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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“Fear Ye Not!”

Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea

“…Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (Ex. 14:13).

“Fear ye not”, Moses ordered the people of God. Yet here they were, with no weapons, facing the mightiest army on Earth at that time. But their lack of weapons really did not matter, because they had no courage to stand against the Egyptian army anyway.

“Stand still”, Moses then ordered them. They were not to even try to fight, or to help God out in delivering them. What they did need to do was to just stand quietly, reining in their fear, panic, and confusion. That was how they could ‘help’ God!

“See the salvation of the Lord”, Moses told them next. But how could Moses be so sure himself that God would deliver them? He knew there was good reason for hope that God would intervene. His courage and confidence came from seeing the supernatural cloud that had come with them. He also knew that God always positions Himself in between His people and their strong enemies. “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them…” (Exodus 14:19).

The Lord frequently leads His children into very difficult situations from which they are unable to see any way of escape. And they would not have judged this to be a good idea if God had asked their opinion in advance. But God’s cloud always guides them in the direction He deems best.

You may also be in a difficult situation right now, from which you can see no way of escape. Do not worry, do not fear—if God leads you into the situation, then it is appropriate for you, and it will prove to be justified in due time. God will use it later as a way to show His grace and power to you and to others.

Most people tend to place situations between themselves and God. But the man of God places God in between himself and the difficult situation. Has God said “Go forward!” to you? Then watch Him clear the way and lead you, along with other men and women of God, the way a shepherd guides and cares for his flock. His way will be a way unknown to you. But if He chooses to put you in dire straits, He will also be the one to lead you out again.

Where else could Israel go but up? And that is just where their deliverance came from. You may be doing what you should to follow God and make your way to Heaven, and still find yourself troubled every direction you turn. Some of the Israelites cried out against Moses, because they were so afraid. They acted like the same God who had performed miracles to get them this far could no longer perform more miracles on their behalf. Others who were afraid cried unto God in prayer. But this was good for them, because they needed to learn to cry unto God, and no longer rely on Moses or themselves.

kneeling in prayer

Why does God still bring His people today into trying and difficult situations? so that we will go on our knees at once, seeking Him for answers and deliverance. When we cannot find a way to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in, we need to rise above our fear, and use it instead to spur us into prayer. We should never permit our fear to stifle our hope and faith in God.

“Stand still,” instead of trying to fight or flee in order to save yourself. Be a good soldier of God and wait to receive further orders from Him. Then carry out His orders once He gives them to you. Settle yourself to put all confidence in God no matter what situation He has led you into. Then you will see what a great deliverance He is going to accomplish on your behalf!

Hold your peace. Don’t raise your hand to the enemy. Don’t even shout against him. God will do the work needed without any help from you. It is wise when times are hard to keep your spirit calm and quiet. This puts you in the right frame of mind to do the work you are supposed to do and to consider God’s work.

If you can’t figure out what to do, don’t do anything. Stand still until God tells you your next move. It is His concern to defend those who believe in Him and to direct them. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

“Fear ye not!”

Packed, Shipped …and Forgotten.

package

The young woman was eager to get her treasured articles sent off to her beloved living thousands of miles on the opposite coast of the country. She packed it carefully in a box, sealed, addressed and dropped it off at the shipping facility. Then she waited for her beloved’s response. One week, two weeks, over a month had elapsed and still no word was received from him concerning the box. She returned to the shipping facility and spoke to the clerk at the counter. He inquired with all the sources available to him and determined that the package just might be misplaced. She was told to wait a little longer before giving up and disappointed she returned home. After another month had passed, she again with great anticipation returned to the facility. The manager in charge this time checked with every point that the package should have traveled through on its journey. He eventually concluded that her package fell off of a conveyor somewhere and is forgotten.

How often do you feel that your prayers and requests to God are like this package? You make your need known and yet nothing happens. You send them off with great anticipation, believing that the answer will come very soon and you wait and wait and wait without a single word or response from your Heavenly Father. How often do you feel forgotten by God?

Well, God has similar feelings about you. How often has He persuaded you to come and yield yourself to Him? How many times has He tried to convince you that He knows more about you and your situation or problem than you ever could know for yourself? We too easily fall short in our understanding of just how patient and longsuffering He is toward us.

How we fail to see all of the times we ignored Him when He called out to us. God sent His only Son to this earth, who willfully and innocently died a horrible death on the cross, to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. Yet we quickly forget all of this for some valueless distraction in our own life.

In these modern, hectic and fast paced times we gravitate towards an instant response mentality. We ask for a hamburger and fries and we expect them in no more than a few minutes later. We stop at a red traffic light and are upset if it takes more than twenty seconds to change to green. Heating a meal in a microwave for two minutes feels like fifteen minutes and if a program on television can’t make its point in thirty to forty-five seconds we keep changing the channel until we can find one that does.

intersection

All of this leads us to feel forgotten by God when He does not respond to our requests in our timing. You may feel right now like He has forgotten or rejected you and your needs. You may feel like He is giving you ‘the silent treatment’ such as one spouse would give the other when they did not meet up to the others’ demands or requests. Yet this is not so with God. He said in Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed (emphasis mine).” Unless you are knowingly living with sin in your life (which you need to repent of and seek His forgiveness), He does hear your cries to Him. He wants to hear from you, in fact, He expects to hear from you.

We are quick to give up when asking God for a particular need. True, many needs are met rather quickly and sometimes instantaneous, but only God sees the bigger picture that you cannot see. He knows when it is the appropriate time to respond or when your faith just needs to be tested and refined. Jesus said in Luke 11:9, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye [you] shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He wants us to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking.

So if you are at the brink of feeling forgotten, don’t quit now. He may not answer today, He may not answer for what seems like a long time but He will answer. When God says in His Word that He will do something, He will do it. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 emphasis mine). God will never forget you, even when you forget Him.

–James Pangburn