If the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, why are those characteristics so rarely displayed in Christian exchanges –especially exchanges online?
Here are four reasons people who claim to be believers don’t display biblical behavior:
1) They’re not actually saved.
It’s too easy to pretend to be a Christian today in our culture because standing for Jesus doesn’t cost you anything. If it did, it would weed out the fakers.
We may think we’re saved, but there is a lot of deceiving going on in our churches and Christian culture today.
Salvation is treated like a magic potion, that if you say these magic words to Jesus you won’t go to Hell. You did that Jesus thing so you’re good now.
But that’s not what Christianity is about.
Being a Christian, being a Christ follower, is exactly that: it’s about following Christ –specifically following the New Testament commands that apply to believers today.
Jesus said that many people would call Him “Lord,” but that many of those people will not be saved. Few find the road to Jesus, and those who do can be identified by their fruits. Just because you say you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are actually following Him and saved.
Now, we also know that there can be young Christians who are acting like spiritual babies and that we can even quench the Holy Spirit when He tries to grow us into mature Christians.
So, we can’t know if someone’s really unsaved or if it’s just one of the other categories.
We can’t know if someone else is saved; only God can know their heart.
So, we shouldn’t go throwing that accusation around.
I have honestly questioned my own salvation (if there evidence or fruit that shows I’m saved), as well as asking the same questions about those I care about.
2) They’re immature in their faith.
Everyone starts as a baby, and when you get saved you start as a spiritual baby. There’s no shame in being a baby when you’re a baby.
If you’re 25 and still acting like a baby, that’s an indication that there’s something not quite right.
If we’ve been saved for a long time and we’re still acting like baby Christians maybe we need to ask ourselves why and do some soul-searching.
Physical growth happens automatically whether we do anything or not. Spiritual growth does not.
We need to be intentional about growing in Christ. That’s why there are commands to grow. We won’t grow in Christ if we’re not working on our spiritual maturity, being intentional about it. We are not going to just wake up one day and find ourselves mature.
Growing in Christ consists of not just bible reading and prayer but of responding appropriately to the lessons and trials that God brings into your life.
I have seen a lot if stunted growth because believers refuse to humble themselves in the light of God’s correction or get bitter when they experience trials which are intended to develop character.
If you’re immature in your faith you need to ask yourself why. Lack of maturity will understandably result in immature behavior which reflects poorly on the Christian church at large and doesn’t honor the Lord.
This is why discipleship is so immensely important. Our church members are for the most part stunted-growth baby Christians.
3) They’ve been taught the wrong behavior by biblically inaccurate teachers
False teaching is really common in our culture. Satan knows that we’re less likely to see the falsehood in a half truth, so he tries to get us to do it half right.
Sometimes there are half truths and sometimes straight-out wrongs. Satan doesn’t care how he deceives us as long as he does. Many of these false ideas permeate our culture.
One idea that I’ve noted in the US is that Christians think that since they’re living in a Christian nation then they’re owed good treatment by unbelievers and that everyone should cater to their beliefs. Those who believe this get angry when they are mistreated and not given their proper treatment. They believe they’re owed an easy life in the USA. Many Times this results in a martyr complex. They don’t understand that standing with God means that the world will hate you and that being mistreated for Jesus develops spirit maturity.
Some Christians understand that it’s okay to judge based on scripture but they don’t understand when and how it’s okay to judge.
They don’t understand that you can’t judge any unbelievers, that you can’t judge someone’s appearance, and that you can only judge based on clear New Testament commands. They behave badly toward unbelievers taking God’s place as judge. They mistreat other believers who do not live according to their preferences.
Some Christians sit under leaders who emphasize the outward over the inward and they don’t consider that how they act toward others is important. They ignore actual character issues like patience, humility, and self-sacrifice.
They read books about the Bible instead of actually reading the Bible. The actual word of God is a two-edged sword and useful for teaching and growing us. Books are only useful for growth if they’re accurately using the scripture which is often not the case. Unfortunately, many false teachings are present in “Christian” literature today and we must be vigilant to see through them if we want to grow. This is the reason that I’m incredibly selective about what I read.
Some Christians behave childishly, pouting and carrying on when they feel contradicted in any way or even when they feel emotional about something that someone did that they didn’t like.
They believe they have the right to not be contradicted, that they’re always right, and that no one should be able to judge them or tell them that they’re wrong. This is, of course, an entitlement mentality and not how Christians should behave.
Many people do not act out of selfless love which is the true mark of a Christian. That is what we should be known for.
This is somewhat still part of number 2 because the inaccurate teachings keep the church members immature. If we were mature we would not fall for these half-truths.
4) They’re mature Christians who know what they should do and are refusing to walk in obedience to God’s word.
I think this is the least common.
Mature Christians are the least likely to ignore God’s word because they didn’t grow more mature by being obstinate. They grew by obedience and acceptance of God’s will.
While it’s not impossible for mature believers to stumble into sin or to act immature occasionally, it’s far more likely that the person who seemed to be a mature Christian was actually one of the first three categories and was faking greater maturity than they actually had. This I’ve seen a lot more than I care to admit.
Maturity in Christ should bring about fruits of the Holy Spirit. If you have an apple tree in your garden you get apples. If you have the Holy Spirit in your life you get love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
I’ve typed that so many times that my cell phone knows the verse by heart and auto fills it in!
If you’re not displaying those characteristics, you need to ask yourself why.
Are you a young believer and new to Christ?
Are you an immature believer because something is stunting your growth? Like false teaching? Or Satan’s half-truths?
Are your pride and perceived self-worth getting in the way of what God is trying to do in your life?
Is God disciplining you or taking you through a trial and you’re refusing to learn from it?
Do you think you’re owed an easy life once you follow Jesus and don’t understand why it’s not easy or why people disagree with you?
Many of our problems could be solved by surrendering our lives to God’s hand and saying “Thy will be done,” by accepting the lessons God has for us, and by denying our selfishness. Being in sin can strunt our maturity no matter how long we’ve been a believer and probably could have had a category of its own.
Where do you fit in this maturity scale? I encourage you to strive for maturity in Christ.