The Land of Beginning Again
The Discreet Elegance of Prudence

STEP UP Devotions for January 12-18


Week of January 12-18


January 12 -(Mat 7:15 KJV) "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." - The Bible nowhere advocates naiveté that makes His people gullible and susceptible to error. There is a lot of bad teaching in the world and much of it is under the guise of Christian spirituality. Some of the wolves look good, smell good, and sound good. They may even be well intentioned, sincere, and motivated by deep convictions, but their teachings bite and devour. We are not called to cynicism or to be hyper critical or obnoxiously dogmatic, but we are called to be people who discern truth. That is why we take our time to define what we believe. Your assignment today is to read the draft doctrinal statement and to look for scriptures that teach some of the points that are summarized.

January 13 - "(Mat 7:16 KJV) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" - Consider what it means to know something by its fruit. I may not be a horticulturist with the skill to recognize a tree by its less obvious characteristics, but I can wait until harvest time and have a pretty good idea about what kind of tree it is by what is hanging from its branches. What are the obvious action items and outcomes of the teachings that you are evaluating. How do they measure up with scripture. Apply to same fruit inspection to your own life today. Another hint is this: What you say you believe and what you really believe will be sorted out in the cauldron of committed action.

January 14 - (Mat 7:17-18 KJV) "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." - The proof of the pudding is in the eating. At least that is what the old timers used to say to emphasize that character begets behavior. Jesus was teaching His listeners to "beware" of teachers, but there is an implication for our own lives. In the development of our Christian behavior, we must not neglect the development of our characters. To what will you commit yourself today in the development of character growth in your own life? The future fruit you bear will depend upon it.

January 15 - "(Mat 7:19 KJV) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." It might be easy to consign this verse to a discussion of the fires of hell and judgment, but Jesus is primarily talking about the fires of pruning and efficiency. Trees that bear no fruit are cut off and cast aside. Teachings and teachers that bear no fruit are taken out of the mix. There is no space. He is talking about both bad fruit and no fruit. Both scenarios are dangerous. This is ruthless. So we must be ruthless with our own mental and emotional activity. If what we dwell on is not producing positive results, we need to eliminate it from our lives the way an orchard keeper rids himself of unproductive trees.

January 16 - "(Mat 7:20 KJV) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." We can know. We can inspect. We can evaluate. We can buy in or opt out. It is not that we have been appointed judges over others, but we are responsible for what we choose to accept and believe. That is the teaching here. God will sort out the people later as to their standing with Him. We must sort out what we are going to follow. It is so easy for our minds to become polluted with the notions of the world and the values of our times and to accept without challenge, every new idea presented to us or embraced by our friends. But God does not let us off the hook from the responsibility of doing our own thinking. That is part of what the priesthood of the believer is all about. How much time will you spend really thinking today with and about God and the things of God?

January 17 - (Mat 7:21 KJV) " 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." - There is often a gap between saying and doing. To form the word, "Lord" on our lips takes no effort, belief, or commitment. To say, "Lord" with our lives takes all three. Our response to lordship is about doing. Jesus called us to active discipleship that is visible in a broken world. The extent to which we participate in His Kingdom is determined by the extent to which we embody and act out Kingdom values by faith and through His grace. It is not that God is keeping a score card on His followers and only those who get the highest scores get into Heaven. He doesn't have to. Our lives do that. We are saved by grace, but once grace takes hold of our lives, it changes the nature of our character and the fruit our lives produce.

January 18 - (Mat 7:22-23 KJV) "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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." The test of truth, of spiritual vitality, of authenticity, and of relationship with Jesus is never religious activity or verbiage. It is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, goodness, righteousness and truth, all qualities that grow in the lives of people connected with God - none of which can be regulated. (Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesians 5:9) These are how we know what God already knows about us. They grow in our lives and flow through our lives. Our faith can be flamboyant or not. Our worship styles can be emotional or not.Our expressions of piety can be demonstrative, reserved, intellectual, exuberant, quite, loud, formal, informal, prepared, reserved, or any combination of these, but they do not define our commitment to Christ. Jesus calls us to follow Him and become good trees that bear much fruit and good fruit. What is unseen will be quite visible in judgment and will make all the difference.