“We hold a man to be really a Christian when we believe we have ample evidence that God has revealed himself to him in Jesus Christ, and that now the man’s inner life is taking on a new character through his communication with the God who is thus manifest.”
Dr. Willard quotes Wilhelm Hermann, a great theologian of the late 19th century as he describes the change that can occur as a man turns over his inner life to God.
A “new character” emerges.
Have you ever experienced this?
Have you ever seen this happening to someone else?
It says in the 5th chapter of the 2nd Corinthians, 17th verse: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
But beware, this change is not overnight.
Character is not built instantly. Real change does not come with the snap of the fingers.
“I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,” in 1 Corinthians 3:2 these words are said to the “new Christian” the born again Christian who may be “on fire” for God but they have no experience with their newfound love for God.
Old habits die hard.
Words get spoken out of habit. Desires are fulfilled due to long-developed habitual needs. Thoughts come about over long periods of time and it takes major work to rethink how we view life.
One of the first things that becomes clear is the person of “new character” is confronted with choices. What is the best thing to do? This question is the root of a new character. In the past, maybe considering choices was not of much concern. Now a “new man” realizes that’s how a new character is developed. The building blocks of character are the choices we make in life.
It is embarrassing to be a person of “new character” and the old habits automatically kick into gear, without thought. Some Christians call this the reappearance of the “old man” or the person you were before you found God.
Still, the desire to make better choices is there and you know that you need to make the best ones you can.
A major stumbling block is the people in your life. If you were a drinker, you probably had drinking buddies in your life. They will want you to go to the bar and won’t like it when you tell them you would rather not. If you and your friends used foul language, the foul language from your friends will continue even though you don’t want to use it now.
The “stumbling blocks” will know that something has happened to you.
Will they accept it?
Probably not. They want to hang out with the “old man.”
However, the struggle with friends is on the outside. You feel pressure from conversations with them but the real struggle you are feeling is on your inside: God is speaking to you: Romans 7:14-25 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” If Paul is in a struggle, certainly you are in one too.
As “new character” emerges over time, there will be successful days and unsuccessful days.
Sometimes it feels like you are moving closer to God and other times you feel you are moving further away.
Then comes the idea of grace, the knowledge of the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
God realizes that you are a flawed human being but He loves you anyway. God realizes that you will never be able to control all your urges but He loves you anyway. God just loves you anyway.
It is so hard to fathom, the unmerited favor, this undeserved grace but we all have to have it.
We all have a penchant to sin, no matter how hard we try not to.
God is not happy when we sin, but I believe He understands.
God is not going to take our weaknesses away but he will help us work with them over time. Together, He will take your character and mold you into a person you never dreamed you would be. A better person, a human being who serves God, not man.
But you have to ask Him to help you. He won’t do this for you. You have to want it.
You have to do what God says to do because He will show you the way. You have to listen to God’s message and try to comprehend it and carry it out.
And one day, maybe, someone will say about you, “he is really a Christian.”
How you are living your life will be the proof.