This past year has been packed with challenges while the entire world is slammed in crisis. It’s one of those years you look back in a decade and say – “Well, I remember one of the worst years ever – 2020! True, it’s been hard for individuals, for business and industry, and for countries around the world. This global picture is the high view of a big picture. Yet, when you drill down into every person’s daily life, you find even more challenges and crisis. People are under strain. With this harsh reality, there is one thing increasingly clear. Whatever the problem, the process, or the solution – character matters.
We’ve Forgotten Character Matters
I have noticed a decline – a kind of “slipping off” – of admirable character. Further, I’ve observed that excellent character is no longer highly valued or sought after by a growing number of people. This, unfortunately, has affected even people who follow Jesus. It’s as if people still remember great character exists and serves a purpose . . . but somehow it’s become optional in application. I think that’s tragic. Thankfully, a good many folks still believe character matters.
Perhaps this sad morphing is partially due to desensitization in our world. A slipping off in personal excellence may also have contributed. After all, it takes lots of resolve, hard work, and persistence to live well for the long-haul with high standards and excellent character. It seems people have come to believe they can say whatever comes to their mind, they can do what they want, and they can have whatever they desire. And the tragic part? Some folks have become good at sculpting their responses to misdirect, mislead, and even deceive others with hopes others will think all is well. What kind of character is that?!
But I think there’s one more thing that has added to the “slipping off” of admirable character – even in God’s people. Let me explain. First, let’s start with some history. Then we’ll get to the “one more thing.”
Character Matters Way Back Through History
All through our world’s history, people who valued excellent character have stabilized and changed the world. It doesn’t matter what field, discipline, or endeavor. It’s not just their accomplishments that make life better for the global community. Truly, it’s much more. It’s the inner character each person concretes into forward motion and significant influence. This thrust has historically helped our global community even into our present day.
Sure, we admire the inventions, the discoveries, the “better plan,” or the progress and refinement. But most impressive is the spirit with which these ordinary, occasionally brilliant people live each day. For them, kindness is still a moment by moment practice. Engaging careful thought (being well-thought), using edifying, clear words (being well-spoken), and carrying out what needs to be done even if it’s hard (being well-practiced) are what sets these folks apart. They value things like working hard each day and living a focused, quiet life. Accuracy. Discipline. Being “other focused” instead of “self focused.”
These are the quality markers of people who affect the world in a wonderful way. Credibility of these individuals is built as they engage excellent character in their own homes and neighborhoods. (Sounds like something we could all do.) These folks are very aware of their rights – yet have given them up to, instead, fulfill greater responsibilities. These are the mature, contributing citizens of the world.
The First Christians Believed Character Matters
Now let’s get to that “one more thing” I mentioned very likely affects the deterioration of excellent character. When first century Christians chose to follow Christ, they knew they were giving their entire life up to a “Savior and Lord.” There was no question or debate if Jesus would occupy both those roles in their life. They acknowledged they no longer belonged to themselves – bought at a high price with Jesus’ blood on the cross. (1 Cor. 6:20) Going forward they were prepared to be a “living sacrifice,” dead to self and alive to Christ. (Rom. 12:1)
They also knew their decision for Christ could mean their capture, likely torture, and possible death. That was their reality. Fully informed and aware of the risks, they made their commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It was unthinkable to these pioneers of faith to separate Christ’s rightful title, “Savior and Lord.” They believed, accurately according to Scripture, that this holy, honorable title cannot be separated. To take that title apart desecrates the nature of God.
The perspectives and non-debatable commitment (we would call this “no-brainers”) of early believers to Jesus Christ are basic teachings of Scripture, friends. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) which means He is still Savior and Lord. He bears one all-inclusive title that cannot be dissected or separated.
Christ Follower Means Something
God’s principles, not mans’, are what all creation hangs on. And so we conclude that excellent character flows out of God. Let’s look:
- His ways were made observable and tangible to us. How? Through Jesus. Jesus set the pace, displaying incredible character in His life as an example to people. He was saying – “this is what is looks like to love and serve God and fellow man.”
- Then God made His very own power available to help us do what we can’t on our own. How? Through His Spirit who lives inside each believer and gives them power to practice Jesus’ example. So, you have the example through Jesus and the power through His Spirit available to you. You can have admirable character.
- Now add the resources of instruction, wisdom, rebuke, promise, and comfort from Scripture to your tool kit. God’s Word clearly identifies expectations and action steps of excellent character to help believers learn, train, and grow. The Bible gives you a map, a manifesto, a code of conduct document.
What About Nowadays?
Nowadays, too many believers have somehow arrived at a modern conclusion. Many accept Jesus as their Savior. They “prayed the prayer” and confessed their sins – you know, repented. And they accepted the gift of eternal life Jesus freely offers. However, there are a growing number of people who seem to think they don’t need to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord. They just want Him to be their Savior. So they live for themselves. They please themselves. Sadly, they “don’t get it.” And many of them are miserable underneath. In the modern sense of the word, “Christian,” there now lacks the rich and deep, individual “buy-in” the first century believers had. And the joy. And the purpose. In fact, another thing that was unthinkable to early Christians was to do anything other than give their entire lives for Christ simply out of gratitude.
Just to say it here and now – the term “Christ follower” still means something. And it has everything to do with character: God’s character being fleshed out in the details each day of a believer’s life.
Living In Troubled Times
So, we are back to where we started in this article. Character matters.
- Excellent character flows from God.
- God makes it possible for you to have admirable character.
- Character changes the world.
- It starts in your inner person, your home, your community, and then grows to influence a troubled world.
- Character depends on accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Application Questions to Consider
What kind of character do you display each day? Has it been “slipping off” recently? Do you welcome the refining effects of hardships? Have you accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? What changes do you need to make to adopt the perspectives and commitments of early Christians? How can you join them in representing Jesus, Savior and Lord in the best light?
Please remember: God loves you! He wants you to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Jas. 1:4) God’s eyes range over the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9a) “So, we make it our goal to please Him. . . “ (2 Cor. 5:9)
Yes, character matters!