I once heard Dallas Willard say that we should not try to avoid sin. That may sound surprising, but it’s right on. We should not try to avoid sin, but we should seek to become the kind of people who do not sin. Do you catch the subtle difference there? Rather than waging a constant war against sin hoping to win more battles than we lose, our desire should be to live the kind of life that is so full that we don’t even consider sin. Of course, this sort of life might require some changes.
The life you were designed to live is full of love, joy and peace. It is free from sin and characterized by a heart for God and the people he cares about. It is a life that connects deeply to your deepest desires. It is a life where your fullest potential is lived out as your passions are engaged and your gifts are poured out as a blessing on the world. There is a reason Jesus describes kingdom life as “abundant” (John 10:10).
To live this life requires transformation. Without the transformation of your character, the life you were created to live is not possible. Scripture teaches that the kingdom life is lived from the inside out. When Samuel visited the sons of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel, God tells him, “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Proverbs teaches us to “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
Jesus taught about streams of living water welling up inside us (John 4:14). He said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35), and “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). When Jesus was asked about ritual cleanliness he said, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7:15). He goes on to explain to his apostles, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
Let’s rephrase this thought from a positive perspective. We read the fruits of the spirit in Galatians as a description of the way we should live, so we try really hard to be people who love, people who exhibit joy, people of peace, and so on. But we miss the point. We are not supposed to do loving things; we are supposed to be loving. We are not supposed to act joyfully; we are supposed to be joyful. We are not supposed to act peacefully, patiently, and kindly; we are supposed to be peaceful, patient and kind. A bitter heart cannot produce genuine kindness any more than an apple tree can produce a pear.