by Mike Ratliff
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.(Colossians 3:12-17)
Before I became a Christian, I was a Christian in name only. In other words, I was a religious Christian instead of a genuine Christian. I went to Church. I tried to be good. I was supremely unsuccessful at both being good, and being a good Christian. I thought that someday I would start to like church and get good at it. I simply thought that good Christians tired harder than the rest of us. Then God saved me.
After salvation, I was most definitely changed. I finally understood that Christianity was a state of being rather than something that had to be worked for in order to deserve it. After that, however, it took several years of spiritual growth interspersed with periods of backsliding finally to mature to the point where the passage I placed at the beginning of this chapter made any sense. All Christians struggle with being godly and Christlike. If they are Soul-led and flesh-driven, they struggle big time trying to conform to this. It is only by maturing and becoming Spirit-led that it becomes manifest.
Look at the behavior Paul is spelling out to the Colossians. We are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We must bear with one another in forgiveness. This sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit to me.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:16-23)
How does a believer live in a way in which the Holy Spirit produces this fruit? We must walk by the Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Walking according to the flesh produces sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, et cetera. That is a lot of real ugly stuff. If these things are evident in our lives then we are walking according to the flesh. This is Soul-led behavior.
However, if we are Spirit-led we will not act the same way. Our character will take on these markers—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now let us look at Colossians 3:12-17 again. Paul tells us to “put on” these things. How do we do that? We must become Spirit-led. How do we do that? One of the key behaviors that will enable our maturing to this level of spirituality is found in v16. Paul tells us to let the Word of Christ indwell in us richly. What does that mean?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
What this means is when we expose our hearts to God’s Word He uses it to show us what is there. It shines His Holy light of Righteousness into the dark corners of our hearts revealing to us our dire need to repent. After we submit to the authority of God’s Word in our lives then our consciences become bound to it. If we then walk through our lives heeding our Sacred Scripture bound consciences we will start seeing the evidences of the fruit of the spirit in our walk. As we move further down this road, drawing closer and closer to our Lord, Christ’s character becomes more and more evident in and through us.
As we grow in grace, working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), we spend more and more time exposing our hearts to the Word of God. We read it more. We study it more. We listen to godly preaching and teaching. We meditate on it constantly. All of this builds a treasury of godliness in our hearts. Jesus said you can tell what is inside of a man, by what comes out of his mouth. What we say reveals our inner nature. If we are flesh bound, Soul-led believers then eventually we will slip and our true nature will be exposed. However, if we are Spirit-led, the world sees Christlikeness exuding from us. This godly character is evidence of a maturing heart. The godly fruitfulness is the outgrowth of the Word of Christ richly indwelling our hearts.
This should be obvious to us now. Will we be judging others hypocritically if we are walking through life with the Word of Christ richly indwelling our hearts? The heart that is richly indwelt by the Word of Christ is a forgiving heart. We cannot judge hypocritically if we are actively forgiving those who deserve no forgiveness. Likewise, if we are filling our hearts with the worldly, fleshly things then the opposite is true. Believers who are constantly responding judgmentally to everyone around them cannot be experiencing Godly fulfillment. They may be deceiving themselves through self-justification, but God’s peace will be absent. Genuine believers who are deceived this way can stay in this hardhearted state for quite a long time. Why? We have looked at this several times already. Pride is in control of these hearts. It produces the weed of self-righteousness. The curse of self-righteousness is spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness hardens the heart even further. What an awful state for the Christian!
What is the solution? When God is ready, He will draw believers to repentance by His grace. He will make them desperate for Him by removing all fulfillments from their fleshly activities. With no fulfillment, their hearts become desperate. God will use this desperation to draw them to Him. When the believer’s heart breaks because of this it is because God has shattered it to work out His purposes there. The believer must respond in repentance.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:4-10)
Those of us who are suffering because we have made friends with the world in some part of our lives must respond to God’s drawing by turning back to Him in humility. What is the result? God will exalt us. However, to get to that point we must humble ourselves in brokenness before the Lord. We must repent as God grants us repentance. This will cleanse us and purify our hearts. It will remove our double-mindedness from us.
If we continue down this path, we will continue drawing near unto out Lord. He will continue to draw near unto us. Our hearts will become tender towards God. We will start the process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling again. The Word of Christ will indwell our hearts richly and we will quit judging others hypocritically as we forgive them as God has forgiven us.
Oh Lord God, You are gracious and forgiving. Please continue to draw us unto repentance. Never stop pruning our hearts so we will be fruitful in Your Kingdom. I pray for you to take our hearts, examine them and show us the truth about ourselves. Break our hearts Lord. Please put us into position to get your Word in our Hearts so it will richly indwell us. I pray all those around us will see the evidence of that so that You can use us to draw them to You. All for Your Glory Lord, Amen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.