It’s the Stuff on the Inside We Can’t Seem to Fix
Suppose you could change anything about yourself, where would you start? Most of us would probably start on the outside. We would like to be skinnier and taller. We would like to have a smoother complexion, which means no acne problems for teenagers and no wrinkle problems for keenagers. Changing the outside is hard and it’s slow. But as hard as it is to change on the outside, changing the inside seems infinitely harder and slower.
We all know we need to change something, but we don’t know how to do it and we don’t know where to begin. We all dream of being better than the person we are today. But when we get up in the morning and look in the mirror, all we see is the same old person looking back at us. That’s why we move, change jobs, get a facelift, buy a new car, start a new career, go to a new church, start working out, buy a new outfit, and on and on it goes. It’s not as if those things are wrong in themselves. Sometimes we need to make outward changes. But it’s not the outward stuff that trips us up. It’s the stuff on the inside that we can’t seem to fix. But God can, through the power of His Word. When the Word of God sinks into our minds and hearts, it changes us; it makes us more Christ-like.
We have an idea of what Christ-like behavior looks like on the outside. People who are Christ-like demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, etc. But the fruit of the Spirit is not something we can just add on, like an ornament on a Christmas tree. Fruit develops from inside the tree and becomes visible as it develops and matures.
The same is true in the life of the Christian. Since God changes us from the inside out, what exactly does Christ-likeness look like on the inside? And how is that expressed in my life? In Ephesians 4:2-6, Paul gives us four Christ-like attitudes that indicate we are walking in a way that is worthy of our calling: humility, meekness, patience, and forbearance.
Humility is not low self-esteem or a refusal to acknowledge one’s talents; rather, it is a sober self-assessment in which we do not think of ourselves more highly than we ought and yet realize what we can contribute to the advance of the kingdom.
According to theologian Charles Hodge, meekness (or “gentleness” as other translations render the Greek), “is that unresisting, uncomplaining disposition of mind which enables us to bear other people’s faults without irritation or resentment.”
The word literally means "long-tempered" or as someone has suggested, "long-fused." This is all about how you respond to frustrations, inconveniences, delays, aggravating people, and maddening circumstances.
Literally, this means putting up with people. It's kind of a messy word for people that you don't like.
Growing into Christlikeness is a community of faith project. This is the greenhouse where it happens. That's why it's so important that you regularly gather with God's people, where His Spirit can work to form these traits in you. When God wants to form our character, He doesn't give us a to-do list. He puts us in community with fellow believers where the image of Christ is stamped onto our being.