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Weekly Wisdoms for the week of August 27, 2012
How can you identify Christians? Not by their outward appearances, their WWJD bracelets, their Jesus bumper-stickers, or any other superficial items.
Instead, Jesus tells us that we are known by our fruit: "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16-20).
The "fruit" that Jesus is talking about is the Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). In other words, when the world sees Christians, they should see the Fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, etc.
When you see the "golden arch" you can identify that building as a McDonalds restaurant, and when you see the "swoosh" you can identify that article of clothing as part of the Nike brand. Just like those things, when people in the world see someone consistently displaying the Fruit of the Spirit regardless of the circumstances, they should be able to identify that person as a Christian. Believers need to be marked by the Fruit of the Spirit.
At its heart, the Gospel is the story of a God who so deeply loves you and me that he was willing to humble himself, to suffer, and to pay the ultimate price just so that we could personally know him. We were powerless; there was nothing we could do to know God. Yet, he loved us so much that he gave us an opportunity to know him.
Romans 5:6-8 gets at the heart of how deeply God loves us: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We didn't earn or deserve God's love (we were still powerless and we were still sinners). However, God loved us anyway, because God is love (1 John 4:8) -- that is, his nature is love. God can't help but to love us, because that's what he is.
In Ephesians 2:4-5, Paul writes about the nature of God's love for us: Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved.
Nothing you do can cause you to earn or deserve God's love. You can't earn God's love, but he loves you anyway -- that's why it's called grace. God loves you, because he is love not because you have earned his love.
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