This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.
Blessing Seen in the Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is listed in Galatians 5: 22-23 where Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Going to Sunday morning service is a lot like going out on a first date. We put on our best clothes and our best behavior. We know that we are on display and we do not want to embarrass ourselves in front of people that we want to impress. Therefore, if we measure the fruit of the Spirit simply by what we see on Sunday morning, we are not making a fair appraisal of our condition. A more important question is, do we display the fruit of the Spirit the rest of the week? Or perhaps even more telling, do we display the fruit of the Spirit when we are engaged in the battles of life? Here, I fear, we fall dreadfully short.
Pagans like to complain that if they go to church they will be hugged and kissed while in the sanctuary and then run over in the parking lot. Some of that complaint is simply their way to protect themselves and their own sinfulness. However, it also touches upon the truth about most church members. Can any church member honestly say that the overwhelming majority of the members of his church routinely display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control when they encounter each other during the week? If so, why then do we have so many problems? Why are so many Christian couples in marriage counseling? Why do so many Christian couples get divorced (at a rate that is even higher than the rate for pagans!)? Why do so many Christian families have trouble with their kids? Why do so many Christians have trouble with their neighbors? Why do so many Christians have trouble with their employers? Why do so many Christians have trouble with their fellow citizens who are driving on the same road that they are? Why do Christians seem to be no different than pagans when they are in the world? Why do so many churches split?
There can be only one conclusion: professing Christians are not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. That leads to the inevitable conclusion that the church is under the judgment of God.
Blessing Seen in True Spirituality
Evangelicals have adopted two counterfeits to true spirituality. Those counterfeits are legalism and the display of “charismatic gifts”. Neither legalism nor charismatic gifts have anything to do with true spirituality. True spirituality is described in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) where Jesus says that true spirituality will be made manifest by being “poor in spirit, mournful, gentle, hungering after righteousness (which, incidentally, Jesus defines as obedience to His law), merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted”. (I would recommend Dr. Lloyd-Jones sermons on the “Sermon on the Mount” for an excellent explanation of what these beatitudes require.)
True spirituality is not ostentatious; rather, it is fully aware of the poverty of spirit that is caused by the individual’s own sin. True spirituality is not happy-go-lucky, rather, it is profoundly sad due to the effects of sin in the individual and in the world. True spirituality is not “under grace rather than under law”. True spirituality recognizes that God’s standard of righteousness is His law, primarily revealed in the Pentateuch. A truly spiritual individual loves the Law of God and uses it as his measure of righteousness and seeks to obey it in every way. Truly spiritual people do not hold grudges and keep long accounts of all the horrible things that have happened to them. Rather, true spirituality is merciful, and quick to extend mercy to others. The truly spiritual seek to live at peace with those around them. Lastly, the truly spiritual will be persecuted. Jesus has promised that reality in John 15: 18-19 where He says, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Jesus’ promise that we would be persecuted and hated by the world is one of the best indicators of true spirituality. A man who has no enemies in the world is not truly spiritual (unless the entire world is in a time of blessing). A truly spiritual man will have many enemies in the world because the life that he leads and the message that he preaches are hated by the world. There is no way around this. If you want to measure your spirituality, measure the length of the list of names of those who hate you.
The assimilated church has replaced true spirituality with the counterfeit of charismatic gifts. Disregarding for the moment whether charismatic gifts are normative for today, it still remains true that Paul said (I Corinthians 13) that the charismatic gifts are indicative of a child-like state in the believer. True spiritual maturity rises far about the display of charismatic gifts.
In charismatic churches there is a tremendous pressure to outdo one another in ecstatic display. If one person speaks in tongues for five minutes, the next person has to speak in tongues for six minutes. If one person translates a tongue and claims that it was in Mandarin Chinese, the next has to translate the tongue and claim it was ancient Sanskrit. If one person sits in his chair and flaps his arms in ecstasy the next person has to jump up and down and flap his arms in ecstasy. It is generally understood that one rises up the spirituality ladder by having more frequent and more extreme ecstatic displays. Again, for my purposes here, it does not matter if these experiences are genuine. What does matter is that they are not evidence of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is evidence by faith, hope, and love, not the charismatic gifts.
Legalistic churches believe that the truly spiritual person is the one who has the most number of personal rules of conduct that go beyond the norms of Scripture. As I pointed out in the previous section on drug use, it is often the case that one is appraised as being more spiritual by asserting that one does not drink. Paul had something to say about this counterfeit spirituality in Colossians 2: 20-23 where he says:
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religions and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
In legalistic churches men are appraised as being highly spiritual, and promoted to positions of leadership, based mostly on the things that they don’t do. As Paul points out, these things appear to be highly spiritual but are really of no value. It is a sad reality that evangelical churches tend to promote men based upon man made standards of righteousness rather than upon the qualifications clearly defined in the Bible.
The conclusion is the same: true spirituality is quite rare in the church today. The fact that counterfeit versions of true spirituality reign supreme is more solid evidence that the church is under the judgment of God.