“Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One)” (Colossians 1:28 AMP).
Do you remember seeing the letters “WWJD” displayed boldly on items such as jewelry, clothing, billboards, and bumper stickers several years ago? Those four letters posed to us a simple, yet powerful, question … “What would Jesus do?” How often do we react in any given situation without stopping to consider how Jesus would respond? Sadly for me, it happens more often than I dare admit. Oftentimes, my emotions ramp up and my mouth shoots off before stopping long enough to even consider how Jesus would have behaved. I then walk away from the situation feeling condemned and defeated. Sometimes I will even go so far as to wallow in my self-inflicted condemnation for days. My friends, can you relate?
There is great news for us, however! God already knows we are imperfect beings and often succumb to our human frailties. How comforting it is to know, however, that God is not waiting for us to reach full maturity before loving us. No, He loves us right where we are today … imperfections and all. Consider this, though … it is because of our love for Him that we should strive to become more Christ-like. God tells us very plainly, “If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands” (John 14:15 AMP). Do not get confused here. God is not saying, “If you obey Me, I will love you.” No, his love for us is already a perfect, unconditional love. Rather, it is our love for Him that should spark an intense desire to honor Him with our thoughts, our words, and our actions … to fully develop Christ’s character.
The ultimate goal of all Christians should be to develop Christ-like character. We miss the point of spiritual growth by settling for anything less. Ephesians 4:13 (NIV) tells us we are to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The word “attain” means to “reach, achieve, or accomplish; gain; obtain; to come to or arrive at, especially after some labor or tedium.” Note that becoming more Christ-like requires work … hard, prayerful work. It requires a commitment to learning God’s Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in us. It requires a commitment to deeper living.
Indeed, developing Christ-like character should be our life’s most important task because it is the only thing we will take with us to eternity. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, made clear that our eternal rewards in Heaven will be based solely on the character we demonstrate while here on Earth (see Matthew 5-7).
So, how is character built? It is built by life’s circumstances. God builds our character by allowing us to experience situations where we are tempted to do the exact opposite of the character quality. Developing character involves choice. When we make the right choice, our character grows more like Christ. Whenever we choose to respond to a situation in God’s way instead of following our natural inclination, which oftentimes worsens the situation or gets us into trouble, we develop character. For this reason, God allows us all to experience character-building circumstances such as temptation, disappointment, conflict, delays, difficulty, and times of dryness.
To develop Christ-like character, we must first understand His character. I believe a good place to start is by studying the nine character qualities Paul enumerates in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit is a perfect picture of Christ, as He embodied all nine qualities.
Over the next several weeks, my desire is to take us through an in-depth look at each of these nine qualities. I hope you will join me on what I believe will be a life-changing journey.
© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills. All rights reserved.