As a chaplain and co-founder of a ministry, I meet with a large number of people each year. Many come to ask questions about their faith. Many have been disappointed in their journey with the Lord. Many are confused by church leaders who don’t preach about sin and the changes that need to take place to transform into a righteous person. They will tell me that the churches that they have been in are full of hypocrites. Many profess their faith on Sunday and then turn right around and become sinful during the rest of the week.
I remind those individuals that what they are feeling is not anger or anything like that when they witness individuals doing those things. What they are feeling is the Holy Spirit bringing conviction to their lives. As we all continue our daily walk with the Lord along the path of righteousness, we grow stronger and stronger in our faith and deeper in our trust. Think of it as daily exercise. As you continue your routine without fail, you get stronger each time. You build muscle mass, your stamina improves and your abilities increase. Our faith and its development occurs in much the same way. We improve spiritually and we become stronger in our faith. By studying the Word and walking with the Lord daily, I begin to see things as God intended. It is this spiritual sight that helps us spot temptation and steer clear of it.
When we see others saying one thing and doing another, we see that those individuals have not given up their earthly lives. They continue to walk in darkness. I am not here to judge anyone nor do I encourage it. However, these individuals, who may even have leadership roles in the church, are not bearing spiritual fruit.
Jesus, in chapter seven of the Gospel of Matthew, said, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
As people mature in their faith, they begin to see things differently. They can spot those individuals who are false prophets and teachers who water down the lessons of the scripture or pervert and twist them to suit their own needs and desires. But, even new Christians who are truly born again can spot the charlatans even from a distance. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or a gifted pastor to spot them. You can easily identify them by their fruit. A bad tree produces only bad fruit. Any farmer will tell you that you can’t get a blue-ribbon crop from a grove of bad trees. It is impossible.
It is because of these bad trees that many new Christians are confused. They are told one thing and they see something totally different. When you accept Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord and follow him in baptism, your worldly self dies and a new self comes from that death. You are reborn spiritually to walk in the newness of life. You walk in light rather than darkness. You are given spiritual eyes so that you can see temptation and watch out for those who are false prophets and teachers. Like Jesus pointed out, there are those who act like sheep, but are really vicious wolves.
Part of your transformation is that you confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. You go to the cross and nail your sins to it. You crucify them and walk away as a child of God. You have been washed in the blood and your garments are spotless.
Paul writes, in chapter five of his letter to the Galatians, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
When we listen to that small voice that brings conviction to the heart and soul, we seek Jesus and confess our sins and disobedience. It is through Jesus that we are given the gift of salvation, provided by God, that gives us eternal life. We must give up our sinful lives so that every part of our lives is filled with the Spirit.
Some will take on this new life and remain full of the Spirit. Some, however, will soon return to their old sinful ways. As Christians, we can only pray for those who have remained tied to their old lives. By example, we can lead them back to the Father. Don’t judge them, but always look at the fruit they produce.
Do not allow their example to lead you astray. Remain faithful and righteous. Be an example to them. I assure you the Holy Spirit will bring conviction. The more they see you walking in righteousness; the more conviction they will feel in their hearts.
Your powerful testament of faith can move mountains. So, don’t let anyone change that or try to diminish it in any way. Surround yourself with other good trees and produce good fruit for others to see. When you do that, you will most definitely stand firm in His grace.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.