Within in the church, there are a lot of things you can fake. You can fake happiness, concern, tears, even devotion. Galatians 5 tells us that you can judge a tree by its fruit. How many times have you heard someone call another a ‘good Christian’ because they’re always happy, nice to people, go to church all the time and don’t do ‘stuff’?
They’re getting those standards from the ‘fruits of the spirit’ listed in Galatians. ‘Happy’: joy, peace, love, patience; ‘nice to people’: kindness, goodness, gentleness; ‘go to church all the time’: faithfulness; ‘don’t do stuff’: self-control.
I used to work at a salon and one day a first time client brought her hairdresser a plate of homemade cookies. We always loved that. We were all back there talking about how sweet it was that a first time client would go to such effort when someone spoke up and said, “That was so thoughtful! She must be a Christian.”
My stomach turned. I know what she’s trying to say, but what she’s actually insinuating is that unless you’re a Christian, you don’t have it in you to be thoughtful, kind, giving… There are droves of people who would describe the ‘Christians’ they know as biting, full of pride and absolutely disconnected from compassion. There are droves of people using those words because there are droves of people who call themselves Christians who have no idea what it is to be a follower of Christ.
The problem runs so deep, there are thousands of believers who won’t even call themselves a Christian. It’s become a bad word.
Do you smell that? It’s the Enemy’s breath. It’s evidence of lies and deception and they’ve become the defining factor. The lie is to look at the outward appearance. Are they smiling all the time? Are they nice to people? Do they go to church all the time? Do they condemn a long list of behaviors. Oh, they must be a Christian.
Or, to those on the outside: Are they self-righteous and judgmental? Do they have a sense of entitlement? Are they easily offended, argumentative and biting? Are they divided and branched off? Oh, they must be a Christian.
Galatians 5 also talks about the ‘fruits of the flesh.’ ‘Self-righteous’: idolatry; ‘judgmental’: hatred, discord; ‘sense of entitlement’: selfish ambition, envy, jealousy; ‘easily offended, argumentative, biting’: hatred, fits of rage; ‘divided and branched off’: discord, dissensions, factions.
There has been a misunderstanding of what the ‘fruits of the spirit’ are. It’s not about what you’re able to muster when people are looking. It’s about what you believe translating into how you deal when the situation gets real.
Non-believers can, at times, be better at displaying the ‘fruits of the spirit’ than believers. In the same way, believers can be better at displaying the ‘fruits of the flesh’ than non-believers. The difference between being and behaving is that you don’t make it a lifestyle. You can have moments of being ‘godly’ but unless God is in you, then it’s a fluke. You can have moments of being selfish, but unless Jesus has divorced you, then it’s a fluke. Moments, phases, bad years/good years are not a lifestyle, they are only part of life.
There is not a set of rules that you can follow to get this right. It’s what you believe.
Over the next few days I’ll break down into more detail about how our lifestyle is evidence of our belief. There are so many people who think they’ve got it right, but don’t. Their ignorance is wreaking havoc. At the same time, the one’s the havoc has wreaked are dying spiritually and I believe the truth will free them from the coffin they’re waiting in.