Summary: The sermon is focusing on the character that as Christians we ought to have. Christian life is about growth in our salvation or in our relationship with God and that comes by character development.
Fruit of the Spirit – Christlikeness – Imitation of Christ
Gal. 5:22; (Gal. 5:16-26)
26th March 2006
Agape Church – CNI Gujarat - INDIA
By Happy Pathik (M. Div, Th. M.)
I received e-mail from a friend asking my help for growth in spiritual life. He told me that he is reading the Bible and praying but is not experiencing the fullness in Christian life. So I wrote something about developing the character that exhibits Christlikeness. Thus I would like to speak also today about Christlikeness. The goal of Christian life is “to be like Christ.” Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” (11:1) Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount says “Be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). Again in the letter to the Hebrews we are told to follow the example of the leaders of the Bible (Heb. 13:7). There are many other passages in the Bible that suggests that we have to be like Christ.
We are called to be like God. Thus it is important that we exhibit the characters of God in our lives. After our death we are going to be in heaven where God dwells and it is better that we prepare ourselves in our character and in living for that heavenly abode.
Fruit to show Christlikeness:
There are many passages in the Bible where we are told that we should do certain things and should not do certain things. However, we are going to look at the epistle of Paul to the Galatians, chapter five and verses 22-23. These verses discuss about the fruit (character) of the Spirit in the lives of the believers.
The passage talks about the “fruit of the Spirit”, an outcome of a relationship with Christ. Fruit signifies growth in ones life. The fruit can either be good or bad. In the market at times we are not able to identify the quality of fruits or vegetables from its appearance. There are bitter cucumbers others are sweet. From the outside appearance both are looking alike but only when you taste it you realize that there is a difference. So having fruits are not only important but what kind of fruit we have is also important. C. S. Lewis says that if you are not growing like Christ you will grow like a monster. So each and everyone are growing but the question is in which direction. Here we are told to exhibit the character of the Spirit. We will be called by the kind of character we have. “The tree is known by its fruits.” (Matt 12:33). Charles Swindoll says, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
The Scripture is reminding us that we should grow up in our salvation (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Probably this part is not much considered by most of the Christians. We are just satisfied by reading the Bible, praying and going to church. However, our lives are not transformed in the likeness of Jesus that ought to happen as a result of our relationship with Him on an everyday basis.
Many of us are calling ourselves “Christians” but we have not seen any growth in our Christian life. That shows something is wrong with our understanding about the Christian faith. As we claim to call ourselves follower of Jesus Christ there should be growth in our character. The growth could be slow but it should be there when someone claims to be a follower of Jesus.
Nine Character traits to show Christlikeness: Galatians
In the passage that was read, Paul talks about nine fruit of the Spirit. The first three virtues of the fruit (Love, Joy and Peace) talk about our relationship with God, the second three (Patience, Kindness and Goodness) talk about our relationship with other people and the last three (Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control) talk about our relationship with ourselves.
Relationship with God: Love, Joy and Peace
Love: The first virtue Paul is mentioning is love. This is the first and the most important aspect of character a Christian should have. If we have not experienced the love of God in our lives we cannot exhibit that virtue in our life. Karl Barth, a very famous theologian, has written number of books called “Dogmatic.” When he was asked to summarize them, he said, “Jesus loves me this I know cause the Bible tells me so.” No matter who we are in our education, social status and economic background, the virtue of love should be seen in the believer. But that is not possible if we have not experienced the love of God in our own life first. Can you say personally “God loves me”? Can you say “I have experienced the love of God in my life”? I realize that many times we may not receive the love that we need in our family life but when we have experienced the love of God, we naturally become a loving person.