At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy god is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. - Daniel 4:8-9 (ESV)
Living in the southern part of the United States, being known as a Christian or calling oneself a Christian is as commonplace as sweet tea in a BBQ restaurant. Here, where a church is found on nearly every street corner, being a Christian is a birthright, something assumed and expected. But the Bible tells us that the mark of a follower of Christ isn’t in a name or a social construct; it is found in a person’s fruit.
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. - Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)
How we go about living our lives in this land of exile, not just privately but also publicly, is a reflection of our faith. Daniel was known by his earthly king as a person who had the “spirit of the holy god” living in him, not because he was vocal regarding his faith but because he lived by faith. Daniel’s fruit was truth and steadfastness, even when facing potential death by fire and lion. Daniel believed in the promises of God and was unwavering in his devotion to his true King.
Paul proclaimed that to live is Christ and to die is gain. He lived every moment by the idea that no matter the outcome, whether persecution or blessing, his [our] glory is found in Jesus. He did the right thing, not so that people would call him a Christian or consider him a good person, but for the glory of Christ and His gospel.
This is the lifestyle that sets Christians apart from the rest of society. We are living for a higher purpose. We do what is right because we are living for Christ. We follow the laws of our land, not to avoid punishment, but because we know that this authority was instituted by God (Romans 13:1). We are kind and loving to all because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19). We bear each other’s burdens, “so to fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We show grace because Christ showed us grace (Romans 5:8). We are not hateful (1 John 3:15) and reject evil (James 4:7). We are a people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is our fruit.
Now, probably more than ever, is time for the people of God to live by the spirit in a world that tells us to reject our faith and embrace what is evil. Our aim isn’t to puff up our pride or to show our moral superiority but to express the gospel through our living, so that Christ will be glorified. Let us be known as people of the Spirit and that no mystery is too difficult for us.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-21
- Lyell Walker