Wednesday, November 05, 2008

MMFC part 3: Bearing Fruit

Perhaps you have been caught on a Saturday morning by those 2 evangelists from the local Kingdom Hall. You're just trying to get some chores done, but you don't wish to seem rude. So you spend time talking about religion. During the course of the conversation you mention that you are a Baptist or whatever. Then you hear an interesting response.

"You may judge churches by their fruit. We Jehovah's Witness are working with an organization that is the faithful servant found in the Gospels. We go every Saturday door to door witnessing for Jesus. Does your church do the work we do?"

Every once in a while we have to judge something. Since we don't have the ability to look at someone's heart, we must judge their fruit. This can be a dangerous task. Jesus even warns us in our approach to judging others. We should not be judgmental. We should take the plank out of our own eye before we remove the speck from our brother's eye. Judging is serious business.

In my recent email from MMFC, I was told to judge the ministry by their fruit. The context was obvious. I was to do this instead of looking at their doctrinal stance. In other words, doctrine isn't the problem, works are ultimate in determining whether or not something is right.

Here are two different quotes from their email response to me.

"The board of directors is made up of men from various Christian denominations. MMFC in no way seeks to proselytize for any denomination. We feel humbled that God uses this ministry to help Christian Men of diverse experiences and theological backgrounds to come together for prayer, healing and growth in holiness. We feel that our ministry is based on Truth (Christ) because we have seen the fruit of the tree...his healing and powerful grace working wonders in the lives of his men. This ministry bears His Name and is founded upon Him."

"With this being said, may I ask what is holding you back from this checking out this ministry for yourself? Have you seen the fruit of this ministry in the man who is inviting you to participate in a MMFC weekend? I pray that you might seek the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as you discern what Christ wants you to do with that invitation."

In this post, I'd like to look at some of the problems of judging fruit and some things we ought to consider as we do. If you can think of others, please make comments and contribute your thoughts.

1) Time

I am directly asked if I had seen fruit of the man who asked me. What does this fruit look like I am not told. I am not certain if he means religious excitement or if the man came home and was being nice to his kids or some other act of kindness. What is interesting is that fads constantly come and go, especially in religious circles. So I am supposed to judge fruit within a few days. Jesus tells us in one parable,

"Mat 13:20 "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
Mat 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away."

Time is a great test to see whether or not fruit is abiding fruit or if it is fruit that is here today and gone tomorrow. Perhaps in a few years we will see if this fruit is valid. However, Mormons have been around for quite some time now. Does that mean their religion is the one I should follow? Time is a good indicator, but not the only factor.

2) Appealing to the Eye

Sometimes fruit may on the surface appear to be something that is good. We all know the story of Adam and Eve.

"Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. "

She was deceived. She was self-deceived. She knew what God had commanded. Yet she told herself subjectively that the fruit was good based upon appearance. She went by subjective criteria as to whether or not the fruit was good.

In no place in the email does the writer square the fruit with Scripture. I am just to believe that healings happen due to some subjective experience that could be provided by any group therapy. However, the Gospel certainly was not the source for these healings. So whatever fruit is born out by this ministry, we must take that into consideration.

3) Which fruit is good?

In the parable of the wheat and tares Jesus tells us why the Landowner allows both to grow together.

Mat 13:28 "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves *said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?'
Mat 13:29 "But he *said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.

One possible reason the landowner does not want the slaves to rid the field of weeds is that while pulling up the weeds they may pull the wheat because they both may look alike. Right now in western Kansas the wheat is beginning to grow up a few inches before the winter sets. Yet surely there are weeds among the wheat.

So again, this is not only a time issue but a recognition issue. There may be two ministries that look alike. Both may be growing together. It may not be until the end of the age that we truly come to know which is of the Lord and which is not.

4) Doctrinal Fruit

How can we possibly read the New Testament and not see the primacy of creeds and doctrine? Prior to the Reformation, there were many reformers that the Pope of the RC church had to deal with. Many wanted to reform the abuses of indulgences and the like. However, Martin Luther once wrote to the Pope saying that the Pope would remember him over all other reformers because all others were reforming the church on morality. Luther would be going to the Gospel itself. He believed that the Gospel would change hearts, not experiences or any other man-made sacraments.

"MMFC makes no implications beyond what is contained in the Apostles' Creed. This provides a basic theological foundation for our work, without putting ourselves in a particular theological school. Each man is free to interpret the Apostle Creed as it is taught in his church."

Is this what the New Testament teaches? We are all free to interpret the Apostle's Creed?

5) Judging according to the Spirit and not our own natural thinking.

Abiding in Christ's teaching brings us to an understanding of truth. I'll end with Jesus' words.

Joh 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Joh 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
Joh 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."


AbReformed said...

Great thoughts, Howard.

I was a roommate of Cory Kitch's and have been reading your blog sporadically for many months. How is he doing, by the way? Do you work together?

I had to Google MMFC to find out what it was. Have you ever heard of International Justice Mission? I think Rob Bell advocates IJM, but do you know much about it? Although I haven't read anything about them doing anything in Jesus' name, it still seems like they do some extraordinary stuff.

grace and peace,


Howard Fisher said...

Great to hear from you Aaron. I have forwarded your comments to Cory via email. He lives in another state north of me.

As for IJM, I am not really familiar with them. I don't really have a problem with Christians going out into the world and loving their neighbor.

For example, I have no problem standing next to a Roman Catholic protesting an abortion clinic. It is when we mix religion into the mix and we start evangelizing together that causes the problem. This would force me to accept RCs as Christians even if they follow strictly to the false Gospel of Rome. Politics may make strange friends, but we need to be careful.

Again, I don't know if any of this applies to IJM. If Christians wish to do good works, go for it.