Real Deal Christianity
There is nothing more frightening to one who claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ than the conviction of ongoing sin in her life. Thoughts may drift to, “Am I really a Christian?” Accurate self-knowledge, matched with accurate theology, is paramount. Christians loathe the old man and his lusts because every fleshly lust is an affront to God’s revealed love. Non-Christians may live in fear of sins, but their motive is self-love and self-preservation.
Some unbelievers, pretending to be a Christian through good works of the law, have a pretty fair opinion of their Christian walk. Still, they ask, “Am I good enough?” or “Have I done enough good?” These are the wrong test questions for true Christianity. The Christian knows she is not good and could never do enough to be considered good in God’s holy assessment.
There is only one thing separating the Christian from the non-Christian. It is the life of God in the soul of the Christian. There is nothing else to consider. God is either indwelling you, or He is not. Natural man can be as foul as a cesspool, or he can also be as savvy as Judas Iscariot, who probably had a pretty over-rated self-opinion of his progress as a follower of Jesus. The other disciples may have agreed. Judas was the business.
You will know them by their fruit, and fake fruit is eventually exposed, regardless of its fine fabrication. The goodness of a person is not the measure employed to determine whether one is a Christian or not. The volume and quality of good works is also not the measure. It is only the presence of the divine life. So, what are some features of the divine life to help us detect it?
First, the natural man has become spiritual. Christianity is a burden to pseudo-Christians. Faux believers are faulty in affection and service. There is a nominal spirit, always wavering between worldly pleasures and Christian obligations. Christian service is a duty, rather than a labor of love.
The converted soul has undergone a great transformation, but the evidence of this change is slow. It is true, some will claim Christ in the zeal of a spiritual wanderlust, but when the devil comes looking for his lost goats, they will submit to his temptation to return to Egypt. For this reason, new converts do not make wise Christian leaders. A man must be tested through many sanctifying fires before he can be trusted in leadership. The divine life slowly progresses, and it endures trial after trial.
He that is spiritual has a heart for God, and a heart for God has the testimony of Jesus Christ. Because the poisoned world of impurity despises the holiness of Jesus Christ, He Himself becomes a litmus test. Are you ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you believe He is the truth? In your estimation, is Jesus only way to God the Father in heaven? Can you explain to others how He invaded your life in order to give you His life?
There are correct answers to these questions, and the Christian answers them correctly. Recently, I met a new guy in a local Bible study, who I did not know was not born again. When I inquired with an icebreaker, “So tell me your story,” he looked like a deer in the headlights. Christians love to tell their conversion story, but pseudo-Christians really do not possess that story.
The world will always be hostile to the Gospel because the Gospel exposes the world for being sinful, fallen, unrighteous, wicked, vain, futile, and destined to burn in the fire of God’s wrath and judgment. To the unregenerate man, the Gospel is bad news. It tells him his business or achievements will come to nothing. It tells him his closely guarded life of sin will eventually be exposed. Man’s love affair with sin is mere scandal waiting for the revealed day of God’s choosing.
He that is spiritual already openly confesses he is a worm. She accepts God’s unsavory assessment of her goodness and the utterly unacceptable quality of her works, regardless of their quantity. She boasts, not in herself, nor her achievements, but she boasts in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the perfect one, deserving all honor and glory. Paul claimed, “There is nothing good that dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Rom 7:18).” Christ lived in Paul (Gal 2:20; Col 1:27); thus, the apostle also acknowledged the source of goodness produced in and through him. The divine life was the good.
Spiritual disciplines are commanded for spiritual men, but the pure pleasure of fellowship with God makes the Christian rise up with Christ on her mind. She anticipates her Bible study or studies each week. She never frets at an occasionally long sermon but may object to an abbreviated closing song after it. Seeker friendly worship services are an oxymoron in her thinking. Rushing worship, any part of worship, is to miss the message of Christ and grieve the Spirit at the altar of the goddess of time. In this, the nominal Christian is saying, “We must not have too much of Christ.”
Second, the spiritual man displays spiritual fruit of a certain kind. The good works of fake Christians draw attention to self, not to Christ. Personally, I am skeptical when a man attaches his name before the word “ministries.” It is a testimony against the truth, which is, only the Holy Spirit has ministries. “Look at me,” says the evangelist, “and remember my name.”
We should be on the lookout for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22–23). We must be careful not to make these exclusive, for there is also: holiness, compassion, gratitude, and humility (Col 3:12, 15). These are some attributes of God, visibly displayed in the life of Jesus Christ. They are also the attributes of the Holy Spirit in us.
The more the Spirit of Christ has overtaken the will of the believer, the more these character qualities are manifested in the saint. It is an internal war with sin’s reign in the flesh, but Christians are being lead in Christ’s triumph and they overcome by faith in Him (1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14; 1 Jn 5:4).
Third, the spiritual fruit increases in volume and quality. As the true Christian matures in her faith, she examines herself, and she finds more spiritual fruit of a higher quality. Our family lived in Southern California for almost eight years. We had orange trees in our back garden, but the orange juice from the oranges was sour. The trees produced oranges in every season, each year, so there were always oranges ripe for picking. The quantity became irrelevant because the quality of the fruit was never there. Only Jesus can make our spiritual fruit sweeter and more abundant. Pray for this end.
Fourth, the spiritual fruit is tested, sometimes very severely. To get the goodness out of a fruit, nut, or spice, more often than not, they must be broken or crushed. The same is true for Christians. We may have much fruit of the Spirit in us, but God exudes and extracts the goodness from us through pressures. Recently, I met with a friend who was genuinely concerned about my current set of pressurized circumstances. After my lament, I inquired of his providential constraints, which left me humbled, by the level of severity he was enduring. I even noted the far superior quality of his prayer for me, over and above my prayer for him. Christ is being formed in him, and it is a beautiful suffering.
Fifth, the spiritual fruit remains. Jesus Christ has appointed the harvest of spiritual fruit from us (Jn 15). Without Him, none of this is possible. God the Father has grafted his chosen branches to the anointed Vine, Jesus Christ. From this root surges the divine life. Spiritual sap grows the branch and forges new branches from it. The bud, the flower, and the reproducible fruit is all a product of the Holy Spirit.
This Vine has indestructible life flowing in it and from it. This is eternal life given to dead branches, grafted in, and held securely to the Source of life, forever. Nothing can sever us from this Vine, for it is God’s design, will, plan, assurance, and power to hold Christians to Christ (Rom 8:38–39). Our fruit is appointed to remain because of Him who has made it for His own purposes.
Real Deal Christianity, as we have reviewed, is the divine life of God in the soul of a Christian, like sap in a tree branch. Our source of life is the living God, that is, Christ who is our life. Christ lives in me, and He is working in me. He will accomplish what concerns me because He has made me to be a spiritual man. These are the claims of a true Christian, who bears witness of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, in these spiritual matters. Here is the evidence: it is Christ in us, Christ for us, and Christ before us because Christ is all to us. The alternative is fodder. Therefore, you are encouraged to examine yourself to make one simple distinction, “Is the life in you natural or divine?”
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 4, 2021