The Holy Spirit conforms you to the image of Christ, He sanctifies you with your permission. Over the next several days, I want to look at different aspects of the Christian life, various disciplines, and character traits of the active and living Father-chosen, Spirit-filled follower of Jesus.
Today, I want to begin with a big one. And it may convict you as it convicted me. I hope that if you need to be convicted, you are. And if you are convicted that you will respond to God regarding your conviction.
I think too many Christians walk around deliberately sinning and proclaiming the grace of God over their unchanged lives. The true Christian life is marked by righteousness. It is demonstrated by a life walking in righteousness rather than sin. Yes, I agree we are absolutely saved by grace through faith and not by trying to be good, known as good works. The Bible tells us that numerous times. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Shall we put these two oft quoted verses back in context now? Ephesians 2:1-10 reads,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Notice, there is a difference between who we were before and who we are in Christ. We obeyed the prince of the power of the air, which is another name for Satan. He is the spirit at work in the lost and the reason people sin. Before Christ, we lived by the spirit of Satan, we were I-theists who called ourselves god and sought to gratify our carnal desires. We were dead. But Jesus, being rich, that is full, abundant, and strong in mercy and because He loved us saved us and gave us new life. We can never say, “I earned salvation because I was good.” No one can. But when we are saved, we gain the ability with The Holy Sprit to walk in to live out the good works we couldn’t before.
Do you know what Jesus’ message was when He preached and taught? His first messages said, “Repent.” That message began with John the Baptist who taught this,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:2,8-12).
After Jesus was baptized, and after He had ben tempted in the wilderness without sinning, He began His ministry. About that time, John was arrested. Did Jesus let John’s message die with him? Did he say that repentance was the old way and the new way was live an unchanged life? No. Matthew 4:17 says,
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The word repent means to change your mind, change in your inner self. Not only did Jesus say to repent, He told people to stop sinning. John 8:11b reads,
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
John 5:14b reads,
“See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
Did the message of repentance end when Jesus ascended to Heaven and gave us His Holy Spirit? No. The first sermon preached by Peter after receiving the Holy Spirit said this as an answer to how to be saved,
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39).
What is the fruit of repentance that John preached? We can look in two places to find the answer. The first is in Acts 26 when Paul was speaking to King Agrippa Acts 26:19-23
“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Paul said the fruit of repentance is deeds. Moreover, those deeds with the help of God testify to Christ and proclaim the light to the world. Living as the new person, the changed person proclaims Jesus as Christ. It is impossible, without God to live righteously and doing so shows the world who Jesus is. The second place we look is in Ephesians 5:10-10.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
The fruit of light, the result of repentance and salvation is good and right and true. We are no longer in darkness, we are children of light and we need to live as children of light. When we answer God’s call to salvation, the first step is repentance; we call on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:38). Is repentance true if we say, ‘I’m sorry for doing this’ but then keep right on doing it? If your child says, “I’m sorry for hitting my sister,” then turns right around and hits his sister, was he actually sorry? Or was it more likely he was trying to get out of a punishment? Telling God we’re sorry and then deciding to keep sinning is the same thing.
I want to reiterate, we are not living under the law and all our sins have been forgiven (1 John 1:9) but that is just not a reason to choose to sin or live like our old selves. We are free! We are free from sin, law, and pleasing people. Galatians 5:1 and 13-15 read,
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
1 Peter 2:15-17 says,
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Do you get tired of people calling Christians haters and hypocrites? Well, if you live righteously, if you live the holy life you were called to live, their words are nothing. They can’t say those tings about you and they become fools.
Romans 5:20- 6:4 reads,
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Choosing not to walk in the righteousness we have been given is a slap in the face of God. It says that His Crucifixion meant nothing and that His Resurrection is irrelevant. When a proclaiming Christian lives in her previous life of sin, it declares that God is powerless and we have not been changed. She declares the worthlessness of the price paid for her life.
In our freedom, we live by the simple yet profound law of love. We choose to serve one another and that means refraining from our own desires to boost our brothers and sisters. Living that kind of righteousness wins people to the Lord. By our love, people will know we follow Jesus (John 13:35). 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 reads.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Choosing to blatantly sin or choosing to do what many might think is sin can hurt Christians who may not be as mature as you are. If I choose to drink wine, I know that it is not a sin, but to a brand-new Christian, especially one who may have struggled with addictions my drinking in front of her could hurt her. Imagine if I went out “clubbing” and got drunk! While I know drinking is not a sin for me, getting drunk is a sin for anyone (Ephesians 5:18). What would that say about who I am and how could that hurt the weaker Christian’s walk? She might fall into getting drunk herself and never be able to move past addiction to freedom. 1 Corinthians 8:9-12 explains it this way,
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
You were called to righteousness! God knows you can’t be righteous alone but what a great testimony when you can choose not to sin because He has you, because He is working in you and walking beside you. Isaiah 42:5-7 reads,
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
And 1 Corinthians 5:17-21 says,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Live a life worthy of the calling to righteousness, worthy of the price Jesus paid. Ephesians 4:1-7 reads,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Colossians 1:9-14 says it like this,
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It is possible to live righteously, it is expected of you. Go and sin no more was not a suggestion, it was a commandment. Living as the new creation, the righteous man or woman of God is not automatic, it is a choice made possible by the Holy Spirit. You cannot be righteous outside of Christ, no matter how good you try to be. We don’t try to be good, we live in the righteousness we were called to live. We put on our new identity and we allow the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of the image of Christ in us. Ephesians 4:20-24 reads
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I hope you know you can live that life. The evidence of the Holy Spirit in you is your conformation to the image of Christ who is Righteous, Perfect, and Holy. The evidence of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). There is no sin in there! The entire law is fulfilled in Love (Romans 13:10).