“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:11
“Why should I have good behavior?” The short answer to the title of this devotional is: Because good behavior is authentic, as a Christian.
When you behave properly, and you are a child of God–a believer–you are working out who is in you, Jesus. Paul told the Christians in Philippi about allowing Jesus to live through them:
“work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (see Philippians 2:12)
First off, about this verse, it has been used for centuries by the grace-confused Christians to scare people. However, there’s nothing to be afraid of when you read this passage. Why? When you read the whole of Scripture, you can decipher what Paul was saying through a little-used word: context.
- Paul said work out your salvation, not work for. He was emphasizing, “What is in you, a saved person, work it out.” Like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, in order to use God in you, work Him out through your actions and attitudes.
- In regard to the words “fear and trembling,” John told us in 1 John that we have nothing to be afraid of as Christians. He said, God’s love for us is perfect and it casts out all fear. He even goes on to say why: “because fear has to do with punishment” (see 1 John 4). As Christians, we are not going to be punished by God, ever, for anything. What do you think the Cross was for? Jesus took on our punishment once and for all (see 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 10:10). Sure, God disciples us, but punishes? No way. Therefore, fear and trembling is more of a way of saying “respect and awe.” It’s having a mindset of, “Wow, I have the God of the universe in me, and He is living through me.”
So obviously behavior does matter. Behavior mainly matters because people are watching, and behavior is all they see. However, behavior cannot change our perfect spiritual identity or keep our perfect spiritual identity–only Jesus does that because He will never die again (see Hebrews 7:25). Therefore, when our behavior is good, it is simply an outward sign of an inward truth.
Behavior matters because it’s impossible for someone to see our faith. For example, when I was getting drunk all the time, I’d hang out at bars and get toasted quite often. People saw me in public exuding alcoholic behavior. Is drinking a sin? No. Obviously it’s not because Jesus’ first recorded miracle resulted in the creation of alcohol, and Paul advised Timothy to have some wine for his stomach issues (see John 2, 1 Timothy 5:23). But, getting drunk is a sin, and as a Christian I wasn’t made for sin (see Ephesians 5:18, Romans 6:1-2). This is why I was so miserable doing it–even if my flesh got a temporary thrill–I couldn’t stand it.
I’ll tell you what else is a sin, being a bad example for my daughter by coming home sloshed, that’s a sin. Being controlled by a liquid, that’s a sin. I’M NOT MADE FOR SIN! I’M A SAINT IN MY SPIRIT! Every Christian is! Thankfully, those sinful behaviors would never be able to change who I am. No matter how often I practiced them, I’d never be able to get better at them. My supernatural identity is sinless. This is why John said:
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (see 1 John 3:9)
Do you see that?! We don’t have the ability to go on sinning because we’ve been reborn! God’s supernatural sperm–for lack of better description–remains in us just the same as our earthly father’s physical sperm remains in us! IT IS WHO WE ARE! So when we choose to act on sin, we are acting on a trait that is not of us! The word “sin” is not a part of our supernatural DNA! We are cats who bark when we sin! Dogs who are meowing! It makes no sense for us to do so! This is why we must be our true selves!
My incorrect behavior of alcoholism didn’t change my perfect spiritual identity back then–and even if I decided to go temporality stupid and pick up a 12-pack on the way home tonight, I’d still be a holy saint, right now. BEHAVIOR DOES NOT CHANGE IDENTITY!
For this reason, Paul made sure the early Christians knew who they were, no matter how they acted. He told the terribly-behaved Corinthians they were saints! (See 1 Corinthians 1:2). Corinth would make Las Vegas look like Sesame Street! No matter! Paul still addressed his letter, “To the saints in Corinth”! They didn’t act like saints, that’s for sure!
But even still, Paul continued to repeat himself, letting them know that unholy behavior is silly because it’s not authentic as heaven-ready people. After writing out a laundry-list of atrocious behaviors and attitudes, Paul tells them this, which blows my mind:
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
A person reading this letter might have said, “But Paul, how can you say they were washed, they were sanctified, and they were justified?! They sure as heck aren’t living that way! They are still doing the same disgusting stuff!”
…It’s because they were not being themselves in spirit. They weren’t working out who was in them, the Holy Spirit. Paul was formerly the most well-behaved Jew of his time (see Philippians 3), so he knew how important outward actions were to those around him. However, he also knew that authentic proper behavior could only come from the Spirit of God (see Romans 6:6, Colossians 1:10). And he knew that once the Spirit of God came to live inside a person, He’d never leave them because of what Jesus did at the Cross (see Hebrews 7:25, 13:5, Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 2:13).
So when Christians weren’t acting like holy people, Paul always reminded them that only holiness would make sense to them–even if they fell off track. Just look at how he spoke to the Colossians:
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22)
Paul, once again, is speaking in past-tense. He’s saying, “Look at who you really are! You are completely settled-up with God because of Jesus! You are holy! You are blemish and accusation free! Choosing to sin is childish! Show the world your true selves!”
Not once did he say, “Your phony, improper, sinful behavior will cause God’s grace to run out,” no, not ever. Paul knew this would never happen because of what Jesus went through. As a matter of fact, he said poor behavior and legalistic attitudes will only cause God’s grace to increase, not decrease (see Romans 5:20).
Why would we choose to abuse such amazing grace? Why would we not act like the perfect people He’s made us to be inside? It makes no sense! So Christian, behave authentically. Behave like God’s child, who you are (see John 1:12).
So today, my friends, know this: Good behavior matters because you are a good person with good behavior. Even when your unrenewed, stinking thinking temporarily convinces you otherwise, that does not mean you are a bad person. YOU ARE A SAINT! YOU ARE SEALED WITH GOD’S SPIRIT AND SET APART FOREVER! Let’s show the world who Jesus really is by showing them who we are! Let’s make them want Him too, with our love, because we are loving people!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for your guidance. Even when I get shipwrecked and make stupid choices that don’t match up with the real me, you stay committed to me. Also, I want to thank you for teaching me that you are never convicting me, but instead, counseling me. Conviction creates stress and guilt, counsel creates hope through correction–and that’s what you do! You are hopeful even while correcting our poor behaviors and attitudes! Keep doing it! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For the saints, keep teaching them they are saints! Remind them that every believer in Christ is a saint on the exact same level! Let them know your Spirit in them will never lead them to sin–Satan and his demons will, so will the power of sin itself–but their true selves don’t even want to sin! They want what you want! Keep reminding them that when others see us choose improper behavior, we are misrepresenting our Family, and we don’t want to do that. We want to show the world the truth of who we are in Christ! Holy saints! Amen!
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!