Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Character Counts!

     This past weekend, we had another family gathering to celebrate a birthday.  During the course of our time together, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with one of our daughters-in-law about child rearing.  She works hard, along with our son,  to teach their two boys respect, courtesy and kindness towards others, and it shows.  As she rightfully observed, there are, however, many in our current culture that do not spend much, if any, time training their children.  There is no time spent teaching them about faith in God, or even the value of hard work.  Instead, many children are left to their own devices.  Then, people wonder why they grow up disrespecting teachers, others in authority, having no work ethic, and expecting the world to provide for them.  It is a blessing, then, to know that our children and their spouses are working hard to assist their children in developing a Christian character.  To me, this is the foundation of a stable society, but it also raises a question in my mind.  How well are we doing individually in setting a good example of Christian character in our family, at work, and in our church fellowships?
     As Christians, our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ our Savior.  Can we do this on our own?  No.  However, as we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us into all truth, we will be able to see growth in our walk.  In various letters to believers, the Apostle Paul encouraged all who follow the Lord to demonstrate the character of Christ.  I Corinthians 14:20 reads:  "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature."  Notice how he tells us to be infants towards evil.  This is an area that needs no development.  Then, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes:  "...until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,..." (Ephesians 4:13-15).
Paul's purpose is to point us to growing in our spiritual character that we might prove an effective witness to a world who does not know the Lord.  If we do not demonstrate any change in our character, then we should ask ourselves if we really committed our life to Christ to begin with.  So what are some practical examples of Christian character?
     First and foremost is integrity in all that we do.  Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy.  Jesus told Pilate (John 18:37) that He came to bear witness to the truth:  "Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  Jesus had earlier proclaimed: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me."  Since we are believers in Christ, we believe in the truth and should be examples of honest, truth-telling individuals.  This is the character of Christ - honesty and integrity.  What He said He would do, He did.  We also need to be honest.  Therefore, we have to be truthful in our conversation, apply ourselves at work, and follow through on our promises.
     Secondly, Christian character is displayed when we admit that we are wrong.  Mickey Evans, faithful Pastor and founder of Dunklin Memorial Camp (gone home to be with the Lord) used to say: "It is better to be righteous than right."  In other words, we may be right about something or an issue but if we press it, we could do damage to a relationship.  It is better to demonstrate righteousness and have a humble heart.  If we are wrong, admit it, and even if we are right, give grace and don't argue.  There is a time and a place to stand up for our position, but we must be careful not to hurt another in so doing.  Likewise, we make mistakes, forget things, don't follow through, and we need to be Christlike enough to admit it.  No one knows everything and has the right answer all the time.  Be humble, willing to learn, and quick to make amends.  Remember, Jesus could have argued with the Sanhedrin and with Pilate because He absolutely was in the right, but He chose the righteous path and gave Himself for each one of us.

   Finally, Scripture tells us to be peacemakers, reconcilers and to show respect for others.  Paul wrote this admonishment to the Colossians (4:6):  "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."  This is so important today.  There is nothing worse than to call an office and have a rude person on the other end who clearly acts as though they have no time for you.  What is worse is if you know that person and they claim to be a Christian.  What kind of a testimony is that?  Having served as a receptionist in several businesses, I know what it feels like to answer the phone in a cheerful fashion just to have the other person be unkind as well.  It works both ways.  We must remember to whom we belong in all our conduct.  Do we really want to show fellow believers, our family or our co-workers our sin nature or do we want to show them Christ?  Our behavior and character matter!  People are watching us both inside our church as well as in our community.
     Let us examine ourselves daily and ask God to show us areas that need work.  We are a work in progress as a believer but if we will read the Bible daily, talk with God each day to ask His help, be in a Bible teaching church consistently for accountability, we will reap blessings as we grow up in Him.
None of us is perfect and we will not reach perfection until we see Him face to face.  However, we must be willing to allow God to discipline us that we may grow up to maturity.  When we do, we will bring glory to God and be an example to a culture in need of the salt and light of Jesus Christ.  Selah!

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