by Roland W. Keith
Do you have the Spirit of God? Or, do you rail against God and all His word stands for? Paul told the Romans:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:7-10).
How can I know if I have the Spirit of God? Or, what is truly in the heart of the man standing next to me? Just because someone is singing praises to the Lord beside me on a Sunday morning is no guarantee of what is in his or her heart. As Paul noted, “For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” (I Corinthians 2:11). Many a false teacher has walked through church doors and appeared as a true believer even as he has led others astray. The only way to know for certain if we, or anyone else, is on the right path is through the diligent study of God’s word. When we come to a right understanding of the scriptures we can compare our actions, and those of others, to God’s standard and discern whether or not we are on the right path. As Paul also made note, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14. If we are truly spiritually-minded, and discover we are in error in our thoughts and actions we will make the necessary changes to comply with God’s word (John 15:4; 14:15, 21; 15:10).
Not only will we correct our own actions, we will seek to lead others in error into the light, as Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). A few verses later he penned these words, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). When it comes to salvation we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to others as well. Paul also wrote to Timothy in a similar vein: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).
Only by obedience to God’s commands will we find our salvation assured. So, as we submit ourselves to God what are some of the other attributes or behaviors will we see developing within ourselves? One thing we will notice as we become more Christ-like is an increase in humility. Humbleness in serving God is so important that Jesus actually washed the feet of His disciples to make the point (John 13:1-17). In addition to this example, Matthew recorded another occasion when Jesus responded to a question about greatness:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-4; see also Matthew 23:12).
Not only will we increase in humility, but we will also find a greater capacity for love. John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:16-17). As followers of Christ the love of God will be reflected in our lives. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). The love spoken of here goes beyond emotional or attractive forms of love (familial, Eros, etc.), expanding to include all men. It is known as agape, the form of love most written about in the New Testament. It is the love that leads us to be selfless and altruistic with those beyond our immediate circle of ‘loved ones.’
As we learn to love our fellow man in submission to our Heavenly Father it will become easier for us to both seek and exercise forgiveness. Here, once again Jesus is our example. Even as He was being put to death He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God’s capacity to forgive is as unbounded as His love. Moreover, it is an attribute He expects each one of us to fully exercise as well. When Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). No, that doesn’t mean to go out and buy a ledger to start keeping track. Jesus meant forgiveness in its perfect form never runs out, we are to continue to forgive as God continues to forgive us.
God’s love for mankind, and His desire to offer forgiveness for our sins led to His Son coming to earth to deliver a new covenant between God and man, one that was sealed by His own blood when He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 2:9; Ephesians 5:2). Because of all that He has done for us it is only right that we make an offering to the Lord, as Paul instructed the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Romans 12:1-2). Our willingness to give body and soul to the Lord through the renewing of our minds does not begin to repay what God did for us on the cross, it is merely a part of what is due Him.
As Christians we sacrifice our old way of life to God, and become what He desires for us. As John noted, “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (I John 3:3). The hope of being like Christ leads us to focus on the best we have to offer, while removing ourselves the old ways of our sinful lives (Philippians 4:8; I Timothy 5:22). For those coming out of the world into the Kingdom of God, it is not always an easy road to travel, as Jesus warned, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” He would go on to say, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:13-14, 21).
The way is difficult, and our adversary is strong (I Peter 5:8). Therefore, in order to survive the spiritual war in which we are involved we must seek to develop the attribute of courage. Fortunately, the commander of our forces is the Lord. As Paul wrote:
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him (II Corinthians 5:5-9).
God prepares us to fight against the forces of evil through His word, worship, prayer, the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and, yes, testing. And, in the end if we put our faith in Him He makes us able to stand, as Paul wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13; see also I Corinthians 16:13; II Corinthians 12:10; Ephesians 6:10).
The goal of our courage is to honor God and find salvation. Paul told the Philippians, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). We should seek to please God by obedience even to the point of death. This is no easy thing to accomplish, As Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). In order to find that kind of courage and strength and focus against so powerful an enemy we must sharpen our sword, put on our full armor, follow the battle plan, and keep in constant communications with our Commander. Jesus said if we pray and do not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8), we will not fail to receive justice from Him. In fact, Jesus stated, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
It takes courage to acknowledge God before our fellow man. But as we work to be more like Christ in our lives by taking on His attributes it will become easier. In this brief study we have looked at a few of the attributes and strengths we are to cultivate in our lives as Christians. I encourage you to see how many others you can find in the scriptures to add to the list, and then work to perfect them in your life.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.