So, we say that we are Christians, that we are followers/disciples of Jesus Christ. Do we have proof? I'm serious! Is our life lived in such a manner that people know? Perhaps a few people will put up the argument that the Kingdom of God is a heart matter and that we can't judge a person's relationship with the Lord by their actions; we can't judge a man's heart. These people are right to a point but we aren't talking about other people, we are talking about ourselves. The Kingdom of God is about the heart but the heart is also the root of what we do. Jesus taught:
“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)
This is the reason Jesus spent much of his teaching on the necessity for the heart to be changed, however, we cannot change our heart. We need God to transform our heart and if there is no transformation we have only conformed our behaviour in an attempt to appear like a Christian. This is not necessarily our fault when you take a moment and listen to much of the teaching and preaching in the Church today. Much of it is about how we need to change, how we need to behave, how we need to love; it sounds like any number of self-help seminars going on in town. We are forgetting to preach and teach that these actions are the fruit of a transformed heart and only the power of Jesus Christ can transform the heart. This is the reason we need to be honest with ourselves.
Consider the last month; how was your behaviour in moments of stress? I don't want us to consider when the circumstances are perfect in our lives but instead when the heat is on. It is in the difficult moments that a person's true character reveals itself and it may even be a surprise to that person when it happens. We can think we are well saved according to the preaching we hear every Sunday but the reality could be that we are conformists instead of disciples. It is better to be honest now then lost later. It is the reason why so many people fall away, because they conformed their behaviour instead of being transformed by the blood of Jesus.
Do we handle stress by lashing out at people? Do we become violent in our anger? Do we end up yelling at people in our disappointments? Do we feel hatred toward people who don't do what we want them to do? When we need to deal with someone's inappropriate behaviour do we become nasty, saying mean things, tearing them down? Do we become a negative person when things don't go according to our expectations? Do we quit instead of push through? Let's be honest here, this is not the behaviour of Jesus and it is not the behaviour of a transformed heart.
Now don't let me get you confused here. It is possible to slip occasionally; I am not teaching perfection here. However, another sign of a transformed heart is one that quickly senses the conviction of the Spirit and humbles itself to apologize. Humility and repentance are huge ingredients to a disciples heart, a heart that is possessed by and for Jesus Christ. The biggest ingredient is love, which is what compels us to do what we do, even to apologize when we are wrong. Apologizing is second nature for a follower of Jesus because we recognize that life is all about our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. The Word and our heart are clear on this matter that if we do not have love for a brother then we do not love God.
We know the fruit of the Spirit:
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. (Galatians 5:22-23)
But we cannot produce this in ourselves; we cannot conform our behaviour to mimic this actions. The fruit can only be produced by the Spirit because we are compelled by Jesus' love for us. Love produces the desire to be like Jesus and that desire allows us to be submitted to the training of the Spirit. However, failure does not make us an actor or without Jesus. Failure to get back up, failure to apologize, failure to repent should be a huge warning sign that we don't have it right with Jesus.
There is a difference in those who follow Jesus Christ. It is a natural difference that comes from the sweetness of Jesus in us. It's source is from being loved and it is that love that produces love in us. It is easy to love others and see the fruit of the Spirit in us when we are convinced that we are loved by God the Father. It is a good and honest thing to check your heart by examining the motivation of your behaviour. The world needs the real thing and they need to see it today.