VII. ITS RELATIONS
Developing a Christlike character is one of the seven steps of the Christian life. These distinct steps consist of the following: (1) deadness to self and the world; (2) meditating on the Lord’s Word; (3) watchfulness; (4) prayer; (5) spreading the Lord’s Word; (6) developing character in harmony with the Lord’s Word; and (7) enduring evil from loyalty to the Lord’s Word.
Accordingly, our subject is the sixth step of the Christian life. This does not mean that it is sixth in importance, but that it is sixth in the time of development. From the standpoint of importance it is really first. More stress must be laid upon this than upon any other step in the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3).
What, then, is the nature of the relationship of the sixth step in the Christian life to the other steps? We reply, it is one of dominance. It is to control the other six, as well as work through them. It also has its own specific function, apart from any of them.
VIII. ITS METHODS
The Bible teaches many methods by which a Christlike character may be attained. Character cultivation is like a science. It works along well defined lines, that, if followed, will inevitably bring forth fruits. We may group these methods into two classes: general and special. The general methods for developing a Christlike character are universal in their application, being helpful to cultivate its every element and all the methods used therefor. The special methods do not in every case apply to cultivating every feature of Christian character, nor do they apply in every use of the general methods or of one another. The scope of these methods is twofold: First, the development of good; second, the overcoming of evil. We will briefly consider both classes of methods:
THE GENERAL METHODS FOR DEVELOPING GOOD
(1.) Watchfulness for developing good.
(2.) Prayer for developing good.
(3.) Faith in God’s Spirit, Word and Providences as an arrangement sufficient for developing good.
(4.) Hope for developing good.
(5.) Love for developing good.
(6.) Persistent determination to develop good.
(7.) Exercise in developing good.
THE GENERAL METHODS FOR OVERCOMING EVIL
(1.) Watchfulness for overcoming evil.
(2.) Prayer for overcoming evil.
(3.) Faith in God’s Spirit, Word and Providences as an arrangement sufficient for overcoming evil.
(4.) Hope for overcoming evil.
(5.) Love for overcoming evil.
(6.) Persistent determination to overcome evil.
(7.) Exercise in overcoming evil.
THE SPECIAL METHODS FOR DEVELOPING GOOD
(1.) Subjecting our hearts to the influence of God’s Word, by holding its pertinent parts upon our hearts.
(2.) Imitating God and Christ by devout contemplation of their characters.
(3.) Attaching the things to spiritual things (for the spirit-begotten) and to the things of the Kingdom (for the non-spirit-begotten).
(4.) Suppressing by the higher the control of the lower sentiments.
(5.) Enslaving our sentiments to the will of God.
(6.) Supporting the weak by the strong features of Christian character.
(7.) Dominating all features of character by wisdom, justice, love and power combined with one another in orderly adjustment.
THE SPECIAL METHODS FOR OVERCOMING EVIL
(1.) Detachment of affections from evil.
(2.) Cleansing from evil by the Word.
(3.) Evasion of evil.
(4.) Diversion of attention from evil.
(5.) Displacement of evil by the opposite good.
(6.) Restraint of evil by other than its opposite good.
(7.) Presentation of an impenetrable mind and heart in resistance to evil.
We will discuss the functions of the general methods in a future article, but will at this time treat only of the functions of the special methods. The function of the first special method for developing good – subjecting our hearts to the influence of Gods’ Word by holding its pertinent parts upon our hearts – is to enable us to cultivate every feature of a Christlike character. The function of the second – imitating God and Christ by devout contemplation of their characters – is the same as the first. The function of the third – attaching the affections to spiritual things (for the spirit-begotten) and to the things of the Kingdom (for the non-spirit-begotten) – was to fit the spirit-begotten for heavenly service and existence and the non-spirit-begotten for the earthly phase of the Kingdom. The function of the fourth – suppressing by the higher the control of the lower sentiments – is to develop the secondary graces, pave the way for the heavenly sentiments for the spirit-begotten and the good earthly sentiments for the non-spirit-begotten and keep evil out of the heart. The function of the fifth – enslaving our sentiments to God’s will – is to make them serve righteousness and holiness. The function of the sixth – supporting the weak by the strong features of Christian character – is to keep us from falling into evil, and to strengthen the weak and the strong parts of our characters. And the function of the seventh – dominating all our conduct by wisdom, justice, love and power, combined with one another in orderly adjustment – is to balance character.
Let us, likewise, notice the functions of the seven special methods of overcoming evil. The function of the first special method of overcoming evil – detachment of affections from evil – is to enable us to take the steps preparatory to abhorring, avoiding, and opposing evil. The function of the second – cleansing from evil by the Word – is to rid ourselves from every evil word and work by enabling us to abhor, avoid and oppose evil. The function of the third – evasion of evil – is to enable us to avoid such persons and situations as would inevitably cause us to fall into evil. The function of the fourth – diversion of attention from evil – is to enable us to avoid evil by giving no opportunity for its suggestions to enter our minds and hearts, and to repel its attacks. The function of the fifth – displacement of evil by the opposite good – is to enable us to attack and thus to rid ourselves of evil. The function of the sixth – restraining evil by other than its opposite good – is likewise to enable us to attack and thus rid ourselves of evil. And the function of the seventh – presentation of an impenetrable mind and heart in resistance to evil – is to enable us to repel the attacks of, and thus to keep ourselves free from, evil.
The detailed treatment of each one of these methods with its functions will be given in future articles. The fact that the Bible contains so many methods as we have seen shows us that time is required for the development of Christlikeness, that holiness is a growth.
All God’s people use these methods, at least in part. Without them it would be impossible to be an overcomer. But all God’s people do not use them alike. Some use them consciously, and thus consciously cooperate with the Lord in their development. Others use them, not realizing the process through which their hearts and minds work in their development into Christlikeness. Our Lord Jesus, knowing what methods must be applied, is abundantly able and willing to work in those brethren who are unconscious of the process necessary for their perfection. However, those who consciously co-operate with the Lord in applying these methods in their Christian experience, will surely make more rapid progress and succeed, therefore, all the better in attaining Christlikeness.
IX. ITS ATTAINMENT
Christlikeness is attainable from the fact that some have attained it, but it is also a sad fact that some have failed to do so. Some have made considerable progress in their endeavors to become like Christ, but who finally failed. The following Scriptures prove that some made a huge failure of the high calling: (Hebrews 6: 4-6; 10: 26-29) (2 Peter 2: 1-22) (1 John 5: 16). For such we hold out no hope for life. Undoubtedly the reason for their failure is the fact that they did not make use of the helps of the Lord’s Word, some or all of the methods given above, and indulged in the use of opposite things, until they finally undermined their characters completely.
But it is comforting to know that the Scriptures show that some do succeed in this glorious ambition. We know that the predestinated number made themselves ready as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19: 6-8). Their success under God’s arrangements was due to their faithfulness in the use of the means – the Spirit, the Word and the providences of God, and the methods for developing good and overcoming evil as given above. The fact that these and others have won out in their calling gives us encouragement and inspiration, proving that it is possible for us, if we be true, to win out in our calling. Let the thought that others have succeeded encourage us to keep on, so that we may with them gain the joys and blessings of our calling.
(to be continued)