One thing I’ve discovered over the past few years, through the exploration of different churches and church structures, is that many American Christians aren’t practicing what they preach. They are always so quick to jump to Scripture to try and prove, or disprove, a point. Yet when it comes to every day living, they fall far short of what the Bible teaches us to do. But, why? What is so compelling to these modern Christians about being so hypocritical?
In wake of the recent election, as well as simple, every day experiences, I want to focus on the behavior of American so-called “Christians” and the Biblical teaching of the fruits of the Spirit, which in it’s simplest form comes down to love.
When it comes to the lifestyle of modern, American Christianity, it is often times very hard to discern them from a typical non-believer. Many today are under the impression that once they put their faith in Jesus, their salvation is complete. It is sealed and nothing, and I mean nothing, can change that. They go on living their carnal lifestyles with the one change being attending church on Sunday, at least for most. Unfortunately, for those “believers,” that isn’t how Christianity works.
Paul teaches us to “live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) But that is just the opposite of what I see today among a majority of Christians in America. They are still living by the flesh, not the Spirit. How can I tell, you ask?
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Just take a quick look around at Christians today. I’m sure you know at least one Christian who falls into one of those works of the flesh, if not multiple. I know many, and they cover just about every single one of those works. Yet, they still believe they are true Christians and are heaven bound. Paul, however, clearly says that those who do such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” You see, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, we are to change our lives.
Both, John the Baptist and Jesus, came preaching “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance means a change of mind. Not the typical American Christian understanding of asking for forgiveness for a wrong and then continuing on in the same manner, but a complete change from your past way of life to a completely new way of life. That is, once we become Christians, a life in the Spirit. This change of mind will then produce fruit, which Paul so conveniently included just after the works of the flesh.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
When we truly change our minds and begin producing this fruit of the Spirit, we begin to despise the works of the flesh. We turn away from them and choose not to give in to the temptation to follow them. Sadly, as I mentioned above, Christians today aren’t turning away from these fleshly works. They simply continue on with their usual lifestyle, which fully demonstrates that they aren’t of the Spirit of God.
I think a lot of the problem today lies, not with the people but, with the leaders of these Christian churches. When I see the most popular televangelists preaching on TV, hear an acquaintance speak on something they learned in church, or a song on a Christian radio station, I never hear what true Christianity is all about. They always seem to be backwards on their theology. They constantly put emphasis on what God has done for us instead of what we can do for God. A true Christian lifestyle works both ways. God sent His Son to heal us and save us from death and the grave, but we are supposed to act in return. We don’t just sit back and reap some benefit of Christ doing all the work. It takes our effort as well. This is something that hardly any church leaders are teaching today, but is one of the most important parts of Christianity.
And before you jump to conclusions, I’m not saying that salvation is works based. No one can achieve salvation simply through works. It is faith based, but the works come from the faith. The fruit of the Spirit will be produced when we have a true faith. If you aren’t producing any works, then you have what James calls a “dead faith.”
When the judgement comes and we are standing before the throne, we will be separated: the goats and the sheep. The sheep are those who produced fruit of the Spirit, or a living faith. The goats are those who claimed to be Christians, but weren’t producing the fruit of the Spirit. They had a dead faith.
Then he will say to those on his left [the goats], “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.” Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?” He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And thee will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46)
These people claimed to be Christians as we can clearly see from the words of Christ. They call Him Lord. Yet, they lived carnal lifestyles. They didn’t produce fruit by showing love, generosity, gentleness, kindness, etc. I see this as much like the Christians in America today. They believe they are Christians, yet they’re not producing any fruit. Sadly, the end for these “Christians” will be “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
If you claim to be a Christian, yet you aren’t producing the fruit of the Spirit, then I ask that you reconsider your faith. There is much more to Christianity than simply believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins. “Even the demons believe, and tremble.” Christianity takes action on our part as well. Jesus says to “produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) Are you doing that? Can an outsider see that you are a Christian by the fruit you are producing? If not, maybe you really aren’t as Christian as you think.