Our behavior reflects our mindset. Our mindset reflects our heart. Our heart reflects our spirit. Our spirit reflects our relationship with God. How’s it going? ♦
A couple lashes out at each other in anger, spewing harsh words of criticism and rebuke. They attend a local church consistently on Sundays and serve on the congregational leadership team. A young man regularly views pornography on his computer in the privacy of his apartment. He’s a rising star at his work and leads a Bible study for teens at a weekly church program. A woman harbors resentment and jealousy toward a co-worker/friend who just got engaged and a promotion. The envious woman is a leader in her church community and is respected and admired by all who encounter her.
Such are the public and private lives of everyday Christians caught in the tug and pull of sin and grace, living in and out of dark places, struggling with guilt, unhappiness, regret and frustration.
And an on and off relationship with God.
There’s got to be a better way to live an abundant, joy-filled life. Fortunately, there is.
We Are What We Think and Do
There’s a common perception, perhaps deserved, that Christians cast judgment on non-Christians or those unlike themselves. Truth is that all people are the same. Wise Christians simply know we are broken people and yet forgiven by a loving God who made a provision for restoration of the relationship.
With that awareness Christians consciously live in the active struggle of our fallen nature. And it’s not easy as we daily face the consequences of our actions, born out of what we think and do.
So are you frustrated with your own Christianity? Do you feel like a hypocrite sometimes? Do you have bouts of guilt and struggle with anger, sexual temptation or even addiction, or hold grudges and harbor thoughts of envy and/or jealously?
Don’t beat yourself up. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
That verse is nice, but it doesn’t let us off the hook either. Our thoughts and resulting behavior is related to our spirit and current relationship with God. In other words, is His Spirit in us?
God Help Me
The Bible speaks of this pendulum swing between our good and evil behavior. It’s really about the fruit that flows forth from our spirit; that is, the Spirit of God in us. When that connection line between us and God is twisted or knotted or kinked because of sin of any kind, the fruit or lack of it, is a direct reflection of that separation.
The apostle Paul writes about the warring struggle of good and evil in us in his New Testament letter to the early Christians in Galatia:
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:7-8
Here’s the Biblical breakdown of the Acts of the Flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, anger and fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, and orgies. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Pretty good list of pretty rough behavior. No getting around what is clearly stated.
Now here’s the Biblical breakdown of the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
There should be no doubt what is good, right and of light, and what is evil, wrong and of darkness.
3 Key Separators from God
Apart from outright disbelief, one could narrow down the acts of the flesh into 3 key areas of behavior that impact and corrupt our mindset, heart and spirit:
- Anger – hatred, discord, rage, dissensions, factions (anti-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control)
- Immorality – sexual sin, impurity, debauchery, drunkenness, orgies (anti-goodness, faithfulness and self-control)
- Idolatry – witchcraft, selfish ambition, jealousy, envy (anti-love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness)
Christians who dabble in and out of these areas are fraught with guilt and an unhealthy relationship with God. They are disconnected, unplugged and in isolation from the Spirit of God. There can be no real fruit while operating in this mode. There is no nourishment when there is no “abiding” or connection with the Vine, i.e., Jesus (see John 15). One might produce some appearances of fruit, but it is shallow, blemished and ultimately withering.
And it’s possible to fool those around us, but there’s no fooling God.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. – Galatians 6:7-8.
Go and Sin No More
But just like the adulterous woman in the Bible (see John 8), Jesus says to “go and sin no more.” If we walk with God and His Spirit in prayer and a surrendered life, we too will be able to improve and override areas of sinful anger, sexual impurity, and godless and selfish idolatry.
That arguing couple, the porn-addicted young man, the jealous co-worker, need only catch or recognize their sinful acts of the flesh, get on their knees (literally or figuratively), confess their sin in prayer to God, and then stop the behavior. It’s a conscious relinquishing of spirit, heart, and mindset that will drive a behavioral shift rooted in an abiding walk with God. Nothing false, all of it very real.
Now being Spirit-filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, one is overwhelmed with a renewed sense of wholeness and consistency in life. The old is fading away and the renewed life is vibrant and alive.
How’s your spiritual relationship with God?
So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father… – Colossians 1:10-12