“When people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, they are against God, because they refuse to obey God’s law and really are not even able to obey God’s law. Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God. But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But the person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:7-9
This means that people who are not saved and not yet changed in their hearts by God live sinful lives, getting caught up in all the bad stuff of the world. It could be drugs, sexual behavior, gossip, etc. But what captures my attention is how it says “really are not even able to obey God’s law.” It says not only do unsaved people not want to obey God’s law, but that it is actually impossible for them to.
No matter what they do, even if it is not necessarily bad stuff, if their actual hearts are not changed so that they love God, they cannot ever please God.
There are so many people who want to try to get into heaven by the things they do, but it is only by faith in Christ alone do we get into heaven. It is important to understand that it is literally impossible to get into heaven if we do not have faith in Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
But Romans 8:7-9 says we cannot please God unless we have the Spirit of Christ in us. But when we are ruled by the Spirit of Christ, we stop living for the things in this world, and start living for him. We become slaves to God:
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18
I think this is a good way to tell if I am encountering a genuine Christian or not. A genuine Christian is changed from the inside out. It’s important to remember that the transformation starts from the inside, changing the heart, and works it’s way outside, into the things you do. So first, the person’s heart changes and they develop a genuine love for Christ and God. Then, the internal love starts to pour out, and it reflects into their actions: they start living for God, trying harder to avoid sin, like gossiping and lust, etc. And they grow more and more humble as they learn to seve others and serve God. Their actions will begin to reveal that the Spirit of Christ lives in them.
I look at it kind of like a disease. A person with the true Spirit of Christ in them once had a horrible disease, but they found the source of the problem to cure the disease, and so all the symptoms of the disease went away after they were cured. The source of the disease represents the sinful heart, and by starting to love Christ with all their heart and trusting him, they are healed, and so the bad things they do stop, as a reflection of their heart. They start living out what they feel inside.
A person without the Spirit of Christ, a false believer, they see the disease in themself and they do things to get rid of the symptoms, so they can convince others that the disease is gone. But even if they hide the symptoms, the disease is still there, tearing them down internally. Their hearts are not changed, they are just trying to convince everyone that it has been changed by what that do, and it phony because they still are evil inside.
To me, it’s typically fairly obvious to see who’s hearts are genuinely devoted to Christ. A false believer may try to act godly, but a genuine one, I can tell that everything they do, they do it to please God. They aren’t as caught up with trying to please men. When I see these people, they often wow me.
I have a friend who says he loves God, but he does drugs and drinks and totally gets caught up in the wrong crowd of people. I can tell his heart has not chagned, that he doesnt’ have the Spirit of Christ in him. If people have a changed heart for God, it should shine in their lives. It shouldn’t just be that they go to church. It should be that they eat, sleep, breathe, loving God. They give and share because they are trying to be like Jesus, and they are trying to get people to see that love in them.
They are genuine, with real hearts, real love, real care, good character. For these people, following Jesus isn’t just a thought, but it is a radical change in lifestyle. They are living for something bigger than themselves, for something more temporary than making themselves great. They live to make Jesus’s name famous, helping to advance the kingdom.
And that’s what Christians should do! 😀