If Bill is a maturing disciple of Jesus, then we should expect to see Christ-like characteristics in his life. These traits of character would not be confined to his meetings with other disciples (whether in person or via video chats).
To Bill it would not make a difference whether individuals are male or female or if they have a skin color different than his own. Neither would it matter if they are HIV positive, dotted with herpes, rich, poor, homeless or have a paid up mortgage. Whatever the problem, whatever the addiction or sexual turmoil, people would experience being around a close follower of Jesus. Life would be an amazing experience, if they were around Bill.
The maturing Christ-like life also occurs within Bill; a disciple’s challenge is not a mere challenge in the treatment of others. The maturing life also brings Jesus into the internal conversation we have within ourselves, about ourselves—especially during times of spiritual failure.
The maturing disciple looks at any personal spiritual failure as an opportunity to confess: I need more of the character of the Christ within me. Maturing disciples know that God’s mercy is sometimes best understood when our personal failures assault us and we gasp, “O Lord, please help me.”
Friends, these are prayers God directs and in grace leads us to the Jesus-life-characteristics of the Kingdom. During spiritual failures Bill is called to return to this very Jesus-life-character—this is the call of the maturing disciple.
One place in Scripture where God sets out this life-pattern can be found when Christ’s Apostle to the church(es) of Galatia writes: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23aNIV).
God pictures this Scriptural fruit-truth (an image never to be set aside), as it helps reveal the deep flaws of my soul, my heart, my strength and my mind (Matthew 22:37-39). However, while observing my spiritual failure I ought not dwell in a Satanically devised pit (I John 1:7-10). I seek the maturing-life God intends.
What might such a life look like? Thanks for asking.
Imagine being Bill—when life becomes freedom, being less about yourself and more about others.
Imagine being Bill—free from the competition to be anyone other than yourself because you know Jesus sees everything about you.
Imagine being around Bill—you are treated by someone who acts like Jesus the One who welcomes all who earnestly seek Him.
Imagine being around Bill—for he listens as someone who deeply cares for the sorrows of your soul.
Bill has the opportunity to become more like Jesus, in spite of his own spiritual failures. Like Bill, to this life, to this discipleship I come impoverished. Hymn writer Augustus M. Toplady once wrote, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling….”
- If you imagine yourself being someone like Bill, which of the words in the Galatians passage are most challenging?
- Can you sing some of the words in Toplady’s hymn—Rock of Ages?