How do you recognize a Christian?
Can you tell by a person’s church attendance or affiliation? By their stance on hot political topics? By the number of kids they have, by the amount of money they give to charity, by their eloquence in describing their faith?
The good news is that the Bible tell us exactly what telltale signs to look for in a Christian’s life. But the real question is not whether or not somebody else is a Christian according to these traits. It’s whether you recognize yourself in the Bible’s description.
For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love. For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: “Love your neighbor as yourself”; but if you go on snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other!
What I am saying is this: run your lives by the Spirit. Then you will not do what your old nature wants. For the old nature wants what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so that you find yourselves unable to carry out your good intentions. But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism.
And it is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency; involvement with the occult and with drugs; in feuding, fighting, becoming jealous and getting angry; in selfish ambition, factionalism, intrigue and envy; in drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you now as I have warned you before: those who do such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things.
Moreover, those who belong to the Messiah Yeshua have put their old nature to death on the stake, along with its passions and desires. Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. — Galatians 5:13-26 (CJB)
Questions to Consider
- What sorts of questions or problems do you think prompted the author of this Bible passage to write it?
- What does the term “old nature” mean to you? If Christians have been renewed by Christ, why must they still be on guard against their old nature?
- Imagine that an outside observer is watching your everyday interactions, and day-to-day affairs of your church. Would they use words like “selfish ambition,” “factionalism,” and “intrigue” to describe what they see? Or would they see “peace,” “patience,” and “humility”?
- None of us mange to perfectly embody these fruits of the Spirit. According to this passage, what will cause the fruits of the Spirit to appear in our lives?