Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: A Sermon on Rotten Fruit

A Sermon
J. Davila-Ashcraft

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. -PROVERBS 4:23-27


This passage of scripture clearly emphasizes the need to live a life that is “straight”, or in other words righteous and acceptable to God. The world has so many voices all screaming at us to deviate, to do things that work against our discipleship, that deny the living nature of scripture and ignore the judgments of God; to eat the rotten fruits of the world. 

My admonition to you is, don't eat the rotten fruit. 

So the question before us is how do we stay on the straight and narrow path? 

Proverbs shares with us several of the secrets to holy living:

1. Proverbs 4:23 - Guard your thoughts- It is so easy to be distracted by the things of this fallen world; the pursuit of money, hate, anger, pornography, extra-marital sex, lust....there are so many things to catch the eye and enslave the mind. It is a truism that the vast majority of spiritual warfare occurs in our minds, the world of our thoughts. And as a result much of our lives flows from the world of thought. We are what we think. And if our hearts are filled with lust and we feed that with pornography or impure thoughts of the women around us, our spiritual lives become a sham. We might fool our pastor, but we don't fool God. So guard your thoughts.

2. Proverbs 4:23 – Everything you do flows from your heart- That can be a frightening thought itself. Our motivation in life, how we live, reflects our heart. Do we reflect worldly pursuits, worldly goals, and worldly “wisdom”, or are we reflections of Christ? Do we have Christ in our hearts such that we people see him through us without having to strain?

III John 1:11 says, "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God: he who does evil has not seen God."

Don't eat the rotten fruit!

3. Proverbs 4:24 – Guard your speech- This is almost as easy to compromise as our thoughts. All of us have at some point been in a conversation that went south, that either made fun of someone, ridiculed someone, degenerated into gossip, etc. It's easy to do. Taming the tongue is one of the hardest things to do. Again, we should speak what we think. There is no place for lies-not even little white ones. Our speech, no matter how crafty we think ourselves, will reveal our sins. This also extends to those with whom we keep company. 

Psalm 28:3 says, "Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity; who speak peace with their neighbors, yet evil is in their hearts."

Don't eat the rotten fruit!

4. Proverbs 4:25 – Look ahead to God's Kingdom- Those who persevere are promised a wonderful inheritance in the Kingdom of God. So we should see this as incentive to live for our King, and not just for the temporary pleasures of this world. Focus on the future rewards not on the current pains.

"For I know the purposes which I am purposing for you, says Jehovah; purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

5. Proverbs 4:26 – Take stock of your lifestyle- One of the central demands of the Gospel is holiness. Too many Christians take the view that “Oh, I'm just a saved sinner.” Sadly this is an abuse of scripture here. It is an excuse to continue in sin and just confess it every Sunday, as if God were so weak and so easily manipulated. God demands we live perfect lives. And we can be perfect through Christ and living the Gospel.

"And let not your behavior be like that of this world, but be changed and made new in mind, so that by experience you may have knowledge of the good and pleasing and complete purpose of God."                                                                                                                                                 -Romans 12:2 

Don't eat the rotten fruit!

6. Proverbs 4:26, 27 – Walk with Christ- How many of us have seen that little child who, thinking him/herself capable of doing something all on their own, refuses to hold mommy or daddy's hand, then seeing their attempt end in a scraped knee, a bruised hand, and tears? We can often be that stubborn child, thinking ourselves independent of God and able to do everything all on our own. And just like other stubborn children, we fall. We can't afford to do this. We have to walk with Christ daily, holding his hand, grasping the hem of his garment and following like children. This is the only way we can avoid evil.

"We know that everyone who has been born of God does not continue to sin, but the one born of God guards himself, and the evil one does not touch him. - I John 5:18

Many people insist on eating the rotten fruit. Our clear admonition from scripture is don't eat the rotten fruit. Bad things happen when we do.

St. Antony the Great (251-356 A.D.) wrote, "...for the power of discrimination, scrutinizing all the thoughts and actions of a man, distinguishes and sets aside all that is base." (Philokalia I)

Are you discerning in your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors?

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