The Fruit of the Spirit - The Essence of Christian Character and the Key to It's Restoration
The apostle Paul hints that God made provision to restore penitent sinners from the internal ravages of sin. His task was to make known "the mystery hidden for ages and generations," particularly a certain aspect of "this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:26,27). Since Christ indwells the believer (Gal. 2:20) by means of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18,23; Rom. 8:9,10), provision for an indwelling Christ probably refers to the transforming and restoring operations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers (see John 3:6-8; Rom. 8:14-16).
If this assessment of the Colossian passage is correct, the plan laid by God was designed to meet the two great needs of fallen humanity:
(1) death, the penalty for sin, would be canceled by the atoning and penal substitution death of Christ;
(2) the power of sin in the human heart would be displaced by the indwelling Christ through the operation of the Holy Spirit.
[this is a very different approach from the State having responsibility for improving man – see last blog entry - Tiger]
The starting point for change is repentance.
When Jesus said that only someone who had not sinned should throw the first stone, the leaders slipped quietly away, from oldest to youngest. Evidently the older men were more aware of their sins than the younger. Age and experience often temper youthful self-righteousness. But whatever your age, take an honest look at your life. Recognize your sinful nature, and look for ways to help others rather than hurt them.
[the State, doing everything for the individual, hurts them – see last blog entry – Tiger]
Jesus didn't condemn the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1-11) ,but neither did he ignore or condone her sin. He told her to leave her life of sin. Jesus stands ready to forgive any sin in your life, but confession and repentance mean a change of heart. With God's help we can accept Christ's forgiveness and stop our wrongdoing.
[the State accepts the wrongdoing – see last blog entry – Tiger]
Christ is the model for perfect character. (Matt. 5:43-48)
How can we be perfect?
(1) In character. In this life we cannot be flawless, but we can aspire to be as much like Christ as possible.
(2) In holiness. Like the Pharisees, we are to separate ourselves from the world's sinful values. But unlike the Pharisees, we are to be devoted to God's desires, rather than our own, and carry his love and mercy into the world.
(3) In maturity. We can't achieve Christ like character and holy living all at once, but we must grow toward maturity and wholeness. Just as we expect different behavior from a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, so God expects different behavior from us, depending on our stage of spiritual development.
(4) In love. We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us.
[this cannot be forced by the State – Tiger]
We can be "perfect" if our behavior is appropriate for our maturity level perfect, yet with much room to grow. Our tendency to sin must never deter us from striving to be more like Christ. Christ calls all of his disciples to excel, to rise above mediocrity, and to mature in every area, becoming like him. Those who strive to become perfect will one day be perfect, even as Christ is perfect (l John 3:2-3).
A desirable character is molded by God's standards, not just human ones. (1Sam.16:1-3.)
[and certainly not by the State – Tiger]
Saul was tall and handsome; he was an impressive-looking man. Samuel may have been trying to find someone who looked like Saul to be Israel's next king, but God warned him against judging by appearance alone. When people judge by outward appearance, they may overlook quality individuals who lack the particular physical qualities society currently admires. Appearance doesn't reveal what people are really like or their true value.
Fortunately, God judges by faith and character, not appearances. And because only God can see on the inside, only he can accurately judge people. Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance; they should do even more to develop their inner character. While everyone can see your face, only you and God know what your heart really looks like. What steps are you taking to improve your heart's attitude?
How is character developed? Character is developed through challenges. God tested Abraham (Gen. 22), not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus develop his character. Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances. When we are tested, we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our character.
[the State attempts to remove struggle – thereby harming us – Tiger]
Character is developed through suffering. For first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception. Paul tells us (Rom. 5:1-11) that in the future what we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow.
We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life's difficulties and Satan's attacks to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance - which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future. You probably find your patience tested in some way every day. Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in his strength (see also James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).
Character is developed by temptation. Jesus left the crowds and went into the desert (Mark 1:1-13) where he was tempted by Satan. Temptation is bad for us only when we give in. We should not hate or resent times of inner testing, because through them God can strengthen our character and teach us valuable lessons. When you face Satan and must deal with his temptations and the turmoil he brings, remembering Jesus. He used God’s Word against Satan and won. You can do the same.
[WE NEED GOD – NOT THE STATE!]