Who are you when you are by yourself? Who are you when no one is looking? Where does you mind go when it is free from stimulus? What will you do when the pressure is too much? What choices do you make when reputations are on the line?
You are 12 years old and there you are with your friends in the candy store. With you is “sweet” Sally and “prankster” Pat and “serious” Sam. This candy store is filled will all sorts of really yummy stuff in those big bins. You are supposed to scoop out what you want and put it in a bag and pay, a help yourself place. Get the picture? Easy access. Lot’s of temptation. Sugar-high just moments away. The clerk steps into the back room and it is just you and your friends. There are no adults or cameras in sight. When he comes back you and your friends pay for the scrumptious sweets. When you get out of the store prankster Pat pulls out a few choice treats from his pocket. These he didn’t pay for. He is so excited to share his amazing exploits, how he avoided the perils of certain incarceration in a maximum security prison. Sweet Sally isn’t impressed. She says you need to go back and pay for the candy. Serious Sam just shrugs and says “whatever.” Sally convinces you all that this was a bad idea and you agree that the next time Pat won’t pilfer the goods.
What Sally and Pat didn’t know is Sam pocket a handful as well. He just didn’t fess up.
So did Pat and Sam demonstrate “bad character” and Sally “good character?”
Webster has a bunch of definitions for character. It seems to be a big “catch-all” for “expressed image” or internal “moral excellence.” We have “character witnesses” and “character assassinations.” We generally think of good character as someone’s ability to make correct moral decisions or uphold high ethical standards. That is a world view.
The word “character” actually comes from this Greek word:
[5481 /xaraktḗr was originally a tool (used for engraving) and then came to mean “a die” (“mould”). Finally it stood for a stamp or impress used on a coin or seal (see H, 368). In each case, the stamp conveyed the reality behind the image.]
The world’s understanding of good character is more in line with this word for “virtue” or “moral excellence:”
703 arétē – properly, virtue (“moral excellence”) which is displayed to enrich life.
I know everyone loves it when I do the Greek thing, right? Maybe not, so here is the point. Character and virtue are a gift from God not a learned behavior. Check this out.
Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (xaraktḗr) of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (ESV)
And this one:
2 Peter 1:3 For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (arétē virtue). (AMP)
Jesus is our Character. Jesus is our virtue. We are being conformed to His image:
Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being]. (AMP)
At the beginning of this series I talked about the gifts of Jesus on the cross and in us. Check out the post here. I believe many understand the gift of forgiveness. I believe many actually accept the gift of forgiveness. But how many receive the gift of Christ in us the hope of glory? How many seek and receive a “baptism of the Spirit?” How many reach out and take the gift of a supernatural union with our creator? This “charisma” gift that we can’t see or likely don’t understand is what empowers the true change in our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is what transforms our thinking, what changes our desires, is what confirms our new identity in Jesus. This “indwelling” of the Spirit of Christ is what gives fuel to the goodness-engine inside us all. Our co-habitation with the giver of life is the breath of life. In us is the power of resurrection.
I believe many are afraid of this. I believe many are taught wrongly about what it means to receive Jesus… all of Him into our lives. I believe we all desperately need more and more of Him in a supernatural way. Our fear is from the enemy. Our misunderstanding is a propagation of lies that started in the garden of Eden.
Sally isn’t any better than Pat or Sam. Sam takes what he wants because he feels he needs it and has to take matters into his own hands. Pat wants attention because he doesn’t feel he gets enough and probably doesn’t. Their “behavior” or “character” isn’t the issue. Their identity is. God loves them unconditionally just like He loves you. He died to prove it. He died to make it possible to live in you so you would be certain of His love. This supernatural residence in you is the expression of His love. It manifests as power to change stuff. One last verse:
2 Peter 1:4 By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. (AMP)
We get to be like Jesus. We get to be the expression of His goodness. It is only possible when we receive all His gifts. It isn’t enough to know we are forgiven but not receive the gift He died to give us…HIMSELF. Your character is not yours to make or grow or mature or improve or alter or exercise or any of those self-effort, self-improvement activities. Like everything, it is from God. It is His stamp of approval on you. It is His gift to you.