When we are growing, coming to know God more, and coming to love God more, we will be growing in other ways, too. Our behaviours will also be changing. We will be treating one another with more love, patience, joy, peace, humility and forgiveness. They will be avoiding sexual immorality, greed, and dishonesty. The more we know and love God, the more we live like him. The heart change comes before the change in behaviour. The heart change is what causes the behaviour change. The heart change is what gives room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
These behaviour changes are rooted in a changed heart, but the process is often slow. God is working in us, but he does not do it for us. He changes our hearts and gives us what it takes to respond to him in righteousness, but he expects us to exercise the faith to use this “freedom to obey” that he has won for us.
As we strive to imitate our Saviour and Teacher, Jesus Christ, we have seen over the past weeks the need to look especially at his relationship with the Father, and his relationship with the people around him. His relationship with the Father was characterized by prayer and by his thorough knowledge of and reliance on Scripture. Prayer and study have for millennia formed the core of Christian spiritual growth. They are important! Why? Not as another “duty” or legalism. But as the way of being with God so that we can hear his voice in our lives and be reminded of our true condition: We are redeemed from sin, we belong to him, our salvation is secure in him, he loves us infinitely, he is our ever-present Helper and he will never leave nor forsake us.
Jesus was committed to people—he loved the lost, and he castigated people who thought they were religiously superior to others (a feeling that usually stems from a works-oriented approach to worship). He was committed to a close relationship among believers—his disciples related not just individually to him as students to their teacher, but also to one another. Jesus formed them into a group, a body, that would in time give itself mutual support, a community that would reach out to others and invite them in.