Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Plastic Fruit


For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” – 2 Corinthians 7:8-11

It happens every Sunday.  We go to church, and the preacher preaches.  He tramples all over our lifestyle, our attitudes, our ways, how we treat each other, and our thoughts.  A prayer is said and the service is over.  On our way out we meet the pastor at the door, give him a handshake, and congratulate him with “That was a great sermon, Pastor!” and “You stomped my toes this morning, Pastor”.  And then we get in our cars and go home…unchanged.  By the time we get home we can’t even remember the title of the sermon.  The next week, oddly enough, we turn up at church again ready to reenact the entire event!  But why?  What do we truly hope to accomplish by hearing God’s word if we do not apply it to our lives?  It’s like going to the doctor, getting an antibiotic, and then choosing to go home and not use the medicine.  You don’t only stay stuck in your same sorry lifestyle, but you get worse, as sin sickens even more of your life.  After a while, church is a routine with no passion, and our desire for Christ dies from apathy.     

I believe the issue lies in being convicted.  We are happy in our sins, refusing to admit to them or attempt to exterminate them from our lives.  We choose to talk about God’s mercy, and silence all thoughts of His wrath and the consequences of sin.  But friends, that does not change who God is!  We use excuses that we cannot overcome sin, that “old habits die hard”, yet quote Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”) over every other goal we set.  So, which is it?  Are we confined to our sins until we die?  Or, can we truly be overcomers through Christ?  It will only happen when we choose to allow conviction to change our hearts through self-examination.    

Can you imagine the pastor on Sunday mornings?  How insignificant and powerless it must feel to continually look people in the eye and ask them to come to Christ, removing sin from their lives, and have them congratulate you on what a beautiful speech you gave!  There must be a struggle to speak with stronger words, a desire to call names, to name the sins, to attempt to pass on the sorrow that should be felt from sin.  Yet at the same time, there must be a careful dance to try not to create enemies and calloused hearts that will never come to church again!      

The Apostle Paul felt regrets in writing to the Corinthian church.  He was trying to change their attitudes and behaviors on many things.  He felt as if it was an act in vain and it would only cause them hurt and that they would be changed only for a little while.  But he said in 2 Corinthians 7 that he no longer regretted it because it had led to repentance.  Repentance is at the core of what Christianity is all about. 

But not everyone can overcome sin.  Yes, that’s right!  It can only be done through the power of Christ dwelling in us through His Holy Spirit.  Repentance leads to salvation, for without a turning away from a life of sin, there is no salvation.  Quote every prayer card you can get, repeat after anyone a prayer, but salvation is not achieved through some magic incantation of words.  It is given to those that repent and choose to turn from sin with a contrite and broken heart.  Paul says “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation”.  Friends, if you’re wondering why sin still feels so pleasing, why it’s hard to break free, go back to square one and see if it was authentic salvation or some cheap imitation.

My grandmother use to have a bowl of plastic fruit she sat on the dining room table. It looked good, but it was only there for those that wanted to see fruit, but not taste it and have its benefits.  Examine your life.  What kind of fruit do you have?  Is it the plastic kind that looks good on Sunday mornings as it is displayed at church, or is it the real kind that keeps you fed during the week when trouble comes, adversity arises and sin knocks at the door wanting to invade your life? 

Paul says repentance, a sorrow of the heart, causes a “clearing of yourselves” through indignation, and produces desire, zeal and vindication.  You can walk out of unfruitful lives and into the power of Christ over sin any time you want.  You just have to allow repentance into your heart.



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