“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…”
See 2 Corinthians 5:20
Nobody likes to be told they can’t do something. I was the worst with this, especially when it came to Christianity. “Who do you think you are, telling me what to do?!” this was how I thought. Sadly, in my immature thinking, I’d do the opposite, just out of spite. The flesh won too many battles in regard to dealing with legalistic Christians.
Religious people don’t realize it, but pushing rules and regulations onto others does nothing but excite sin. These types–I used to call them “mean Christians” and I shouldn’t have–caused me tremendous pain, stress, and anxiety. Therefore, I attacked them, wrongly. I should have shown them the very grace they lacked showing others…but I was still learning. God was hard at work in me, trying to sell me on the fact that I’m spiritually perfect. So when these people taught me otherwise, all hell broke loose.
To be clear, Christians are not mean. When we act mean, it’s just that, an act. We’re acting out of confusion. And we’re confused because of what we’ve been taught or are being taught. There’s so much to unlearn as saints! Mosaic Law-abiding is one of those things!
Now, you would think that teaching, “Thou shalt not __________,” 52 times a year would cause people to get in line, but the opposite actually happens. Law excites sin, it does not keep it under wraps. Do you remember the scene in Ghostbusters II as they sat around the table yelling at the container of slime? It started to bubble up and go crazy. The flesh is the same as that slime–not our flesh, but the flesh. The flesh is the power of sin coming to life through us–our hands, feet, mouth, and brain.
Sin is not just heavy drinking and cheating, those are acts of sin. Sin is an actual parasite in our bodies which causes us to act and react the opposite way of what we’re being told by God’s Spirit within us (see Romans 7:23). The good news is, as a believer, sin is in us but it’s not us. It is like a tumor.
Sin is a force, like gravity. You can’t see it but it affects everything, it is an entity of its own. Just look:
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Romans 6:12)
Do you see that sin is an it? Our body is a tool which reacts to sin but we are separate! We’re holy spirits inside of a body but we’re not of the flesh (see Romans 8:9, Colossians 1:22). Our flesh, not to be confused with the flesh, is a shell our spirits are in so that we’re able to walk around on this physical planet. Knowing the difference between our flesh, the flesh, and our spirit will change how you see yourself. Your flesh and your spirit, as well as your soul, is blameless and holy (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Never blend who you are–spirit, soul, and body of flesh–with the flesh or sin.
Paul explains how the power of sin works to the Romans. Again, not the act of sinning, but the force which entered this realm when Adam first chose to do his own thing (see Romans 5). Here, he tells them the only way to not excite sin is to not have any laws to abide by:
“For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me…” (see Romans 7:11)
Do you see how sin came to life? Through the commandment! What commandment was Paul referring to? One of the Ten Commandments, jealously! Paul was being told “Thou shalt not covet” through the Law, and guess what Paul’s problem was? COVETOUSNESS! Sin was being excited!
For this reason, he said the only way to live for God is to be completely dead to the Mosaic Law, 613 commandments in all (See Romans 7:4, Galatians 2:19, 3:10). Paul knew he didn’t need to be told what to do. He simply needed to be himself because his spirit was new and connected to God (see Romans 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
God’s Spirit within him was now his teacher of right and wrong. He explains this new way of living by the Spirit, rather than by the Law, to the Corinthians:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading as it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” (2 Corinthians 3:7-9)
So my rebellious choices–when it came to dealing with the Law-pushing people–was simply the power of sin being excited and then me acting on it (see Romans 7:20). By being told, “Matt, stop doing that! You ain’t living right! No man of God would do such a thing!” sin was being stirred up in my physical being. What I should have done was just overlooked their aggression, but because I hadn’t yet begun to grow into who I was, I rebelled.
So many behavior-focused preachers teach that once you get saved you’ll immediately change your ways or else you aren’t really saved. That’s bogus, and discouraging. Our spirits are saved immediately but our minds need to learn how to live by our new spirits. This takes time, and God is extremely patient with us (See Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2:16, 3:18, 13:4, Philippians 1:6).
For example, if you approach a prostitute on the street who has been turning tricks for years and tell her, “You had a long lost uncle who died. He left you five million dollars,” that won’t immediately change her thinking. She still has a prostitute mindset even though she doesn’t have to walk the streets any longer. By saying her old thought processes will instantly go away because of her inheritance is not fair to her, and it’s a lie. She needs time to grow into her new life of riches. She needs to learn that she doesn’t have to prostitute any longer because she has something so much better!
Same with us when we become a Christian. Our faith takes our spirits off the streets and gives us a new identity: child of God (see John 1:12). We instantly become royal and the Holy Spirit begins to move within us teaching us how to live out our true identity as saints! For this reason, we must be easy on ourselves and keep our who separated from our do!
Can royal people live in the slums? Of course! But that won’t change their heritage–they’re rich! Can Christians continue to live sinfully? Of course! But we died to sin so why would we choose to live in it any longer?! It makes no sense! Our spirits are sinless and sitting in the heavenly realm as we speak! (See Romans 6:2,11, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 2:6).
I had a lot of maturing to do. The Counselor was teaching me who I was, and that I didn’t have to fight with those who misunderstood God’s grace. Nor did I have to privately resent them. Instead, He wanted me to start showing them grace, and thinking of them with grace. After all, I knew the truth of God’s kindness so I had nothing to worry about or prove. Because they lacked such understanding and were looking to Law for rightness–or worse, Law mixed with works–their faith was weak. I’m supposed to be patient and kind toward those who have weak faith–if for no other reason than to show them the freedom they’re missing out on (see Romans 2:4, 14:1, 15:1, Matthew 15:16, Galatians 5:1).
So today, my friends, know this: Christians aren’t mean! Nope, not one! We might have attitudes and actions that look mean, but we are not mean! We are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and full of self-control! (See Galatians 5:22-23). Let’s all begin to show the world the true Body of Christ! Let’s show others how amazing this relationship truly is, and let’s all be ourselves!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, we want to show people who you are, and you were personified in Christ. As we get to know Him in Spirit, give us the graceful strength we need to let others come to know Him too–through us! Help us to understand who WE are IN Him! Teach us more! You say we are holy, so help us to believe this truth and to live it out! Reshape our minds as we learn how to love others as Jesus loves us. In His name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!