I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. Twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I have met thousands of Christians in my lifetime. Even now, fourteen years removed from the last time I attended a Christian church, I continue to meet Christians and interact with them on this blog, through email, and on social media. My exposure to the personal lives of hundreds of Christians allows me to draw some conclusions about Christianity. I include myself and my family in the sample set. My conclusion is this: For all their talk about being Spirit-filled, it seems that Christians are anything but.
According to the Bible, all Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. He teaches them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Why is it then that most Christians live lives contrary to the basic, foundational teachings of the New Testament? WWJD, what would Jesus do, is rarely seen among Christians. Christians are commanded to follow the Lamb (Jesus) wherever he goes. How many times have Christians heard their pastor say we need to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, yet any casual observer can see that most Christians seem to walk wherever the hell they want. If Jesus wants to follow along, that’s okay, but if not, fine, because the mall has some great sales going on.
The passage at the top of this post says, “the fruit of the Spirit is.” The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence, the proof that a person is a Christian. Notice that it says IS. This is a very important word. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Greek Dictionary, the word IS in this verse is “third person singular present indicative.” Simply put, the fruit of the Spirit is not some lofty objective to hope for or aspire to; it is the proof, the evidence that a person is a Christian. Since the Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian, shouldn’t it be readily evident in the lives of EVERY Christian? The lives of Christians should evidence the fruit of the Spirit every moment of every day. With such a great power as the Christian God living inside them, surely this should not be a difficult way of life to maintain, right? After all, according to the Bible, he that is in the Christian (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he that is in the world (Satan).
However, when we critically look at how Christians live their lives, what do we find? We find that Christians are not much different from the uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines of the world whom they judge and condemn to Hell. It is chic these days for Christians to admit that they are just sinners saved by grace or that they are a work in progress. A popular bumper sticker says, Don’t judge me, God isn’t finished with me yet. However, such statements are directly contrary to what Galatians 5:22, 23 says.
The Bible is very clear…every Christian should evidence the following each and every day of his or her life:
A wonderful list of admirable character traits, to be sure. Every one of us would do well to strive to live lives that demonstrate these traits. However, we know, even on our best days, we fail miserably in demonstrating these character traits. We are, after all, human. We recognize that all of us have flaws and weaknesses that can and do affect the relationships we have with others. I don’t know of any non-Christians who think they are perfect or a beacon of morality and virtue. While many non-Christians certainly evidence the fruit of the Spirit, none would be so foolish to say that they perfectly do so.
Christians aren’t given the luxury of claiming they are human. Remember, the fruit of the spirit IS. There is no place in the Christian life for anything less than perfect obedience to the Christian God. After all, Christians have EVERYTHING they need to live a life of perfection. Surely God did not leave them lacking in any way, right?
Within Christianity we find many reactions to what I have written above:
- Some Christians believe in perfection. They are entirely sanctified and cannot and do not sin.
- Some Christians think there are two classes of Christians: ordinary everyday Christians and Spirit-filled Christians. Most Christians are the former and very few become the latter.
- Some Christians think every Christian has two natures, the Spirit and the flesh, and these two natures continually battle against each other. Which nature you feed the most is the one who wins the battle. Christians are classified as either Spirit-filled or carnal/fleshly.
- Some Christians think they are saved by grace and how they live doesn’t matter. While they certainly think a believer should evidence the fruit of the Spirit, if they don’t they are still Christian. Their ticket to Heaven is punched, their fire insurance is paid up, and a home in God’s Motel 6 awaits them no matter how they live their lives.
- Some Christians think that God gives a special anointing of the Spirit to some people. All the TV preachers have this anointing (along with the ability to extract large sums of money from the bank accounts of gullible Christians) Some sects call this being baptized with the Holy Spirit, while others call it a second definite work of grace.
- Some Christians believe in progressive sanctification. They believe that the Christian life is a long process where sin is progressively dealt with and forsaken. It is a wash, rinse, and repeat kind of process.
All of these reactions, except the first one, reject the clear teaching and meaning of Galatians 5:22,23. Again, the fruit of the spirit IS! Of course, the first reaction is ludicrous. There is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t sin. The evidence of this is everywhere we look. Here’s a dirty little secret that many Christians don’t want non-Christians to know: for all their talk about God, Jesus, and Spirit-filled living, they live just like the rest of us. While they may be experts at putting on the good Christian act, underneath the façade, they are no different from Atheists, Humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Shintoists, Pagans, or Satanists. Try as they might, they still live lives that are an admixture of good and bad behavior.
All I am trying to do is knock Christians off their high horses and get them to see that they are not, in any way, different from the rest of us. I am trying to get them to see how offensive it is when they try to force their moral code on others when they themselves can’t even keep it. Even with God living inside of them, they “sin” just like everyone else. Christianity would be better served if Christians presented their moral code as one code among many, worth aspiring to and not as a “God says, Do this or else.” Not many atheists are going to disagree with Christians about the value of the character traits listed in Galatians 5:22,23. The world would be a far better place if we all tried to evidence these character traits (and others) in our lives.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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This is important, and rarely discussed. In reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, this comes up again and again. The Christian has the strength and power to be completely obedient and to overcome the world, not by trying harder, but by focusing on the cross and as a gift of the spirit. The only people I’ve seen pull this off have turned out to be charlatans. Everyone else admits that it’s a struggle, and rationalizes away the lack of spiritual power one way or another.
This is a perfect example of how God is unable to “manage his flock” as per the many other fallacies of Christianity listed on kyroot.com (love this site BTW, you should check it out Bruce). I’m not trying to promote the site but found pretty much all “630 reasons Christianity is false” very convincing.
– 150th reason Christianity is false: God fails to manage his flock
Thanks for the link. (From an agnostic Christian humanist)
The way I was taught to solve this problem was: we do not have to sin anymore as in we are no longer bound or enslaved by it, but we still do so quite often, except we don’t actually have to whereas unsaved people cannot help but sin. This means that, in theory, it should be possible to be perfect or sinless…. Impossible thing to strive for, of course, and if you believe it should be possible, it inevitably makes you the failure. Which then means you often feel guilty and inadequate which leads to loss of self-esteem and belief in your own skills which then leads to needing God to help you even more… It’s strange how I can see that now, how this line of thinking keeps you in the religion, because you need something or someone (god) to help you out all the time!
The flesh is weak was another one of those: the whole spirit v. flesh battle. Then there were the demons as well, of course..
One thing that my parents didn’t teach me but I did pick up via christian books and sermons and such, was this idea that every sin you do is a nail in Jesus’ hands etc. It made me feel horrible because it didn’t want him to suffer in the first place. A similar scare tactic was used when it would be my fault if one of my friends died unsaved if I hadn’t done everything to convert them (which I often hadn’t). Living without this mountain of guilt is very nice 🙂
Very well said Melody. It’s this constant strive and inevitable failure to be perfect that keeps one imprisoned within Christianity. It’s the only reason seats are filled at church I’m afraid.
While it seems on the surface you are doing a good job defeating christianity, when one knows enough Bible it becomes evident that you are not right. Lets just say for example that ‘Christians live like the rest of us’. Which so called Christians did you get to know? Yes Christians sin acc. to 1 John. But they sin less and less as they grow in their faith. A REAL Christian IS different from the world. Those that you describe fall into the category of Mt 7.
There is more to respond to you but my tram arrives in one minute so I say goodbye.
The neat thing about the Bible is that it can be used to prove virtually anything. Actually 1 John says that those who sin are of the devil. Are Christians, then, of the devil?
The definition of what a REAL Christian is varies from sect to sect, church to church, and believer to believer. What makes you right and other Christians wrong? Why should anyone accept your peculiar interpretation over that of anyone else?
My observations about Christianity are both specific and general. I was a pastor for twenty -five years. I pastored a lot of people and knew many of their secrets. I stand by my observations.
Thank you for commenting.
I am a bit surprised that you let me comment actually. I thought because I mentioned scripture that my response would have been deleted because of your policy. But how can we talk about christianity and not use bible verses acc. your policy…
Anyhow there is much to comment but if I e.g. take your statement that those people are of the devil – you have to look at the greek. And isnt poio/prasso speaking of a habitual lifestyle? And even if I am wrong here because I am not the biggest scholar, we ought to always take the full counsel of God and not one verse.
And I understand that you got to know many professing Christians, my point is that ‘many will say to me Lord Lord’ Mt7, and ‘broad is the way’ – people who profess Jesus but look like the world (James…) dont posess faith. And it saddens me that Gods name is put down because of such people. The fruit of the Spirit IS, yes, and it is seen in people like Paul, Jesus, John, and people of our day as well if you not just look for any professing people but Christians who do not play a game but take God and faith seriously.
I hope people who read this will not judge Christinity acc. to the majority of Christians who only are believers by name and not lifestyle.
So let me see if I understand your argument:
1. We need to understand Biblical Greek to properly interpret the Bible; that the indwelling of the Spirit is not — contrary to what the Bible says — sufficient to teach and guide believers in truth.
2. The verses in question cannot mean what I say they do because they contradict your interpretation of other verses and don’t fit in your theological box.
3. And even if the verses mean what I say they do, they are talking about habitual sin, not one-off or infrequent sins. At what point does behavior become habitual? Using your logic, if a man only murders one person, that’s okay since it’s not “habitual.” Of course, the Bible says no murderers will inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible says the same about adulterers. Thus, anyone who divorces and remarries and anyone who lustfully looks at a woman won’t inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible is a real bitch, Ronny. By all means, dance your way out of the plain/rational interpretations and conclusions of the aforementioned verses.
4. You are a true Christian. The people I knew — numbering in the thousands weren’t true Christians. How convenient.
Do you sin? How often do you sin? How many sins does a habit make? The Bible says, be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Are you perfect?
As with all Christians, you have taken the Bible and shaped it into proof for the veracity of your beliefs and lifestyle. You are a true Christian. Why? Because your peculiar interpretation of the Bible says you are. Again, how convenient.
Here’s what I know. I took my faith seriously. I spent much of my life trying to live according to the teachings of the Bible. I was, in every way, a committed follower of Jesus. I was, at the same time, a sinner, yea, even a habitual sinner. The fruit of the Spirit was my goal, one that I never met. I’ve known countless dedicated followers of Jesus. They too strived to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Yet, they failed to measure up to the fruit of the Spirit standard. All these people, according to you, were false believers. Again, how convenient.
The policy about Bible verses is the result of Evangelicals beating people over the heads with the Bible or suggesting that the people who frequent this blog haven’t read the Bible or don’t “understand” its teachings. Such behaviors are offensive, so I don’t allow them.
Evangelicals wrongly believe that the Bible is coherent in its presentation of theology and history. The Bible is, in fact, contradictory, often incoherent, and a source of endless debate. If the Bible is God’s Word, he must have been drunk or high when he wrote it.
As I told you previously, the Bible can be used to prove almost anything. For example, I assume you have a Trinitarian view of God. I can take Genesis 1-3 and show that God is not a triune being, that there are, instead, multiple Gods. The awesome thing about no longer being a Christian is that I no longer need to make the Bible fit a certain theological box. I can read the Bible and come to different conclusions than most Evangelicals. What if my interpretation is right? What if the Bible teaches polytheism, not monotheism?
The words you use to speak about the Bible are far away from ‘adult level’ as you demand /expect in your blog policy from others.
I will not respond to your statements anymore. Not that there is not enough things to address but I will not communicate on such a demeaning language level and rather use my time differently.
ronny knows how he feels and his feelings override his rational self. ronny needs to feel special-with-God and thereby has a miraculous ability to dance to and fro in the Bible dance. I love the waltz into Greek because it demonstrates how easily the feelings can be ‘informed’.
Bruce, you just need to know more Bible! You need to memorize, memorize, memorize the KJV like Reverend Sidearm, Steven Anderson! Now there’s a fellow who interprets from the Greek!
ronny, you don’t care if it’s all true or not because you feel it and therefore, it is… I did a wee course in statistics in college and we used a then popular book, How to Lie with Statistics. It showed in very entertaining ways how one can choose a desired octcome and then design questions and data to support the wished outcome. I know you know God changed your life, ronny but the observable facts more like idicate that you changed God’s life. Now, you are happy. I in fact did the very same thing as you years ago but did not quite get the Greek correctly and therefore ended up here among miserable preacher turncoats and selfish people who ask impolite questions;-)
IIRC (it’s been 4 1/2 decades or so, give or take a year, since I identified as Catholic), I was taught growing up that Christians sin because we ignore our inner Holy Spirit. The guide is pestering us, we simply don’t listen well. Amazingly, I can substitute “conscience” for “Holy Spirit” in that teaching, and I get the same effective meaning without involving any invisible friends.
The thing is, if I admit to myself that I ignored my conscience because I wanted to do something illegal/immoral/unethical, I can sit myself down for a good talking-to, accept that that choice violated my core values and damaged my integrity, and figure out how to not make that mistake again. After making my apologies and amends, I can use the experience as a vehicle for my own growth, to better live my values. This activity is sometimes very hard work, but always worthwhile.
OTOH, if I overload the situation with belief in a supernatural inner guide that a holy book says I’m always supposed to be listening to if I’m a True Christian, now I’m plugged into a psyche-destroying machine. I offended God! Does that mean my salvation is in jeopardy? How do I get right with God? Did I really accept Jesus into my heart, or am I lying to myself? I’m evil! I’m a minion of Satan! I’ll burn forever in the lake of fire! This activity is simply self-destructive and doesn’t promote personal growth. I’ll be cynical for a minute, too, and suggest that it might well involve an increase in my Sunday offering; some entity is benefiting from my panic and self-flagellation, just not me.
Two words: Donald Trump
I moved to the Northeast many years ago, and there were few evangelicals, and few people who knew what evangelicals are. Since the Trump ascension, some of my friends started asking me about evangelicals. With journalists taking an interest in writing about this group, people are more familiar with evangelicals now, and the views on them are NOT favorable. The “fruit” of evangelicals is rotten.
In rereading this 4 years later, I find your patience with Ronny admirable. You didn’t treat him badly, but boy, did he take criticism of the Bible and his resulting beliefs badly.