It seems like I hear a lot of talk about the value of character. Whether in conversations, on TV, or in print, over the last few years, people seem to talk much about character. However, in observing our society, I can’t always tell that the talk is resulting in positive change for our culture. In addition, the definition of character is not consistent between those who tout its worth. Why the difference?
Perhaps part of the difference comes from our chosen worldview. According to Ronald H. Nash:
A worldview is the total of answers people give to the most important questions of life. According to some, the five most important elements in any worldview are what people believe about God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and human nature.
Some approach their view of life from the perspective of an atheist. If there is no god, we are on our own to decide what’s important and how to decide what is true and good. Others approach the subject from the viewpoint of a deist. A deist believes there is a god, but that that god may not be involved in our lives. Once again, this leaves us with the task of deciding on our own standards for living. The major difference in world views comes from the Christian worldview.
A Christian worldview is based on the belief that, not only is there a God, but that He desires us to know Him personally. God has standards to guide our lives. Christian character takes these standards into account. Character is developed by following God’s guidance as revealed in the Bible.
In the articles that follow, I will address three steps that I believe are essential for developing Christian character. Those steps are consecration, cooperation, and collaboration.
Consecration is an Old Testament word that means to dedicate something or someone to God for service and worship. In the New Testament, the equivalent concept is sanctification. Sanctification means that God sets His people apart—they are His. When a person is born again, he or she is set apart for God’s purposes. I see at least three areas where consecration effects our character.
Cooperation is a word we use to describe how people help each other succeed. A mother and her young daughter each had an ice cream cone. As they walked, the little girl dropped the ice cream off her cone onto the sidewalk. The compassionate mother placed her ice cream on her daughter’s cone. The girl said, “That’s cooperation.” Well, maybe.
The Bible talks a lot about obedience. What if we looked at obedience not only as a challenge, but more so as an opportunity to cooperate with God’s plan for our lives. When we obey God’s commands, we are cooperating with His plan and purpose for our lives. Even more, we are cooperating with His plan for all mankind. Here are three areas where cooperation changes us.
Collaboration is simply working together. Webster defines collaboration as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” For our discussion, I will change one word—intellectual to spiritual. Again, I will address three areas where collaboration helps us develop Christian character.
As Christians we are called to be salt and light in our world. In other words, we are to be influencers. In order for that to happen, we need to become like Christ. Obviously, we are not to look like a first-century person physically. Our clothes and physical appearance will be much different than Jesus. So, what does it mean to “be like Christ?” The New Testament describes the born-again Christian’s actions and characteristics repeatedly. Galatians 5:22-33 sums it up like this: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Richard Stearns is president of World Vision. He began a devotional on FaithGateway.com with the following statement:
As followers of Christ, we bear the responsibility of demonstrating to the world what Jesus might look like were He to walk the earth today. Those who will never enter the door of a church or read a Bible or hear a sermon can still know Jesus by watching us!
Christian character is summed up by being like Jesus. That’s healthy for us and critical for those around us. It’s also pleasing to God. In the following blogs, I will expand on what I believe it means to develop Christian character. For now, I will leave us with the following prayer from the Apostle Paul:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12