Conduct becoming a believer comes from a proper understanding of the magnitude of God’s grace and what that grace accomplished for them. Paul doesn’t talk about God’s power from on high giving resurrection life to the believer’s body after it dies. Paul does talk about God’s power from on high making alive the believer’s current physical body. In other words, God through his power from on high will make alive the believer’s current mortal body, so that their current sinful flesh can be used as a channel through which God can accomplish his righteous works through them, his fruit in them. And trust in the fact that that believer also has the capacity to present their members as instruments of righteousness unto God, so that his indwelling power from on high can produce his fruit in that believer’s life.
The image of God in humanity is never associated with a non-material, spiritual soul, but rather with moral and rational capacities. None of these qualities is possessed by animals. What distinguishes people from animals is the fact that human nature inherently has godlike possibilities. By virtue of being created in the image of God, human beings are capable of reflecting his character in their own life. Being created in the image of God means that we must view ourselves as intrinsically valuable and richly invested with meaning, potential, and responsibilities. It means that we have been created to reflect God in our thinking and actions. We are to be and to do on a finite scale what God is and does on an infinite scale.
There can be no doubt that for Paul “the flesh” and “the spirit (God’s power from on high)” stand, not for two separate and opposing parts of human nature, but for two different ethical orientations. This becomes clear when one compares his list of the “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-20) with that of “the fruits of the spirit (God’s power from on high)” (Gal 5:22-23). The two lists show that “flesh” and “spirit (God’s power from on high)” represent, not two separate and opposing parts of human nature, but two different kinds of lifestyle. Paul tells us in Romans 5:20 that God really gave the law to Israel not to make them good but so that the offense might be made to increase, not to abate, but to abound. Why would God want the offense to increase? Well, the offense was already there. But God gave an opportunity through that law program to really come out and show itself for what it was and for what it is in us.
Shame is often confused with guilt, but they are not the same. When we do something wrong we experience a sense of guilt. Guilt is like a nerve response to sin, an emotion in response to wrong behavior. Those uncomfortable impulses that stab our conscience are meant to turn us away from the wrong we are doing. Guilt is a healthy thing, because guilt comes as a result of something we do and we can change our behavior and the guilty feeling will go away. But shame is not just a feeling, shame is the belief or mindset that something is wrong with you. It’s not that you feel bad about your behavior, it’s that you sense or believe you are defective or worthless as a human being. No matter how many times you get it right, whatever it is according to the standards of your environment, you will never be acceptable. Deep down, you believe something is wrong with you.
We all need an environment where we feel our needs are met because of who we are and not because of what we do. The problem with shame, whether it’s passed on in silence or with loud shouting is that it’s crippling. It’s like a living death and you send your life feeling as though you are not good enough, living according to performance, never measuring up, value and acceptance are earned on the basis of performance. Performance however, always seems to fall short of the standard, giving the message, “You are defective and inadequate.” Eventually, we become ingrained with a need to measure up. What follows is more impotent performance, which generates even more shame.
Far too many believers are feeling dirty, worthless and ashamed of themselves. Shame is a silent, but deadly disease that pollutes the lifeblood of many believers. As a result, we feel unclean and therefore unworthy to approach God and have the living and intimate relationship that he wants to have with us. God’s standard is nothing less than perfection and none of us measure up, if we did or we ever could measure up sufficiently righteous for heaven through our performance, we would not have needed a savior at all. For it is God’s grace, not our striving that makes us accepted and acceptable. It is God’s performance through Jesus, not our trying hard to perform, that eradicates our shame.
Shame is a master of disguise. People make choices for which they are ultimately responsible. In this world’s culture, behavior that violates established social and moral standards is called an infraction of the law. In social settings, actions that do not conform to what is generally expected are called breaches of etiquette or bad taste. People in various areas of society, as well as many families and churches, fail to separate people from their behaviors. In systems that are performance oriented, missing the mark always brings on shame. In a society or circle where any unacceptable behavior is shamed, the offender becomes an expert at heaping shame upon themselves.
For many people, attending church is an extremely shaming experience. Performance based religion shames people for struggling, asking, doubting, and for not complying, reading, giving, attending, or doing. Living as a child of God isn’t about doing, it’s about believing something. And when we believe something and we continue to take in God’s Word, it should change who we are, not change what we are trying to do and trying to become. Never before have there been so many how-to seminars and books in which Christians are told they will find the key to closeness with God. What is it that makes us acceptable, valuable people? We are often taught that acceptability comes from useful religious performance that lives up to the expectations of our particular religious community. And since human performance is an inadequate, false means to acquire value, it always falls short.
Joy for a believer is a state of mind independent of surrounding circumstances. Rejoicing is the exhibit of that inter state of mind. Happiness is related to happenings to the events of the moment. If joy were dependent upon the situation at hand, it would be uncertain as a match lit on a windy day. So the believers attitude needn’t to become victim to uncertainty of adversity. Joy in the Savior has nothing whatsoever to do with the presence or absence of trouble or happiness or event related, but about a mind set. A mind set that can be totally unconnected to circumstances of the moment or the day or even the year. Joy is that state of mind, a rested state of mind, that is developed when doctrine becomes the stabilizing force in your life. Joy has everything to do with trust. Joy is a trust issue.