The second truth that grips me is that, because of His gift to us of free will, He does not just zap us and make us into little robots who are just like Him.
Becoming like Jesus Christ requires co-operation on our part.
The Holy Spirit does the work in us as far as we co-operate with Him; but He can’t transform a person who doesn’t submit to the process. His part is to show us what needs to change in our lives; our part is to repent, submit to His Word and work, and take the steps necessary to change our behavior or attitude while leaning on Him for help, strength, determination, humility.
In Exodus 17 the Amalekites attack the Israelites as they are on their journey through the wilderness. Joshua, as the military commander of Israel, leads the people into battle while Moses, Aaron and Hur go to the top of a high hill with the Staff of God – the Banner of God – lifted high to encourage the people in their fight.
As long as the people can see the Banner of God raised high, they fight bravely and begin to defeat their foes; but when Moses’ arms grow weary and begin to lower, the people lose sight of the Banner of God. They begin to lose heart in the battle and the advantage shifts to the enemy. Aaron and Hur see what is happening and take steps to prop Moses’ arms up so the people never lose sight of the Banner of God. The Israelites are able to fight bravely on and are ultimately victorious over the enemy. To commemorate this great deliverance Moses builds an altar and names it The Lord Is My Banner.
According to Ann Spangler in Praying the Names of God, banners were often carried by armies as marks of identification and as symbols that embodied the ideals of the people (109). Moses’ staff symbolized the might and power and love of the God who had delivered them from bondage in Egypt, led them through the desert, and provided water and food when they were hungry and thirsty.
This staff, this banner, was the symbol that their God was powerful enough to defeat every foe and overcome every obstacle. When they remembered that God was for them, they had the will, the strength, the stamina, and the encouragement to keep on fighting the battle and were victorious. When they forgot that God was with them, they began to lose the battle. Centuries later, we continue to face battles on the way to the promised land, and some of the worst of them are internal battles – like learning to love.
1 Corinthians 13 speaks about patience being a mark of love, and if I’m serious about becoming more like Jesus, I realize that some radical work needs to be done in my heart. We read that love is patient and kind. These are qualities that define our Lord, but we are so often impatient with others: the person who drives 45 mph on the interstate, the person in front of us at Kroger with an envelope full of coupons, the child who makes a mess every place he goes, the immigrant whose English is difficult to understand.
Cooperating with the Holy Spirit means we don’t just acknowledge that we are frequently impatient and then expect Him to zap us into more patient people.
Co-operation with the Holy Spirit requires prayer and submission and work, identifying strategies for avoiding the sin, looking to Him in the battle, and trusting in His power, provision and love.
"Lord, I realize that impatience does not reflect Your image and character. Convict me each time I am impatient so that I might turn aside from it and choose patience and kindness instead. I want to become more like You and so reflect Your image. Cleanse my heart of every attitude that nullifies patience in my life. Thank You for Your mighty, transforming power at work in me. Thank You for Your patience and kindness toward me. Help me to rest in Your love and peace so that I might truly reflect Your image to my family first, and to others I rub shoulders with each day. May they see You reflected in my life. Amen."
Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.