The process of manifesting positive character traits is one component of kingdom living that many people either don’t understand or don’t give priority. The fact is, the process of sanctification is comprised of growing more and more into the likeness of Christ. That is what the Christian path is all about.
I find that one of the most awesome aspects of Christian metaphysical spirituality is its practicality. Although some people tend to get scared off by words like “metaphysics” or “manifestation,” there is nothing mysterious or other worldly about these principles. Instead, the biblical principles of personal growth and transformation are really quite simple. Granted, we can complicate them to a great extent if we want to, but that kind of pseudo-complexity is not needed. Instead, Christian spirituality is really a process of ongoing cooperation with the Holy Spirit, with the goal of becoming increasingly Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions.
Christian sanctification (becoming more Christ-like) is a divine partnership between God and the human being. The Holy Spirit’s part is something we cannot fully understand and certainly cannot control. We just have to trust, in positive faith, that the Holy Spirit will do exactly what scripture tells us he will do, He will transform us more and more into beings who bear the fullness of Christ. Rather than fussing and fretting over the Holy Spirit’s work, it is best to focus on what you need to do in order to fulfill your part of this transformational process. And believe me, we do have a part to play. There are those who would tell you that sanctification is entirely a process of grace and there is nothing that we can or should do. This is patent nonsense, pure and simple. Granted, the grace of God, like the wind blowing across the sea, is the power source for our spiritual growth into Christ-likeness. However, if we want to catch that wind and reach our destination, we have to raise our sails.
There are definite steps you can take in order to move forward in bringing into manifestation the Christ-like qualities that you want to inculcate in our personality. Before we get into the specific steps you can take, we need to take a look at two important principles. It is vital that you come to understand and accept two key realities that will prevent you from stumbling out of the starting gate. These two key points are:
You already have everything you need to live the kind of life God desires for you.
No one is disqualified, including you.
You Already Have Everything You Need
In a splendid passage tucked away in the second epistle of Peter we find a message of hope and guidance. The power of this passage of scripture is often overlooked, either through superficial reading or lack of reflection on what the leader of the band of apostles was actually trying to tell us. In a few short words, Peter gives us both a description of where our power to live the Christian life comes from and tells us in plain language the virtues stemming from such a life. Let’s take a look:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in world by lust.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
Therefore, brethren, make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. For in this way entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. [2 Peter1: 2-11]
In the first section of this passage, Peter reminds us that grace and peace in our lives comes through knowledge of God and Christ. Then he makes an amazing statement. He tells us that Christ, through his divine power, has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. He has already given us all we need to become whole in Christ and live a life of holiness. All we have to do is, with empty hands and an open heart, reach out and receive it. Further, Peter goes on to tell us that through believing and appropriating the promises made by Christ, we may become partakers of the divine nature.
Do you really realize what this means? Do you see the profound reality that Peter is putting right before our eyes? We, even as limited, fallen, and broken humans, can partake of the nature of God Himself. When I truly reflect on this statement, I tremble in awe.
In the next section, Peter lists for us the virtues that grow out of living from this divine nature. They are:
Even superficial reflection will tell us how much better our lives, and our world, would be if we would but just make these principles and integral part of our daily lives. If we looked to these virtues as the guiding factors in determining how we lived, life would truly be filled with peace and grace.
In the third section, Peter asks us to be honest with ourselves. He asks us to deeply reflect on our calling, the fact that we are the chosen ones of Christ. Do we really want the kind of life Christ is offering us? Are we willing to make the necessary sacrifices? Are we willing to be led and formed into an image of godliness through the power of the Holy Spirit? If we answer in the affirmative, then we can be assured that we will not stumble. Does that mean life will be without problems? Emphatically no. Does that mean we will never have to struggle with our lower nature, the world, or ourselves? Of course not.
What Peter is saying here is that if we live our lives according to the nine virtues he outlines, we will never stumble, and we will never fall. We will ultimately succeed in growing to be more Christ-like in thought, word, and deed.
Let’s take a look at the same passage, this time from Eugene Peterson’s The Message:
Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master. Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you – your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.
So don’t lose a minute in building on what you have been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
So friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved, and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I think Peterson’s version drives Peter’s message home in a clear, concise manner. Whichever version you prefer, the point is the same. God, in his infinite grace and wisdom, has already provided everything we now need or ever will need in order to live a godly life. Through the successful mission of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, we are not only justified in the sight of a Holy God, we are also empowered to live as new creations, capable of far more than we can ever imagine. We can, indeed, walk in Christ’s victory and operate in this world as more than conquerors; we can truly become everything that God intended for us to be and carry out our mission of being Christ’s agents here on earth; agents in carrying forward the Father’s kingdom agenda.
In the words we often use here at LifeBrook: God has provided for us all that we need in order to become the optimal versions of ourselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
You Are Never Disqualified
The second point we must consider before exploring the specific steps of manifesting Christ-character in daily life pertains to those otherwise sincere Christians who, for whatever reasons, feel their past sins and failures have disqualified them for service.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. This false belief is a blatant lie from the Father of Lies.
One of the greatest gifts of God to each of us is the placing of a divine plan for our lives deep within us. God has his generalized plan for humanity and a personal plan or mission for each of us. You, me, the butcher, baker, and even the candlestick maker have a divine purpose scripted on our hearts by the Creator and it is a plan just for us. More incredible is the fact that God has equipped us to carry that plan out and in so doing, help establish his kingdom right here on earth and bring great glory to his being. What a wonder! What a blessing! What a responsibility!
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you have been, and what you have done. That divine purpose still exists inside you and with a little effort and a lot of faith, you can discover it. Start with prayer, asking God through the Holy Spirit to reveal his divine plan for your life. Be persistent in your asking; be vigilant in waiting for an answer; and be confident that the answer will come.
Also, keep in mind that it is never too late to get started on the dreams God has for you. God created you to accomplish extraordinary things and no matter how old you are, how sinful you have been, or whatever afflictions you may suffer from, God can and will use you because that is one of the primary purposes you were created in the first place. Listen as Jim Graff speaks clearly to this issue:
God uses ordinary people – with all their flaws and problems – to accomplish extraordinary dreams. You and I don’t have to wait until we have it all together, achieve a certain degree of fame, earn a specified amount of money, get a better job, or meet the right person. Instead, we can start today to embrace who we are and how God made us, knowing that he will use us. From this knowledge, wellsprings of confidence water our hearts. That confidence allows us to see our dreams and visions as God’s road maps to significant lives.
A significant life – that is what God created you for. Make a consecrated commitment right now to lead a life of excellence in cooperation and divine partnership with the Holy Spirit. The life of excellence is what Jesus demonstrated for us and it is that same kind of life to which each of us is called. Sure, we may foul up things from time to time, but God is right there with us offering a hand to pick us up, dust us off, and send us on our divinely appointed way.
As said earlier, it matters not where you have been. In fact, your past failures and problems may be part of your qualification for the task God has for you to perform. I worked for many years in the field of addiction prevention and treatment. The most effective professionals ministering to those suffering from addiction were those people who were former addicts themselves. It is this foundational philosophy upon which Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are built.
If you think your past sin(s) prevents you from carrying out your purpose for God, you have been lied to by the Master of Deceit himself. Satan would like nothing more than for you to continue walking around half-alive, depressed, despondent, and spiritually paralyzed. That’s why that little voice tells you time and time again that there is no way God will ever use you. Granted, he may use others but you, you’re a lost cause.
Whenever I hear people speak of this voice in their head that says God can’t or won’t use them because of past mistakes, I always tell them to stop listening to the voice and spend some quality time studying sacred scripture. I love these words, written by John and Paula Sandford:
God’s children, in whom He has done mighty things, have come from checkered careers. Moses was a murderer. Look at what Jacob did with Esau and Laban. Abraham tricked King Abimelech. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Peter denied Jesus three times. James and John fought to be the highest. Paul went to Damascus breathing murder and threats. Our checkered careers, our utter sinfulness and degradation, our falling into all manner of vain seeking, become by the grace of God on the cross and in the resurrection the inevitable writing of wisdom on our hearts. Our hurts and sins have become our schooling and preparation. Would that we could learn purity the easy way. Praise God that His mercy is such that He turns the depth of our sin into the strength of ministry.
Listen my friend – God saved you and God will use you. The God Christians worship is not a God of wasted effort. God never does anything without a reason, a plan and a purpose. If you are saved, you are to be used. You are destined to be God’s instrument for something special. If you doubt what I am saying, go to Scripture and conduct a detailed study of Paul’s life.
Paul, formerly known as Saul, was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He even held the coats for the men who pelted the first Christian martyr. Saul was the most persistent and ardent persecutor of the early church. By the world’s way of reasoning, you would never expect that God would use Saul to spread the faith across the Mediterranean World. But that’s exactly what God did. God, thankfully, doesn’t necessarily think as the world thinks.
If God can use Paul, he can surely use you.
In China I knew a wonderful believer named Mr. Zhou (not his real name.) Now in his 60’s, Mr. Zhou was a successful businessman and used much of his income to support the efforts of the house churches in his Province and also to support young pastors in training. He also spent most of his free time training Chinese missionaries to live and work in Muslim countries. Mr. Zhou had many business interests in the Middle East and often used his stores for employing young Chinese missionaries.
What makes Mr. Zhou’s story so fascinating is how it is similar to that of Paul. Back in the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution Mr. Zhou was a young man and a leader in the Red Guards. His specialty, as he put it, was ferreting out Christians and torturing them. He often beat them horribly, put dunce caps on their heads and signs on their backs, and then marched them through the city streets while a gathering mob hurled insults, bricks, and bottles at them.
Later, when in his late 30’s, Mr. Zhou found Christ through the efforts of a pastor he had once tortured. Now Mr. Zhou does God’s work out of a sense of love and service. God used Paul and God used Mr. Zhou.
If God can use Mr. Zhou, He can use you.
Once you finally accept the fact that God can use you, wants to use you, and will use you, it is then time to get to work. Many times sincere believers put themselves in a holding pattern, waiting for specific directions from God as to what their ultimate purpose is. Yes, we do need to discern what our ultimate purpose is and with prayer and patience we will do just that. Yet in the meantime there is plenty that we can do. No matter where you live I am certain of one thing: there are people living there who are in need of something and who are suffering. More than likely there are already groups of Christian servants working to meet some of those needs. Find out about these groups and find a way to get involved. The real question is not so much what you should do. The real question once you know in your heart that God wants to use you as his compassionate servant to a hurting world is, “Are you available?”
Only you can answer that question.
Hopefully, you are, indeed, available. You are gifted for service my friend. And no matter what form that service may take, you can rest assured of one absolute certainty: the Holy Spirit will empower you not only proceed, but succeed. He will make sure you not only survive, you will thrive.
My primary purpose in writing this article is to encourage you to understand and accept the reality that God put a potential and purpose in you before you were born and, further, he still wants that purpose to be realized. Stop looking back at the past and instead, step forward into the service that God has for you. You cannot change the past but know this: whatever happened is history in God’s eyes and in God’s heart. As a Christian you have been forgiven so turn your eyes forward instead of keeping them riveted in your rear view mirror.
Do all that you can to let this truth sink deep into the depths of your heart: where you are going, what is in your future is far more important that what’s behind you. Scripture tells us that with God, all things are possible. So if it seems your dreams have died, let the Lord resurrect those dormant dreams and allow those dreams to drive you and motivate you to be all that you can be for the glory of God and the sake of others.
By now you should have internalized several key principles regarding your status as a child of the Father of Lights. First, God has already provided you with everything you need to live a life of godliness and holiness. You have been given these divine gifts in the spiritual realm and, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, your job is to bring these sublime, Christ-like traits into manifestation in your daily life. Second, you should also be clear about the fact that nothing you have done disqualifies you for these gifts, nor does it disqualify you from the responsibility to use your gifts in service to the Master.
The process of bringing these divine qualities to manifestation in the physical realm begins with a complete commitment to excellence. It means saying no to a life of mindless mediocrity and yes to fulfilling your destiny and calling as a child of the Living God.
(c) L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved