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We equate love with indifference to sin when the Bible’s logic is exactly the opposite. The cross is the fullest expression of God’s love not because it shows God’s indifference to sin, but because it shows God’s holy hatred toward sin and his willingness to pay for it himself. That’s love.

At the end of Acts 7, we see Stephen praying for the angry mob stoning him to death. He says with his dying breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Surely this is love: Stephen wanted them to receive a mercy they did not show him. He had done nothing wrong. Stephen was not deserving of death. Their actions were a profound instance of criminal injustice. And yet in a final gasp, on his knees, he cries out on their behalf,  “Lord have mercy.”

How did he do that? How could Stephen love like that? How do we love like that? Pray like that? Forgive like that? Lots of people in the world want to love and forgive. We like those virtues in our culture. But few people are interested in the principles which makes these virtues possible.People want to love like Stephen without bothering to understand or embrace the mile of theology that made his love possible. They don’t want to see the Jesus he saw, or believe in the vindication he knew was coming, or entrust their offense to the God of justice who will one day make all things right.

In the world, they want to be good people. But they don’t realize they have to be God people first. I hope you aren’t going to church just to become a better you or just for the morality your kids might pick up. That’s not how Christianity works. Becoming a Christian is not simply about self-improvement. It’s about a hundred particular truths that teach our minds and touch our hearts–truths about God and Christ and sin and salvation. And yes, later, and only in connection with all the rest, is it about being a good person. When you embrace the biblical worldview of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; creation, fall, redemption, and consummation; redemption accomplished and applied–when your heart thrills to all of that, then you’ll bear fruit. But don’t expect to ever look like Stephen if you grasp for the fruit without the tree.

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19 thoughts on “If You Expect Fruit Without a Tree, You’re Nuts”

  1. Accept, not except?

  2. Nick F. says:

    Yes. Andrew’s comment.

  3. Henry says:

    “Expect” rather than except or accept–the ‘c’ and ‘p’ are switched.

  4. Debby Comer says:

    Yep I tried to email about this and it came back undeliverable. I thought like Andrew, but now I wonder whether Henry is right. Kevin please fix this ASAP.

  5. James M. says:

    This challenge much appreciated.

  6. Mark B. says:

    Good word brother Kevin.

  7. anaquaduck says:

    living in expectation…reminds me of Heidelburgh Catechism part 3

    86. Q. Since, then, we are delivered from our misery by grace alone, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we yet do good works?
    A. Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit after his own image, that with our whole life we may show ourselves thankful to God for his benefits, and that he may be praised by us; then, also, that each of us may be assured in himself of his faith by the fruits thereof, and that by our godly walk our neighbors also may be won for Christ.

  8. Yuri says:

    In other words, it is impossible to have Christian ethics without Christian faith. That’s fair enough. The question is, whether Christian ethics is worth having, with the faith proper or without. Consider Christian attitudes towards animals and the environment in general. This cruel, arrogant and primitive ethics inflicts unspeakable suffering on non-human animals and surely drives the Homo sapiens species to rapid extinction.

  9. Spencer says:

    Yuri, I’m sorry, but I have no idea what Christian ethic you’re speaking of. It may be true that there are Christians who are careless and unconcerned with thoughtful and responsible ethics towards nature and animals, but where I’m from that is surely not the case. In fact, I wouldn’t be concerned with taking care of the earth or fair treatment of animals if these concerns were not brought before me by my own church and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Multiple sermons have been given at the church’s I’ve attended in an attempt to create an awareness of our responsibility to care for the earth and to not shrug off those in secular culture who have such concerns. Just a heads up, not all Christians may be like the ones you’ve encountered.

  10. Noel says:

    So good, Kevin. Good warning about a foundation-less morality.

  11. Daryl Little says:

    To Yuri,

    It’s not that it’s impossible to have Christian ethics without Christian faith, it’s that it’s impossible to be a Christian (or at least a Christian of any maturity at all) with Christian ethics only.

    Without Christian faith we have do-gooders, gaining the praise of men but not of God.

  12. Melody says:

    Yesterday I had someone tell me that if I had a son on the verge of suicide because of being gay that I would change my view on it’s sinfulness. That the person is now in a long time monogamous relationship and happy. I had no words but I do not think it would persuade me. How is telling a child that something is not a sin to make them happy any different than Abraham refusing to sacrifice his son to God?
    Am I way off on this?

  13. anaquaduck says:

    To accuse the Bible of not being a document sensetive to the environment would be wrong, from the cultural mandate given to adam & eve & the various laws regarding rest for land & creatures not to mention the deep respect & awe given to creation itself.

    It is true though that many take for granted & abuse what God has given, the desire to get rich quick or value large profits as something more than or better than things set out plainly in God’s word is a trap that many fall into, hurting others along the way.

    Thankfully God’s plan of redemption is for all of creation & in the meantime stewardship belongs to all areas of life.Modern science with its chemicals has much to answer for, some medicines also,not sure what the amish might make of Yuri’s comments…Christianity also has a good reputation regarding helping others welfare etc…so I think Yuri’s post is a bit lop sided…

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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