Christianity is Impossible to “do” – by God’s Design
Jesus said some impossible things while he was here such as “Love one another as I have
loved you”,“forgive others 70 times 7 times”. Paul adds to it here. “Your love must be sincere”, “feed your enemies”, “honor others above yourself”, “be patient in affliction”, and “bless those who persecute you”. Come on, these commands are supernatural, not what we can do sincerely in our natural selfish state. However, that is why God’s standards are beyond our ability, thus He has to do them for us. Christianity is not a list of things to do and not do as is the case of religion. The reason God is commanding us to do things which we cannot do is that He expects us to let the Holy Spirit do them through us. The list of activities in this passage is the outward expression of God’s character living inside you – the Divine nature which he gave to you upon salvation. So you can consider them as opportunities for the fruit of the Spirit to shine unrehearsed throughout your life’s circumstances as you allow your mind to be transformed by God’s word. It is like Paul is saying for the rest of this book, “OK, here is what a transformed mind can and should look like in action”. The common denominators in this list are our mind being set on God, his love and others.
There are many Christians in various religious circles, but there are many more religious people who think that they are Christian. Religion does the things in this passage very well around the globe, with lovely attitudes. I like to write a lot about the difference between the two, which is this; what is the power source that are you relying on for your “Christian” life and service? What is your motivation? Religion tries to generate these attributes from self to do Christianity. However, Christianity is about God’s Spirit controlling you and thus we see these attributes revealed in your life as a result of God’s overwhelming grace to you. The difference is putting the cart before the horse instead of the other way around e.g. “Be to do, not do to be”. You may not notice a difference when things are going easy for you, but in the midst of the heat of the moment, then you will see the pudding being proven. And often like humility, as soon as we think that we have it, God lets us come to the realization once more, that it is not about how good we are but how much we need his mercy to save us.
Love is the Fruit of the Spirit
Rom 12:9-21 Use this link for the NIV or use your favorite translation but highlight the action words and phrases to see what the Christ life in you should look like.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who gave these commands to reflect myself in you. I AM good, loving, Joyful, patient, faithful, generous, hospitable, peaceable, honest, merciful, gracious. However, people tend to judge me by your actions. If you have these attributes in you, no one can blame you for wrong doing, and no one can cry for vengeance against you. If you do what is right in the eyes of everyone and live at peace with all, my name will not be blasphemed because of you. Let my life shine through you before men. If you let these attributes of my Spirit be reflected in your life, you will shine like the stars on a dark night for all to see. All men will know that you are my disciples. Because these attributes illustrate what love is and what I am like.
I AM the God who “sees in secret”, your thoughts and ambitions. And “I reward openly” for all to see. “A man will reap what he sows”, so be careful of your dreams, plans and ambitions. “For what comes out of a man’s heart is what will defile him.” “The mind set on the flesh will reap death, but the mind which is set on the spirit reaps life and peace.” “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Your mind is like a sponge, it absorbs what it is immersed in and is filled or controlled by that information. What are you immersing your brain in? Your “inner man” will find a way to express itself when it is squeezed, and sometimes unknowingly. What will that look like coming out of you? Everyone will know what that is except you.
“Vengeance is mine”. I AM the God who will avenge those who have been wronged and taken advantage of, but not before the proper time. Be careful not to hope for vengeance too quickly, because chances are good that there are some people out there who are crying out to me for vengeance against your actions in some way or another that you are not aware of. Think rather of them as needing me to change them and rescue them from their eternal fate of hell if they are unsaved. Pray for them to be rescued from the trap they are setting for themselves. Pray that they see and respond to the light before it is too late. Allow the hardship for which you desire vengeance to be an opportunity of faith, ministry and reward as a result. Don’t let the hardships you are experiencing destroy your inner peace. Let me give you my peace in your difficult situations. Revenge will not restore your peace. It only makes you a bitter, judgmental and victimized person. Longing to be removed from the situation will not restore peace either. Only I can give you peace, comfort and joy in the midst of your crisis.
God’s traits in us are best seen through hardships
The traits described in this passage which God gives to Christians; can be viewed in the same manner as how God gave the Ten Commandments to show the Jews what His Divine Character is like. But just as importantly these show us as the commandments showed the Jews personally and individually how unlike God they were like in their thoughts and practices. Thankfully God provided a way to forgive them through the sacrificial system which culminated in the perfect sacrifice of God himself through Jesus Christ. Today, with our every sin having been forgiven two thousand years ago, now for us, this earthly life is not about our obedience to rules or even the Law of Moses; rather, it is about letting God live his life through us from the heart. How best would that be seen? It is best seen by others while we are in the midst of hardships and the various trials of life. Not that God has to make life hard for us, as it is hard enough naturally. But he often does not remove us from hardships for the express purpose of his testimony in our lives shining for all to see.
Anyone can act like a “Christian” when things go well for you and life is easy.
Most people demonstrate these character traits when things are going good and thus there is no need for the divine life within you, empowering you when there are no trials and hardships. The fruit of the Spirit is not necessary when no one is trying to take advantage of you or hurt you in some way. But life is not like that. Thus we need God to do for us what we do not have the capacity within ourselves to respond as God would nor as he commands in this passage. This is why I spent so much time speaking toward this end. No amount of outward pressure from religion can make that difference within you to live in peace through the trials of this life. Only as God allows hardships to try our faith will he control, empower and fill us with his Spirit to have victory over them and consequently receive reward for them in the end. Do you want God to say well done, enter into the joy of the Lord? Then it behooves you to have the resources to endure trials by his power and Spirit through faith which is the reason for trials in the first place.
Nothing “squeezes your sponge” quicker than traffic
Knowing this is one thing. Practicing it is another. The older I get in the Lord, the more I realize how lacking I am in allowing his Spirit to control me. Which, just like the 10 Commandments were impossible for the Jews to do, so too I am realizing that it is impossible for me to produce these traits mentioned in this passage within myself. Yesterday I was in traffic at a round-about (traffic circle) and I was behind a vehicle who could not drum up enough courage to enter the circle. Twice this person would start and not proceed. On the third attempt she started to go and I proceeded to follow since the gap in traffic was very large only to notice that she stopped again but I was not quite in time. My patience and attitude was tried, then tried and tried again with less and less success with each subsequent time. Yikes. I did not like seeing what was being “squeezed” out of me. I am just so glad that my sin of impatience and lack of spirit control and hypocrisy was covered by the blood of Christ 2000 years ago. That my failure at living up to what I know to be right and true is an opportunity to bring me to my knees in confession. As well as to reveal to me my continual need and dependence upon his mercy and grace for salvation. Rom 11:32; Titus 3:5 as well as Eph 2:8, 9 come to mind. Any shortcoming in your life which makes you realize the fact of your needing God’s grace and unmerited salvation is a good thing.
More to come,