Many of us are teetering and tottering in our life, never knowing when the next storm will come. We want to be rooted and solid—a testimony to our Creator. But often we feel hollow, shallow-rooted, with no strong core.
You can change that. You can weather the storms of life with an inner strength and confidence you’ve imagined but maybe never felt. There is a kind of peace that brings serenity and calmness sweeter than any you’ve known, and you can experience it.
God wants us to be people of love and joy and peace. He wants to build endurance into our lives and instill in us compassion for those who need our help. He is ready to bestow the qualities of champions—generosity, integrity, humility, and self-discipline. The Church needs a rekindling of these nine traits that go to the core of character and are called the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23.
These qualities are produced within us by the Holy Spirit, but the work of developing them is still up to us.
In John 10:10, the Lord said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The abundant life is solid to the core, fruitful to the end, and amazing to experience. It is the biblical norm for God’s people.
In Philippians 2:13 we read: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (emphasis mine). The development of character is a joint effort by our Savior and ourselves, and it’s part and parcel of the abundant life.
Why, then, are we living beneath the norm?
Let me suggest three reasons.
1. You forget salvation is more than a one-time event
First, sometimes we misunderstand the nature of salvation. “Salvation” is one of the Bible’s great words. The apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). But the Bible presents salvation in three tenses. The moment we truly receive Christ as Savior and Lord, we are instantly and eternally saved from the penalty of sin. During our Christian lifespans on earth, we’re gradually being saved from the power of sin and should grow in godliness. One day in heaven, we will be saved from the very presence of sin and will be wholly glorified.
Yet many people only consider salvation a past event and forget its ongoing nature.
What a shame to miss the abundant life by misunderstanding the three-fold blessings of God’s salvation.
2. You misunderstand the requirement of good works
The second reason people miss the abundant life is because they misapply the concept of works. Many biblical passages teach we are not saved by our own efforts but by the grace of God alone. But the same passages also tell us good works are an essential evidence of the salvation experience.
But the next verse says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Hallelujah for that too! We are not saved by good works, but for good works. God saves us and leaves us on earth for a span so we can serve Him here, letting our light shine before others, so they can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). When we fail to understand this, we grow complacent in our spiritual development.
3. You passively approach life
A third reason we fail to develop godly character involves a mistaken view of spirituality. Some believe we have little or no role in our own Christian maturity. God does everything, they think, and we simply have to “let go and let God.” After all, if it’s the “fruit of the Spirit,” we should passively let Him work within us as we abide in Christ.
It’s true the Holy Spirit alone can reproduce the character of our Lord Jesus, and we must always abide in Christ. But the Bible also makes us active partners in the process, and we must be diligent to do our part. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Diligent is not a word for the faint-hearted. It implies consistency, self-discipline, making every effort, and working with great conscientiousness.
What Bono has to say about it
Bono, the lead singer of U2, described his experience of Christian growth like this:
Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time…. I have heard of people who have life-changing, miraculous turnarounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties ‘let go, and let God.’ But it was not like that for me. For all that ‘I was lost, I am found,’ it is probably more accurate to say, ‘I was really lost. I’m a little less so at the moment.’ And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting the computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet (U2 and Neil McCormick, U2 by U2 (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 7).
Bono is saying his spiritual progress since conversion has taken time and effort to achieve. He’s also saying that his work isn’t done yet, and he has no expectation of perfection any time soon.
Peter says, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. And He has given us the indwelling strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The rest is up to us.
God wants us to be trees that never topple, giants that never fall, people who bear enduring fruit. The Bible says: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7–8).
The nine-fold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is a gift of God, but don’t forget: it also represents nine decisions on your part. Those decisions will affect you every day; they will transform you into a person of character who fulfills your God-given potential and inspires others to do the same.
Discover how to live the abundant life God has for you in Dr. Jeremiah’s new book, A Life Beyond Amazing: 9 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life Today.
Publication date: October 16, 2017
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