In his book, Fruitfulness On The Frontline, Mark Greene describes 6 M’s that are helpful for keeping in mind as we try to live fruitful lives. You can see a pos
t on the general theme of the book here. The first of the 6 M’s is modelling godly character.
At the risk of oversimplifying things, let’s define what is meant by godly character. At the risk of being obnoxiously simplified, it means acting like God – and more pointedly acting like Jesus did while he walked the earth. Jesus, being fully God (Hebrews 1.3) lived the perfect, godly life that our Father has intended for each of us to live. He showed us what it would look like for a human being to live like God.
It means living out the Fruit of the Spirit detailed for us in Galatians 5.22-26 and the way of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. Only Jesus lived these out perfectly. Only Jesus modeled for us what God wants us to do.
This is Kingdom living. We’ve been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and welcomed into the Kingdom of Jesus (Colossians 1.13) so that we can live this life. The Kingdom life is the one that shows what it will be like to live with Jesus as King when he returns in full glory to reign over his creation. Until that day comes, we give the world a sneak peak of the coming age. The Kingdom of God breaks through into our reality by the righteous living of the Church of God.
Of course, we are already doing some of this. As a Christian, some of you are already living with greater patience than you did before. Some of you are more forgiving of other’s failures because you know that your greatest failures have been forgiven by Jesus Christ. Many of you are more generous with your time and resources for those in need because you know you were spiritually poor and received the greatest treasure the universe had to offer – Jesus’ gift of reconciliation and holy standing before the Father. Others of you have joy and peace in greater measure than before because you know the security of being loved no matter what by someone who knows your deepest and darkest secrets, yet will never reject or forsake you. And so, you extend that joy and peace to others without even realizing.
That last bit is the best part of Mark Greene’s message. So many of us are already doing what God has called us to do, though imperfectly. He notes that we don’t realize what we’re doing because it has come to us naturally as we have learned to walk with Jesus. In his words-
We’re dolphins who are being told we’re good at swimming. It doesn’t seem very remarkable, unless of course you’re a lobster, a seahorse, or a kangaroo. The truth is that, when we received Jesus, we became different creations, we were born again.
Fruitfulness On The Frontline, p 66
But of course, we want to do it better. We want to walk more fully in righteousness. We want to be more like Jesus. And we can’t. We just can’t do it.
Living by the Spirit
Left to our own devices, we cannot live better lives. Most of the good things we do now, we don’t try that hard to do. In fact, they have simply become a part of who we are. If you came to Christ at an older age, you likely remember that when you accepted Jesus’ free offer of salvation, some of the old sins in your life just disappeared. Not all of them, but some of them. That was a gift to you from the holy Spirit. In fact, every time you defeat sin in your life, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. So, if you want to overcome some area of sin and unrighteousness – if you want to be a better model of godly character – your first mission is not to try harder, but rather to pray harder. Pray for the presence and work of God in your life by the Holy Spirit. At this point, it is probably best to quote that passage mentioned before from Galatians 5.16-26.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
The Bible teaches that the way to overcome the desires of the flesh (some translations call it the desires of the sinful nature, which is helpful) is to walk by the Holy Spirit. It then contrasts being led by the Spirit versus being under the law. For my take on this, read here. In short, we don’t look to the rules/Law for strength (which really means looking to ourselves for strength) but rather to God, himself.
Additionally, the Bible tells us in this passage that the while the Holy Spirit empowers righteous living, we have the responsibility and opportunity to crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires. More pointedly, it says that those who belong to Jesus already have. How’s that for brash. You already have crucified your flesh. You just don’t act like it.
Imagine a butterfly who refuses to fly because as a caterpillar he always walked. Imagine a toddler who refuses to eat solid food because as a baby she always drank milk. Imagine a sinner who wasn’t righteous because he still thought he was a slave to his flesh and the sin that entrapped him before he was set free and made a new creation by the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the powerful hope of this resurrection. Yeah, sounds crazy to me, too. And yet, I forget every day. I live like the old man over and over again.
What the Fruit Looks Like
If we walk by the Spirit and crucify the flesh in our frontlines, what will it look like? And what impact will it have?
It will look like doing the right thing even if you team or boss or co-worker takes a shortcut or lies to get ahead or cheats a client in billable hours. It will look like standing up for the kid in school who gets bullied or made fun of because he looks/sounds/smells/acts differently from his classmates. It will look like refusing to gossip about the suspected layoffs because gossip doesn’t honor God and you don’t depend on this job for you peace or provision anyway – you trust in the Lord for those things. To take that further, the peace and joy and patience and kindness and faithfulness you can show in that moment will stand in stark contrast to the normal types of responses people will give when facing impending layoffs. To put it mildly, you’ll stand out a bit.
This is fruit in itself. This honors God in itself. God cares about these things. Additionally, extending our layoff scenario, this will bring a level of peace and calm to everyone in your office. People who were worried will be able to gain a new perspective and do their job without as much fear. God cares about that – his shalom taking hold in your workplace. Some will notice your unwillingness to gossip and so will be able to trust you when they are struggling. They know you are a safe person. They’ll listen to your godly advice. God cares about that. Finally, some there will want to know the reason for your hope and you will be able to tell them about Jesus. God cares about that (though let’s be careful not to present this as the only thing he cares about). He wants your co-workers to know that they can experience the same peace, not only for their immediate future related to income and work prospects, but also to their eternal future. God longs to bring them to himself through repentance and trust in Jesus.
What About You?
How do you model godly character? What impact have you seen in make in your frontline? Where would you like God to increase your holiness so you can model his character for others?