Have you ever put a stalk of celery in colored water? What happens is that the celery starts to change color as the water is soaked up through the stem. It takes a couple of days to see the change, but soon the celery stalk will take on the color of the water it’s in. Celery also very quickly absorbs any poisons and pesticides in the air or in the soil.
I was raised in a Christian home by dedicated Christian parents. We prayed before we went out, whenever we got in the car, before we cooked, before we started our homework, and of course, before going to sleep. The bookshelves were full of children’s devotional books and Bibles, and we watched Bible cartoons in the evenings.
A key factor in becoming like Jesus is developing godly character. This article will focus on character traits that Scripture identifies as those that Christians should emulate and that lead us to Christlikeness. These Christian character traits can be differentiated from other character traits that, while good, don’t necessarily make one more Christlike. For example, creativity, flexibility, alertness, and decisiveness are good attributes to have, but they aren’t directly addressed in Scripture; whereas faith, gentleness, patience, love, gratitude, and others are.
The great American evangelist Dwight L. Moody had a pithy phrase to describe character: Character is what you are in the dark.
As Christians, we all want to grow in spiritual maturity and Christlikeness. We want to become all we can be with Christ’s help, to put aside sin and who we are in our worst moments, and replace that with behavior that demonstrates the fruits of the spirit—love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and so on.1
I lived in a village in Tanzania that had a big, old avocado tree that was a local treasure. The tree grew in the middle of town, and its fruit was available to anyone in the village. The tree was cherished and protected by the villagers—for some of whom an avocado might comprise most of the food they’d get in a day.
In his book A Year of Living Prayerfully, Jared Brock describes in a humorous but poignant way his journey around the world to discover and explore how different believers pray—their practices, methods, habits, and styles. More than compile a list of techniques, he wanted to experience prayer in full from different perspectives and denominational outlooks. So he and his wife dedicated an entire year to the task.
All relationships take time. A relationship with God, while unlike other relationships in many ways, still follows the rules of other relationships. The Bible is filled with comparisons to help us conceptualize our relationship with God. For example, Christ is depicted as the bridegroom, and the Church is depicted as the bride. … Such intimacy involves time spent alone with one another.
When I think about how to sum up who God is in a single phrase, “unconditional love” comes to mind. Of course, God is many things and cannot be confined to one phrase or term, but as we know from 1 John 4:8, God is love. That is His very nature; it is intrinsic to who He is. It is one of His fundamental character traits. While that doesn’t mean that He loves everything we do—we are sinners, after all—nor that He overlooks or turns a blind eye to our sin or wrongdoing, nonetheless He loves His children unconditionally and forgives us if we are humble enough to ask Him to.
I’m in the business of helping you take the good things in your life and improve them, making them even better. But if you never take the time to think about these things, maybe because you consider the way you go about it “good enough,” something that works well for you—you’ll lack the motivation to strive for something better.
Question: Many of my friends are making resolutions for the new year, most of which involve some physical change such as losing weight or breaking a bad habit. While those are good, I would like to resolve to grow in my spiritual life this coming year. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can accomplish that?
Answer: From God’s perspective, we’re all a work in progress. He wants to see us make as much progress as we can and will help us as much as we let Him. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”1 Here are five ways to grow and mature spiritually: