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Developing character
Sunday 26th September


Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 

 

Thought and introduction.

 

When we become Christians some things change in our lives. There is a transformation from our old life into that of a new creation. There are Character changes that instantly mark us out as different from the world, whilst other things develop over time. Joseph last week spoke of the character needed to hold the line. I spoke two weeks ago a lot about what it means to worshipfully present ourselves with the previous verse in Rom. 12.1 

 

This morning I want to further develop the idea of character transformation as new creations 

 

The approach of some as to how a Christian should live could fall into either legalism, following the letter of the law at the one end or spiritual spontaneous living on the other. 

 

As we grow and mature in our relationship with Christ we begin to employ our thinking in different ways.  Speaking to someone recently who was comparing his conversion experience with a friend. His friend upon conversion instantly stopped using foul language, while he observed it was an area he still struggled.

 

In our scripture today the apostle Paul speaks of an attitude of a renewed mind.  He speaks of a non-conformist attitude towards the world and the way things are done, this can speak into a new Christian mindset. Therefore Paul spends more time on why we do the right things rather than just listing out a set of rules.  

 

The principles we live by now flow out from our baptism into Christ, the death of our old life, the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and the character that has been developed by forming new habits.  In addition to what we intrinsically value and what we can call second nature. 

 

How we know the right way to behave, Paul suggests, often is because we are part of the new creation, and as a new flourishing human being we are to be different.  Therefore he urges us to think through from first principles of what it means to live in the new age, which was inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Thinking in this way, rather than conformity with the world, equips God's people not only for that particular topic or ethical matter but also for every other question that we may encounter, 

 

This is the kind of thing Paul is doing again and again helping us to think as new creatures. 

 

So it helps us to understand what Paul is doing, as bringing in the kingdom of God, developing us citizens of the heavenly kingdom. One view is that Paul was a not just teacher of religion and ethics, rather he was someone who believed that God was, at last, fulfilling his promises and launching His new age upon the world. 

 

So how do we live in this new world as agents of God bringing in kingdom principles, new life, a new creation that is holy and acceptable to God. How do we live as people with transformed minds constantly being renewed and different from the world around us?  

 

If then we live by a different standard We will, by the mercies of God endeavour to live a life, according to the good acceptable and perfect will of God. 

 

Outline:

 

  1. The letter of the law.

 

A well-known saying is the letter kills but the spirit gives life. Therefore Spiritual life is highly recommended, rather than living by a form of religion that denies spiritual power and one that relies upon legalism to keep people living ethical lives. Paul suggests this kind of life in the letter to the Galatians and he proposes the difference between being legalistic and spirit-led. 

 

The writer of Hebrews also speaks of the difference between someone following the Jewish laws of the sacrificial system especially when it comes to our conscience. 

 

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come,  and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 

 

For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  Hebrews 10 1-3

 

Under this system and Because of sacrifice their conscience was clear for a year.

 

Some who view religion as only either ritualistic or legalistic can feel the weight and guilt of their sins until the next time they can offer up a prayer.

 

Their view can be that we are only forgiven until the next time we pray or until we are punished.  

 

However, those led by the spirit and who have a revelation of the grace of God don't live with the mindset that we are conscious of the sin in our lives when Christ has forgiven our sin once and for all time.

 

Some have even built a ministry around delving into the past to find some ancestry sin etc or some generational curse or repenting on behalf of others. 

 

The word repentance is key in our approach to Christ as this means a change of mind. If our mind is constantly in battle, what do we believe about this or that and if we fail to trust God indeed, we find ourselves needing to repent (change our minds). 

 

Hebrews makes it clear that Christ has paid for our sin once and for all time

 

“Every day the priests stand and do their religious service, often offering the same sacrifices. Those sacrifices can never take away sins.

 

With one sacrifice he (Christ) made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 

 

The Holy Spirit also tells us about this. First, he says: “This is the agreement I will make with them at that time, says the Lord. I will put my teachings in their hearts and write them on their minds.” Then he says: “Their sins and the evil things they do— I will not remember anymore.” 

 

Now when these have been forgiven, there is no more need for a sacrifice for sins.”

Hebrews 10:11, 14-18 NCV

 

Again here we see God’s teachings and his covenant agreement indelibly printed on our hearts and minds. The sacrificial system is no longer required, as people not only do what is right, they know in their hearts and out of that knowing they live accordingly.

 

  1. The fruitful Spirit life

 

In Galatians, Paul writes of the vices and virtues of those who are either led by the Spirit or walk in their flesh. He reiterates that by grace our Justification is by faith in Christ and not by the law. 

 

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 

 

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 

 

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

 

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 

 

If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:16-26 

 

Here is the ‘why’ we live the way we live.

 

To live ethically and be guided by the spirit is neither some spontaneous whimsical life, “I see where the spirit takes me”, nor is it one of old testament law, it's not one of legalism.  It is a life of one who has been crucified, it is a life of energised spiritual empowerment, one that does not rely upon their flesh or their self, but is dependant on the spirit. 

The fruit (singular) of the spirit is all these virtues, mentioned here by Paul, some of which we know from experience requires practice. 

 

Darcy and Elisabeth example. Trying to determine his character.

 

Darcy says I fear that I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers (despite being a man of sense and education)

 

He continues “I have not that talent which some possess of conversing easily with strangers 

 

Elizabeth says “I do not play this instrument so well as I wish to but I have always supposed to be my fault because I would not take the trouble of practising.”

 

“You have employed your talents and time much better, no one who has heard you play could ever think otherwise”

 

A fun example of differing views of character development, Elizabeth is aware of her faults and owns them, when her natural talent seems lacking. 

 

We are clear in our doctrine that we are saved by grace through faith. However, this brings the question what about the ethical character development of the new creation Christ follower. 

 

 

  1. Godly character development 

 

To develop the character God wants us to have is to understand the role our mind has in our life. For example, Self-control seems to be a strange characteristic of a fruit of the spirit as it seems to point us towards a saved by works mentality.

 

We understand we are new creations, old things are passed away but we also understand our mind is being renewed as we start to think the way God thinks 

 

People who are developing their Character understand the pain of the process. Some have looked to events or someone laying their hands upon us and praying for us to change where often the scripture talks more about the process.

 

The apostle said 'I labour until Christ is formed in you' and of himself 'He who has begun a good work in me will complete it.'

 

Our salvation began with an event or a decision but our character change is often more of a process, not just an event.

 

The moment we said we accept Christ and we leave behind our old life in repentance we begin our journey. Whilst we would love instantly to display perfectly the nine spiritual characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, we still have to walk them out.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

In our scripture today the apostle Paul speaks of an attitude of a renewed mind.  He speaks of a non-conformist attitude towards the world and the way things are done, this can speak into a new Christian mindset. Therefore Paul spends more time on why we do the right things rather than just listing out a set of rules.  

 

The principles we live by now flow out from our baptism into Christ, our death to our old life, the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and the character that is being developed by forming new habits.  In addition to what we intrinsically value and what we can call second nature. 

 

How we know the right way to behave, Paul suggests, often is because we are part of the new creation, and a new flourishing human being we are to be different.  Therefore he urges us to think through from first principles of what it means to live in the new age, which was inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Thinking in this way, rather than conformity with the world, equips God's people not only for that particular topic or ethical matter but also for every other question that we may encounter, 

 

This is the kind of thing Paul is doing again and again helping us to think as new creatures. 

 

So if it helps us to see what Paul is doing, as bringing in the kingdom of God, developing us citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Paul was a not just teacher of religion and ethics, rather he was someone who believed that God was, at last, fulfilling his promises and launching His new age upon the world. 

 

So how do we live in this new world as agents of God bringing in kingdom principles, new life, a new creation that is holy and acceptable to God. How do we live as people with transformed minds constantly being renewed and different from the world around us? Because we live by a different standard, we won’t want to conform to the world around us. We will, by the mercies of God endeavour to live a life, according to the good acceptable and perfect will of God. 

 

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