- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
What does God say about the development of Christian character?
Merriam-Webster defines character as: “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual; moral excellence and firmness.” It is our character that separates us from others, especially when it includes strong moral excellence and firmness. Our character can be observed by the choices we make, the actions we take and the way we treat other people. So, what are the distinguishing characteristics of a true Christian?
A true Christian follows Jesus, without holding on to this world, or the past, Matt 4:19, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” and Lk 9:62, “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” When we look ahead, to the kingdom of God, we can treasure it above all else, which leads us to follow Jesus and His living Word, 2 Tim 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” unto all righteousness and all good works; thus, fully developing our Christian character.
Is 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s thoughts are purer, more righteous than our thoughts. This is why He has given us His Word, so that we might hear, understand and prosper, as we go forth to complete our part in His eternal plan, Is 55:10-11, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” His plan will be completed, whether we decide to do our part, or not; however, when we live His Word others are drawn to His light, thus enabling them to see the path leading to eternity. It is our character, our living of His Word, which draws people. This is why He wants us to do our part, so others can clearly see an example of true Christian Character.
God calls us to think about His truth, Phil 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Which then leads us to follow Him rather than this world’s examples, Rom 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
He teaches us to bear the tribulations of this world, which the devil uses to lead us away from God, as he tried to do with Job, but Job trusted in God,
Job 1:22, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” So, when we learn to be patient and gain the experience offered by tribulations, we will eventually find His hope; and the peace and joy, which surely follow, Rom 5:3-5, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
God calls us to temperance, which Merriam-Webster defines as moderation, 2 Pet 1:5-7, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” The devil wants to break this chain that leads to charity, so he leads us to overindulge in everything, to become glutens, alcoholics, drug addicts, workaholics, sex addicts, politicoholics, etc. Can we not see that brotherly kindness and moderation go hand in hand? Do we normally see addicts honestly exhibiting brotherly kindness? Or, are their examples of brotherly kindness merely an attempt to secure their next fix?
Col 3:12-15, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Christians are called to be humble, kind, forgiving, charitable and thankful. Is that what we witness when we meet someone claiming to be a Christian? If not, we are not witnessing true Christian character.
True Christian character calls us to sacrifice for others, even sacrificing unto our own death, Jn 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the character being demonstrated by those who risk their lives to protect us, like police officers, firefighters, soldiers, etc. Our sacrifice might not be to death, it could be our time and/or our selfish interests, and we can witness this behavior when nurses and doctors are caring for those in need. Are we honoring their sacrifices?
Christians are called to good communications, 1 Cor 15:33, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” and to good manners. Are we exhibiting the good manners God calls us to? Or, have we allowed evil to creep into our everyday conversations and conduct?
God tells us to look past a person’s appearance, before we form our opinion of them, 1 Sam 16:7, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” God sees what is in our hearts and tells us we can see what is in another person’s heart by listening to what they say and watching what they do, Tit 2:7-8, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
God calls us to compassion, not judgment, 1 Pet 3:8, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:” and Matt 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
God explains what pure religion looks like, Jam 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” He tells us pure religion is demonstrated by our caring for the needs of others!
Christian character prefers ministering to being ministered unto, Mk 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Christians are called to do their best in everything they do, for they are always serving the Lord, Rom 12:11, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;” and Col 3:23-24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” This behavior distinguishes the true Christian from the pretenders, for He is asking us to be shining examples, drawing people to His light, no matter where He has planted us.
Forgiveness is at the heart of being a Christian, Eph 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
1 Pet 3:13-16, “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” We need never be ashamed of our good Christian character, and we cannot allow evildoers to succeed in making us feel guilty for living it.
Prov 25:21-22, “ If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.” This explains some of the criticism we Christians experience and is part of the reason our enemies hate us so vehemently. They see Christian character, and it brings them a feeling of guilt, which is like coals of fire being heaped upon their heads. We must not become smug, but rather Christians should feel compassion and consistently hope that those following the enemy will see the light, turn and follow Jesus to their redemption. So, we must not weary of our kindness and gentleness, Gal 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” for we are doing God’s work and leading others to Him.
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