Category Archives: Character

Spiritual Disciplines – Bible Study

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

While it is true that pastors receive a word from the Lord and speak it to the people, it is equally true that they are human and therefore capable of error.  The best way to grow spiritually after hearing a message is to check it against the scriptures. Though man is errant, God’s Word is not.

Each follower of Christ must, absolutely must, spend time reading and studying the Bible individually. Church services, Sunday school, and Bible study are all great to attend, but they are intended as a corporate experience among the believers.  Private study of God’s Word coupled with prayer will yield personal results.

It is not enough to say that you believe everything the Bible says if you do not know what it says.  We must learn the context of the original writing to fully understand how a verse speaks to us today.  Many misinformed or uninformed Christians wander about with no foundational knowledge of the Bible’s principles.  False doctrines come about when well-meaning Christians interpret scriptures to support an agenda.

Personal time with the Lord, reading His Word is an essential part of a Christ disciple’s life.  God’s Word ought always to be on our hearts and on our tongues.  The Bible is a disciple’s playbook and we must learn from it in order to live according to God’s wonderful plan.  How amazing that our heavenly Father speaks to us though this text!  How can we  not study it everyday?

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Many churches and individuals begin the new year by fasting and praying for spiritual renewal and awakening.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline and it’s sometimes misunderstood.  It’s important to understand what fasting is and what it’s not.

Spiritual fasting is not a diet, or at least that’s not the main purpose.  One may lose weight on a fast from all food or become healthier on something like a Daniel fast, but the purpose is connection with God.  Even if the reason behind your prayer and fasting is related to health and healing, make the spiritual communion with God the primary focus of your fast.

A fast is not something to be done in order to look spiritual or to get attention.  Jesus warned about pride in association with fasting and public prayer.  Don’t fast for the attention it may bring.  There is no reward for fasting with selfish motives.  If possible, don’t make an issue of the fact that you’re fasting.

A fast is sacrificial.  Not all fasts call you to give up all food.  Some don’t even deal with food, but rather abstinence from activities like TV watching or a break from any contact with sources of news.  All fasts require some sort of sacrifice.  Remember when it gets hard that it’s not meant to be comfortable.  In our hardship, we are drawn closer to God.

A fast is personal.  Even if you’re fasting as a group, you should be connecting with God personally during this time.  If someone else decides that they can’t go on with the fast, continue on.  Don’t judge them for their personal decision, but don’t allow their change of plans to excuse you from your connection with God.

A fast is planned.  It’s not recommended that you jump into a fast without laying out a purpose, and end date, preparing your body, and praying.  Give yourself some time to plan your fast. Some people even like to consult with their doctor before starting.

Fasting is effective.  Various passages in God’s Word point out the power that is in fasting and prayer.  However, it should be noted that fasting does not guarantee answered prayer. (2 Samuel 12)

Work hard

Colossians 3:23 Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men.

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grunting or questioning.

One way we can stand out as disciples of Christ in the world we live in is to serve with joy. It’s not a good witness to the Lord for the Christian in the workplace (you may be the only one) to be the whiner or complainer. We shouldn’t be the one who everyone sees as negative.  We’ve received a joy that comes from the Lord and we ought to let it show.

When we’re capable of finding joy in the mundane or good in the seemingly bad, people wonder how that’s possible. This gives us a great opportunity to point them to Jesus, our source of peace. If we work hard at all tasks given to us, we bring glory to God. He has not put us on this earth to be lazy or to complain.

Work hard, don’t complain, serve others. Be a joy to others so that they will want to know your Master.

From one degree of glory to another

2 Corinthians 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

You are not who you once were.  You’re not who you were before Christ, but you’re also not who you were right at the moment He entered your life.  You’re being transformed by God to be more like Him.  He’s revealing more of Himself to you and as He does that, you gain more of His character.  To know Him is to behold Him.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.  No, each and every thing that God needs to work on in your life to give you the image of Christ is done one bit at a time.  One event at a time.  One circumstance at a time.  One tragedy at a time. One triumph.  One stint of suffering.  All of it, everything that happens in your life is part of the process.  It may not seem so now, but over time it will make more sense.  Look back at where you were and where you are now.  Think of all the things you’ve been through that have shaped you into what you’ve become.  And the process is only just beginning.

The journey of sanctification is ongoing and doesn’t stop until we’re just like Christ.  It won’t end in this lifetime, but it will have an impact here.  As the Holy Spirit works in you, it affects your character and the fruit you bear as a Christ follower.  You walk more closely with God, understanding more as He reveals more of Himself.  God is glorified in you and through you.

 

The fruit of the Spirit – Self-control

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…self-control

“I can’t believe I did it again.” How many times have we all found ourselves in the situation that leads to such a thought? We tried to control ourselves, but that one thing that just always seems to creep back into our lives overtook our willpower once again. Yes, we gave in to temptation.

It’s a likely scenario, both for the nonbeliever and the Christ follower. It can be very difficult to keep our fleshly urges under control, whether those urges are overeating, lusting, drinking heavily, cheating, stealing, lying, or any other number of sins. The difference between us and those who are not redeemed by the blood of Christ through accepting His gift of salvation, is that we have been granted power above what we are humanly capable of possessing. We are not impotent to change our situation. We have the Holy Spirit working in us.

In the matter of self-control, the name given to this trait referenced in the Fruit of the Spirit scripture may be a bit of a misnomer. For it is not really “self” control that we possess, so much as it is “Spirit-control”. We have been given the ability to restrain ourselves through the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, as believers. We are told in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That one passage is reason enough to believe that we are quite capable of bearing the fruit of self-control in our lives.

Self-control is not about trying our hardest not to sin. Rather, self-control, like the other Fruit of the Spirit, is attained through submission of our lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…gentleness

How are we to react to the aggravating situations that we sometimes face in life? Now answer the question how do we react in those situations. The answers often do not line up with each other.

Using Jesus as an example (see Matthew 11:29), we should always treat others with gentleness. We’ve spoken of kindness, and this differs just slightly. While kindness is more of a way of acting, gentleness brings up more of an idea of a state of spiritual being. While one acts in kindness, one is of gentle spirit.

We are told that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” in Proverbs 15:1, to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” in Ephesians 4:2, and also to”Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” in Philippians 4:5. Our instructions are clear. Be gentle, not harsh. Speak words of love, not hate.

We can bear this fruit through the Holy Spirit living inside of us. And we should let it show to all the world to bring glory to God and to fulfill His will.

The fruit of the Spirit – Faithfulness

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…faithfulness

Our main goal as followers of Christ should be to act with the character of Jesus, our Savior. There is no better way to lead others to Him than to show them exactly who Christ is. Words make a huge impact, but nothing can compare with the example we set through our actions.

In His earthly ministry, we see that Jesus was always faithful. There is never a time that our Lord makes a promise that He does not fulfill. We also should strive for this quality. We should be faithful in all we do.

In this world filled with so many excuses to get out of everything from paying what we owe on debt to facing the consequences of sin, it takes little effort from us to be unreliable. But as Christians, we are to set the example of what faithfulness means.

Faithfulness in our jobs means putting in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Faithfulness in our marriage means remaining true to our vows, keeping ourselves pure, not only physically by mentally as well. Faithfulness to our children means not making promises that we don’t intend to keep.

And, just as important as those examples is our faithfulness in areas that can be seen in public by nonbelievers. The world must see us living the qualities we profess to believe in. Making excuses is not Christlike. Ask the Holy Spirit to bear this fruit in your life for all to see, for it brings glory to God.

The fruit of the Spirit – Goodness

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…goodness

The Christian faith is one that is plagued with a sometimes unflattering past. The view that nonbelievers take of the religion to which we belong is not always a positive one. Despite our best efforts to put forth a good face to Christianity, some will focus on the negative events that have taken place in history.

This is all the more reason why we, as Christ followers, should put forth the very best example at all times. In all that we do, we need to show goodness. When we are wronged, we need to react, not with more wrong, but with good.

We need to be using our time to help the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Wherever there is need, it is those who follow Christ and do His will that should be at the forefront of the effort to bring good to the situation.

And in all these things, it is not our effort that brings about good. It is the Holy Spirit in us that bears this fruit for all to see.

The fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…kindness

Kindness is hard to come by in today’s society. Even kind acts are sometimes done out of selfish motives. But if we are to truly bear the fruit that God has in mind, we must act in kindness out of love, not out of selfish ambition. Our motives matter a lot to God.

It’s true, that we are often rewarded for our kindness in this life. This, however, should not be our objective in doing kind things for others. Our main focus is to bring glory to God through our actions. Whether that is helping the poor, tutoring children, reading to our own kids, or whatever.

Kindness, again like so many attribute of the fruit of the spirit, comes out of love and it related to the other fruit. Without joy, we will not be able to show kindness because we will not be in the right state to do so. Without patience we will never be able to show kindness because sometimes we’re required to show kindness to those that are hard to love.

Show kindness from your heart, and show the love of God the Father to those who don’t know Him.

Cleaning up

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When it comes to cleaning up our lives, many people get things backwards. If you think that you’ve got to clean up your act to become a Christian, you don’t understand how this thing works. You and I are incapable of getting ourselves cleaned up until after we give things over to Jesus.

All of the hurts, habits, and hangups that keep us from following after the Savior are exactly the things He came to heal us from. We don’t get ourselves into shape before going into the gym, we go to the gym to get into shape. Likewise, we don’t come to Jesus after we’ve saved ourselves. We go to Him for salvation.

If you’re struggling with something right now that’s keeping you from giving your life over to Christ, like I was before I took that step, look what God’s Word has to say about the subject. There’s no command to “get right” before coming to Him. There is, however, plenty to be said about giving ourselves over to Him so that He can be the one to cleanse us.

Don’t get it twisted. Jesus does the cleaning up. We’re not able to do it on our own, even if we try our hardest. God isn’t impressed with our efforts, He wants our repentance. What are you waiting for?