Just finished reading Levi’s Will, a novel by W. Dale Cramer. In one scene, Will asks his boss and best friend, Barefoot, what God wants of us. Barefoot’s reply is, “Beats me,” but we get the feeling that he knows …
As they sit by the pond with a fishing pole, Will’s wife brings them both iced tea. Will takes a sip and promptly spits it out; she has not put sugar in his tea because he must alter his diet since his heart attack. Barefoot enjoys his drink; his has the usual large dose of sugar.
As the discussion goes on, Barefoot takes Will’s almost full glass of tea and pours some of it into his own half-empty glass. Then he pours part of it back into Will’s glass; and then again pours into his own. Back and forth he pours, until both men are enjoying glasses of sweetened, good tea.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.
May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation — the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
In the same way that Barefoot pours his sweetened tea into Will’s, mixes it and changes it, so the Spirit teaches us, leads us step by step into greater knowledge and understanding. The fruits of the Spirit become more and more evident in our lives, as Jesus Christ’s Spirit begins to produce in us His own character.
This is God’s agenda in our lives. His plan is to give us a new life, one that takes on the very character of Christ. If you see nothing else in the Scripture above, remember this phrase: the righteous character produced by Jesus Christ.
We can’t produce it ourselves. For a long time, I thought this was what being a Christian was all about: I must do this, I must not do that, I’ve got to be more of this, less of that. And I was a colossal failure at producing that character. Doing it on my own was pretty much hopeless. I was that undrinkable tea.
Instead, the character and the fruit it produces come from a new life birthed in us by the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit sustains and molds that life. He is the one who produces the fruit. Jesus pours more and more of His own character into each child who has been adopted into the family of God.
Is it so difficult to believe that the Spirit of God lives within you and is changing you?
You believe and understand that this happens on a human level. Within hours of a child’s birth, people are looking for Daddy’s dimples or Mom’s eyes or Big Sister’s nose. We take it further than the physical; we say that “He has his dad’s business savvy” or “She’s got her grandfather’s gumption” or “She has her mother’s sweet disposition.”
God birthed a new life in us by planting His Spirit within. Scriptures say we are born of the Spirit. He’s brought us into His family, and He intends to make us like the Son of God.
(Just wondering — Do we look for “family” characteristics showing up in other children of God? Or are we so preoccupied with recalling an old life that God says is dead and gone that we can’t see and encourage the new in others and in ourselves?)
Yes, there is still something “I” must do — I must throw open all of myself to the power of the Holy Spirit. And then what He does with all of us “hopeless” cases is amazing.
The new life and character we exhibit bring glory and praise to the Lord of all Creation. Of course! We cannot fix ourselves; we cannot produce a new character no matter how hard we try; we are pretty much hopeless left on our own. But God, working in us, can do all of that … more than we can even imagine.
As Jesus pours Himself into us and His Spirit leads us step by step into truth, we start looking more and more like the One who is Truth.
Scripture: Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT)