DEAR FATHER PAUL: I am a thirty-two-year old man who for some time has had concerns about whether or not everything is really and truly okay between me and God. How can I know for sure that things are cool between him and me? Bob.
DEAR BOB: Great question. There are lots of people just like you, even regular churchgoers, although few will admit it.
Let me start by asking you this question. If I offered to give you, for free and with a clear title exclusively in your name, a fully loaded, brand new, 2020, mid-engine, Corvette C-8 with only two conditions … one, you had to accept (receive) it … and two, you had to drive it … would you take me up on my offer? Would you say “yes?” Of course you would. Who wouldn’t?
Well, according to a couple of sentences in your (too long to print) letter … you did exactly that and got a much more precious free gift than a new Corvette (eternal life with God in Heaven) that God offered you a little over a decade ago, while you were in college.
You said “yes” to God then by doing the simple two things that God requires of each of us. They are outlined by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament Book of Romans, Chapter ten, verses nine and ten (New Living Translation) “If you openly (out loud) declare that Jesus Is Lord AND believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”
You did that, so according to God you were then and are still today “saved.”
Incidentally, the original Greek word in this passage which is translated for us in our English language Bibles as “saved,” is SOZO. More English meanings for sozo are: to make safe, to deliver, to protect, to heal, to preserve and my favorite, to make whole. So you were “made cool with God” a little over ten years ago. That is a fact!
Hopefully, during all those years you have tried mightily to love, serve and obey God and when you haven’t, you have confessed and asked for his forgiveness which he so graciously grants. But you say that still, you don’t “feel” that everything is okay between you and God.
The “problem” may very likely be that you are not producing an abundant and regular crop of spiritual fruit for God and his Kingdom. Relax, I am NOT talking about you having to quit your job, sell your house and become a missionary in some third-world country. No. If God ever DOES want you to do that, he has a way of making it very plain and certain to you.
But the “natural” and the “expected” thing that God DOES say should happen for your entire earthly life as-well-as for ALL CHRISTIANS is that, as the Bible says …that “every Believer bear much spiritual fruit.”
And, based on my years of experience with people just like you, that is very likely your “problem,” and it is what is keeping you from experiencing the sure knowledge of and the immense joy of your salvation in and through Christ. Truth be told not producing bountiful spiritual fruit is an issue for all too many Christians … sadly, sometimes even me.
So what DOES the Bible say (command) Believers to do as “spiritual fruit producers?”
Jesus himself tells us in John 15: verses 8 and 16 as he speaks to his disciples (New Living Translation) “When you produce much (spiritual) fruit, YOU ARE MY TRUE DISCIPLES. This brings great glory to my father …. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit.” So, we learn that “spiritual fruit bearing” is as major key to living a life that pleases God and satisfies our own yearnings for his approval.
In Matthew, Chapter 7 Jesus gets even more specific about the requirement that Believers produce abundant good fruit. Comparing ALL people to fruit trees, Jesus says this in verses 17-20 (New Living Translation), “A good tree produces good fruit, and bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions (their fruit).”
So then … what, specifically is this “good fruit” that God is looking for from all people who claim to love him? The answer is simple and is found in the New Testament Book of Galatians … a letter to the early church in Galatia, written by the Apostle Paul.
In Galatians 5:22 & 23 (New Living Translation) Paul lists the nine spiritual fruits that God expects and is looking for from all of us who say that we have been “saved.” Here’s the passage: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. There is no law against these things.”
There you have it, Bob. Produce in your life a daily bumper crop of these nine fruits and your concerns will be replaced by God’s assurance that things are indeed “cool” between the two of you. Yes, it isn’t easy, but nothing truly worthwhile ever is. Just think what our weary and corrupt world would be like if all of us began to live lives that abundantly produce all nine of these precious, godly fruits.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer it in The Citizen.
[Father Paul Massey is Canon To The Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and is assigned to Christ The King Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He is a Chaplain to the Peachtree City, Georgia Police Department.]