So now we get to the tough question. Many claim to know what the grace of God is. Many say along with Paul — Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
How can you tell a person who is not saved, who is still a slave to sin from a person who is born again and is a slave to God?
One word. Fruit. Or put another way, transformation. That’s the only way to tell. Our salvation is not like you are hibernating and you wake up, you make your little confession, but you’re still a bear. We are caterpillars transformed into butterfles.
When Jesus saves you and you receive the grace of God, Jesus expects nothing less than complete transformation. He expects fruit.
The only destructive miracle Jesus ever performed involved a fig tree that looked like it was healthy, but it had no fruit. So Jesus curses the tree.
We are that fig tree and when Jesus examines our lives, he expects to find fruit.
What kind of fruit does he expect?
We all know the verse in Rom 12:2 —
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ~Rom 12:2
Paul outlines in Rom 8 what this renewing or transforming of the mind looks like in more detail.
In Rom 8:5, Paul points out that a transformed mind is not set on what the flesh desires, but instead, a transformed mind is set on what the Spirit desires.
Before we met Christ, all we had were fleshly desires. You look at this world and all we see our desires of the flesh.
Women flaunting their flesh, literally. Men flexing their power and wealth and position to show that their flesh can beat your flesh. And we look at that and if we are in the realm of the flesh, that’s what we desire.
It’s what we see with our eyes. It’s everything in the material world. It’s material things. These are the desires of the flesh.
What are the desires of the Spirit?
Holiness, salvation, the gospel being preached, others being saved and transformed, loving one another deeply, loving our neighbors. No longer desiring what we see but what is unseen. No longer desiring material things in this life, but storing up treasures in heaven for the life to come.
Let’s read how Paul explains this distinction between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit by turning to Gal 5:16-24.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. ~Gal 5:16-17
Paul says Christians still have to be engaged in battle — there is a conflict between our old sinful nature and the new nature that God gave us when we were saved. Those without that new nature who have not been born again, all they have is a sinful nature. So they are enslaved by sin. They have no choice. But Christians have a choice. We can’t simply do whatever you want as those who are not in Christ. You have to intentionally choose the desires of the Spirit over the desires of the flesh.
Then he explains further in v18 —
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. ~Gal 5:18-21
Then, the chilling judgment for those who live like this —
I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Because if you live this way, this means you are still under the law of sin. You have not been born again, there is no fruit, so it makes sense that those people will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But if you have been saved, then we have the indwelling Christ and the Holy Spirit empowering us do battle against our sinful nature and to choose a life of fruit-bearing.
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. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~Gal 5:22-24
I must qualify this with one thing. Not everyone is like Apostle Paul who seemed to be transformed almost overnight. Fruit does not normally grow overnight. You plant it, you water it, you wait, maybe a season or two passes and there’s no sign of life, but if the seed was a living seed, then eventually, life will sprout from the ground. Fruit will be born. That’s a guarantee. The Bible says you will bear fruit. And you will know a tree by its fruit.