YOUR ACTIONS DEFINE YOUR CHARACTER
It does not matter who you are, your character will be defined by your actions. Many times all a person has is their character, and if their character is bad, people will have very little to do with them.
Let me give you some examples. I want you to pretend for a minute that you are a business owner that is hiring. You have two people to choose between that have similar qualifications, but one of them has a record of breaking the law, which person are you going to hire? I can tell that most would hire the person without a criminal record because they donít want to take a chance with someone with a tarnished character. Their past actions have defined their character, and even if that person has made changes in their life, you as owner have no way of knowing that for sure.
When politicians start running for office many times you will see that character plays a big role, and each politician tries to attack the character of those they are running against or if they run a cleaner race, they will spend a lot of time showing why their character is better than their opponents.
If a someone is trying to take the position of a politician that has been in place for many years, that more experienced politician will claim that the new person is to inexperienced to take the office, even though that same politician was is the same boat before he or she started politics.
The new person can attack the more experienced politician by pointing out how he or she said they would do one thing, but they ended up doing another.
Another example of how our actions define our character can be seen in our own family or in one of our friends. For example, I knew a person that had a bad habit of lying all the time. Once people figure out that you lie all the time, no one is going to believe you when do tell the truth. This is why fables like the boy who cried wolf are taught to our children so they can learn at an early age the results of lying.
Another good word for Character would be reputation because that is what your character is all about. All of us are affected by the reputation of those around us. Trust is something that we donít just give away to anyone and we certainly will not give our trust to those who have a bad reputation and of course this includes groups and places as well.
For instance, if a local restaurant has been cited for several health violations and many people have gotten sick from eating there, what are the chances you are going to eat there? Probably none. But if that same restaurant has been given rave reviews, its reputation is good and the chances of you eating there are very high.
So far, all we have talked about is how important our character is in our society, and how our reputation is defined by our actions. From a worldly point of view, we should be concerned about our Character, but as Christians we should be very concerned about our Character because God expects us to be known as having a Christ-like Character. Jesus said,
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.† 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.† 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Also Paul said,
2 Thessalonians 3:7† For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;† 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,† 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
1 Corinthians 11:1 †Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
Before you and I became Christians, no matter how good our Character was deemed by society, all of us were stained with sin and we were separated from God. While its wonderful if you were kind and considerate person, your Character was flawed because God was not in your life. However, when we learned about God and realized that were drowning in our sins, we understood that a change had to take place in our life. We needed to change our Character.
Unlike the world who does not let you live down your past mistakes, God is ready to wipe the slate clean when obey the Gospel and are baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins.
When we choose of our own free will to accept the grace of God by obeying His commands, the Bible teaches us that when we are buried with Christ in baptism, we put to death our old-self and we become a new creature in Christ. As Paul said,
Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.† 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,† 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
2 Corinthians 5:17 †Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
The fact that God allows us start over with a clean slate should be very comforting to us because we can take confidence in the fact that God is not going to bring up our past sins because He has forgotten them. So, once we became Christians, our Character was fully intact, but we must learn to keep it intact so that we can be that shining light that represents Christ.
We need to remind ourselves on daily basis that we are not just living our lives for ourselves, we are living them for God, and our actions will either make us a great example for Christianity that leads people to Christ, or we might be a bad example for Christianity and find ourselves being a representative of the devil. As Paul said,
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,† 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
As Christians we are in constant battle against the devil and against ourselves. One of the great challenges we face as a Christian is remaining pure by bringing all our thoughts and actions into captivity to the obedience of Christ. I wish there was some magical switch that we could turn on when we become Christians that would make us perfect, and could somehow keep our character blemish free, but we all know this does not happen. So we must work at maintaining our Christian character.
God knows we are going to fall short of His glory form time to time. He knows that we are going to skin our knees on our race to heaven. God never wants us to give up, and He is going to be there for us when we need to be lifted up, and He will help us finish the race if we will allow Him to. This should give us great comfort.
As part of character as Christians we must have confidence in Godís love and His forgiveness because we are not perfect and we sin from time to time. As John says,
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.† 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.† 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.† 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Just as God gives us a clean slate when we repent and are baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins, we also learn that God will continue to erase the flaws of our character from the record when we walk in the light and we confess our sins to Him. When you think about it, Godís plan for our salvation is not all that hard to maintain, but we must be humble enough to admit when we are wrong and be willing to change our ways to Godís ways.
Even though we have been given this freedom in Christ over sin, please understand that this does not mean that we can just sin as much as we want to and then simply confess it to God. Again, John said we must walk in the light, which is a continual action. We must be striving for perfection by doing our best to stay away from sin. I donít know your heart, but God does. He knows the difference between those who fall because of a weak moment, but who are walking in the light and those who continue to sin who are really walking in darkness. Paul addressed this issue in:
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?† 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.† 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.† 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.† 15 ∂ What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!† 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?† 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.† 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
We must never take the freedoms we have in Christ for granted and think that we can be as wicked as we want to be and think Godís grace will cover it all because it will not. If we try to abuse Godís grace we can fall from it (Gal. 5:4). As Paul just said, when we became Christians we became servants of righteousness, and we should stay far away from sin. We are in the Lordís army now and He is our general. Just like in earthly army, we are to obey the commands that come down from headquarters. All us have our instructions written clearly in the Word of God.
Notice what Paul says about Character in,
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,† 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.† 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;† 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.† 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I donít know who coined this phrase, but someone once said, ďWhat doesnít kill you, will make you stronger.Ē This is the idea that Paul is giving us about our character. The first century Christians went through some difficult time because the opposing Jews wanted them stopped, and later on, when the Romans had a beef with them, many of them suffered immensely, but the majority of them did not waiver in their faith. No matter how many times they were told to renounce God, they would not.
They had such integrity in their Character that neither the Jews nor the Romans could break it. This is the same integrity we must have in our Character as Christians as well. Paul hit the nail on the head when he said that perseverance produces Character. Whenever bad things happen to us and we actively seek comfort from God and we turn our problems over to Him we will make our Character stronger and stronger. When that bad time is over and we see how God gave us the strength to make it through, then we can know that we will be able to make it through the next thing that comes our way.
As Christians we must always be thinking about how we can add to our Character, and how important it is that we allow Godís Word to be our guide.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.† 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.† 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.† 26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.† 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.†
We have to do our best to make the right decisions every day in our lives. We cannot just go with the flow and do whatever seems right at the moment, we must learn to think about our actions. We need to ask ourselves if the words we are about to say, are they going to be helpful or harmful. Or if we are going to get involved in some activity, we need to ask is this what a Christian should be doing. When you watching a show that has sinful images and language, we must think about what affect that is going to have on us.
We have been so desensitized by the media and our society about certain sinful issues that when here about those sins happening, it doesnít it shock us or even concern us that much anymore. The more we buy into this tolerance agenda that is being pushed on us, the more our Christian Character suffers. Just because sinful things are being practiced more and more, it doesnít make them less sinful, and we need to stop and think about how we are being affected by this negative influence. We need to remind ourselves just how ugly and horrible sin is no matter how popular our society says it is.
Timothy is great example of man that had Character. Notice how Paul boast about His character to the Philippians in:
Philippians 2:19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.† 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.† 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.† 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.† 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.†
Timothy was a great evangelist and he had been tested, but as far we know he never lost his integrity. He had a lot of encouragement from his mother and grandmother and from Paul to be a man of Character. For instance Paul taught Him,
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Paul understood the importance of having a Christ-like character and how young Timothy and every Christians must be a Christian example. If we allow our Character to break down and we fail to be an example in word, in conduct, in love in spirit, in faith and in purity, then we are failing to be the kind of servants that God wants us to be. Again, this shows us how our actions define our character.
Of course God is the perfect example of what a person of character should be like because He is a God of love, mercy, grace, and justice. When God says He will do something He does it without fail. Now some only like to view God as God of love, mercy, and grace, but we need to understand that justice is part of His character. As you study through the O.T., you see God excel in His love, mercy, and grace, but we also see His justice when His people fail to do what they are supposed to do. He punished them because He is just.
God is not going to give you a slap on the wrist and send you on your way. He is not going to say that you are doing is ok since society says it is ok. No, there will be severe consequences for those who choose to live in sin that will last for an eternity because God is just. If He was not just, then His character would be flawed. So, I hope all of us will follow Godís example and always strive to be people of Character.
The best advice I can give that will help you to make sure that you maintain your Christian Character come from the words of Paul in Col.3. As I read these verses I want you to pay close attention to what Paul is saying.
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.† 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.† 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.† 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.† 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.† 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,† 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.† 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.† 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,† 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,† 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.† 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;† 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.† 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.† 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.† 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.† 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.† 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.† 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.† 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.† 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.† 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.† 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,† 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.† 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
I hope this lesson has shown you how important it is for us to keep our Christian Character intact, and how our Character is defined by our actions. I hope that we all take the words of Paul to heart, because if we do, our Character will stand the test of time and we will be the examples that God wants us to be.