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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