What Do You Expect?
What Do You Expect?
By Steve Smith
It seems like we have April snow amnesia every year in Michigan. I don’t know how long you have lived in Michigan but it has snowed every year in April in the metro Detroit area at some point since I can remember for my 50-plus years. I may not like it, but I have come to expect it. What did you expect?
Sometimes, I see Christians judging others, especially non-Christians and expecting them to act in a particular way. Expecting them to act like Christians is about as logical as expecting it not to snow in April in metro Detroit.
Paul talks about this in Romans 8:5-8 and lays out what is to be expected of the unbeliever and the believer alike, 5 “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
That is very plain isn’t it? Paul says it’s unrealistic to expect someone who does not have the Holy Spirit and believe in Jesus to obey God. Not only can they not obey God, they cannot please God. Apart from faith in the death of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness of sins all there is for God to see is sin. And it actually gets worse, the word death in these verses is not referring to physical death, we will all physically die, it is referring to eternal death in hell. Keep in mind Paul is writing this to the Church in Rome.
Paul describes the attributes of life in the flesh and it’s end result very plainly in Galatians 5: 19 “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 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”.
This is not to say if anyone commits one of the sins listed here the person goes to hell. He is speaking of the person who constantly leads a life in these ways without repentance or sorrow for sin and continues to walk in this lifestyle. John puts it another way in 1 John 1: 6 “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth”.
Of course the opposite is true if you are professing faith in Jesus Christ. By the Spirits power we are enabled to obey God as a choice and not a duty to earn anything, Jesus’ death on the cross has earned it all and future hope of resurrection is the goal! We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), and we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:2). Obedience is not the grounds of salvation, it is the work of God and evidence of salvation. It is not a perfect life, but it surely is to be a different life.
So let’s turn the question around, what should the unbeliever expect of the believer? Again Paul is clear in Galatians 5: 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.
People are watching. What do they see in Christians? What do they see in you? Anything different then the life of the flesh? Are you fooling yourself? You are not fooling God for sure, and probably not the people watching either. One of the reasons the Church is not more effective in the world is that it looks too much like the world. God help us to repent, receive forgiveness and the power to change and live by the Spirit we have been given.
How then is a life changed? My life was radically changed by the reading of the Crucifixion story in a worship service where Jesus met me at the cross and showed His love to me even though I am a great sinner. It was the Spirit of God through the words of Jesus that lead me to repentance and granted me faith.
After Paul’s words with which we started in Romans 8 he goes on in Chapters 9 and 10 to make the point that salvation in Jesus is for all who may believe regardless of their background or nationality. He then gives the believer the mandate and mission in Romans 10: 14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.
God changes lives through the proclaiming of the gospel, Jesus crucified for sinners and risen for the hope of glory. The Word of Christ, by the Spirit of Christ is the means by which a person is moved from a life of the flesh to a life in the Spirit.
Another spin on our question, what do you expect when you share the gospel with someone? Paul said everyone will not accept the message. Jesus tells the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 and only one out of four falls on good soil and lasts to produce the fruit of faith. Some will hear, believe and produce fruit, and most times that is a process that happens over time as well.
I found that to be true this week, only 1 out of the 5 people I talked with about Jesus (and I’m sure there were some I missed) were open to it. It’s hard when that happens, but I have learned that even if it was only one, it was one, and God is at work in that person’s life to change them. And who knows, simply by mentioning Jesus’ name to the other four and praying for them God will send someone else to them and open their heart to Jesus.
What do you expect? Snow in April? Unbelievers to act like believers? Believers to act like believers? The power for change at any level comes from the Word of Christ, the cross of Christ, the Spirit of Christ and the hope of resurrection in Christ!! May we be faithful in proclaiming what is expected of us in and by the Spirit through the Gospel!