What keeps us from sustained spiritual growth after we become Christians, or for some, from even continuing in the faith? Some would say a failure to “be in the Word,” or not being “faithful in church attendance,” or maybe a lack of “total commitment.” However, how many who diligently check each of those boxes, upon close examination, exhibit very little “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, humility and self-control?”
Those qualities, Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22, 23, are a measure of our spiritual growth, and they are very difficult (impossible!) to self-manufacture. Harking up this fruit—unconditional love that takes no account of a wrong suffered, joy from deep within that has nothing to do with circumstances, and a “peace that passes all understanding,” even in the midst of intense pressure—is impossible for anyone to achieve by trying to do so, no matter the effort expended.
It was not until my late 60’s and 70’s that I began to recognize, for the first time, a positive, Christian quality of which I was completely unaware. After being a serious Christian for over 40 years, I began to be aware of the fact that this attribute was in very short supply, if not totally absent, in my life. As I looked at Christians around me, I realized I was not alone. Most of them were lacking this trait just as I was, and those that had it either were unaware of what they had or did not realize it was a treasure and incredibly important in their growth as Christians.
Only God can open eyes to see the importance of this characteristic. Time after time in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, new plateaus of spiritual life, often after years of “service for God,” were the result of awakening to this trait. What is this linchpin, this “spiritual key,” to opening whole new vistas for us in our Christian lives? How can it be as simple, unrecognized, and seemingly insignificant as it appears to be?
It is simple, but it is not easy. This quality we must have if we are to grow to maturity in our faith is the quality of SELF–AWARENESS. “Who am I really, in my heart of hearts?” I found that not only was I not self-aware, but I really didn’t want to be! It is truly a simple idea, but it is not an easy idea to embrace.
I desperately do not want to be a sinner, as being self-aware inevitably exposes that I am. I want to be good, right, first and successful; I don’t want to be evil, wrong, last, and a failure. Who does?!
However, we have no choice; our ancestor Adam made that choice for us. At the Tree in the Garden, Adam chose independence from God as his way to live; he fell for Satan’s trick to “be like God,” making his own decisions, charting his own course. We all come out of the womb naturally and unknowingly adopting this way of life, chosen by our original ancestor Adam.
Self-awareness of the fact that I, too, have eaten of the forbidden fruit of independence from God in itself is not the cure for this original sin, but it is the means to the cure; it is not the medicine, but it is the system by which the medicine is delivered.
Since we are but creatures and not the Creator, we were not created to live in this way of deciding for ourselves how we should live. Living in this manner is a disaster, just as a five-year-old living on his own and making all his own decisions would be! Can you picture what that would be like?
If we are self-aware, we realize this is true, because we recognize that we are trying to live by “making good decisions,” living by our “free will.” and by being “obedient to God.” These are untouchable “sacred cows” to most Christians.
However, this way of life may have gotten us “success” but it has not gotten us the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It cannot, for this way to live is “living by the law.” It can never bring the total satisfaction in our hearts that only comes by living as we were created to live and doing what we were created to do—not living by the law, but living by faith in the Spirit within to guide us as we rule for our Father in the responsibilities He has given us here on earth in this life.
So, when we look with open eyes because of our new self-awareness and we “see” this independent way of life that we live and that is endemic to us all, even committed Christians, the delivery system has done its job. We are ready for the medicine—joyfully embracing the sin of independence from God that He has shown us and then ruthlessly and eagerly repenting of it!
This is always the door, the gate, the only way in to this life of faith that we have realized we are not living. And we cannot enter it without the self-awareness that this independence from God is the root of all sin, and it has infected everything about our lives.
But, miracle of miracles, despite this total depravity, God loves us unconditionally. His love is not affected by our self-awareness or lack thereof! He loves us, and is gradually, line-upon-line, moving us toward “seeing.” Judgment has been poured out at the cross. He patiently waits until we tire and give up our foolish, ridiculous quest for independence, and come home to Daddy. He is waiting for us all to climb up into His open, welcoming arms and listen to His words: “Everything is OK. I’ve got you. The fight is over. Relax. I love you.”
Are you ready to join me every day, moment by moment, as I am eagerly learning to do just that. Join me as I then tell Him, “You’ve got me, and I trust you with my life, Daddy. I love you!”