If you take any medication, even basic stuff like a painkiller for a headache, you’ll probably notice it comes with a whole list of possible side effects. One of the top brand painkillers “nurofen” lists possible (but very rare) side effects such as vomiting, diarrhoea and heart failure.
These days even shower gel comes with warnings of side effects. I was in America for a couple of months over the summer, and while I was there I used a brand of shower gel that came with the warning that possible side effects included excessive female attention as a result of using it. And having put it through a rigorous two month test I can happily confirm that I did indeed get a lot more attention from a variety of girls, although I’m somewhat sure that that would have happened regardless of what brand of shower gel I was using.
You may be wondering where I am going with this (and to be honest, so am I!) But here’s the thing – the Bible makes it clear that if we are truly living for Jesus there will be side effects that make it obvious to everyone.
In Matthew 7 Jesus says “just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Verse 20). If we are living for Jesus a visible side effect of that will be there is good fruit in our lives. And in Galatians 5:22-3 Paul gives a good list of the sort of fruit to expect: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [NB note that fruit is singular, it is not a pick and choose which ones you want, they all come bundled as one. Also, these aren’t rare case side effects – they affect everyone who truly believes in Christ.]
Paul Washer has a great analogy that I’m going to borrow. He says that you can’t claim to have had a collision with a big truck on the road and not look different as a result of it – your car will be smashed up, if you are lucky you’ll escape with a few scrapes and bruises, possibly some broken bones. But what is bigger – God or a truck? (Hint – it’s not the truck!) And if you can’t have a collision with something as relatively small as a truck without it changing you, how can we claim to have had a ‘conversion collision’ with Jesus if it doesn’t change us and result in us producing good fruit in our lives.
We aren’t saved by doing good deeds – we are saved to do good deeds as a response to the change Jesus makes possible in our lives. As we grow in faith and strive towards that solid food offered to the spiritually mature in Hebrews 5:14 we should be producing more and more good fruit each day – more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, more gentleness and more self-control. And we should be praying that the Holy Spirit would help us make that fruit more evident in our lives.