Once upon a time, I was a kid in junior high and high school, praying to survive from one day to the next without making a total fool of myself. But God, being gracious, provided me with some opportunities toward the end of junior high and into high school to defend my faith to a friend who was on a bold spiritual quest. Seemed like every day she had another question or challenge. So I went out and bought a book for teens on Christian apologetics (defending Christian beliefs) and read up. Praise God for this resource! It really helped me to feel prepared as I grappled with my friend’s questions. Praise the Lord that we remained friends throughout that time, and praise Him in a big way that she’s a believer, and active in ministry. Her life is a huge source of encouragement for me.
Now, at the same time that God was dealing with my fear of confrontation in the area of sharing the Gospel, a series of revivals took place in my hometown. Teenagers flocked to hear one particular speaker, and they would flood the altar at the end of the evening sermon, crying as they nailed slips of paper with their sins written on them to a cross at the front of the church. I remember sitting by one girl who wept loudly the whole time, and professed that she had “rededicated” her life to Christ. The next Monday at school, she was cursing as usual, planning for her next big party, and treating the “un-cool” kids like me just like she always had. As far as I know, she is still living for herself instead of God.
So what gives? The first girl claimed she wasn’t a Christian, yet God was clearly working in her life. The second girl claimed she was a Christian, but certainly didn’t act like one! So how can you tell which of your friends are Christians and which ones are not?
First, I want you all to do something. Look at your arm. Do you have skin? Bones? Muscle? Are you visible? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, hold on, because this may come as a shock: you are not the Holy Spirit!! You can’t see into anyone’s heart or tell what God is doing in their lives unseen. Therefore, it’s not your job to cast judgment on someone. But with that caution in mind, you all probably know the saying, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Jesus told His disciples that we’d know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 12:33). Makes sense, right? If it bears apples, it’s an apple tree. Similarly, when people claim to be Christians, we should see “fruit,” or evidence, of it in their lives. Pop quiz: what are these “fruits”? We could undoubtedly list dozens, but let’s start with the most obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Sound familiar? They’re the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible tells us that anyone who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 5:5, for instance).
To Be Continued…