Living Up to the Label … Being a Fruitful Christian

Posted: January 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

           After Thanksgiving, my daughter Katie was spending a few days with us, and we decided to make a quick run to the Dollar General to pick up a couple of things she needed.  While she shopped, I wandered and found these cans of “Prairie Belt Smoked Sausages”.  I don’t go to Dollar General often, but I remember that I used to buy these, mainly because of the label.  It has a picture of a “Leave It to Beaver” looking kid along with a “serving suggestion” … a picture of the sausages scattered on a plate.  As I remember, the sausages weren’t bad … sort of a spicier version of Vienna sausages.  In any case, I picked up a can and bought it, planning on having them for an after work snack.  We returned home and as we sat around talking, Katie picked up the can and all of a sudden she got this stricken look on her face and said “Dad, have you ever read the ingredients?”  I didn’t recall ever having done that so I took the can from her … and you’ll notice that the can is still unopened.  The ingredients include such things as “chicken skin, pork skin, pork spleens and  pork stomachs”.  It’s sad when “mechanically separated img_3146chicken” is the most appetizing ingredient. So, what does this have to do with anything?  My daughter taught me that I needed to exercise some discernment in my snacking choices.  I bought the can assuming that it actually contained edible food.  I was swayed by the outward appearance … the humorous label … without giving serious consideration to what I was eating.  There is the old saying we have all heard … “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  All too often, we are swayed by the external appearance of things, activities and even people.  We need to take the time and make the effort to find out what’s inside in order to really know if these things are truly in our best interests or not. 

            In our spiritual lives, we need to also practice the same discernment skills.  As in other parts of our lives, we need to evaluate if things we encounter are helpful or harmful to us, spiritually.  Matthew 7 tells us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”  We can’t be fooled by a label.  We need to make the effort to find out what’s inside.  And discernment is a skill that requires practice and effort.  It takes time before we develop the ability to successfully differentiate between the good and the bad.. 

          Speaking of our spiritual lives, it is also important that we live in such a way as to be authentic in our faith.  We need to be more than just an attractive label.  I’ve heard it said that “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a Cadillac”.  Actually being a disciple of Christ is more than just what we project in our outward appearance.  What’s inside needs to match up.  Jesus addressed this issue with the religious people of his day. He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  People may see us in or around our church.  They may know that we attend worship here on Sunday. They may have heard Christian music coming from our car radio, or maybe they have seen us with a Bible in our hand.  The label says “Christian”, but what’s inside?  If someone really wants to know, they will look at the fruit we produce.  The scripture from Matthew also tells us, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?   Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”  If we are truly Christian, we will produce good fruit.  In Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul lists the fruit of the spirit as, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.  If you are a true disciple of Christ, people will be able to see all of these things in you.  How can you make sure that your life is exhibiting all these things?  Jesus made it very simple.  He gave us two commands, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And  “love your neighbor as yourself.”  If we consistently love God and love others, we can be assured that we will be producing good fruit.  When people examine us, they will see that we are exactly as advertised.  What we claim to be will be validated by our character, our integrity, our love. 

          In this new year, I pray that you will each exercise discernment – fill your lives with positive things, uplifting influences, things that nourish your body and mind, and mostly, things that encourage you to be a disciple of Christ.  If you want to produce good fruit, heed the words from Psalms 1.  “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.  They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.”  Read your Bible, pray often (and listen), come to church to worship together, serve together and learn together as a family. 

          Here’s to 2017.  May it be a year of health, happiness and growth.  May your life be filled with blessings.  And I pray that you will each shine with the light of Christ, illuminating the dark corners of all the people you encounter. 

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