WE WILL now continue our study of the development of Christlikeness by considering:
III. ITS NECESSITY
The development of a Christlike character is necessary for those who would be faithful to the calling for which God has called them. Without such a character they would be unfitted for their calling. Paul assures us that “godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4: 8).
Christlikeness Necessary for the Present Life
According to the above passage, a Christlike character is necessary for the present life. In the first place, it is necessary for us in order to maintain the standing unto which we have been called. God has separated the consecrated from the rest of mankind, intending that they should lead a life apart from the world under different instruction and with different aims and experiences. This separation of the consecrated from the world is in order that such experiences might be given to them as would fit them for the part that God intends them to have in His Plan. If we fail to develop such a character, we fail to attain the purpose of our calling, and therefore will lose our standing, but he who continues to grow in Christlikeness may hope to retain his place in his calling.
Further, such a character is necessary for continued advancement in Christlikeness. Each step taken is but a stepping stone for further advance. Only as we are faithful to past growth may we expect to continue to grow; therefore, the process of developing a Christlike character requires continued exercise in order that we may make progress.
Then, too, it is necessary in order to insure our rendering proper service to God’s cause. He does not desire simply external service; but wants this service to flow from a heart thoroughly loyal to, and in harmony with, the principles underlying His own character. Therefore, He has so arranged matters with reference to His service that it can be properly rendered only when the service is backed by at least some measure of Christlikeness. How can we reflect credit upon Him, if we are continually misrepresenting His character by our lives?
Furthermore, such a character is necessary to make the service profitable to others. God does not call upon us simply to be active, but to make our activity count in the interests of those whom we serve. But he who serves while violating the features of a Christlike character injures those whom he serves by his example, and makes unacceptable to them, in most cases, what he is seeking to present.
Still further, our service would not be profitable to ourselves unless it flowed out of some measure of the spirit of Christ. Charity or unselfish love is the chief quality in a Christlike character (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3). Accordingly, this passage proves that in order for our service be a blessing to ourselves, it must flow from Christlikeness.
Christlikeness Necessary for the Life to come
But a Christlike character is likewise profitable for the life to come. It is the condition for our attaining the reward that God is pleased to bestow upon us, if faithful. It would be vain to hope for a reward if we did not have His spirit. Furthermore, such a character would be indispensable to a proper use of our future position. How could we serve God under the conditions that He will place the faithful, unless we had a character that could fully measure up to the requirements of those conditions? How could we prove a blessing to the fallen race of mankind, unless we had a heart like our Lord’s, full of “compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way” (Hebrews 5: 2)? How could we be happy without a Christlike character in a position in which it is indispensable for the successful completion of His work? And how could we reflect credit upon God, unless under those conditions we thoroughly show forth His and His Son’s dispositions?
IV. ITS PARTICIPATORS
The participators in the development of Christlikeness are God and ourselves. God is the first participator, as is affirmed everywhere throughout the Scriptures. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2: 13). “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (Philippians 1: 6). “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk” (Ephesians 2: 10). Although God is the great Participator in the development of a Christlike character, He does not do the work personally, but through the ministry of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the glorious agent whom the Father uses in our development. All things are of the Father and by the Son (1 Corinthians 8: 6).
The Means in our Development
God uses certain means in our development. The first of these is His spirit, which is imparted at consecration. God uses it as the thing that He develops by exercising it unto the cultivation of every good word and work. Certain Scriptures show this: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6: 11). “Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Romans 5: 5).
The second means that He uses is the Word of God. His Word “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (Hebrews 4: 12). It is charged with an energy – God’s power. Various Scriptures show this: “I commend you unto God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20: 32). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17).
The third means that God uses for our development is His providences. He arranges our lives in such a way that the necessary experiences will come to us, in harmony with His spirit and Word, so that Jesus’ image is cultivated in us. Scriptures proving this point are: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8: 28). “The steps of a good man are ordered [arranged] by the LORD” (Psalm 37: 23).
The spirit is the quality which is developed and by which He develops us; the Word is the power through which He energizes the spirit in its development; and the providences furnish the necessary experiences and other helps amid, and through which, the development takes place.
The Sphere of our Development
The sphere within which God works for our development is found in God’s dominating qualities of character – His attributes of wisdom, justice, love and power (Jeremiah 9: 24) (Job 37: 23, 24). He seeks to develop our character in three respects, as our conduct may be viewed from three standpoints – its contents, its motives and its manner of expression. By the contents of our acts is meant the things that go to make our acts what they are. For example, the act indicated by the word “murder” has certain things that are its contents. For murder to take place, there must be an illegal taking of life. The illegal taking of life is the content of murder. So, all our acts are made up of certain elements, which is meant by the contents of our acts. By our motives are meant the sentiments that prompt our conduct; and by the manner of expression is meant the external mode of our acts.
Each of these thoughts is separate and distinct. One may perform an act whose contents are good from wrong motives and in a wrong manner; or he may perform an act whose contents are wrong from a good motive and in a good manner; or both motive and contents may be wrong and the manner good. Other combinations are possible. God desires in us that all three be good, in harmony with wisdom, justice, love and power. He, however, lays the main stress upon the motives. These must be good, if we would be at all pleasing in His sight. Whether the manner and the contents of our acts are good or not is not the main thing with God; without good motives it is impossible to be a child of God, though a child of God frequently fails in the contents and in the expression of his acts.
(to be continued)