"Character is what a man is in the dark" Dwight L. Moody
"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." Abraham Lincoln
These are just two simple quotes out of thousands of really good ones. These are ones I want to meditate on because I believe they reveal something we all need to see. Basically it is the same idea spoken two different ways. I want to explore character a bit and see what it really says about who we are.
Character: as defined by Webster's dictionary is really simplistic, he simply stated that it is a distinguishing feature. I say simplistic because I think character is the single most important thing about us. It reveals who we are, what we think.
Some of us are characters no doubt about it. Some of make people laugh others make people think. Still others can make you cry, make you scream or just plain make you want to kick something. I'm not asking about your personality. I am asking about your heart. The source of who you are comes from that.
If I were to ask you a few questions about your character, such as;
1) Describe your character from your personal point of view. What would you say?
2) If I were to ask anyone who knew you what your character was, what would they say?
3) Would these views, though not exact, be enough alike that I would get a good view of who you are?
Let's face reality for a moment and just be really honest, candid if you will. How much of our opinion of our character is rooted in pride, arrogance and plain old lies? How much is rooted in God's truth? If God were to turn on a spotlight that all the world would be able to see us as we really and truly are, how many of us would try and hide?
Who is the man or woman behind the mask? Who are you when no-one is looking?
Which leads to my 4th question about character;
4) If God were to write out your character, what would He say?
You might be feeling uncomfortable and that's a good thing really.
I am in the process of putting together a youth study for Wednesday night and this is the topic The Lord laid on my heart. At first I was like cool, I can do that. Then He turned on that big spotlight in my heart and I confess I wanted to run and hide. If you have noticed anything about me from reading my post, I'm honest to a fault. If I think I have something I can share that will help others, as much as I hate laying out my life before you, I will do so. It's all about God's heart and not mine. God requires me to take off the masks that are so easy to hide behind.
When I started studying this I confess the bible wasn't my first source to turn to. I was pretty sure everything I needed would be there and the study guides would give me a wealth of information to choose from. So I dove off in writing, contemplating key questions to ask, looking for genius ways to intrigue and inspire the youth, sure the bible would back me up completely. It would just be a matter of filling in the right scriptures to strengthen my original thought. Humming along I finished my words and picked up the bible with assurance everything I needed would be a touch and page turner away. Boy could I have not been further from the truth.
The word "character" is not mentioned one time in scripture!
Now, I'm starting to panic a little bit, after all this is for youth service, at church. My mind is buzzing with a thousand questions I'm screaming at God. Why would I teach on character if you did not? Why on earth did you pick this one? What do you want me to say, when I can't find one scripture to back it up? I'm sure He got up from the proverbial desk, walked around it and looked to make sure it still said He was God, shook His head and sat back down. That may be funny but there is a ring of truth to it. When I finally settled down a little bit, God began to speak to me. He spoke so fast I could barely write it all down.
The word character is not mentioned in scriptures because it is a process that is refined as we step out from under the nature of Adam and put on the nature of Christ.
You see, when I gave my life to God and accepted Christ as my Lord & Savior, I stepped out from under the nature I was born into. I stepped into the nature of Christ. The refining of my character, so to speak, is not in changing my nature, but it is in putting on His nature. Scripture talks allot about that.
How Do I change my character?
Steps to Changing Character:
1) You must be born again. John 3:3 This is a crucial step because all the others are meaningless until you take this first step. When you take this step 2 Cor. 5:17 says that you have become a new creature. You have stepped out of the sin nature and you have put on Christ's nature. Without this step the best you can hope to accomplish is being good.
2) Study God's Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 says to study the word of God. This is what changes you on a daily basis. You don't automatically know everything about God or even how to live for God when you are born again. It is a daily, moment by moment journey of learning and growing. Babies are not born full grown knowing how to do everything in life. It is a process that is acquired over time. Don't rush the process.
3) Put on your armor. Ephesians 6:10-18 as a new creature you acquire a new enemy. As long as you were under the sin curse, satan could care less about you. Now that you belong to God he's coming for you to knock you out. The best offense is a defense and vice versa.
4) Be accountable. Hebrews 13:17 Talks about people who have authority over you. This is a good thing because it a safety net God has provided should you stumble. Don't despise the authority over your life it's good.
How do I know what my true character is?
By your fruits you will know them. Matthew 12:33, Matthew 7:17-19. So let's take a fruit test ok?
Galatians 5:22 Good fruit; Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
Galatians 5:19-21 Bad fruit; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness.
The test of where you fall under the fruit category can be found in the words of Lord in Matthew 15-16-20. In speaking with the Pharisees, He told them that it wasn't what you actually put physically in your body that defiles you. It is what actually comes out of your heart. That is your identifying fruit. What comes out of your heart is the true identity of your character.
In conclusion these are a few points I want to leave with you about character.
1) It is the Identifier. It is the way others identify who you are, good or bad.
2) It is the deciding factor of your choices. It sways all the choices you make in life, good or bad.
3) It is your Headstone. It is the legacy you will leave behind, good or bad.
Jesus said either make the tree good or make it bad. The choice is really ours.
I know you think I probably forgot to mention what I learned at the beginning of this study about my own life. No, actually I didn't. I purposefully left it for the end. As God turned on the spotlight in my heart, I saw a mountain of pride there. I saw the arrogance of my choice to search resources outside of His word first. I realized I knew very, very little about character. I realized that unless I put off who I think I am and put what He says I am first, I will never truly understand His heart.
I hope you have been blessed and challenged. Search your heart and anything you think you have erred in, confess it and let God forgive it. You are a brand new creature regardless and while the process may be long, it is not impossible!
"Everyone tried to define this thing called character. It's not hard, character is doing what's right when nobody's looking. Anonymous
I'm hid with Christ!