May 28, 2012

In Increasing Measure, a Lifetime Endeavor

After finishing the previous post, I later thought that it would be helpful to expand a little on what I think Scripture has to say about possessing these qualities [faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love] in increasing measure.

The main thing I want you to take away from this post is:

Possessing these qualities in increasing measure
is a LIFETIME endeavor.

As a young person, I thought that once I was saved from my sins I then needed to work hard to "arrive", that if I just did all the right things the right way I'd be a "good" Christian.  Let me let you in on a secret: there's no such thing as a "good" Christian.  The only right way to be a Christian is believing in, clinging to, and following Christ each day.  Following Him is not about checking duties off of a checklist; it's about a deepening relationship that transforms us from the inside out.  (In many ways that's much more difficult than simply ticking off obedience to the 10 Commandments, isn't it?  Yet it's so much richer and more beautiful to be in relationship with the Lord!)

So, we need a relationship that develops over a lifetime in which the Lord is working into us in increasing measure these Christlike qualities.  What does that look like?  How does it happen?  You might be surprised to find out that there's no magic formula or magic tricks, just grace.  Which is amazing(!), but not magical.

1. Spend time with God: The word of God is living and active, as much as God Himself is.  Interacting with Him and His Word in Bible reading/study and prayer will instruct, train, and equip you for every good work.  In short, if you're talking seriously and honestly with God, and asking Him to open they eyes of your heart as you read His Word, it won't be long before you'll be noticing the Spirit's handiwork in your life: sin will bother you more, joy will grow in your heart, you'll see God at work because you're looking for Him and you know to whom the credit is due.
Yes, devoting time to getting to know God and letting Him know the real you (even though technically He already does!) will lead to possessing in increasing measure the character of Christ.

2. Spend time with God's people: Another wonderful source for growth and grace that God has given are His people.  Sometimes we can be quite the rag-tag bunch and very un-exemplary of the Christian life.  But the Bible speaks a LOT about our need for fellow believers, to meet together, pray together, speak truth to one another, encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 18:19-20, Ephesians 5:19-20, Colossians 3:15-17, to name a few.)  This can be done in formal settings, like worship; we must worship with God's people on Sundays!  You can also join a small group or meet up with a friend for regular prayer and accountability (I do this with a far-away friend over email, even!)
It is CHRIST at work in and among us that begins to change our hearts, toward Him and toward one another.  Yes, spending time with God's people - taking advantage of their gifts and sharing yours - does much to advance God's kingdom in the world ... and in your own heart.

3. Start practicing! This might sound unchristian to you, but it's not.  There are several places in the Epistles where you can find the phrase make every effort.  In fact, one is even in this I Peter passage!  Ask God to bring to mind what you're reading in the Word, that you might see more clearly how His living and active Word interacts with real life.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you - Christ in you, the hope of glory!  Col. 1:27 - and He will open your eyes to see where God is at work in and around you.  
The other day when I wrote about this passage I was given the opportunity, in a situation where I could have gotten quite angry and vindictive, to practice brotherly kindness, self-control, godliness, and love.  I KNEW it was Christ in me.  Yes, God will meet you, friends.  He will show you how He is working in you and you will only be able to boast in HIM.  Start practicing the things you want God to make come naturally to you, like faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  You will not look like Christ over-night, but you will see Him working in you.  There's nothing quite so amazing as seeing grace at work in that way!

Often we want spiritual growth to happen by magic and/or quickly.  It doesn't.  By consistently practicing the disciplines of the faith, we grow - there are no substitutes or shortcuts.  A plant, without food, water, and sunlight, will wither.  A Christian, without these, will whiter too.

Let's flourish by taking advantage of the good graces the Lord has provided for us: His Word, His people, prayer ... HIMSELF!

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Have a lovely Memorial Day, friends!  And peace to you, if you are remembering loved ones who lost their lives serving their country and its people.  We are grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Heather! What a beautiful post. This is so where I am right now. I'm a experiencing the joy that comes with seeking the Lord in and thru every circumstance.

    I love that you've placed seeking God over seeking fellowship with believers. We so frequently seek fellowship and approval from other believers before we give any thought to God and his infallible word. Then when we are lead by the spirit and walking in fellowship with other believers, THAT is when we HAVE the opportunity to practice it! If we live in our own spiritual bubble of protection, we are never given opportunities to encounter temptation that we are able to walk away from through faith.

    God is so beautiful. Thanks for pointing us Godward. :)