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Chapter 37 - Radical Character Transformation
Some churches may tell Christians that everything that can be known about God has already been figured out so that all the Christian has to do is acknowledge that the doctrines with which he is presented are true and observe the required actions (i.e. church attendance, giving, sacraments, etc.). The radical Christian takes it upon himself to dig deeper in the word and takes it at face value.
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:4-8
One might expect that if the Christian life is defined by progressing in Christ-likeness, then the character qualities described by Peter would be expected of every Christian. Peter further describes these qualities as being essential for the work that our Lord has for us.
It is interesting that we might be 'partakers of the divine nature'. The word 'might' indicates that it is not a forgone conclusion that Christians will be partakers. It is by means of 'promises' that the possibility exists. We can see that love is in Godís nature.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16
It is possible for a Christian to exist with little or no love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Here are some promises that we can consider that may help set aside the selfishness of the flesh so that we are able to choose and show love.
The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy. - Psalm 145:20
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. - Proverbs 8:17
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. - John 14:21
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. - Romans 5:3-5
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. - 2 Corinthians 13:11
In addition to the opportunity to partake of the divine nature (love) by the promises of God, we have the parallel opportunity to escape the corruption of the world.
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - 2 Timothy 2:22
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. - James 1:27
When Peter uses the word 'diligence' in regard to all of the character qualities we are to add. We may picture in our mind a sort of 'rolling up our sleeves' so we can get to work. This may not be an accurate picture of the process. Our character deficiencies are not the result of negligence that we can remedy by just addressing the issue. For us to improve ourselves would be as unrealistic as for us to single-handedly build an aircraft carrier. It is God working in us that accomplishes this transformation. The results (fruit) produced by this work are;
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. - Galatians 5:22-25
The key to having Godís Holy Spirit produce fruit in our life is our singular contribution, 'having crucified (put to death) the flesh'. This is the same setting aside of self that is the basis for love (listed as the first fruit of the Spirit).
For most of us, the setting aside of self is a slow process. Like the formation of a pearl, it is done slowly over time and in layers.
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. - Proverbs 19:11
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. - 1 Peter 3:9
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. - Matthew 5:39-40
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? - 1 Corinthians 6:7
Each day we encounter what Shakespeare called 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. Each of these encounters provides us with an opportunity to chose a response. For the unsaved and carnal (of the flesh) Christians, our reflex is an automatic expression of self (outrage, anger, annoyance, irritation, etc.). However, for the Christian, there is an opportunity to chose a different response.
In a way, a personís life is the sum total of the choices he has made. For the Christian, each choice to forgo the desire of the flesh starves it a little (puts it to death) and gives room for Godís Holy Spirit to work in transforming our character.
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