A Door to Spiritual Renewal
God wants to press strong character traits into the fabric of your being. So many Christians place the burden on themselves to work up the ability to triumph over character weaknesses and be pleasing to God. This is a recipe for endless frustration. It is God Himself who provides victory over character weaknesses. He gives us the opportunity to appropriate that by repentance, faith, and obedience.
The path to spiritual victory in the area of character training is twofold: (1) the things that pertain to us as individuals, and (2) the things that involve others in the church, such as small groups and mentoring.
First, the individual aspect. We can rest in the finished work of Christ. Some find it difficult to believe that God will answer certain prayers, and it is not within the scope of this devotion to address that general problem, but it should be very easy to believe that we are praying within the will of God to overcome a character weakness within us. By this means He is preparing us for our eternal destiny together with Him and giving us a foretaste of that destiny here on earth.
It is true that we will never be perfect to the side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean that we should see life as a deadly round of sin and repentance, and sin again with no upward movement. Consider the words of John Wesley after his famous experience of spiritual renewal: “Then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.” We are a new creation (1 Cor 5:17). Even Wesley had no lack of things he needed to conquer, but he also had no lack of Holy Spirit power by which to conquer them. He began moving on a higher plane of life.
Second, the importance of our connection with fellow Christians. Continual victory over character weaknesses is among the sure signs of spiritual renewal. One of the early signs of revival following the horrors of World War II occurred in Darmstadt, Germany, when the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary was founded by Sister Basilea Schlink, a German theologian and intellectual, in 1947. The sisterhood is an ecumenical, Lutheran based, religious order which immediately began to emphasize repentance and personal revival.
Their experience of joy and peace stems from their concentration on having power over sinful habits. They have a phrase: ‘repentance, the joy-filled life’. Their point is that when we turn from sin we are enabled to draw on joy and peace. We cannot have joy and peace as a kind of ‘positive thinking’ activity, but when we have power over sin it is a consequence that we will draw on those blessings from God.
We have to believe that victory over sinful tendencies is continually possible. The battle of faith has to be fought every day, but so far as God is concerned we don’t have to be afraid, because we have the constant availability of Holy Spirit power on which we can draw. This implies, of course, a state of mind based on dependence, rather than self-sufficiency, and yet paradoxically it’s state of mind in which we are more than conqueror.
God’s life is within us, and that means He becomes our purity; becomes our courage, becomes whatever character strength that we need and that He wants us to have. That goes deeper than saying that He will give us those things, because it is the Kingdom within us, His very Life within us, by which we are assured of these things as our possession. If we are not sensing or exhibiting these things right now, we can affirm them by faith with thanksgiving that they have been given to us, and the more we do that, the more easily they become our habitual way of life.
Open yourself to God’s powerful action; let it flow to you and through you. Develop a big vision of the promised spiritual blessings that are available; open yourself to them and act accordingly. Continual victory over character weaknesses can be ours.