and extortion.  These people are actually predatory in their nature.  These are theological contortionists and chameleons.  They become whatever they need to become in order to gather a following.  This is so subtle.

The true preacher/teacher wants NO ONE to live by the preacher’s values.  The true preacher/teacher wants every person to discover the teachings of Jesus, own those teachings for himself, and live those teachings from the heart.  There are very few men who can be trusted with a large body of believers without being corrupted by the nature of compromise that sees maintaining the size of that large body of believers as more important than maintaining the doctrinal soundness of that body.  In this context, wolves are often revealed more by what they deemphasize rather than by what they emphasize.

There is a very small minority of people, who call themselves Christians, who really want to live for the Lord and obey His commandments from the heart.  The corruption of the doctrine of grace (the supernatural empowering through the filling of the Spirit) has left the majority of Christianity powerless over their own corrupt natures.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus gives us a universal principle for all dealing with the pathological (abnormal) way we treat other people.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Do for others what you might want them to do for you if you were in a similar situation.  This is the universal principle of equitable justice (doing what is right in the eyes of God).  We do not require an 8,000-page document defining every situation of life and what God’s will might be regarding a moral response to that situation.  This is not rocket science.  This is merely the very basic, but universal principle of moral ethics in human relationships.

We also see in Matthew 7:12 that Jesus says that this universal principle of being equitable “is the law and the prophets.”  In other words, this is the summary responsibility of all moral obligations defined by the long list of issues given in the book of Leviticus.  One of God’s consistent accusations against the corrupt priesthood of Israel and the children of Israel was their great propensity for perverting “justice and judgment” against one another.  How important are the matters of “justice and judgment” to God?

“1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:1-4).

“2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. 3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:2-3).

Here we must interject the Pathology (study of abnormalities) of mankind’s fall and the spiritual corruption of our desires and wills that necessitates giving the Golden Rule.  God’s Golden Rule is His attempt for us to restore ourselves back to a normal, functional existence within a society of others. 

Medically, Pathology is simply the study of disease and the physical changes that disease causes.  There are also such things as Spiritual Pathology and Social Pathology.  Spiritual Pathology is the study of the corruption of the human nature and how that corruption affects an individual in his deviation away from God’s intended norm.

Biblical instruction seeks to restore the norm; therefore, the Golden Rule.  Social Pathology is the study of how spiritual corruption affects a society, such as a local church, community, or a nation abnormally.  The teaching of God’s Word is intended to correct both of these abnormalities (Pathologies).

A Spiritual pathology resulted in a Social Pathology in Israel.  The corruption of “justice and judgment” in Israel evolved to where the rich were advantaged and the poor were disadvantaged.  Although God had established the year of Jubilee (every fifty years) so that certain families in Israel could not acquire all the real estate, the perversion of “justice and judgment” allowed the Jubilee to often go by with little affect.  Kings became Monarchs and the people their subjects as indentured servants.  Perverted priests perverted “justice and judgment” through graft and bribes of money or political posturing.  God spoke to Israel through the prophet Isaiah saying:

“1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4 None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. 5 They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. 6 Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8 The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment {justice} in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. . . 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment {justice or moral equity} is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment {justice or moral equity}” (Isaiah 59:1-8 and 12-15).

Christ’s statement in Matthew 7:12 corresponds with His statement regarding hungering and thirsting after righteousness in Matthew 5:6 and His statement “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” in Matthew 6:33.  Righteousness is equity in “justice and judgment.”  The first place to “hunger and thirst” for equity in “justice and judgment” is in our own lives and in the way we make restitution for our failings with other people.  In seeking to restore or resolve, we begin by asking ourselves the simple question – if someone did to me what I did to them, how would I want that person to respond to me? 

This principle of equity goes far beyond mere material restitution for damages.  There are some damages for which no amount of money can ever make restitution.  The principle of equity takes numerous factors into consideration.

1. What pain have I caused?
2. What trust have I broken?
3. What are the long term ramifications of my offense?
4. What damage exists of which I might not even be aware?
5. Can the damage I caused by this offense be repaired?

The person who lives the principle of equity looks far beyond mere resolution or restitution.  The person who lives the principle of equity puts himself into (empathy) the hurt, pain, anxiety, and suffering his carelessness has caused. 

This is what is referred as pathos.  Pathos is a Greek word that simply refers to the arousal of genuine emotions or feelings.  Those feelings can be sympathy, sorrow, remorse, pity, tenderness, mercy, and etc.

The Sociopath has no pathos.  He feels no empathy for the person he uses or hurts.  The Sociopath has no sympathy for those he has harmed.  He may manufacture a pathos in order to manipulate a situation and to restore himself in the eyes of others, but these emotions are really plastic.  When it gets down to the nitty-gritty of personal sacrifices necessary to restore trust and rebuild a relationship, he will bail out as soon as things become too demanding for him.

Matthew 7:12 is often referred to as the Golden Rule.  This is the all-encompassing moral principle from which all true ethics spring forth.  This is the moral compass that always points to God-kind righteousness.  It is basic enough that any simpleton can understand it and simple enough so that no one has any excuse for failure.  Obedience to the Golden Rule begins with putting the thoughts and feelings of the person offended, hurt, or harmed before one’s own pride or self-protection.

The application of the Golden Rule cannot be born without humility and its intent cannot be sustained without genuine moral character.  James refers to this as the Royal Law (James 2:8).  The Royal Law is to love God above ourselves and to love others as we love ourselves. 

The Royal Law is the essence and summary of the original Tables of Stone Commandments recorded in Exodus 20:1-17 from Mt. Sinai.  The first four commandments refer to loving God above ourselves.  The last six commandments refer to loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Therefore, we cannot love God or our neighbors if we live contrary to these commandments.  The first four commandments are summarized in the Old Testament Shema recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  Both categorizes of love in these Table of Stone Commandments are summarized and restated in Matthew 22:37-40.  It is certainly significant that God chose to write these Table of Stone Commandments in stone as a permanent record and reminder to all generations.

“4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

“37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Matthew 7:12-14 give us the summary application of the intent of the Table of Stone Commandments.  God’s commandments are not intended to be mere guiding principles for life or suggestions for successful living.  They are imperatives from God that are to be practically applied and manifestly lived.  Failure in the essence of the application of the Table of Stone Commandments, and living them practically, manifests both an unloving disregard for the Person of God and Sociopathy towards our fellowman.

In Matthew chapters five through seven, Christ defines God’s expectations of the Table of Stone Commandments in an in-depth expectation that none, but perhaps a few, Old Covenant believers could have ever grasped.  With Christ’s explanation in the details of Matthew chapter five through seven, there is no such excuse available for New Covenant believers.  We can never say, we did not know or we did not understand.

Matthew 7:13-14 is referring to the “walk” of the Christian life.  It is not referring to salvation of our souls, but to entering into a narrow way of life and the saving of our lives from ruin and waste.  The substance of text follows from the context of the previous two chapters in giving instruction to believers regarding their practical sanctification.  With that context in mind, read the text again.  “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” 

In Luke 13:24, Jesus uses the “strait gate” as an entrance into eternal life.  In that text, the “strait gate” is used in the context of the salvation of the soul.  However, the context of Matthew chapters five through seven does not allow for that application of the” strait gate.”  In Luke 13:24, Jesus uses the “strait gate” to refer to Himself and His finished work of redemption in His death, burial, and resurrection.

“23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able {because they seek entrance through Moralism or Ritualism}. 25 When once the master of the house {Messiah Jesus} is risen up {referring to His resurrection}, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without {outside of the Kingdom of God because of refusing to repent of sin and ‘dead works’}, and to knock at the door {God does not hear the knocking of those who are already dead, no second chances}, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are {they were already in Hell, the ‘I know you not’ is used in the familial sense in that they were not ‘born again’} : 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God {the eternal New Heaven/Earth}, and you yourselves thrust out {this is the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of time}. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last {Gentiles} which shall be first, and there are first {Jews} which shall be last” (Luke 13:23-30).

However, although Matthew 7:13-14 has a different context, the text is in harmony with Luke 13:23-34 in the sense of the warning in Luke 13:23-34 corresponding with the warning of Matthew 7:21-29.  The warning is that the possession of eternal life ought to manifest itself in a new walk and new priorities of life that correspond with a Kingdom of God view of existence; Kingdom Living.  The idea is that genuine salvation is more than entrance into a new position of existence.  Genuine salvation SHOULD manifest itself in the fruit of a new practice of a new existence.  The genuinely “born again” child of God should begin living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God by living separated from worldliness and separated unto God’s eternal purposes.

“21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven (this is the physical, Millennial Kingdom}; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:21-27).

Most Christians confuse the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven.”  These two kingdoms are synchronous, but they are not synonymous.  In other words, the “kingdom” of heaven” is within the “kingdom of God.”  The “kingdom of God” is always sovereign over the “kingdom of heaven.”  It is absolutely critical to distinguish between these two kingdoms in order to understand certain Bible texts and to discern what those texts are saying.  This is certainly true of Matthew 7:21 and Luke 13:28. Classic Dispensationalists have always distinguished between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.”

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.  
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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