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Building Character In Your Life (Part 2. What Are Christian Values?)
Although this article is in a series, it is a complete study on its own. (2 of 2 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
This is the second article in a study on character. The first article (part 1) was on how to become a person of worthy character. Now we will consider a few more facts about character that comes from the close association with Christ. We will speak here of the value system of a person of character and its uniqueness in the world.
Since we are told that only God reads hearts, we can not simply look at an individual and make an evaluation on what makes him tick. We do not know his thoughts or really anything on the inside of of his head or on the inside his heart.
One obvious way to see the character of an individual is to pay attention to the system of values that operates within his or her life. All people have a value system, even if it is invisible to the objective observer. Everyone has treasures he holds dear, has interests, and priorities.These are the indicators of the kind of value system by which a person lives.
It is safe to say that people who truly know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior don't perceive things the way people of the world see them. They see life through the rosy glow of glasses stained with Christ's blood. Basing their decisions on the word of the Book, they allow it to be their "sole rule of truth and practice." These are persons of character. Their value system is not like the World's, where every man does what "seems right in his own eyes." They know that there is a way that seems right but ends in death, and they avoid it, choosing rather to believe the Bible by faith.
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2)
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 16:25)
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)
Individuals in the World tends to place their value in things that present themselves as to their advantage. The attitude is: how can it benefit me because I am the most important thing in this world. The concept is foundational and many times imperceptible even to the person themselves, hiding behind one emotion or another. For example, some individuals would maintain their child was more important to them then anything or a spouse or a parent. But the harsh reality is they operate from the base belief of "me first." They can not help it because the natural man, is wired that way. They have no power to do otherwise because the power to turn from self is only possible through God's Spirit indwelling them. God then does a job "re-wiring" the person and changing them from the inside.
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can not be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)
The person of character knows that valuing anything above the Lord is not profitable. They realize that if they put God above all things that they will get more than if they put all their own effort elsewhere. If they love God more than their wife, they will love their wife more than they possibly could have before. If they love God more than their children, they will love their children more than they could have before. If they love God more than riches, they will be "rich" far above money. They will have riches in heaven and so many blessings here in this life they will not be able to count them all. If this makes no sense to you then I submit that you may not be in a relationship with God for this to make sense.
"And those that heard it said, "Who then can be saved?" But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You." So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one that has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." (Luke 18:26-30)
Even after a person is saved, they must be controlled by the Spirit, else they will continue to obey the flesh that will try to control them. God will not simply take over a person's mind. He grants an individual more personal dignity than that. The only way God exerts Himself is when that person steps aside and allows Him to work in and through them. Some of the Christian's carnal tendencies will be defeated easily and will be laid at the foot of the cross. While others will be "strongholds" to be battled until the person joins Christ in heaven.
"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled (controlled by) with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exults itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
What Are The Principle Values Of A Person Of Character?
1. Love. God is the one who epitomizes what we understand to be love, so much so that the Bible says "God is love." God's ideals are far above ours as sinful created beings. To assume we could ever attain love, or even comprehend the love that God has for us, would be a mistake. Yet God asks us to love beyond our ability.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1John 4;7-8)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways my ways," says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those that love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
When asked what was the greatest (most important) commandment of God, Jesus answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang the whole law." (Matthew 22:36-40) This kind of love is not normal for the man that knows not Christ, but for God's redeemed (a person of character), it is expected. The person of character realizes the value, the privilege, and the honor of being God's instruments by which He can love the World.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
2. Life. The person of character values life. All life begins with God. First and foremost, he realizes the value of what Christ did on Calvary's cross making life "in Christ" possible. Paul said, "To live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21) The care with which God created us, the lengths to which He was willing to go to save us, shows the value that He places on life. Anything that would devalue life or minimize the value that God sets for it, is wrong in the mind of the person of worthy character. Satan and the World devalues life, approving of everything from abortion to euthanasia. The person of worthy character recognizes life's value and is ready to fight for it in any way he can. God meant for all to live, for none to die. It is His will that all escape the coming judgment. The person of worthy character has a like desire as she speaks to others of so great salvation.
3. Liberty. The person of worthy character holds dear the concept of freedom. Jesus claimed in John 8:36 that He would make men "free indeed." For a certainty, there is freedom "in Christ." We have freedom from judgment because Christ took our punishment for us. We have freedom from sin because we now have the power to say no to sin, moment to moment, as we "abide in Christ." We have freedom from the Law which Christ nailed to the tree. The value the person of worthy character places on liberty causes him to shun anything that would put him back into a state of bondage. He dons instead the yoke and shackles of service to the King of Kings, which by the way is described in the Bible as one with us pulling on one side and Christ himself pulling on the other. It is God who grants us a dignity we don't deserve and mercifully allows a latitude in our behavior that we'll never be able to appreciate.
4. Justice. The World's view of justice is skewed by revenge, filled with blood-lust and tainted by sin. A person of worthy character sees God as a just judge. They see the damage caused by sin and are aware of its cost to mankind. They anxiously await Christ's return for they know it means redemption for the whole earth. They are relieved that God says: "Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord." Satan, sin, and evil will be judged and sentence will be carried out. The person of worthy character's sense of justice is totally connected to God's will and plan. Though the World would have us believe that God doesn't care, the person of character knows there is a payday someday and they cry out, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
5. Equity. The person of worthy character values God's fairness. He recognizes that God's perspective is not subject to bias as his own perspective many times is, but is tempered by His awesome mercy. He is long suffering and kind and at the same time He is just and holy. His plan for the ages include heaven and hell and it is fair. He treats an undeserving mankind with grace and dignity, allowing them to decide to accept life in His Son or to reject Him and accept their own punishment. If they turn and repent he forgives. How much fairer can you get? Mankind points at God and says unfair but it is mankind that is patently unfair.
"Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not fair, hear now O house of Israel, is it not my way which is fair and your ways which are not fair?" (Ezekiel 18:25)
How Values Effect Behavior.
Values serve as boundaries to behavior for the man or woman of worthy character. There is great security in knowing how much is too much or how to interpret for oneself right from wrong. Individual conviction often comes in shades of gray, not just black and white. Values help to interpret those shades of gray. Through Biblical values and Scriptural principles, God brings His will for our lives into focus and His leading is then clear.
Improving "The Value" of Your Value System To Become A Person Of Worthy Character
How exactly does one re-evaluate their own system of values?
1. Immerse Yourself Into God's Word. Since God is the source of all truth and His Word is the sole rule of truth and practice, it makes sense to read and retain the Bible in your mind. The Holy Spirit will quicken it and it will affect a change in your values.
2. Hold The Word Above Your Own Opinion. Most people do the opposite, as if their opinion holds more weight and validity than God's. Why flounder for years until you learn God knows better? Immediately replace faulty thinking with correct thinking.
3. Immerse Your Thoughts Into God. Your heart cries out for understanding and God answers with wisdom. A relationship of two way communication is established and God changes your values to His. God is the reward-er of those who diligently seek Him.
So what is it that you value? Is there anything that is above that of your own reason that effects your decisions or establishes the value of the things in your life. If you say in truth that it is your own mind and your own reasoning that determines actions, motivations, values, passions and goals and never anything else, then it is quite possible you have not met the God that will help you to know that He knows much better than you. It is possible that you have never felt the pull to do something that makes no practical sense to you or your logic but you know in your heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do because God says so in His word and in your heart. Such things as I describe happen everyday in the life of the believer. "The just [just-ified, saved] shall live by faith." God is all-knowing and can see around corners and through roadblocks, through the corridors of time. He will lead you in ways you can not know now but will later. If this does not happen to you or does not make sense to you or makes you hesitate, the chances are that you have not asked God to save you.
Please listen carefully if you have never asked Christ into your heart, if the things mentioned above apply to you, because this is important to the eternity you choose.
To receive forgiveness for your sin is easy. All one has to do is to take note that they are a sinner. Christ died for sinners, all sinners. God wishes all sinners to come to repentance. But God will not force Himself on anyone. He stands at the door of a person's life and knocks. He grabs the person's attention and makes it known that He wants to come into their life but He waits to be asked. He waits for the door to the person's heart to be opened from the inside.
After you recognize yourself a sinner then you must examine what you believe about God. Do you believe that God came to earth as a man, Christ Jesus, to die on a cross for you? Do you believe that He was buried, and that in three days He rose from the grave? If you do, you are one step closer.
The next thing you need to look at is the way you live. Are you willing to change your life, to walk away from your sin and turn to God and what He says to do with your life? If you are all that remains is asking Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior. Call out to Him in prayer. Pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I see that I am not perfect and I have desires and things in my life that are not of God. I know that I cannot save myself from my sin and I need a Savior. Lord I believe you were crucified, buried, and rose again from the grave. Please forgive me of my sin and save me. I turn from my life as I was living it and turn to you, as the only way of salvation. Thank you for saving me, for I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.