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Building Character In Your Life (Part 1. What is Character?)
Although this article is in a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (1 of 2 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
Do you consider yourself a person of character? Has anyone ever had a discussion with you about the concept of personal Character? I venture the odds are better that no one has discussed character with you where personal character was defined as anything supernatural. Some parents will tell their children to "be good" or "don't hurt or offend anyone." But the concept of personal character is left up to the children to try to discover. My parents never mentioned the concept of character to me. To them, a good person is one that listens and obeys their religion and their religious leader's rules. But character is not clinging to religion or obedience to some group's list of rules to live by.
Think for a moment of a person that you truly admire. What attracts you to that person? Is it good looks and charm? or is it the power of their presence and their handle on life? Is it how life treats them? or is it how they treat life? Why is it that some people while facing the trials and troubles of this life are crushed by them while others triumph, even making the struggle look easy?
The difference is summed up in one little word - character. What is this thing called character? We are going to look at what makes up character in an individual, its importance to us, and how we may begin to build it into our lives. What does God think of a man or woman that has character? Look at a statement describing individuals with little or no character and note God's reaction to their manner of life:
"I know your works [evidence of character], that you are neither hot nor cold, I wish that you were cold or hot. So then because you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:15-17)
Now see God's reaction to a man of true character:
"But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55-56)
Did you notice that people without character sicken God? Also, it seems, a person with bad character is preferable to a person with no character, in God's eyes. I believe that is because God can influence a person that is honest with themselves even if they are skewed in reasoning from time to time. A person with no principle at all is true to nothing and is unreachable until they begin to change and accept that there are things for which one could or should stand. And did you see the difference when God took note of a man of worthy character? All references to Jesus in His resurrected glory refer to Him as seated on the right hand of God. Jesus actually stood out of respect to honor Stephen and the way he died! What a difference character makes!
What makes up a person of "worthy" character? Can a person of any age build character into their lives? How will having "good" or "bad" character traits affect a person's future eternally and their quality of life now?
There are six principle qualities that make up the character in an individual: three outward qualities that are visible to all and three inward qualities that are not so easy to see. Let us examine these inward qualities first so that we may understand this very important piece of life's puzzle.
The Inward Characteristics of Character.
1. God's Holy Spirit Indwelling A Man's Heart is the first building block of the character of an individual. The world would have you believe that by using any standards a person feels right for himself, an individual can be a person of worthy character. That simply is not true. God Himself, is the only One who can make it possible to think, act, feel, and process information differently than what is natural for man. Natural man has only his flesh as a resource to process and to react to life. The flesh is fraught with sin and can never really be trusted. God sets the standard for what are right and what are wrong patterns of behavior. The carnal man cannot live a Godly life.
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1Corinthians 2:14)
"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you." (Proverbs 23:7)
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
But when a person believes in God and receives His Son, he becomes able by God's indwelling Spirit to live a life that will glorify God and have an impact on others. Also receiving God's salvation makes it possible to release control to God. The natural man not only resists this but resents the very idea of it. They laugh at the idea of living with any guidelines other than their own. Why should God control my life? Why shouldn't I control my own destiny? The man with character realizes that God is omniscient and knows everything. It is foolish to throw yourself headlong into the abyss when eyes are given you to see and a mind (of Christ) is given you to straighten out the errors that will cause such an end.
Once we have the Holy Spirit indwelling our heart we realize that the releasing of control is the central issue of the Christian day-to-day life.
2. Releasing Control is the second element of character. Little by little, a new Christian learns how to yield his life and will to the Lord, allowing God to control him, his thoughts, his actions, his reactions. This process is most often done slowly and many times with us kicking and screaming all the way. The Lord God teaches us to give up trying to control what we can't control, so we can attain the unattainable. That is called being "filled with the Spirit."
"And do not be drunk with wine [controlled by wine] in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit [controlled by the Holy Spirit]." (Ephesians 5:18)
Constant filling or control by the Spirit of God over you is commanded (not suggested) for all Christians but most people never release control of themselves to God to do His will. God will not wrest control from you. People who reject God's control would rather fail in their own power than have victory in Christ. A person of character trusts God and releases their control on life. Each time a person takes a step toward God controlling his life, each time he releases his grip a little, it affects his attitude and it's easier to let go. Though while in these bodies of sin, we will never be totally free of the impulse to seize control back from God, the person of character is able to do this the majority of the time affecting his total attitude.
3. The Total Attitude of a person of character is different than the rest of the world or even his own attitude that he had prior to salvation. His/her mind becomes totally focused on Christ Jesus and God's will. This new attitude permeates all of the mind and every bit of thinking is affected. This individual measures every thought and action against the sole rule of truth and practice, the Bible. As soon as [she] realizes that her attitude is out of alignment with God's Word, she adjusts it to bring Christ back into sharp focus. Because of this dramatic inner change, [he] is referred to as a "new creature in Christ." The thoughts are no longer from below but from above.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The Outward Characteristics of Character.
As the world looks on and believes it knows the nature and actions of man, the Christian is a continual puzzlement to him. What is it about the Christian anyway? Why do they seem so different?
1. The Christian's Manner of Life is noticeably different to a person of the world. The Bible calls this a person's walk. Changes on the inside of the heart cause him or her to behave in a manner that people see as unusual. His worldly associates sense the Spirit many times before he speaks a word to them about his inward change. I've heard people say, "There's something strange about you." Indeed, there is some unseen aspect to the Christian that makes the world uneasy, even uncomfortable. That "unseen aspect" is Christ. Things that most people consider as unattainable ideals are somewhat a part of his everyday life, such as being able to love your neighbor and forgive your enemies. The Christian's love for his brother (and subsequently for his neighbor) was spoken of by Jesus. He said that love would serve as a signal marker to the world that an individual is a genuine possessor of Christ.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
A person of worthy character puts an action to the love that was given him at salvation. A person with character sees the needs of people around them and gives of themselves to help those less fortunate than they. This person will see to their physical needs and their spiritual needs as well. Though the loaf of bread he bestows to the hungry man may prolong that man's life, the words of life that proceed from the person of character are priceless, pointing that same man to an eternity of life with God.
2. The Manner of Speech also betrays the character of an individual. The person of character will speak words that others will refer to as "talking about God" even when he doesn't mention God at all. The content of his speech is altered by "thus sayeth the Lord." He is mindful that God listens and holds man accountable for every idle word, so the person of character makes every word count. He speaks with an "attitude of God" in his words, caring how they will affect his testimony to others. He tries to encourage at all times, pointing his brothers and others to Christ as the answer for all life's dilemmas.
3. The Goals and Accomplishments of a person of character often disturb the unsaved as much as the things he says. The release of control to God, by the Christian, leads him on paths that most people would never choose for themselves. Does the person of character want silver or gold? Yes, but he wants it in heaven. Does she want honor? Yes, but she wants it from her Lord when she sees Him face to face. This is so strange to the unbeliever. How can the Christian live his whole life based on things he can't see? What the world can't understand is that a man of worthy character sees the hidden things of God.
Dear Reader In part 2 I have written the way to the first step of building character in your life. But in case you choose not to read that second half, I will put the basics here as well:
As I noted above the first thing someone needs to be a person of character is the Holy Spirit of God indwelling him. God has made this an easy thing to ask for. The only prerequisite for this thing to occur is to believe that you are a sinner incapable of getting to heaven on your own. Jesus came to earth to die, to give His life's blood for you so that you will not have to die and be separated from God for all eternity. If you know that God has the way of life and are willing to change your way of living for God's way, you may ask Jesus to save you. Pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that Jesus come to earth to die for my sin. I believe that He died, was buried, and rose again for me. I am willing to listen to You Jesus and change my life's path. Please forgive me of my sin and save me. Thank you, Jesus. I pray this in Your name. Amen.
Other in this series of independent articles: