Christians without Christ’s Spirit are spiritually dead since they cannot grow. That is an outrageous thing to assert, one might say, but it has been my very observation that people who believe in something that can be seen, touched, and talked about like the Bible, dogmatics, and doctrines prefer to keep talking and thinking about God than to really approach Him as their counsellor, their best friend, or even as the LORD of their life. In fact, you will scarcely see these believers to ever have a real soul-stirring experience with God. However, if you ask them, they can tell you almost everything about Him. But alas, God rarely speaks through these Christians since they are not indwelt by His Spirit. That is why I called them dead in the beginning. If you meet these persons more often over time, you will find out that their relationship with God (in case they claim to have one) has never changed. They do not experience a loving God nor do they struggle regarding their faith – ever. They have no doubts (or at least they do not admit it), yet they can take a stand as to most questions regarding divine matters and it is, admittedly, pretty boring to listen to them. This reminds me somehow of the people’s reaction to the Sermon on the Mount as they realized that Jesus was so different from those Pharisees and scribes who had no spiritual life inside themselves and therefore no divine authority, either (cf. Mt 7:28). By the way, Martin Luther translated the verse I just mentioned not like most translators did with “the crowds were amazed/astonished” at Jesus’ teaching. Instead he said that they were “shocked/frightened.” That makes it even more clear that real divine authority causes reactions in those who are confronted with it. Whether positive or negative, a reaction to God’s speaking can always be observed and we can be sure that nobody runs danger to ever fall asleep when he is all of a sudden directly addressed by God.
I recall that I posted this challenging exposition from John Wesley’s commentary on Romans 8 before, but I think it is worth being repeated. There he told us how to simply distinguish a real Christian from its fake version as he explained the following Scripture.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9 ESV)
Verse 9. In the Spirit – Under his government. If any man [has] not the Spirit of Christ – Dwelling and governing in him. He is none of his – He is not a member of Christ; not a Christian; not in a state of salvation. A plain, express declaration, which admits of no exception. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!
(John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Epistle to the Romans, chapter 8)
Dear reader, I did not write this article in order to condemn anyone. Just for clarification: it is Jesus who redeems and it is God who out of grace pours His Spirit into our hearts in order to more and more transform us into the image of Christ. But we can conclude if Christians do not change over time, then there must be something missing in their lives, or rather SOMEONE must be missing. Brothers and sisters, it is so easy to get distracted by doing (good) works and by being busy with religious activities of any kind. But we should know that these things originally were never part of God’s plan. In fact, they are useless and worthless because these ideas solely sprang from our old nature that rather wants to be busy than to rest in God’s arms in order to wait… and wait… and wait… 😉 until HE gives us something to do for Him. Our self-chosen works may appear to be reasonable and helpful and they may even satisfy our soul in doing them, but our spirit won’t find God’s rest and peace. Actually, without getting aware of it, our old self is kept alive when we do what we always did while our religious schedule remains as predictable as the expected sunrise in the morning. May we never forget that God’s leading and guidance is NEVER predictable while His thoughts and ways are always unfathomable. If we store God and His doing in a neat little box that we can put on the shelf when it is not needed any longer, then God is not our Lord. It is still our old nature that presumes to know what God wants us to do. I do know it is not easy to recognize if we are stuck in these ways and we cannot get out of them without God’s help, either. But we could pray to God that He shows us where we might be wrong, just as it is written,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (Js 1:5 ESV)