“if Christ is in you... your spirit is alive”
Cause and Effect
Causality is one of the simplest scientific principles to understand. Everyday, all the time we see the idea of “cause and effect” at work. We exercise (cause) to get into better shape (effect). We discipline our children (cause) to help them grow into better adults (effect). We avoid sharp objects (cause) because we know they will cut us (effect).
|Even our spiritual lives are subject to "cause and effect"|
The law of cause and effect holds true in our spiritual lives as well. If, through faith in Jesus, you have become a new person (cause); your life will look different (effect). Often people misunderstand this concept and mistakenly believe the effect comes before the cause. They believe if they start living a different life, then they will become a new person.
This is no more effective than painting stripes on a horse is effective in changing the horse into a zebra. Only Jesus can make your life new.
Jesus Causes Us To Live A New Way
According to Romans 6, once we have received this new life from Jesus; we will experience a radical change in our thoughts, desires, and behavior. Paul says in this passage that we have put to death the old way of life. We are now alive to a whole new way of living.
Later in Romans, Paul explains that the Holy Spirit empowers this new life. He writes:
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The Holy Spirit living in us is the catalyst for our new life in Jesus. When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, we experience a true metamorphosis of character. Over time, the priorities which once drove our life become distant and unimportant as we embrace the values and principles of Jesus. This radical life-change is the precise type of fruitful life Jesus referred to when he told the parable of the different soils.
Jesus suggested the change in a person’s life was so radical it was equivalent to reproducing fruit 30, 60, and 100 times. Have you ever considered how to measure the amount of fruitfulness the Holy Spirit is creating in your life?
A Spiritual Dashboard?
We may never buy a General Motors minivan again. Several years ago, we purchased a Pontiac Montana, and while the engine was reasonably reliable; we experienced an unbelievable amount of problems with the “extras”. Our rear window wiper didn't worked for years, our electric locks went in and out, our CD player stopped playing and the stereo's volume button never worked like it should.
Most frustrating, though, was our gas gauge. According to our dashboard, our van was always either full of gas or empty. The inaccurate measurements led to a few unscheduled roadside stops, and a few more close calls. We eventually learned, that we needed to get gas approximately every 300 miles. Once the odometer hit 300, we stopped for gas and reset it to zero.
What good is a broken dashboard? Not much. A dashboard is designed to measure something. If the measurement is not accurate, significant problems might result. Sometimes, as Christians we are tempted to use inaccurate gauges to measure our spiritual growth. We might compare ourselves with someone else and determine we are more spiritual. We might create a list of actions (going to church, reading the Bible, etc) and decide we are doing fine as long as we check off each box on our list.
Broken dashboards can’t give us a true measurement of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. Remember, fruit is an evidence of life change, not a means by which to implement life change. Our fruitfulness comes, not through our own efforts, but as we open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our life. The disciplines we undertake are designed to help us open ourselves to the Spirit, but they do not on their own bring fruit to our lives.
Galatians 5 is a familiar passage which contains a well-known list of the “fruit of the Spirit.” This list of nine character traits can serve as an accurate dashboard to help us determine the extent of the Spirit’s work in our life.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are listed as the evidence of a new life. They are contrasted with immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and more which are all evidence of the old life.
Just like a dashboard doesn’t cause you to accelerate, it just tells you how fast you are going; these fruits don’t change your life, they just tell you if your life has changed.
|A spiritual dashboard enables you to measure your growth|
Understanding the differing character traits in these two lists helps to provide a simple framework by which you can evaluate the fruitfulness of your life. The following series of questions, can guide you as you seek to measure the work of the Spirit in your life:
- Which list do the thoughts, attitudes and actions in my life right now reflect?
- Am I right now living by the Spirit or by the “old way?”
- What have I been doing recently to open myself to the Spirit? What have I been doing recently to open myself to the “old way?”
- How can these measurements convict me to take action in my life?
You would never drive a long time without glancing at your dashboard. Knowing your speed, your fuel level, your car’s temperature are all important pieces of information to help you reach your destination. In the same way, you should never try to live the fruitful life without occasionally take time to glance at the dashboard provided in Galatians 5.