We’ve all heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true…” That same thing can be said about an experience I read about recently. A young couple were in the market for a house in the Southern California area but were on a fixed budget. If you know anything about southern California you’ll know that buying a house and “fixed budget” don’t really go hand-in-hand when you are shopping for the home in which you will hopefully one day start your family.
One day the husband stumbled across an ad for one that seemed like an excellent deal for half the normal price. In Southern California that is a rare find! The reason for the great price was because its foundation was cracked. It did not seem to be a big deal; after all, it could just be filled in with some kind of filler or cement, right?
Wrong! Anyone that is experienced in this area or has had a similar experience knows how essential it was to have a good foundation… a solid foundation free of weaknesses and completely intact. So, reluctantly, with a lot of pouting and moping, the young couple had to pass up the great deal.
A few months later, upon driving by that house and talking to the new owners who were quite beside themselves in frustration, it seems as if the right decision was made to pass on the purchase. The new owners were having a lot of problems with water leaking into the house all of the time, even when it was not raining. Inevitably it will cost them more to fix the house’s foundation then it would be to tear it down and rebuild.
How is this is like character? Character is foundational to a person’s life and faith. Skipping character, or foundation, for convenience may seem okay at the time, but it will catch up with you. Sometimes we desire to go and find the easy way out of the hard and time-consuming things of life to get to the point of our day and accomplish the things we have set before ourselves. This happens even in ministry. Even if it cuts the corners off Character, we strive to shortcut our way though spiritual growth and serving God. So, let us look at God’s Word and find out why Godly character is important.
Character is defined as strength of moral fiber. A.W. Tozer once described character as,
The excellence of moral beings.
Character is often defined as a collection of personality traits within our behavior that shows who we are. This is shown in our integrity, attitude, moral fiber, disposition, and this shapes how we treat one another, good or bad. This is mostly true, but it goes much deeper than that. Character is who we are and it can be learned and built when we are in Christ. Moreover, real authentic Christian Character is not just a personality or our disposition; it is a description of who we are as a Christian. A persons character encapsulates the “Fruits of the Spirit” from God’s love and work within us.
A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions. It is good to remember that character is gauged by general tendencies, not on the basis of a few isolated actions. We must look at the whole life. For example, King David was a man of good character, but like you and I he sinned on occasion. For example, 2 Samuel 11:2-4 and the rest of the story that follows,
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.
On the other hand, King Ahab may have acted nobly and honorably once in the battle that took his life in 1 Kings 22:35, he was still a man of overall bad character. 1 Kings 16:33 makes that clear,
And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Several people in the Bible are described as having noble character. Ruth is described that way ion Ruth 3:11 where it says,
And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.
Hanani in Nehemiah 7:2,
I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.
David in Psalm 78:72,
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.
And we cannot forget Job in Job 2:3,
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
All of these individuals’ lives were distinguished by a persistent moral virtue and Christ-like mindset.
Our character is influenced and developed by our choices. Daniel “resolved not to defile himself” in Babylon (Daniel 1:8), and that Godly choice was an important step in formulating the integrity that guided the young man’s life. Character, in turn, influences our choices.
Proverbs 11:3a says,
The integrity of the upright guides them.
And character will help us weather the storms of life and keep us from sin. Proverbs 10:9 says,
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
We all have the ability to be good or be bad, to take what Christ has given us and use it, and it is the Lord’s purpose to develop character within us. Proverbs 17:3 says,
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.
Godly character is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification, and Christian character is a consistent manifestation of Jesus in a persons life. It is the purity of heart that God gives each and every one of us becoming purity in action and being displayed through us!
God sometimes uses trials to strengthen character like we read in Romans 5:3-4,
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
The Lord is pleased when His children grow in character. 1 Chronicles 29:17 says,
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.
Psalm 15:1-2 says,
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.
Our character is the most profound in our hard times!
Godly character is the springboard from which all we do and say in life comes. Developing Biblical character in the face of our daily life and even in adversity is essential to our witness and proof that we have a growing relationship with Christ! Character is not just having integrity or honesty or doing the right thing, it is not one aspect or even a few, it is a living, growing relationship in Christ which produces a synergistic combination of the Fruits of the Spirit that is apparent to those around you.
A few years back the internet and national news sources exploded over the story of Ryan Lochte and three other American swimmers allegedly getting robbed at a gas station in Rio while there for the Olympic games. That was the initial report, at least. Over time, however, it became clear that the initial story was not the true story. As facts would have it, it appears Lochte was not entirely truthful in his initial account, and as the story developed, sponsors of Lochte dropped their contracts with him.
Despite winning 12 medals in his Olympic career, these companies wanted to distance themselves from the perception he has created of a young man with flawed character.
In other words, his achievements are being outshined by his character flaws.
I’m not here to throw stones or even to focus on this story, instead, I want to focus on one thing we can take away from that event: the need to develop our character. Let’s look at how we can develop and train Godly character together!
The first foundation for Godly character is a love for God. That may seem obvious as it is the first and greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:37-38,
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
Our love for God includes more than just an emotional “fuzzy” feeling. Instead it captures the affections of our soul, our mind, and our heart! We should put all of our intellectual and physical effort into guarding and fueling our hearts, never giving in to the emotionalism which neglects thinking or the intellectualism which neglects the heart.
How do you keep from losing your first love for God? We’ve all felt distant from God at one point or another… maybe you are there now! Think back to when you first came to know Christ and put your faith in Him, Jesus changed your life and you were excited about Him! But over the long haul, how do you keep that motivation going? How do you sustain a Christ-centered life?
I think the answer to that is really how you sustain a relationship with any person. If you are married think back to when you first met and started dating your spouse, there was an excitement to your relationship when the love was new a fresh. Sound like your relationship with Christ? But over time certain things will change, and the “newness” wears off and the tendency to start taking each other for granted steps in.
What do you do about that? You make sure to cultivate your relationship by spending regular time with that person. Intentional time… with no distractions and no end goal other than just cherishing each other.
Some people have the idea that knowing God should be easy. That developing a relationship with the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe should require nothing more strenuous than listening to an occasional sermon or reading a book or two. Why is that? Why is it that we will study for years in college to get a degree, we’ll labor nights and weekends to get ahead in our careers, and yet we think that knowing God should be effortless? We’ll exercise for hours to improve our physical health. We’ll eat right and sacrifice junk food, and torture ourselves on the treadmill.
In other areas of life, we understand that having things of value require work and dedication. Yet in the realm of the spirit, we expect good things just to drop into our laps. But that’s not the way it works! Like anything else of great worth, knowing God requires diligence and sustained effort. Is it worth it? Yes, the reward of seeking God far exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.
1 Timothy 4:7-10 says,
Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
You see, “knowing” God isn’t something that just happens. It requires that we “train ourselves” or as other translations put it, “discipline ourselves.”
The Christian life is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s not just some kind of self-improvement motivational program. Nor is it a set of rules and regulations. The essence of the Christian life is truly knowing God and having a vital, living and intimate relationship with Him; experiencing His presence and activity in our daily lives.
Loving God is the great essence of why the universe was created. Treasuring God over all things. That is what loving God means. The mind and the body are the servants of the heart. They should work together to increase our love for God daily.
As our love for God increases our desire to please and serve Him with a Godly character will as well!
Saturate Yourself in the Word
Ten minutes a day in the Bible will not cut it in this world. This is the very Word of God. Read it. Meditate on it.
Our world is rising against and shaking it’s fist at the Word of God. Our culture likes to bring doubt to what they would call an “archaic book” or a “masterful conspiracy” each and every day all while chipping away at morals and character. Just think about how the world has changed and people have “flip-flopped” on issues even in the last ten years! I doubt that anyone will be an effective Christian in our day standing against the culture, and for the culture, without much Bible intake.
Do yourself a favor and create new habits! Do a daily devotional with some spiritual depth to it. Take in all of the Word that you can so you can put a little “spiritual meat” on your bones!
Developing long-term habits is important to maintaining your faith. A daily devotional will keep you in the Word and enhance your prayer life. It will also keep you closer to God even when you struggle in your faith.
Philippians 2:12-13 says,
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
You have one life here on earth to live, and it is not a good thing to experiment with it. What will make life work? What will make a difference for you eternally? God did not give you life and no instructions… He gave you life and he gave you a Book. God has spoken. It is not a matter of experimentation. It is a matter of application of God’s word to everything. He knows all things. He knows what will make you happy in the moment. He knows what will make your life count for the here and now. So trust him.
Know his word. Test all things. Obey above all.
Die to Self
In John 15:5 Jesus says,
Apart from me you can do nothing.
Do we truly believe that? Do we live like it?
Part of developing Christian character is dying to ourselves and our fallen nature desires and relying on Jesus for the strength needed to live a God honoring life. Proverbs 3:5–6, says,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
The strength to live a God honoring life is void of us and our involvement! The strength comes only after death… death to self. If we consider Christ’s death to be all important, and it is, then we need to realize its effect on our lives. When Jesus died, He not only bore our sins, but He also was, in a final way, saying “no” to sin. It was His victory! After death, sin had no part of His life and no way of influencing His decisions or character. We know that Jesus never sinned so often this final denial a “door-shutting” to sin is overlooked. Yes He died to bear our sin… but also to deny His own!
So we, as His disciples, must also identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. We must say “no” to our former allegiance to sin through our faith and “yes” to our allegiance to Christ. We now have a new focus on life. Because of this new allegiance, we are not to sin as our formal fallen selves, but instead we are to live for God through dying to self.
Romans 6:10-12 says,
For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.
Let me put it this way, if you have accepted Jesus into your life you are not your own. You live in the strength of another. He bought you for a purpose. So live like 1 Peter 4:11,
Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Genuine Christian character involves sacrifice, and that is something that the culture will not require of us. That is something that only faith will bring us to. We are called to be servants. Not just honest people, but servants. Jesus cast it in the most severe terms. He said in Luke 17:10,
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”
We will never be able to die to ourselves unless we are convinced that serving the our former flesh is totally unprofitable. We have to see that it has absolutely no worth. Guard yourself from craving what the world craves. If you find that hanging out with unbelievers is making you love what they love rather than helping them love what you love, then back off and fill yourself with the love and truth of God and wait to be a light to them in another way. The same with media. If the computer, the phone, the tablet, or game system is making you crave what is destructive to your soul, lay it down. Sell it. Give it away. Smash it! Do what you have to do to be radically devoted to Jesus and his holiness.
Belong to a Church
Lastly, one of the best things you can do to develop and nurture a God honoring character is to surround yourself with others who desire the same thing.
Belong to a Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, God-centered church that preaches the whole counsel of God, and be connected there with God’s people. Don’t wait until the time seems to be “just right” or the “stars align” to be a mature, responsible church member. Break the mold and stop playing the church game! Your relationship with God is not a game.
Many people become apathetic over time because they do not feel connected to a church body. Some churches do not offer ways to connect, but you can be the catalyst. Join small group. Start a small group. Find like-minded people within the local body to commune with, to study, pray, and worship with, and draw your encouragement to live like Jesus from them! The more connected you are to the body of Christ, the more likely it is that you will maintain your faith.
Romans 12:5 says,
So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
How are you forming your foundation? What things can we be doing to develop a Godly character?