By Danny R. Von Kanel
Many Christians function with unfinished spaces in their walk with the Lord. My efforts to fill unfinished spaces in my life have required an understanding of what to put in and what to take out. The following principles have been helpful to me and I pray they will be helpful to you as well.
Here are several ways to fill the unfinished spaces in your life.
The Process of Putting Off
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). As new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away and all things have become new. To some, the newness can be seen immediately upon conversion. To others it’s more like a slow metamorphosis.
My neighbor Paul came to me one day announcing that he had accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. Prior to his conversion, Paul’s conversations were laced with profanity. I had to smile when Paul said to me, “Brother Danny, this Christian life is hard. I am slowly becoming like Christ, but my tongue slips every now and then.” I assured Paul that in time his tongue would become completely new.
Whether we change overnight at conversion or slowly grow in godliness, we must daily put off the remnants of the old life.
In James 4:11 we’re told that when we speak evil, we judge others. In effect, we judge the law and become a judge and not a doer. The apostle Paul echoes James when he tells us to put away all evil speaking (Ephesians 4:31).
Evil speaking can be deceptive. We excuse ourselves by rationalizing that what we say about others is constructive criticism. Generally, if our conversation about others doesn’t build them up, it’s tearing them down. I found that what I wouldn’t say about a person who is in my presence, I should never say in his absence.
Constructive criticism works best when our motives are pure. If we feel compelled to confront a brother or sister in Christ about destructive behavior, we should “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
A Critical Spirit
Closely tied to evil speaking is a critical spirit. Paul refers to this concept in Galatians 5:15 with terms like “bite” and “devour.” Critical and negative people are the antithesis of what being a Christian means. A friend of mine works with a woman who is critical of everything. Yet she can’t understand why people shun her or fail to act kindly toward her. She claims to know Christ, but her demeanor and critical spirit drive others away.
One way to allow Christ to change our critical spirit is to learn to pause before speaking. If a critical thought crosses your mind, pause before speaking and ask God to help you deal with your critical spirit. Then when you speak, keep the critical comment to yourself.
In Ephesians 4:25 Paul admonishes us to “put off falsehood.” Nothing betrays our inward reality in Christ like lying. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). Lying destroys marriages, jobs, and relationships.
How do we put off lying? Admit that lying is a problem. Think about the consequences. Seek forgiveness from God for your lying tendencies. Put on the truth. Commit to its reality in your life. Make yourself accountable to someone. Avoid situations that may tempt or cause you to lie.
The writer of Proverbs challenges us to put away a “crooked mouth” and “perverse lips” (4:24, NIV 1984). People who call themselves Christians but use curse words in conversation poison their testimony. Closely related is the telling of vulgar jokes. Both should cause introspection about one’s true relationship with Christ.
The best way to prevent profane language is to maintain intimacy with the one who created our speech. We do not profane the one we love and know deeply.
In Matthew 12:36 (NIV), Jesus reminds us that we will “give account in the days of judgment” for our idle words. My mom used to repeat the old adage, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we talk.”
Idle words often lead to unintended consequences: saying something inappropriate, speaking critical words, or putting others down. Where idle talk abounds so does Satan’s destructive influence.
The best way to avoid speaking idle words is to talk less, reminding ourselves that we will give account of every idle word we speak.
The Process of Putting On
Putting off detrimental traits leaves a vacuum unless we fill the void with beneficial qualities.
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14). When we are saved, Jesus Christ comes to live within us. Through his Holy Spirit we have the capacity to put on the following attributes daily.
In John 15:12 Jesus identified love as a commandment. We are to love others as an act of obedience. Showing compassion to others is made easier when we understand how much God loves us. From a practical standpoint we can pray that God gives us eyes like Jesus (Matthew 9:36) that lead us to show love and compassion to those around us.
A Forgiving Spirit
Paul encouraged the Christians in Colossae to forgive one another (see Colossians 3:13). We put on a forgiving spirit when we realize that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.
James 4:6 states, “God resists the proud” but “gives grace to the humble” (New King James Version). We put on humility by appropriating the grace of God—understanding that Christ died for us so that we would live for him. Such recognition of his greatness compared to our finiteness leaves us humbled and grateful.
Paul wrote, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NIV). The writer of Hebrews adds, “be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).
Contentment can be learned. The more we focus on who we are in Christ, the more what we have becomes less important.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 Paul writes, “that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” He adds in verse 7, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
Moral purity comes through a life of grace. The law is inadequate here. Grace enables us to live pure lives out of a depth of gratitude for God’s great love.
Where are your unfinished spaces? Put off those traits associated with the old life. Put on life changing qualities and fill the void with more of Christ. A life that’s finished finishes strong for Christ.
Danny R. Von Kanel is a freelance writer in Franklinton, Louisiana.
Confession & Accountability
The book of Galatians was written to a church with a lot of issues. Chapter 6 begins to lay the framework for helping church members climb out of the miry pit they’re in:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. (verses 1-5).
Does your life reflect these verses, and others like James 5:16? When’s the last time you engaged in honest, painful confession of your sin, or welcomed someone else who had a dark secret to share? Do you seek out others who can help shoulder the burden of your sin and repentance, and do you walk alongside others to help bear the load of their lives? Do you acknowledge your ultimate responsibility for your wrongdoing and thank God for mitigating your punishment through Jesus’s sacrifice?