Does your life astonish the non-believers around you?
#RadicalWords – Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV)
 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
This passage of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia was brought to mind by a quote I recently came across from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God.”
Even after meditating on this statement for several days, I have been struck nearly speechless. This is a completely convicting statement. Put into context of the modern church and its relationship with the non-believer, I fear we as Christians are failing. Before anyone out there gets their tail feathers ruffled, let us quickly examine what I mean.
What would have to occur or be present in the life of a Christian to make a non-believer abandon their disbelief in God? Something remarkable, attractive, and/or astonishing – Something that makes the non-believer say “Wait, I want what they’ve got! What is it in their life that I don’t have that makes them so amazing – so loving, patient, kind, happy, and generous? That’s right, they follow the teaching of that Jesus guy.” Notice that the list of things that may make you appear “amazing” to the non-believer – love, patience, kindness, happiness, and generosity – are those attributes that we followers of Jesus refer to as the “Fruit of the Spirit.” I think it is really that simple. If we want to bring non-believers out of the darkness and into the light, if we desire to follow that call of Matthew 28:19 and “…make disciples of all nations,” we must “…live by the Spirit” and “…keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Back to why I said previously that “I fear we as Christians are failing” in our efforts win hearts for the Lord and to make disciples of all nations. The solution (living by the spirit) is simple but IT IS NOT EASY. Let’s pretend that for the past week your life resembled that of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey’s character in the film “The Truman Show”) and your life was broadcast to the world as a T.V. show. Or, for the younger audience, let’s pretend that you have been broadcasting your entire life on one continuous Facebook Live stream for the past 168 hours. Would the non-believers around you, or watching on TV and Facebook, witness more “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) or more “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23)? Would you and the way you live as a Christian appear attractive, remarkable, or astonishing? I decided to take the challenge myself – How have I appeared to the non-believers around me over the past week? Using the “Works of the Flesh” and “Fruit of the Spirit” as markers here is what I found:
Works of the Flesh Fruit of the Spirit
- Sexual Immorality – No 1. Love – No
- Impurity – Yes 2. Joy – No
- Sensuality – Yes 3. Peace – No
- Idolatry – Yes 4. Patience – No
- Sorcery – No 5. Kindness – No
- Enmity – Yes 6. Goodness – No
- Strife – Yes 7. Faithfulness – Yes
- Jealousy – No 8. Gentleness – No
- Fits of Anger – Yes 9. Self-control – No
- Rivalries – Yes
- Dissensions – Yes
- Divisions – Yes
- Envy – Yes
- Drunkenness – No
- Orgies – No
For those of you keeping score at home, that is Flesh ten, and Spirit one. Pathetic! I suspect, that for most of you who declare yourselves committed, convicted Christians, the results, if you take an HONEST appraisal, won’t be much different. Make no mistake, there are those among us whose vine is full of delicious, attractive, remarkable fruit. Sadly, we just recently lost one of those in Billy Graham – A man who most would admit lived a life that leaves us all astonished. My prayer today Lord Jesus, is only you know where my path will lead, but I trust that, even if I do not know either the way or the destination, you are with me and before me, and I will follow you with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it be your will Lord, break the strongholds of the flesh over my life and use me to reach those who do not yet know you. Amen!
So how about it? Are you ready for the challenge? How would you answer the question: Does your life astonish the non-believers around you?