I want to start on a series entitled TRUE SEEKERS and touch on 3 aspects of being true seekers of God – what really defines a godly Christian.
• I want to share on these 3 areas: (1) character, (2) compassion, and (3) conviction.
• I call them the qualities of Christianity – that which set us apart from the rest. Basically it answers the question, “What makes a Christian?”
If we say we are people of God, or children of God, who know the truth and believe the truth, and live by the truth, then we need to show a uniquely different CHARACTER, a great COMPASSION, and a deep CONVICTION.
• We are called to be light and salt of the earth (character), we are to love even our enemies (a love that is forgiving and unconditional), and an uncompromising commitment to the truth of God.
• We are called to stand out in these 3 areas, and not blend with the rest of the world, in such an extent that we are indistinguishable.
First, let us talk about CHARACTER today. Let us read Matt 15:7-20.
(1) CHARACTER IS WHO YOU ARE, not WHAT you do or say
So it is clear from Jesus’ words, that you can say religious words and not be a true seeker of God. You can do Christian stuff and yet not be godly.
• It is not what is happening on the outside that makes you. It is what is on the inside.
• It is more than what you claim to know or believe in. It is more than how you look or sound. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were very preoccupied with these.
• But God is concerned about what is inside.
A SS teacher once took a jar full of water. She put a lid on it loosely and tilts the jar. Water began to leak out and drips onto the floor.
She asked the class why did this happen? Some said because the lid was not tighten. Other answers were because the jar was tiled, and the pull of gravity.
The teacher gave yet another answer. She said, “It spilled because there is water on the inside.” What was on the inside is what comes out.
It is not what goes in that defines you; it is what comes out.
• That is CHARACTER. It is WHO you are.
• It is not just what you say or what you do, although what you say or do does reflect character, but sadly it is not always true.
• You can be saying or doing something that is not really you; you can be saying or doing things to impress.
• Which is why sadly, many feels that Christians are hypocrites.
Character is who you are in whatever circumstances you are put in. It is who you are even when nobody is watching.
• We neglect it most of the time because it is unseen, unless expressed.
• It is like the foundation of a house, and most of it is below the surface, unseen.
• This is what we want to build up. People call it “character building”. We want to “grow to be Christ-like” in our attitudes and behaviours.
God is most concerned about this. Jesus came to transform our lives – not just to give us a good life, although it is true that knowing Christ does bring us blessings.
• But Jesus did not come for that. He came to rid sin and change us from being a sinner to one who can reflect His righteousness and beauty.
• You can call this a righteous life, a sanctified life, or a holy life, but in short, it is your CHARACTER that we are talking about.
God is concerned about our CHARACTER. How others see you – that is your reputation, but how God sees you, that’s your character.
• Don’t be too concerned about how others see you. Be concerned about how God sees you.
• Moody: “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”
(2) CHARACTER IS A CHOICE
Talent is a gift, personality is a gift, but character is a choice.
• No one is gifted naturally to be honest, to be kind. You have got to learn it.
• You see, you can be intelligent and indifferent, you can be talented and tactless, and you can be eloquent and evil (like Hitler).
Character has nothing to do with endowment; it is not what you are born with.
• We are born sinners but now by the grace of God, we have been born again. God has started this make-over in our lives.
• Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
• But we need to cooperate with Him; we need to seek Him and allow Him to work in our lives to mould and change us.
That’s why we call it “character building” – character needs to be built up.
• We have to build it, piece by piece, by choice. Character does not come to us naturally.
• There are many things in life that we have no control over – we don’t get to pick our parents, our talents, or the IQ you have. But we DO choose our character.
• In fact, we create it every time we make a choice. If you choose to lie, and then lie again, and again, you are making yourself a liar. Dishonesty wasn’t thrown at you; you cultivated it over time.
“Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
• A character is a compilation of habits, built up consistently over time.
• So a Christian character is one that begins with a relationship in Christ, and builds up over time when we make consistent choices to do things God’s way.
Don’t undermine the impact of the little choices you make every day. Repeat them often and they will define who you are.
• The Lord dwells in our heart and is present to help us, but we need to make the choices ourselves.
The people of Israel were often challenged to make the choice to obey God by their leaders Moses and then Joshua.
• Both Moses and Joshua spoke of similar concern for the people in their departing words. Moses – Deut 30:15-20. Joshua – Josh 24:14-15.
• You’ve got to CHOOSE. It is not going to be thrown at you. You may have heard God’s commands and seen God’s miracles over the years, but it still comes down to this – your choice.
• You have to choose to worship God and obey His commandments. You can choose life and blessing, or destruction or death.
Watch your choices – the words you use, the attitudes you have, the things you do - in every situation, because the choices you make, makes you!
• Every little bad choice you made, repeat it over time and it will define who you are.
• But every right choice you make by the grace of God will mean you will grow to become more and more like Christ.
What are some practical steps you can take?
(1) SEARCH FOR CRACKS
• "Every man has three characters - that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has."
• Examine our thoughts, words and attitudes frequently. Take time to reflect on what we have said or done.
• Ps 26:2-3 “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”
What do you not like about yourself, in the light of God’s Word?
• Identify short-comings and short-cuts in your life and write them down.
• Pray about each one. An unexamined life is a wasted life. We have God’s power at our disposal for a better life, a new life.
(2) LOOK FOR PATTERNS
• Examine your responses to situations or people. Why am I always angry when I see him, or react in the same way each time I get into a particular situation?
• What patterns of weakness do you see? Ask God to deliver us from these patterns.
• A habit may be forming, or a prejudice is developing, or has already been formed.
(3) FACE THE MUSIC
• Be honest about it. The beginning of character repair is when you face your flaws, repent and deal with them. We need to acknowledge them.
• The Johari Window is a useful model that can help us in human interaction and personal awareness. It is represented by 4 quadrants: open, hidden, blind, and unknown.
• Quadrant 4 represents what only God knows. God speaks to you, and enlightens you through the Holy Spirit. Ps 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
• Quadrant 2 is where others can help us. I need feedbacks to learn and grow. I need to listen and reflect on what others are saying about me. You are blinded to it but others see it clearly.
A certain rabbi was adored by his community; everyone was always delighted with what he had to say. All, that is, except for Isaac, who never missed an opportunity to contradict the rabbi’s point of view and point out flaws in his teachings. The others were disgusted with Isaac, but could do nothing.
One day, Isaac died. During the funeral, the community noticed that the rabbi was deeply saddened.
“Why are you so sad?” someone asked him, “He found fault with everything you said!”
“I am not sad for my friend who is now in heaven,” the rabbi replied, “I am sorry for myself. While everyone else revered me, he consistently challenged me, and I was forced to improve. Now that he is gone, I am afraid I will stop learning and growing.”
… from warriorofthelight.com
• A character is built up. Watch and pray over your weaknesses.
• Be accountable to someone in these areas. Ask close friends to sound you out.
• “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”
• “Character building begins in our infancy, and continues until death.”
A wise old tutor was once taking a stroll through a forest with a curious youth. The tutor suddenly stopped and pointed to 4 plants close by. The first was a tiny sprout, just coming out of the earth. The second had rooted itself quite firmly in the fertile soil. The third was a small shrub. The fourth had grown into a well-developed tree.
The teacher said to his young student, “Pull up this first plant.” The youth pulled it up easily with his fingers.
“Now pull up the second.” The boy obeyed, & with slight effort the plant came up, root & all.
“And now the third.” The boy pulled with one hand, then the other, but it would not come. Then he took both hands, and the plant yielded to all his strength.
“And now,” said the teacher, “try the fourth.” The youth grasped the trunk with all his might, but hardly a leaf shook.
“I cannot move it,” he said.
“Just so, my son, with all our bad habits. When they are young and small, we can cast them out, but when they are full grown, they cannot be uprooted.”
MEET AN OLD LADY
You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, 10, 20, 30 years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.
She may be a seasoned, soft, and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends - friends who call her blessed because of what her life has meant to them.
She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything - soured, friendless, alone.
The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her… nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.
Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. YOU ARE BECOMING HER.
If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.
Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.
The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will - sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now - ATTITUDES, GOALS, AMBITIONS, DESIRES - are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.
Time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is till pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.
Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of a personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.
… Author unknown
German Proverb: “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”