Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fruit Inspectors

             Spring is here, the trees are blooming, the plants that were dormant through the winter are popping up from underneath their coverings, and all the life that was under the surface is coming up all around. But, they are coming up differently than they did last season. Have you ever noticed how you can plant the same plants but they grow differently? They bloom at different times, one rose bush may have twenty blooms, but the other one has ten blooms. Even though they are the same type of bush, they are different and unique all to themselves.
                “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
                We are all different; we all have different experiences, personalities, and different attitudes. So why then do we judge one another’s walks with the Lord? This question was raised to me a few days ago by the Lord God. The Lord said to me, “You do not know where a person is with me spiritually, because you do not know them as I know them, so why then do you question and judge their walks?” The conviction came immediately, He was right. I was trying to figure out where someone was spiritually with Him based on what I saw, based on the “fruit” of their lives. But only the Lord God knows where someone is at with Him, and we have no right to try to judge, or as some would say, “inspect” their walks.

                Paul writes to the Philippians not to work for their salvation, but to work it out before the Lord. We each have a walk, a path we take as we follow the Lord God. No two testimonies are the same; no two people are the same, so why do we compare our walks with others? Think about the rose bush. You go to your local garden center and you purchase two rose bushes of the same kind. You take them home; you plant them next to one another. You feed them the same nutrients, the same amount of water, and you give them both the same amount of sunlight. But they do not grow exactly the same. They do not bloom at the exact same moment; one may grow faster than the other. Does this mean that one rose bush is better than the other? Does this mean that the rose bush who is taking longer to bloom is sick and needs more help? No, it just means that they are different.
                We do the same to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We talk and fellowship with one another, and compare our walks with theirs. We take our eyes off our own salvation and begin to discern and judge where they are at. They may have given their lives to Jesus Christ the same day and year you did, but that does not mean that you two will be in the same place spiritually. Each of us has a walk to work out before the Lord God. When we begin to focus in and inspect the walks of others, we have crossed the line of brotherly love into the realm of judgment. This, as we know, is something we are warned not to do.
                C.H. Spurgeon said, “Let me pray you to reverse the process, and let everything which has made you neglect your own vineyard to be turned to the opposite account, and lead you to begin at home, and ‘see your own salvation’.” When we focus in on where someone may be spiritually, we begin to neglect where we are spiritually. We fall into judging and forget that each of us is different, and God has made us that way for His good pleasure.
                Paul tells us that it is “God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (vs. 13) When we inspect the walks of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, what we are really doing is judging the work of God in their lives. When we “inspect” or “discern” where someone is spiritually, we are judging God, who is working in the hearts of the ones we are inspecting. There are no two people on earth that is alike, so why do we automatically assume that our walks are going to be the same? We may have similar experiences, but only God knows the heart and the motives of each man and woman whom He is working in and through.
                I may go through a trial, that was similar to yours, but they are not the same. I may grow differently than you; does that make your walk better than mine? Does that make you more spiritual than me? No, of course not, because the same God that is in my heart is in yours. We have no right to discern where someone is spiritually, because only God knows where that person is with Him. You may say, well, yes, but you can tell a tree by the fruit it bears. I have used that same scripture to justify what I was doing- which was, in all truth- judging the lives of others.
                When Jesus spoke about “telling a tree by the fruit it bears” He was referring to false prophets. (Matthew 7:15-20) He was not referring to your brother or sister in the Lord who sits beside you in the pew on Sunday. He gave us these scriptures to protect us from those who would come to seek to destroy us. But, we (me included) have used these scriptures to tear down the walk of someone else, just so that I did not have to face my own inadequacies. Who are we to judge another man’s walk with the Lord? Who are we to determine where they are at spiritually? We are just as sinful and in need of His working in our lives as they are.

                I know my words seem kind of harsh today, and I do hope and pray that you will be able to see past the harshness and embrace the love that is in the midst of my words. I have had some hard lessons in judging and being judged. I have judged others walks and found that I was just as far away spiritually as the one I was inspecting. This all started when the Lord chastised me for questioning my husband’s walk. I saw fruit in his life, but I was more focused on who he wasn’t than who he was.
                When Paul tells the Philippians to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” he is urging them to be obedient in the things God has spoken to them, not to inspect or focus on the lives of those around them. It is God who is working in the hearts of all His people. He does not stop working; He continues to draw, guide, lead, love and give grace to the ones whom have called upon His name. Your walk with the Lord God is not the ruler to use towards others, it is not your place, it is not my place to inspect and determine where someone is with the Lord. That is His role, and we should not take it upon ourselves to do so.
                We focus on what someone isn’t instead of focusing on who someone is. When we focus on the “isn’t” we cannot see clearly to focus and encourage the “is” part of one another’s walks. We have no right to say to God that someone is not where we think they should be spiritually- that is for God alone, and we are not God.
                It is my prayer today that all who read this blog would begin at home, as C.H. Spurgeon encourages us to, and begin to work out with God your own salvation, your own walk. For it is God who works in each one us to will and to do according to His good pleasure, we have no right to judge or inspect what or how He might do that. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen