Character Pleasing to God

young woman sitting by tree

What we say and what we actually do can be miles apart. But God doesn’t judge us by these as much as He judges us by our character. The one thing He really wants to see is godly character being built up in us. This means the way we behave according to our code of correct behavior, which is then demonstrated by the actions of our body. But we seldom think of character in terms of our body. The character we form is made known by the disposition that rules within us—referring to our customary moods and attitude toward life around us. God can change our disposition, but He is not the one who forms our character. We have to do that ourselves.

There is no quick and easy way to Heaven. This is also true in forming godly character. Choosing a quick and easy way to the ways of God does not benefit us. The only sure way is long and careful. We therefore need patience in the process. We can choose to ignore God and refuse to obey Him, or we can obey Him by bringing every thought and imagination under control. Then His life will be displayed in our body. The issue is not simply keeping us from going to Hell. The issue is that we have been saved for the very purpose of displaying Christ in our everyday life—in everything we do. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” said Jesus (John 13:17 emphasis mine).

headshot of a middle aged man

Patient striving for godly character shows the power of our love for God. Jesus did not choose the quick and easy way to the throne and kingdom He was destined for. He chose the long way of humility which took Him first to the Cross of Calvary. The heavenly Father’s perfect standard for a man’s character is represented by the life of Jesus. The Father does not make us walk right. Instead, He gives us the very life and Spirit of His Son, so His patience, love, and gentleness can be displayed in us. Then consistent godly Christian character is formed as the life of Jesus is made evident in our mortal body.

The only way to clearly understand the will of God is by developing godly character. Different Christians interpret His will in various ways at various times, but the Holy Spirit is the only true interpreter. When we first receive the Holy Spirit, we learn the most valuable lesson of spiritual life—that God’s will is revealed according to our character’s condition. But His will doesn’t change our character. It is our attitude toward His will, expressed in our newly-forming character, which begins to reflect His will. Paul said to work out our salvation, and to be consistent in character with what God has worked in, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

two indigenous children washing dishes

Our character cannot earn or make us deserve a right to come before God. It is only by His grace that we can ever stand before Him. Let’s be wary of having an arrogant interest in our own character, which can then turn into our reason for believing in God. Be careful that nothing interferes with our proper relationship with Him. Anything that damages this relationship will interfere when God wants to use us to influence others toward Him. It will also mar our reflection of Him in the eyes of others.

“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” as we are “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (1 John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1 emphasis mine).

Are we guilty of encouraging a false, unhealthy holiness that does not come from the fear of God? If we focus on our own holiness, a subtle pride of the flesh which is not in the Word can slowly rise up in us. It does not lead to building character, but only to having experience. Then we tend to take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.

three crosses in a field

God gives us the right disposition through the Atonement (Jesus shedding His blood on the cross for our sins). He puts it into us when we are born again. But it is up to us to work it out in everyday life, in and through our physical body. This is also the way our character is made and displayed. It cannot be expressed in any other way except through our body. And how can we tell if our emerging character is of the nature of God? only when the life of His Son is being made manifest (evident) in our body.

Strength in moral life depends on the quality of our morals. But in spiritual life, we need to deal with things that oppose us by drawing from the life of Jesus. This will produce holy character which is wholly pleasing to God. Can we save ourselves or set ourselves apart unto holiness? No, only God can. Our treasure in Heaven is the wealth of character we are storing up by remaining true to Jesus’ faith, not to our faith in Him. But it is dangerous to allow holy character to replace our faith in God. Let’s think long and hard about our development of godly character, and work out what these thoughts concerning what God have worked into us. Then we will know that the character we have developed is pleasing to God.

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The Broken Window

broken window

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

Have you ever broken a window, a mirror, or just a sheet of glass? Thankfully, throughout my life, I have had only a handful of instances where glass in some form was broken (bottles excluded). While I’ve never had a ball, rock, or similar object break a window, I have had glass in pictures and mirrors break, as well as glass in a window that cracked when the window was slammed hard. When I was in college working in maintenance, one of my jobs was to replace the broken glass in windows. These were the older sash windows with muntins separating individual panes. It was tedious work, which eventually gave me a real appreciation for glaziers, and the newer gridded windows with plastic grids overlaid on, or imbedded between, the layers of insulated glass.

When I was repairing windows, the main problem often wasn’t glass totally broken or falling to pieces, but was rather just a small crack in a corner. Many would think, “Why bother replacing it? It is just a small crack in the corner.” This was often true, and, in some cases, a crack might not become a problem. But in other cases, the crack could spread through the whole window, making it extremely unsafe or even unusable. Abrupt temperature changes can cause many cracks (especially in vehicle glass) which seem innocuous. But later, especially in winter, they can spread all the way across the window. Even a small crack could allow water to leak in during a strong storm and could even, over time, cause the wood frame of the window to rot.

small cracked windowBy now, you may think that I couldn’t think of anything but windows and glass to write about! Well, I want to use these broken window examples to point out that sin in our lives is like a cracked or broken window or mirror. Just as we each have different levels of what we consider to be right, we each have different levels of what we consider to be wrong:

  • For many, murder, large-scale theft (like robbing a bank or stealing an expensive car), using illegal drugs, breaking into a corporation’s or government’s computer system, or blowing up a building are considered “big wrongs or sins,” and everything else is on a lesser scale of wrongdoing.
  • To others, lying, cheating, rape, and adultery are at the top of their list of wrongdoings.
  • Some feel abusing or killing animals, destroying forestland, using methods that alter our climate, or polluting the waterways of the world are major wrongdoings.
  • Another group would consider common vices, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, premarital sex, gambling, and watching (or creating) pornography as very high on their list of evil acts.

One might consider murder to be like the smashed window and a lie as just a small crack. Another may treat gambling as a huge crack in a mirror and an occasional extramarital affair as just a little crack that is hardly noticeable (except when the “heat is on” and it keeps on growing to become a major (and very visible) fracture).

Throughout history, we have determined what we feel is wrong by many, many different standards and benchmarks.

Some may be very good standards; other standards may be almost no standards at all. What might be just a small fracture in a mirror today could be a disastrous monstrosity tomorrow, next year, or in a century. To a junkyard operator, broken glass that punctured a framed piece of artwork means nothing, but an art collector would consider it a horrible, major crime. As long as our view of what is right and wrong is mixed-up or evolving, our life on this planet will never be stable.

But God does not see sin as we do; He never has, and never will, either. Whether the window or glass is just cracked, or is fractured in many places, if it has just a miniscule crack in a corner, or even a large split on one side, it is still broken. If we tell a little lie to a friend in passing, or just look at a person of the opposite sex with lust in our heart, or viciously murder crowds of people, or go ahead in impatience and do God’s work ahead of Him, we have still sinned. Sin is still sin, no matter what the magnitude of it may be. God cannot tolerate any sin in His presence.

If God doesn’t tolerate any sin, how can we ever come before Him? Do we have to make ourselves right or clean ourselves up first? Are we to go before a person of spiritual authority and confess our sins or wrongs?

If we do enough right things, won’t that counter all of our wrongdoings? Even though we haven’t eliminated all of our sins, if we try hard enough and show God that we are doing the best we can in the situation we are in, won’t that be enough?

The quick answer to most of these questions is, no, no, and no. Isn’t there some way that all of these sins could be covered up or even eliminated? Now you’re starting to look in the right direction! God knew that we could not meet the standards He has set through His written word, the Bible. He intentionally made everything this way, in order to bring us to the point where we can see that we can’t make it without Him. If it weren’t for our pride, in all of its forms, we most likely would yield and let Him fully reign in our lives.

The good news is that God did make a way for all of these sins in our hearts to be eliminated. That way is through His Son, Jesus Christ. He fulfilled all of the requirements of the law God had laid out prior to His birth. In the past, only certain animals could be sacrificed, but they were not enough.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).

They were only a temporary covering. But Jesus was perfect and without sin, and therefore qualified to be the perfect, final sacrifice. As a result, the shed blood of His sacrifice has totally covered our sins, a permanent covering. All we have to do is believe in faith that His death, His sacrifice—the blood He shed on the cross—covers our sins, and, as a result, we are cleansed—made white as snow! Now the ‘cracks in our window’ are gone at last! Do you want to continue living with these cracks in your life? Suppose the cracks spread until the glass is totally broken and falls out—then what? Don’t let another moment pass by without allowing Jesus to work in your life—give yourself to Jesus and see those cracks disappear for good!

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