A recent conversation got me thinking about heaven and hell, what determines who goes where… Obviously as flawed people, it’s impossible for us to know for certain what another person may be thinking, but the Bible lays out for us clearly how we can tell who is living a Spirit-filled life. Or to put it more simply, if someone is a Christian, it will be obvious.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
This passage is what I’ll be talking about for the next nine posts. The passage basically equates people to an apple tree of sorts. People who are Christians and who are committed to living a life of character (which go hand in hand) will not be involved in the first list. Some are obvious, like sexual immorality and witchcraft. Pretty much everyone knows those things are contrary to being a Christian. But what about jealousy, fits of rage, and selfish ambition? Not so obvious, and also much more common.
The Apostle Paul is telling us here that if you are truly a Christian, you won’t have these attributes (or character flaws). It’s not that anyone is going to be perfect, but the list of negative “fruit” is a list of things that are at odds with having the Holy Spirit within you. If you say you’re a Christian and many years into it you are still a jealous, raging, selfish person… you may be a lot of things, but Christian isn’t one of them.
In essence it goes back to something I recently wrote about the cup filled to the brim. If you’re filled with the holy spirit, you won’t be able to help exuding the fruits of the spirit. If you’re not filled with the holy spirit, you will default back to the simple human condition… also known as “doing whatever you feel like.”
It wouldn’t be fair to say that a Christian can’t be jealous or blow up at someone. However, a pattern should be telling. Because “as a man thinks, so is he.” If someone exhibits a lifelong pattern of jealousy, rage, selfishness, etc… I’m not going to make a judgment, but I’d be concerned for their eternal soul.
I’m going to spend the next nine posts going through the good list. I know it’s all Bible-y, but I hope you’ll bear with me.