Faith, Fruit and Transformation
What is Faith-Produced Transformation?
Faith is not something we produce on our own or even bring about with God’s help. As a matter of fact, faith is not something that we do, but what we possess. It is because we possess faith that we do what we do. In a sense, faith is a noun and not a verb. Faith is the outcome of an inner working of the Holy Spirit and a gift from God. Faith is being persuaded of the truth by the Spirit, and therefore, believing the truth with the heart with an absolute certainty that results in a natural expression of the fruit of the Spirit. His fruit flows naturally and effortlessly from the transformation He brings about by the faith He has bestowed on us. Apart from genuine transformation, we cannot experience the fruit of the Spirit. Without faith none of this is possible.
Transformation makes it possible to walk in the Spirit and to live out the truth of God through the power of the indwelling Christ. God grants us faith —persuasion of the truth within our hearts— resulting in our walking out this same truth effortlessly in life.
Faith is not trying harder to do the truth, but rather, it is the effortless outcome of the truth we believe transforming us. To the degree that we struggle to live out the truth, is evidence of an impure faith that we harbored that is contrary to the truth. This is evidence of double-mindedness; holding two or more opposing beliefs at the same time. God does not expect us to try to conform ourselves to the truth, but rather, His desire is that the truth transforms us. When we know the truth with our hearts we will be transformed by it. As the Scriptures clearly say, “Be transformed BY the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2) This passage (nor do others) say “be transformed by trying harder, working at it, or by trying mimic the life of Jesus.
There is a divine order of things clearly detailed throughout the Scriptures. In it’s most simple form it might be stated, “God does so that we might do.” A good example of this is where it says, “… be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [What God does] SO THAT, you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” [What we might do] (Col. 1:9-10). God grants truth that makes it possible for us to walk.
Performance-based spirituality is not Transformation.
This reality was reiterated by the Apostle Paul again when he said, “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). The Apostle Paul made this declaration to the church of Galatia who were struggling with the Old Covenant of Law keeping and a New Covenant of freedom and grace. In similar fashion we are prone to approach the Scriptures as a guide book and then put forth our best effort to follow it. We say we are no longer under the law, but then we strive to keep the “laws” of the New Testament. This is not faith. This is how the Muslims approach the Koran and the Buddhists seek to follow the teachings of Buddha. But it is not the way of Christ. It is seeking to be “spiritual” by performing.
Faith is not trying to live out the Scriptures, but rather being transformed by them. This only occurs when the Spirit persuades our heart of the truth. Intellectual assent of the truth will not bring about transformation. Only faith —believing the truth with the heart— can accomplish this. This transformation-producing faith is solely a work of God.
Performance-based spirituality is mistakenly believed to be transformation when it is not. Anything that we do —no matter how good or noble— that does not fit within the parameters of “…no longer I but Christ” is not of faith, but out of self effort. Unless we can say from the heart, “… the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,” then we are not operating from faith. The faith that God gives -persuasion of the truth within our hearts— produces the walk that is pleasing to Him. Our best performance in walking does not produce this faith nor is it pleasing to Him. Actually it is far more serious than this, since according to the Scriptures, “… whatever is not from faith is sin.“ (Rom.14:23)
The one who performs the best is too often mistakenly considered to be the most spiritual or transformed. Transformation has nothing to do with what we can accomplish in our own strength. Controlling our behavior does not impress God, since He is looking for faith. All other religions advocate controlling behavior as a means for moving up the spiritual ladder. Not so with Christianity. Pure faith is the only thing that pleases God.
Transformation is the genuine and lasting change that God brings about through the refinement of our faith. It is sad that much of what we have called spirituality and transformation in the Christian life has been simply ardent efforts in controlling behavior, which anyone could achieve if he just set his mind to it. Again, this is not the way of Christ.
Bearing Effortless Fruit
God through His Spirit, persuades us of the truth by filling, “… us with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” To the degree that we are persuaded, we will as an outcome of this persuasion, “… bear fruit in every good work…” You never see a tree branch straining to bear its fruit. Each branch bears fruit without effort because it abides in the trunk of the tree. The tree produces the fruit and the branch simply experiences the bearing. In the same fashion, we can bear fruit and live the Christian life without effort when it is “Christ who lives within [us]…” So then, transformation is never self attained; it is only accomplished by the inner dwelling presence of Christ. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is God’s fruit and not ours. We must stop trying and start bearing.
As I have often said, the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23 is not a “to-do” list for us to try to fulfill, but it is the expected outcome of genuine transformation. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control are not attributes we are to strive toward, but rather they are the natural evidence of transformation.
Only Genuine faith is pleasing to God.
Good works is the outcome of the transformation that faith produces and not the outcome of even our best eforts. Therefore, we need to understand what this faith is, how to attain it, and how to cooperate with God as He brings about its purification. The very fact that God needs to refine our faith suggests it is not totally pure. You would not try to purify gold that was already free of impurities. Doing so would be purposeless, as there would be no benefit from such effort.
So then, possessing a genuine and purified faith is critical if we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). According to the Scriptures, faith is vitally important: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Heb. 11:6). So we should “…flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)