How do you tell a good Christian from another. I thought to write on this, because so often you hear “o that brother was/is such a good Christian”, or “that young man came from a good Christian family”. We as believers tend to have a performance based view of one another, but I don’t believe that’s how God sees it at all.
When they came to Jesus and called him good, in Mark 10:17-18, his response was that no one is good. He then refocused the inquirer to turn their heart towards God.
In a sense, Jesus is telling us not to focus on whether we are good (or not so good), but that ours heart be turned to God.
In Galatians 5, there is a listing of common vices committed by people, as well as virtues that God expects believers to adhere to. A casual interpretation of these two lists might be that good Christians follow the virtues and those who fall into the vices are not so good. An adept pastor would then prescribe a program where one can follow the virtue list to be a good Christian.
But this is not the message that Paul wants to leave us with. Trading one list for another smacks of legalism. Sure he lists the vices that is common to the sinful nature, and warns us to stay away from it. But then he encourages us to approach the virtues in a different way.
Look at Galatians 5:16
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
If you love God (like Jesus said to the young man in Mark 10:17ff) then you will have a relationship with Him. we do.
Having a relationship with God means He will give you His spirit, which is His nature..
To grow in Christ then, one has to make a decision to walk (or continually heed) the spirit that lives within them. As you walk in the spirit, then you will NOT fulfill the vice list.
Paul goes deeper to explain his emphasis on the spirit. The attributes of the spirit are not detached from God, such that we can just in our own competency execute them sequentially, checking them off, one by one, and grading each other on demonstrated progress. No, for Paul, the virtues are all evidenced of the spirit that a believer possesses and he lists them in verse 22 of Galatians 5
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Notice the singularity of the word fruit. It is singular because the fruit is connected to a person, that is the person of Jesus Christ who is God. Thus to bear the fruit of love, or peace, its not necessarily that we have to mentally focus on being more loving or peaceful. We just have to focus on our relationship with the Holy Spirit, and ask for the strength to become more loving and peaceful. The same of gentleness, self control and the other virtues, they are all connected to one root – the Holy Spirit.
So the question, how to be a good Christian should be never be in our vocabulary. We should simply want to know how to grow in our relationship with God. As we learn to abide in Christ via the Holy Spirit, we will truly become more like him and exhibit good fruit.
– Pastor Olu Jegede