Developing Godly Character

What is the difference between character and reputation? In the simplest terms, “reputation” is what other people believe you to be, and “character” is what God knows you to be. Your reputation may or may not reflect your character accurately because we are all experts at wearing masks in public. Depending on the mask we put on, we may be seen by people as being humble and easy to get along with, while in the privacy of our home, away from public scrutiny, we may be a tyrant.

Character is a part of our being that is shaped over time, being influenced by many things, like our parents, friends and acquaintances, education, relationships at school, work, and church. All those things and more work together to shape our character.

With so many negative influences around us, it’s frighteningly easy to develop character flaws, and once we have them they are hard to root out and remove. However, Christians are to work at developing a Godly character, no matter how difficult that may be within our culture. Through prayer, self-examination, application of the the Word of God, and a daily reliance on the Holy Spirit, we should be able to polish up the image of God within us and be perfect examples of what Godly character looks like.

Here’s how we do this.

1. Remove yourself from evil influences, Psalm 101:1-8

This psalm, written by King David, is his description of an ideal. It’s how David wanted to rule Israel, and how he wanted it to be ruled by his successors. In that sense it is similar to the book of Proverbs, with its admonitions about kingly conduct.

a. Determine to live righteously, vs. 1-3

The very first thing we notice about how David began his psalm is how often he used the phrase, “I will.” From the outset we sense the king’s determination to live in such a way as to demonstrate his loyalty to God. The motivation for this aspiration comes from David’s appreciation for God’s character; His acts of “love and justice.” The Lord’s treatment of His people, including David himself, brought David to this place of thanksgiving and determination to live right before God.

Kirkpatrick interprets verse 2 this way:

I will give heed unto the way of integrity, deliberately and of set purpose make whole hearted devotion to God and perfect uprightness towards men the rule of my conduct.

David’s absolute determination to live in a righteous manner, though, is balanced by a dependence of God

when will you come to me?

David, Israel’s Godly king, affirms his loyalty to God, not to the ways of the world:

I will set before my eyes no vile thing.

What an important lesson for the modern Christian to learn! Many of us long to live righteously, yet we sabotage our efforts by not approaching this noble goal with grit and determination and by flirting with the world every chance we get. Want to be holy? Then stop dwelling on unholy things! Find it hard muster the strength to live in obedience to God? Be determined, but make allowances for the enabling of the Holy Spirit. God will help you accomplish that which He wants from you.

b. Embrace integrity, reject evil, vs. 4-8

Part of pursuing righteous living and developing a Godly character is the rejection of “the deeds of faithless men.” Moffatt translates verse 4 like this:

Apostates and their practices I hate.

The king has realized how important it is to associate with the right people: people of integrity and honor. So vital was this, later on in the psalm, David makes the bold statement:

I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.

It’s not that David was better than other people, but “men of perverse heart” influence a man of pure heart negatively. The old saying is never wrong: “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” The liar, the proud, and the profane, all wreak havoc wherever they go, be it a family, a church, or some other organization. David wouldn’t tolerate them in his court, and the believer shouldn’t tolerate them in their lives.

2. Let God reshape your heart, Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 12 begins an extended teaching of Jesus, His Sermon on the Mount. The whole thing takes in chapters 5 to 7 and involves Jesus’ ethical and spiritual teachings for Kingdom living. This is how people will live during the Millennial Kingdom; such living can’t be fully realized here and now. That fact, though, doesn’t render His teachings useless. As followers of Jesus, we are already living in the Kingdom, spiritually speaking, and it is our duty to live according to these teachings as far as it is possible for us to do so in this present world.

a. The context, vs. 1, 2

Jesus begins His discussion on Kingdom living with the Beatitudes, conditions of the heart that lead to the favor of God and the ability to receive certain blessings from Him. These are spiritual attitudes, really, that in most cases are polar opposites to worldly attitudes. But if we are to develop a Godly character, we must begin with a whole new way of thinking: attitude makes the difference!

b. Develop kingdom desires and attitudes, vs. 3-9

The world wants us to live one way, but God demands we live His way, and His way is frequently at odds with the world’s.

(1) God says the “poor in spirit” will be blessed. The world says the exact opposite. One who is “poor is spirit” is one who has realized their spiritual bankruptcy and have come to depend wholly on God. It has no thing to do with wealth or material possessions, although it could. Jesus wants His people to humbly come to depend on Him.

(2) God says that “mourners” will be blessed. Those who are “poor in spirit” are also those who know how to mourn. People mourn for many reasons: sickness, pain, bereavement, wounded pride, etc., but here Jesus has in mind the believer who mourns because they have seen how spiritual needy they really are. The world tells people to feel good about themselves and to practice positive self-esteem. Christians shouldn’t beat themselves up, but they should see themselves as God sees them: redeemed sinners who need a whole lot of help from above to live right!

(3) God says “the meek shall inherit the earth,” the world says be strong and take what is rightfully yours. A “meek” person is not some supine, carpet-like individual who lets everybody walk all over them. Rather, the one who is “meek” is one who is not resentful; who bears no grudge; who keeps no record of wrongs.

(4) God says those who desperately seek “righteousness” will find it. The world tells us to chase material and find emotional fulfillment in earthly things, like money and possessions. Out of the depths of spiritual poverty, mourning over the sin in our life, and focusing on God instead of our hurts, we are free to pursue righteousness; that is, the things of God that build a Godly character. We can’t find righteousness unless we are looking for it. And we won’t be looking for it if we are busy running after the things of this world.

(5) God says if we are “merciful” toward those who are hurting and in misery, then we will be treated with mercy. The world wants us to be selfish and associate only with those who will be of some benefit to us. Who wants to be around a downcast, lonely, hurting person? Jesus does, and so should we, if we want to be like Him. Developing a compassionate, loving, empathetic disposition takes work, but it will result in a divine disposition and you will be an answer to prayer for the one who is hurting.

(6) God says the “pure in heart” will see God. The person who is “pure in heart” is one who is sincere and honest.

(7) God says “peacemakers” are His children. A “peacemaker” is not to be confused with a “peacenik,” who protests all day, carrying some kind of placard, and who seldom showers or shaves. A Biblical peacemaker can only be one who has experienced the peace of God through being completely reconciled to Him.

(8) God says it’s a blessing to be “persecuted” for the sake of righteousness. This kind of persecution is not like be punished for some wrongdoing, but being treated unfairly or unjustly for living a Godly life and being obedient to God’s Word and will.

3. Cooperate with God’s grace, 2 Peter 1:2-11

a. Use God’s resources, vs. 2-4

Notice what Peter says believers have received from God:

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.

Faith is the first resource God gives us to live for us. But we have more; faith is merely the beginning. Peter goes on to talk about more resources:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance… (vs. 2)

We can accomplish much more when we are at peace than when we are bound up with frustration and anxiety. Peace sets the mind free and enables us to see things clearly and in perspective.

But these things don’t come into the life of a believer by chance!

through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. (vs. 2)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we get many great and precious gifts as part of our new relationship with God in Christ, but those things come into our lives only as the Word of God is given great prominence in our every day thinking. As we read and study it more, we become aware of all that God wants from us, and all that He wants to do for us, if we would just yield our wills to His and let Him have His way with us.

Yes it all begins with faith, but it can’t end there. There is so much more in store for us if we would just do our part.

b. Move ahead in love and toward love, vs. 5-7

Verse 5 really gives us an idea about what is involved in developing a Godly character:

Make every effort to add to your faith…

Yes, it’s an effort to add to your faith all the qualities necessary to have a Godly character. It is our responsibility to supplement our faith with excellent qualities, each one added to the other one. The word “add” means “to supply” or to “super-add.” It’s a compound word, epichorigeo, meaning “to join to, to furnish one thing after another, so that there be no want or chasm.” It’s an odd word used in the Greek arts with the meaning “to lead a chorus.” So Peter wants his readers, and us, to add one thing to another after another in a beautiful order until the chorus is complete and we have developed a character that is in  harmony with that of God.

The whole process of becoming righteous and Godly reaches its completion when on top of every single virtue is added agape love. This kind of love is manifested, not only toward the Body of Christ, or toward our neighbors, but also toward God. When we are living and loving like that, we will have developed Godly character.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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