The overflow of the heart

Reading in Luke 6 this morning:

43“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

I used to think that the measure of a person was essentially what they believed; their theology, if you will.  After all, I got a master’s degree in all the right things to believe!  What defined people was the content of their worldview: do you believe in the Trinity?  Inerrancy?  Gifts of the Spirit?  Conservative political philosophy?  etc.  Our tendency is to find people who share our beliefs and group with them, form churches, organizations, social structures, etc.

Now, these things are very important, for what we believe and think about is what we are (Colossians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5).  And what I’m about to share does not reduce their importance.  But it does put them in perspective.

All of us have known people who believe the right things, but do not have good fruit flowing out of their hearts.  John describes this as “streams of living water” flowing out of us (John 7).  Theology (what I believe) is important, but it is not sufficient.  If I put into practice what Jesus says, allowing myself to be transformed by His love and seeking Him whole-heartedly, then he will transform me.

How do I know if this is happening?  Is the fruit coming out of my life characterized by love?  Is it good?  When people have relationship with me, do they see a little bit of Jesus in me?  Or do they find a judgmental Pharisee?  Or someone who uses others to get their needs met?

Now, here is where it gets hard.  Would I rather spend my time and energy on someone who has all the right theology but not a right heart?  Or am I drawn to people who have imperfect theology but show God’s love?  In my experience, it is almost always the latter.  If I am going to build a ministry with someone, do I look for right theology or good fruit?  Hopefully both.  I believe they are connected.  Good fruit comes from right theology lived out.  But what I am saying is that I would rather partner with someone who has 50% of the theology right but is living it out, rather than someone who has 100% of the theology right but is not transformed by it.

Of course, numbers are not people.  Do I have 100% of my theology right?  History teaches me that is an arrogant position to hold.  So what do we do?  We live out what we know to be true, and trust the Lord to teach us what we need to learn (1 John 2:20-27).

This is not a postmodern rejection of knowledge or accountability to it, but rather a reminder that faith in Christ primarily involves trusting Him to transform me through a relationship.  This has preeminence over theological study, though both are important and there is vital relationship between them.

John 13: 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

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Wisdom of John Wooden

I watched a delightful YouTube video in which John Wooden cited this verse:

No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be
Nor all the books on all the shelves
It’s what the teachers are themselves

Yes!

While of course I believe there is a book that can tell our youth what they should be (and so does John Wooden), what he meant by this is that teaching must be incarnational.  If we don’t live it, we cannot effectively pass it on.

I see so many teachers whose lives are a mess and who make choices they would not want their own kids or students to make.  We are all in process, and I need God’s grace for areas of needed growth in my life too.  But I know that they or I cannot pass on to our students what we are not.  We may be able to pass on what we are.

Father, grant me the grace I need to become all that you desire; not for my own sake, but for the sake of those I love and those you send me.  Help me to choose to run toward You, even when it’s hard and I want to hide.

Elisabeth Elliot on Amy Carmichael

In Elisabeth’s Elliot biography of Amy Carmichael, called A Chance to Die, she writes:

“The preoccupations of seventeen year old girls—their looks, their clothes, their social life—do not change very much from generation to generation. But in every generation there seem to be a few who make other choices. Amy was one of the few.”

Amy gave up the comforts of western culture to rescue girls from becoming temple prostitutes in Hindu temples.  She ended up caring for hundreds of orphans in India and showing them the love of Christ.

Today we are having a promotion ceremony for my daughters for their homeschool.  This quote reminds me of my oldest daughter, Kaylynn.  Other girls her age idolize musicians or other pop culture idols.  Kaylynn’s heroes are missionaries like Rachel Saint (and Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael).  I am very proud of her.

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