(Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)
We’re living in a day and age where we hear very little about character and the benefits of having a strong, solid, morally based character. It’s almost like a fleeting thought. In fact, it seems elusive. One person anonymously said, “Everyone tries to define this thing called character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”
Let me ask you this question.
What doors would open wide for you if you spent time honing and developing your character? David, King of Israel, said this in Psalm 15:1, “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on the guest list? Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.”
That’s the answer. In other words, there are huge benefits to having godly character. And David just highlighted the idea that God invites us into his place and builds relationships with us because God is holy. And he looks to establish a growing relationship with people who also want to grow in holiness.
Practical Steps to Developing Character
We must ask ourselves three very simple questions, which will yield godliness and good solid character.
Question One: Who am I?
You must ask yourself that question because it’s tied to your identity. Who are you on a deep cellular level? When I recognize who I am, it drives the way I behave. It drives the way I act. It drives my attitude.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new. Paul is telling us that when you accept Christ as your savior, you actually become a brand-new person. You actually change in who you are, in your identity.
The New Testament scholar, Phillip Hughes, says, when he refers to the old things are passed, that the old represents distinctions, prejudices, misconceptions, enslavement of former unregenerate life. Paul says all have become new. New, in the technical grammar, means present tense.
It’s that type of speech, which says that the old things became new and they continue to be new. The new life is not you having a new experience, it’s you becoming a new person and you keep on in that newness throughout your entire spiritual life.
If you want the fruit of a godly character, it takes place in your identity. You have to identify with the one who is in charge of all characters, God himself. When you accept Christ as savior, your identity changes, the old person has gone. The new person has come. The idea is that when you look in the mirror, you’re supposed to see Jesus because we become more and more like Christ daily.
Paul tells us in Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with. That we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
You’re no longer what you used to be.
Question Two: Who am I becoming?
Paul speaks to this. He lets us know that we’re changing. We’re going through a process; an ongoing metamorphosis every day, we’re becoming more and more like Jesus. He helps the church at Ephesus shape and hone the character of each individual that was worshiping at the church.
In Ephesians 4:17, Paul begins by saying, “As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid godless people. Their minds are in the dark and they’re stubborn and ignorant. And I’ve missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, and they are so greedy that they do all kinds of indecent things. But this isn’t what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learned about him.”
Paul is telling us that there should be a stark difference between your character and those who don’t know Christ. He says when they don’t have the wellspring of life inside of them, causing them to strive to be more like Christ and to live in a way that reflects God and godliness, they will do all kinds of crazy zany things.
God is the anchor point, inflexible and unmoving, for morality. And when you don’t have a moral compass based on something that is inflexible and unmoving, you say good is bad and bad is good. And you just waffle back and forth because nothing is there as an anchor point.
Your life must be able to reflect your beliefs. Who am I becoming financially in terms of my values? Who am I becoming in terms of my relationships? Are they healthy? Does it matter to me? Who am I becoming in my mental health? Who am I in the way of my sexuality? What am I becoming?
Go through some self-examination; check out what you’re doing and what you’re saying and how you’re thinking. Is what you’re doing matching up?
I always ask myself this question, what would Jesus do?
When we ask ourselves that question it helps us to make a quick shift, quick adjustments and align our life or our attitude with what we believe Jesus would do.
Self-regulation is also important. Self-regulation is a step after self-examination.
Self-examination says I’m holding up my life to the mirror of God’s Word, and the Word is not wrong. It’s when my life doesn’t align with the Word, the values of the Word, the behavior of the Word and the attitude the Word calls me to. When my life is not aligned with the Word, that’s the self-examination part.
The self-regulation part is when I make adjustments. Now, granted, there’s some things I don’t know how to adjust. That’s why I depend on the Holy Spirit. There’s some things I don’t know how to change, even though I know I need to make that change.
We can’t rely in our own strength, regulate every aspect of our behavior. There must be a dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Question Three: What do I want to be?
Paul says in Ephesians 4:22, “You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.” Paul is saying that we have the capability to work on our character. It’s not magical. It’s not something that, oh, I hope I grow in my character. This is something that you intentionally, devotedly and strategically do.
Who do you want to be?
Paul says, here’s how you do it. You get rid of the old habits, get rid of the old lifestyle. Don’t sit there and salivate over what you used to be and how you used to do what you did. Don’t smile about it, it’s not joyous. It speaks of your broken state. Don’t gloat about it. Paul says to throw those foolish desires to the wayside and dismiss them.
When we think about who do I want to be, we must have examples and role models. I hold up, certainly Jesus as the preeminent model. And Paul’s one of my guys. I just love the Apostle Paul.
But then there must be earthly models and they can’t be the Hollywood people. It can’t be famous athletes. We can’t look at them and, and wealthy individuals per se, to let that be our role model. Because if that’s the case, you’re going to be watching shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Housewives of Atlanta, or God forbid, RuPaul’s Drag Race. And then you’re popping down in front of the TV and you’re just sitting there, looking at them and being fascinated by them.
You can’t be lured into that. Don’t let that be your role models or don’t let that be the place where you relax, because if you’re relaxed in front of that, unbeknownst to you, unconsciously, it goes in and when it sinks in, it’ll come out.
Paul is saying you have to fuel the new life with new desires and new habits so that the new you will be evident to all. He tells us in Ephesians 4:23-24, “Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You are created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.”
Who do I want to be?
I want to be like my heavenly father. It’s challenging, but it’s not condemning. It’s inviting but it’s not overwhelming. And the beauty is that Jesus walks with you. He doesn’t leave you isolated and he doesn’t put a gun over your head. He invites you into this journey daily, and you become more and more like Christ. And it’s an ongoing process.
You were changed. You are changed. You will be changed. We’re constantly being changed.
You can become like Christ.
I love what Oswald Chambers, author, and Bible teacher, once said, “The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness. If the spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly.”
When people see your life, they see God-likeness in you.