If God is real and supposed to be evident in the lives of Christians, then why do Christians vary in their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? ◊
Ever see an unhappy Christian? Sure you have. How about a depressed one? Or an unkind, even angry Christian clearly not displaying the peace, gentleness, or love that one would expect to see in an authentic God-follower? How about a Christian who’s still involved in what anyone would label as sinful behavior?
Yes, we’ve all experienced Christians who are not quite acting Christ-like. We may have fallen into that category ourselves at some point in our past or even in a currently struggling life.
Why is that?
What’s going on? If God is real and supposed to be evident in the lives of Christians with the fruit of the spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) then why do Christians vary in their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? That’s a great question. And worth considering by anyone living life at a level less than the fullness of what has been promised to all of us who have been set free from the shackles of spiritual bondage and captivity.
An even better question is: How do we live every day as one who has been liberated and completely set free?
Guidance from Galatians
The answer is embedded in a New Testament letter. The Apostle Paul wrote a very practical and instructive letter to the people of the Roman province of Galatia which included cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra in what is modern day Turkey. Paul’s letter targets new Christians in the early churches developing in the region within a couple of decades after Christ’s resurrection and the explosion of Christianity out of Jerusalem after Pentecost (see Acts 2).
In Galatians Paul is dealing with 3 issues:
- Legalism – Christians were being pressured by Judaizers (Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentile converts to the Christian faith submit to certain remnants of Jewish ritual law).
- Personal Credibility – the Judaizers claimed that since Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles his gospel message was not the true gospel.
- Freedom by Faith – man is justified and freed by God through faith alone, not by works of any law.
Here is a summary of the letter followed by the upshot application for all of us who are Christians seeking the fullness of life:
- Chapters 1 & 2 – Paul’s Authority – Paul establishes that he was sent to Galatia by God the Father and Jesus Christ Himself, who God raised from the dead. He admonishes them and challenges them to not succumb to any other gospel but that of Christ which Paul preached during a previous visit. He highlights his connections and relationship with the apostles and the directions he received directly from God.
- Chapters 3 & 4 – Faith Not Works – Paul calls out these Galatians as bewitched fools who have seen and experienced the Truth of the Spirit yet have allowed the fleshly adherence to legalism. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29) We believers are free, not slaves to law, but child heirs of God. Those that teach otherwise are of no good. Disregard them and be free.
- Chapters 5 & 6 – Freedom in Christ and Spirit – Paul challenges them to stand firm in faith expressing itself in love (Galatians 5:6). Though they have been confused and distracted from running a good race, now be called to be free…and serve one another humbly in love (v. 13). Walk by the Spirit, do not gratify the desires of the flesh which is in conflict with the Holy Spirit. If led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (v. 18). If one is caught up in sin, then restore each other in the Spirit. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7). Don’t become weary of doing good, to all people. Never boast but in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (v. 14).
Application for True Freedom
So what does one practically do with all of this? Here are 5 cautionary and proactive steps toward full freedom in your Christian faith:
- Remember With Whom You’re Dealing – The Bible contains instructions sent by God. It is the Word of God. Do not treat the Scripture text as anything other than absolute Truth.
- Do Not Listen to Those That Distort the Gospel – Be alert and not bewitched by persuasive smooth talkers, regardless of impressive credentials, who preach a Gospel apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Recognize That You Are a Child Heir of God – This is a big deal. You are a child of the Promise of God. This itself is uplifting and freeing from the weights of any human challenges in this earthly life.
- Your Faith Should Translate to Love for Others – This is at the heart of the matter. This is starkly laid out in Galatians 5:19-22 (see full text below). A life living/walking in the Spirit should reflect all that is good (fruit of the Spirit) versus anything that is bad/evil (acts of the flesh).
- Turn from Sin as You Really Surrender Your Life to Christ – Go all the way in the surrendering of your broken and fallen life to God. Restore each other as Christ has restored you. Boast in nothing but the grace and mercy of God shown by the death of Christ on a cross for your sins and transgressions.
Now go forth and live as one truly set free and encumbered with nothing but upside in a physical life and mental perspective forged by the Spirit of God.
Are you living as one truly set free?
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, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:19-23