RAIS­ING the SAILS

Activated - - NEWS - By Peter Am­s­ter­dam Peter Am­s­ter­dam and his wife, Maria Fon­taine, are di­rec­tors of the Fam­ily In­ter­na­tional, a Chris­tian com­mu­nity of faith. Adapted from orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle. ■

Any­thing that we want to do well at in life re­quires ef­fort, in­clud­ing grow­ing in Christ­like­ness. It takes work to con­sciously and de­lib­er­ately de­velop godly be­liefs, habits, at­ti­tudes, think­ing, and be­hav­ior. It also calls for in­ten­tion­ally let­ting go of wrong be­liefs, harm­ful habits, un­godly at­ti­tudes, er­ro­neous think­ing, and bad be­hav­ior.

Through­out the New Tes­ta­ment, we read about the con­cept of “putting off” or re­mov­ing as­pects of our lives—both in­ner thoughts and feel­ings, and the re­sul­tant out­ward ac­tions—which fight against Christ­like­ness. Mean­while, we are to be “putting on” or adding to our lives those things which de­velop god­li­ness. Both ideas clearly call for a de­ci­sion to be made and ac­tion to be taken.

Putting Off

Now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, ma­li­cious be­hav­ior, slan­der, and dirty lan­guage. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sin­ful na­ture and all its wicked deeds.— Colos­sians 3:8–9 NLT

Stop be­ing bit­ter and an­gry and mad at oth­ers. Don’t yell at one an­other or curse each other or ever be rude.— Eph­e­sians 4:31 CEV

Let us strip off ev­ery weight that slows us down, es­pe­cially the sin that so eas­ily trips us up.— He­brews 12:1 NLT

Putting On

Clothe your­selves with com­pas­sion, kind­ness, hu­mil­ity, gen­tle­ness and pa­tience. Bear with each other and for­give one an­other if any of you has a griev­ance against some­one. For­give as the Lord for­gave you. And over all these virtues put on love.— Colos­sians 3:12–14 NIV

Put on the ar­mor of light [and] clothe your­selves with the Lord Je­sus Christ.— Ro­mans 13:12,14 NIV

Put on your new na­ture, cre­ated to be like God—truly right­eous and holy.— Eph­e­sians 4:24 NLT

These qual­i­ties are the fruit of a life trans­formed and em­pow­ered as we fol­low what Scrip­ture teaches and apply our faith to our life. None of these hap­pens eas­ily, but once one has put in the time and ef­fort to train, to break old habits, and to build new ones, it be­comes more nat­u­ral.

Of course, we must rely on God’s help or grace to de­velop new habits. But we can’t ex­pect the Holy Spirit to change us with­out any ef­fort or ac­tion on our part. While God for­gives us for our sins, we are ex­pected to en­deavor to avoid sin­ning. We are to put away those things which draw us away from Christ­like­ness, to put on a new self, to live as best we can as the new crea­ture that we have be­come in Christ. As we do so, we gain greater hap­pi­ness, re­la­tion­ship with God, sense of ful­fill­ment, and joy­ful liv­ing.

I re­cently read the anal­y­sis of a sur­vey by Chris­tian au­thor Michael Zi­garelli, show­ing com­par­isons be­tween what the au­thor called low-virtue, av­er­age-virtue, and high-virtue Chris­tians. His re­sults showed that most of

1 the 5,000 Chris­tians sur­veyed were av­er­age-virtue Chris­tians. The mi­nor­ity he iden­ti­fied as high-virtue were those who put ef­fort into do­ing spe­cific things that re­sulted in Chris­tian char­ac­ter growth.

Zi­garelli pointed out that each Chris­tian has a vi­tal, ac­tive role to play in his or her own spir­i­tual growth:

The more com­plete con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of the growth process is that God has a role and we have a role. The in­ter­play of those roles has been likened to the task of sail­ing a boat from one place to an­other. To get a sail­boat from point A to point B, two cru­cial el­e­ments are re­quired: we need some wind blow­ing to­ward our des­ti­na­tion, and we need to put the sail into po­si­tion to catch that wind. You can prob­a­bly guess the anal­ogy here. God’s Holy Spirit is the wind, seek­ing to grad­u­ally move us to­ward Christ­like­ness. We are the sailors, need­ing to raise the sail; that is, to do some­thing that puts us in the po­si­tion to catch God’s Spirit, so that the Spirit will move us along to­ward the de­sired des­ti­na­tion.

2 If we seek more Christ­like­ness in our lives, we need to “raise our sails” by do­ing the things that help to de­velop Christ­like char­ac­ter. Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, be­com­ing Christ­like means al­ter­ing some as­pects of our present char­ac­ter, and such change is dif­fi­cult. How­ever, it is well worth the cost.

Through­out the Gospels, Je­sus taught that the king­dom of God is both fu­ture and present. Liv­ing within the king­dom in the present means that we al­low God to rule and reign in our lives and seek to live in a way that hon­ors and gives glory to Him.

In or­der to be­come more Christ­like, to live more king­dom-cen­tered lives, we need to align our lives, de­ci­sions, ac­tions, and spirit with God and His Word. That means “putting off” some as­pects of our­selves and our char­ac­ter, and “putting on” as­pects of Christ­like­ness. It means cul­ti­vat­ing the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, pa­tience, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, gen­tle­ness, and self-con­trol. As we do our part to raise the sails, we grow in

3 Christ­like­ness.

1. Zi­garelli, Cul­ti­vat­ing Chris­tian Char­ac­ter. 2. Ibid., 39. 3. See Gala­tians 5:22–23.

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