Four Fundamentals of Growth in Christlikeness: Part I
First: Courage

Introduction: The four-part series: Growth in Christlikeness: Courage, Humility, Endurance, and Wisdom is intended to bless the believer as he imitates Christ. Salvation and life after salvation are linked, Once saved the believer begins his growth in Christlikeness. By that term I mean the believer becomes and more like Christ daily in thoughts, desires, and actions. C.H.E.W is my acronym that stands for courage, humility, endurance, and wisdom. Each of these terms are integral aspects of growth in Christlikeness for every believer. In my own prayer life, I remember others and myself. I pray for our growth in Christlikeness. It occurred to me that these four letters (CHEW) addressed most, if not all, of my prayer requests for others and me in terms of growth in Christlikeness. It was clear to me that the principles encompassed by these words rightly understood and applied were indispensable for growth in Christlikeness. That in itself is imitates Christ which glorifies God. Today we will look at courage.

Synonyms for courage include boldness, bravery, nerve, and valor. Biblically the word courage is most commonly translated from “tharreo” and “tharseo.” Each of these words carries with it the meaning of good cheer, hope, and confidence. From various passages we learn that courage is an inner-man activity. The person of or with courage does not have a divided heart (James 1:8; 4:8). He is strong-hearted. Courage is related to a conscious awareness of God’s presence and looks toward victory in Christ. It is commanded and it is linked to faith and hope. It has a now and eternal perspective which enables the person to live as the victor he is in Christ while on earth (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). Courage is action-producing with anticipated results. It is an inner-man (heart) activity that is expressed by changed thoughts, desires, and actions. Consider the following sample passages:

First, Matthew 9:2: When Jesus saw the faith (faith in action or faithfulness) of the paralytic and his friends, Jesus told him: Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven. Jesus’ statement is interesting in light of the fact that the five men had demonstrated courageous faith in coming to Jesus. Jesus points out that there is something far superior to physical healing – remission of sin and a changed heart. This came about as they courageously sought Christ.

Second, Matthew 9:22: Jesus announced to the woman, who dared to touch Him, that she was healed – “Take heart daughter,” he said,” Your faith has healed you.” The woman had been ill for decades and had found no relief. Initially, convinced of the power of Christ to heal, she courageously sought to touch His garments. However, Jesus wasn’t satisfied with simply healing her physically. He perfected her faith. He exposed her publicly, and with fear and trembling, she came face to face with Christ. She sought healing and found a Person. As result, her faith grew as she experienced God’s person and power intimately. Saving faith is also enabling faith that moves a person to increasingly trust and depend on Jesus. Growth in Christ has a beginning but will continue eternally.

Third, Matthew 14:27: The disciples tired and in turbulent water saw a figure walking on the water. They were fearful. In response, Jesus assured them: Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. Jesus drives home the truth that His presence should change a person’s perspective of, and response to circumstances. This same truth was expressed in Deuteronomy 31:6-9 and repeated to Joshua 1:5-9. Jesus is ego eimi – it is I. The phrase hearkens us back to the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-6. Believers are not alone – God is present in all His glory. Jesus drove home the point that His presence matters. It was His antidote for fear. Growth in Christ requires courage. Jesus was and is the most courageous person who has ever lived!

Fourth, John 16:33: Christ closes His teaching to the disciples with these words: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. The disciples had something to do – they were to strengthen themselves in the inner man – take heart, be courageous (also John 14:1-3). Part of courageous living requires the person to live by hope, faith, and trust – by his spiritual eyes – rather than the physical eyes – the senses. Jesus told the disciples: Don’t let your harts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me (John 14:1). Jesus called them to have courage – a trusting heart is a courageous one that gives rise to courageous faith. The issue is one of control. Courage enables the believer to trust God rather than himself. It is essential for growth in Christ. They lived before the cross but they had the very person of Christ speaking to them and making promises. Today, believers live on this side of the cross and the resurrection. Christ confirmed himself trustworthy.

Did they believe that Jesus was trustworthy? Jesus based His command on His soon-to-occur crucifixion and resurrection. Peace is one result of Christ’s victory (Romans 5:1-3). In Romans 8:35-39, Paul highlights Jesus’ promise for the believer – they are more than conquerors because they are in Christ – united to Him by saving faith. Believers live on this side of the cross. Christ has proved himself trustworthy.

Fifth, Acts 23:11: Paul, on his way to Rome (he hoped), stood before the Sanhedrin. Trouble had erupted and he was taken to the barracks for safety. In verse 11, Luke wrote: ….Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem so you must also testify in Rome. God strengthened Paul for his labors. Unlike believers today, Paul had direct revelation from God (Acts 18:9; 23:11; 27:23). We, too, have a word from God – His written word. Paul was strengthened by the presence of God. Paul knew he was not alone. He knew, but was reminded by God, that he was doing God’s work and that God would supply grace to him to run the race and run it well – to accomplish his God-given task. Take courage is a heart command – get busy being what you are in Christ. Steady and constant living out one’s faith is an inner-man activity that embodies courage. Courage is a necessary ingredient for growth in Christlikeness. Jesus was and is the most courageous person to have lived.

1. Write out what courage is and how to get it. In addition to the passages above consider Hebrews 13:6, 2 Cor. 10:1 (the Greek word is translated as bold).
2. Answer how God is present with you and your response.
3. How and why is God’s presence a blessing or curse to you?
4. What areas of life are you most lacking in courage?

The Second Fundamental: Part II

Continuing our study of growth in Christlikeness, we encounter a second word in the acronym CHEW is humility. It is an interesting word. It is frequently misunderstood and often misapplied. The assumption is that believers are to be humble. What is humility and how does one “become” humble and act humbly? In the New Testament two words are generally translated humble (tapeinoo and prautes). Each word carries the idea of lowliness of mind, disposition, and attitude in contrast to regard to a standard. It is indispensable for growth in Christlikeness.

Biblically, humility is an inner-man (heart) activity in which the person thinks about himself differently than when he was an unbeliever. He thinks about God and others differently as well. As a result, his desires and actions change. Humility is not to be equated with humiliation. Humiliation refers to God’s providence – where God has placed a person. The situation may be a result of the person’s sin or it may be unrelated to his own sin. Humiliation may or may not humble a person. In fact, situations and conditions do not humble a person. They are the context for the person’s heart response. Every unbeliever, as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom, developed the mindset and lifestyle of “me-first.” A habit pattern developed which carried over into the believer’s life. Even as a child of God, the principle of self-pleasing remains. The power of the principle of self-pleasing has been broken, but not its practice.

First and foremost, humility is a heart and root issue that is expressed by fruit – thoughts, desires, and actions both in the inner man (heart) and the outer man (the body). Humility is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions. Humility has a vertical (toward God) and horizontal (toward others) reference. Humility begins as an honest and accurate evaluation of self in relation to God. God’s people are called to be humble. Growth in Christ requires it. Consider the following passages:

  • First, Matthew 11:29: Jesus declares that He is meek and humble of heart. Jesus points His hearers (and readers) to that which He is – humble of heart. In this context, His humility, not His humiliations, is a motivation for His listeners to come to Him, to embrace Him personally and His teaching. As a result, they will find inner-man rest – they will cease trusting self and trust God! They will begin and continue growth in Christ. Jesus contrasts Himself and His teaching with the leaders of the day. The leaders had developed and promoted a self-righteousness that had burdened the sheep. Personal law-keeping was the essence of their religiosity. Christ called the people to depend on His perfect law-keeping. Only when a person changes his view of God and himself will the sheep be unburdened. His call: Come to Me was a call to rely on His teaching and ultimately on Him. It was the only to approach the Father and for growth in Christ. Jesus, motivated by the desire to please the Father, came, called and is calling His people through the Spirit. He accomplished His purpose because He put honoring the Triune God over honoring Himself. Growth in Christ is embedded in humility rightly understood. .
  • Second, Philippians 2:8: Paul teaches a great truth about Jesus. Jesus humbled Himself in His incarnation. He laid aside infinity and took on finite-ness. He laid aside receiving His just due: reverence, worship, and glory. He laid aside His God-ness! Humility Jesus humbled Himself because He was humble! Humility was something He was. He did not become humble as He stepped into His humiliation. His humiliation did not humble Him. Jesus considered His God-ness in an entirely different manner than one might think. Being glorified and worshiped as God Almighty was not as important to Him as was fulfilling His Father’s desires and pleasing Him. The function of the Trinity was at stake. For the honor and glory of the Godhead, Jesus took human flesh and lived under the curse of the law. He set aside that which was rightfully His for the greater gain – pleasing the Father. Jesus acted from a right relationship with the Father which controlled what He did and how He did it. Such is humility. It is something that one is (a humble person) and what one does (Jesus humbled Himself). Jesus stepped into humiliation as a humble Man in order to accomplish a goal. Growth in Christ flows from a humble heart.
  • Third, Philippians 2:3-5: Paul called on each member of the congregation to think differently about themselves and each other. They were to have the mind of Christ. In these verses, Paul commands humility: do nothing out of self-ambition or vain conceit (both indicate a self-exalting and self-grasping mindset and activity (James 3:13-18). They were to think about people as if they were more important than themselves. Paul is speaking of relationships and of rights. First in line and the first to get the coffee were not to be the believer’s goal. Paul commands you to set aside your rights in deference to another. Paul knew that if the Philippians thought differently about God, they would think differently about themselves and others. Winning, having your way, being first in line, or refusing to be courteous are some manifestations of the “I wants” and I deserve.” These expectations easily become demands. When that happens fights and quarrels ensue (James 4:1-3). It is not a pretty picture.
  • Fourth, James 4:6, 10: Humbling oneself has been modeled by Christ (His incarnation, John 13:1-4). James teaches that humbling oneself is commanded. The fact of the command indicates that every believer can, and is, to grow in humility. There can be no excuses!  In verse 6, James gives motivation in terms of a warning: God opposes (actively works against) the proud but gives grace to the humble. The contrast is clear: proud people can expect trouble – from God. Peter picks up this theme in 1 Peter 5:5-7.

1. Take time to rethink your definition of pride and humility. Remember both are inner- man activities that are based on your assessment of yourself, others, and God.
2. Write out a self-pleasing list – where, when, how you practice it.
3. Based on Matthew 11:28-30, describe the unrest within you. How does Jesus’ call to come to Him offer hope and encouragement? Relate your answer to the C in CHEW.

The Third Fundamental: Part III

Another aspect of growth in Christlikeness is endurance. The third letter in the acronym is “E” which indicates endurance. I am speaking of biblical endurance. I hear many descriptions of endurance such as toleration, acceptance, and hanging in there. Notice each of these terms is a noun. Most people define endurance in a passive manner, but, paradoxically, the words used for endurance are quite active – enduring, accepting, hanging in there, hanging on, keeping in there, and coping.

Everyone endures. Only the believer can, and will, endure God’s way. He becomes more like Christ and reaches for and further accomplishes the goal of becoming more like Christ. Endurance without a proper vertical reference (to God) is not biblical. It dishonors God. It is burdensome for the one who practices it. It is deceptively counterproductive to the person and cause of Christ. Therefore, biblical endurance is not:
• passive or reactive;
• a matter of mere survival, hanging in and on, or self-protection;
• simply duty or a badge of honor;
• a spiritualized slogan of “I have to trust God more” or “I have to pray more.”

Rather, biblical endurance is a whole-person activity and contrasts false endurance. The believer, who practices biblical endurance, is patiently, actively, willfully, and vigorously carrying on and bearing up in the pressures of life (actually God’s providential control). He uses biblical principles in the problem to honor God because God is God. This is true growth in Christlikeness! The believer acts out of gratitude for his salvation and sanctification. Biblical endurance helps the believer accomplish God’s design of becoming more like Christ.

Biblical endurance has several hallmarks:

  • One is a proper vertical and eternal reference in and to life (God’s control of His world including everyone’s circumstances). Hebrews 12:1-3 teaches, among other truths, that Jesus ran the race set before Him because of His known destiny established by the Godhead in eternity past. Knowing the past (eternity past) and the future (His eternal heavenly throne and home as the exalted Lord of lords and King of kings) affected His present – His earthly ministry (see Colossians 3:1-3 and 1 John 3:1-3 for application to the believer). Jesus and do believers knew who He was, why He came, His mission, and His destiny. Believers have this same set of facts and called and equipped to endure like Jesus.
  • A second hallmark is emphasized in Hebrews 12:1-3. Jesus had the correct focus for life. He focused on God’s good purpose and the method that He was to use to bring about that purpose. The cross and the resurrection were the means by which the Triune God proved trustworthy. The cross and Christ’s perfect life and death and the resurrection were absolutely essential for God to be righteous and just as well as merciful and loving. The cross and the resurrection preeminently declare a good God’s victorious control now and eternally. In unpleasantness, the believer is to focus on his good God and God’s good, purposeful control and methods of Hi redemptive plan. When the believer thinks and desires after God’s own heart, he honors God by using what is unpleasant to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9). There is satisfaction and contentment.
  • A third hallmark of biblical endurance is a proper knowledge of the race – its author and how it should be run. Every person is in a race. I am not speaking of a rat race, but the one established by God’s creational design. It is a race of growing and changing becoming more like Christ: Hebrews 12:1-2. God put the believer in His family and kingdom by translating him from Satan’s family and kingdom (Colossians 1:13). God placed every believer in the race and gives instructions on how it should be run. In the same passage, the author of the book of Hebrews instructed his readers to fix their thoughts and desires on Christ and pleasing Him. The believer runs the race God’s way (learning and applying biblical principles) for God’s glory. Along the way the believer matures in Christlikeness. He becomes more and more a God-pleaser and less and less a self-pleaser. He rejoices in his God as he looks beyond the unpleasantness to God and His purpose. He focuses, not on the pain and unpleasantness, but on the gain – becoming more like Christ.

In summary, biblical endurance is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions – in which the believer uses both hard times and mundane ones as God’s instrument to grow and mature.

1. List pressures and irritations in your life and write out your response and the reasons for it.
2. Write out what biblical truths you need in order to endure God’s way.
3. When you don’t endure God’s way, write out what you are doing and your reasons.
4. Apply 2 Corinthians 5:9 and Romans 8:28-29 daily and record how you grew as a “biblical-endurer.”

Growth in Christlikeness: Fourth Fundamental: Part IV

In our study of growth in Christlikeness, we come to our fourth letter in our acronym CHEW – wisdom. Wisdom can be defined as applied knowledge. Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something. Knowledge focuses on knowing things about a person or situation.

God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge exponentially different. God’s knowledge is infallible, innate, non-derived, comprehensive, original, and perfect. It is infinite as He is infinite. He does not make mistakes. He has answers but no questions! He knows all things and people including Himself perfectly, completely, and eternally. He knows what He is doing and he informs his people through the Bible. As a result, He knows what is best and knows the best way to bring that end about.

A working definition of God’s knowledge is that perfection whereby He knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and simple act (Isaiah 40:27-28; 29:15; Psalm 94:9; 147:4). God is a rational, all-knowing Being with knowledge and wisdom that are simply godly are mind-boggling realities. They are passed our finding out! His greatness and wisdom no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3). Yet, too often, we think of God as one of us (Psalm 50:21).

Man’s knowledge is finite as he is finite and created. Therefore, it is derived, limited, and tainted with sin. Man’s knowledge is a key feature of man’s religious nature. Man was created as a rational (thinking) and religious (worshiping) being. Man is because God is. Man, God’s image bearer, thinks because God thinks. Man focuses on either his thoughts and desires or on God’s thoughts and desires (Isaiah 55:1-10). Moreover, everyone knows God – everyone is a theologian. The questions are: What does man know? What does man do with that knowledge? How is man wise or foolish in God’s world? Man has only two choices: fear of the Lord and wise according to God’s truth or wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 3:5-8). One choice is concerned with growth in Christlikeness and the other choice follows Satan and growth in his likeness.

Wisdom is a particular aspect of knowledge. The all-knowing God produces the best possible results with the best possible means. Knowledge and wisdom speak to His good and purposeful control. Biblically, knowledge and wisdom differ. Wisdom is applied knowledge. James captures this fact in James 3:13-18. James asks penetrating questions: Do you consider yourself wise? What is your basis for the answer?

The Bible answers these questions. First, it tells us wisdom is a gift from God (Proverbs 1:7; 2:6, 4:7; James 1:5-8). Wisdom begins and ends with fear of the Lord. It builds on right knowledge of God. Fear of the Lord is a loving and healthy reverence of God as Creator-Controller. At least, fear of the Lord is a constant and dominating awareness of Who God is and that there is no secrets before Him. It is personal and always leads to changed thoughts, desires, and actions about self and God.

The wise person acknowledges, appreciates, and applies the non-negotiable truths that God is, He “sees,” and rightfully He has something to say about every thought, desire, and action of every person. Fear of the Lord results in biblically-controlled thoughts, desires, and actions – a whole-person mindset. It results in a life-changing awareness of living before the face of the Lord, not simply as duty, but as a privilege and blessing.

On the other hand, the fool is one who despises the Lord; he does not fear the Lord and the way he lives is a testimony to that thinking. Most unbelievers do not think that they despise the Lord or care that do or do not. Foolishness is bound up in their hearts. All believers were unbelievers and did not fear or reverence God. Self was on the throne!. Biblical wisdom implies an out-working of truth in our lives; it is the application of truth as reflected in our daily living. Wisdom dictates how we live; it is truth applied. It is truth that is active and alive.

Fear of the Lord encompasses the fact that God is looking at and into me. He sees me and holds me accountable so that there is no private action in God’s world. However, too often, you and I attempt to carve out a niche in God’s world and we live in it as our world. We are attempting to homestead. We are barging in on God and declaring that area as ours and off limits to Him. That is the beginning of idolatry. Our world is a misnomer. All is God’s world and everyone is here as a steward. Life is lived before face of God whether acknowledged or not. Wisdom calls us to know – God, self, and others. That knowledge must be properly applied. Unbelievers know but not as they ought. Therefore by definition an unbeliever is a fool and unwise. The unbeliever may have all types of facts and knowledge. But by definition he can’t think God’s thoughts. It is impossible for him to be wise.

The believer has been gifted with both knowledge and wisdom. He knows God and as he develops fear of the Lord, he grows wiser still. Wisdom is shown. It is not kept hidden. The Christians views himself, others, and the world differently than the unbeliever. He chooses on the basis of love of God and love of the brethren. Life is simplified and God is glorified.

1. Study James 3:13-4:3: how do you answer James’ question: show me your wisdom?
2. What is the basis for your answer?
3. How do you need to change your view of God, self and others to get in line with God and His wisdom?