It has been said that reputation is what other people believe you to be and character is what you actually are. Character is who you are when no one is looking. We should always be asking ourselves: "Am I living a consistent life with what I say that I believe?" If the answer to that is 'No' then I'm not a person of true character.
When speaking of character we are referring to things such as: "Is a person honest in his dealings?" "Does he tell the truth?" "Can he be counted upon to follow through on commitments that he's made?" "Will he or won't he compromise his values when in a difficult situation?" "Will he say one thing, and do another?" "How does he treat people who can do nothing for him?"
And for those who call themselves Christians we can ask: "Does he both hear the Word of God that he says he believes and, at the same time,does he actually seek to obey God's Word in all that he says and does?"
Unfortunately we are not living in a culture that values character all that much. I have heard it said of a former President of the United States, for instance, that: "I don't care what he does in his private life, as long as he is a good leader and does his job." As an example, we have had some leaders who have cheated on their wives. Does that really affect how they lead? I would say yes it does. If he will lie and cheat on the person that he says he loves the most, what makes us think that he won't lie and cheat the American people, or anyone else, if it will save his reputation or benefit him in some way? There is a corollary between what is done in private and what is done in public.
The Christian man or woman should never be two-faced or hypocritical like this. With God's children character always counts!!
I. The Need
It was the American author Sheldon VanAuken who said:
"The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths."
The truth is that we need more men and women of character. We have to have more who are not grieving and quenching the indwelling Holy Spirit in their lives, but are seeking to allow Him to develop the Fruit of the Spirit in them. They do not need to be perfect people by any means. They do, however, need to be people who are searching for God's will and not simply seeking a fire escape from Hell. Our society is literally starving for more men and women who practice what they preach and those who refuse to compromise their integrity. We are desperate for persons who mean what they say and say what they mean, and whose word is their bond.
And speaking of integrity, this is another word that fits under the understanding of character. The word integrity literally means: 1) "The quality of having strong moral principles. Moral uprightness". 2) "The state of being whole and undivided."
A person of integrity does the right thing in a reliable way. They have a strong moral compass that points toward the true North of truth at all times.
In looking at a Christian of character and integrity, there are at least two qualities that he or she must possess. They must first be a doer of the Word of God. And secondly, they are to be a demonstrator of transformation.
II. Qualities of Christian Character
1. Doers of the Word
I like what James 1:22 tells us: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." This is such a practical verse. On the surface, it looks simple. But underneath, it is a command that will take us the rest of our lives to implement.
James gives an interesting illustration in this same passage. He states:
"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." (23-27).
All of us, when we got up this morning, looked in a mirror. We probably saw our hair disheveled, and things out of place that needed to be put in order. Many women probably put on some makeup and guys used a razor either to shave off the stubble or trim their beards.
However, what if we were to look into that same mirror and see things that needed changing but just walked away and said: "Oh well, maybe another day!"? That is downright dumb.
But that's nothing compared to someone who looks into the spiritual mirror of the Word of God and never makes any changes in their lives based upon its teachings. A person of true Christian character is constantly using the mirror of the Word to make changes in his or her life that conform to God's standards.
And as with all things, Christianity has many who start this process of conformity well but finish poorly. I love it when a person can come to the end of their life and say with the Apostle Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7).
Billy Graham, who recently passed, was such a man in our time. He was a person who dedicated his life and ministry for much of his nearly 100 years of existence on this earth to preaching the gospel of the grace of God to millions worldwide. According to his website, he has preached to audiences of 210 million people in 185 different countries and territories in various meetings. And of course, everyone will have his detractors if they stick their head out in leadership. But in all his time in ministry there is not one scandal that can be looked back on that either he or his ministry were involved in doing. That is true character and integrity!
2. Demonstrators of Transformation
Jesus, in John 3 talked about the new birth. Those who are of the world are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). They are spiritual corpses, unable to do anything to please God. When we are saved, we are made alive. We become new creatures in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17).
Now we have the ability to live a triumphant life. We have a new nature that can live in obedience to God's will. It won't be a perfect life, as long as we are not in our glorified bodies. This perfection will only occur when Christ returns. However, we are capable of growing in grace and becoming more and more like Jesus. We can grow into much more than most of us actually do. Way too many of us choose to live well below our status. And that is a shame.
Ideally we can become living demonstrations of the transformed life that Jesus Christ offers us. We may live as a light in the dark world around us. All Christians are capable of being the salt of preservation in an otherwise putrefying society . Instead too many turn into a part of the world system out of which they have been taken.
I hear numerous Christians complain about the decaying of our society, and the fact that no one seems to possess character any more. However, before we confront our society, we need to look in the mirror that James tells us about and see the changes that still have to take place in our own lives. We cannot make the world change, but we can live out the changed life the Lord has made possible for us by the cross.
We believers have to take away the excuse that many unbelievers give us for not taking the message of the cross seriously. That reason, which I just heard from someone recently, is that the Church is full of hypocrites.
It was A. B. Simpson who wrote: "The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God, give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost."
It has been said that: "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him." It is my prayer that a few good men and women will step up and take that challenge. Our culture, here in America, and around the world, is in serious need of revival. May we who care about these things be the change that we hope to see occur.
© 2013 Jeff Shirley