Summary: how to develop Christian character

Supposing an important person in the space program phoned to invite us to travel in a spaceship to a space platform - like a house circling in space - how many of us would like to go? What are our reasons for wanting to go - or to stay behind?

Going into space is risky. We aren't designed to live in space. We would be totally dependent on our support systems. We would need to have complete trust in the rocket, the space platform and the ground crew.

The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. {2} I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. {3} I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." {4} So Abram left, as the LORD had told him...

(Gen. 12: 1- 4 NIV)

For Abraham and Sarah there were a different set of risks - after all, their bodies were as well suited to life in Canaan as to life in Haran. There were all the uncertainties of a new land - and no maps or tourist brochures! They had to trust God as they moved out of their comfort zone in Haran.

And God calls us to trust him. In what ways are we strongly tempted to stay comfortable where we are in what is less than his land of promise for us? Are we willing to receive God's free gift of forgiveness knowing that it can profoundly change us? Are we open to being changed? In what ways is God calling us to let go and move out of our comfort zone?


1. Leave the _OLD___

Would you like everything new? I am sure we can all think of new things we could do with quite well, thank you very much! Most of us like new things provided we have enough of the security of the old. Having to shift house is a bit of a pain. It is, of course, an opportunity to sift through all our possessions and send a great deal to Sally Anne's - or the dump! The new house is not so bad when we have our own furniture in place and our own pictures on the walls. It begins to "feel like home".

Men who live in the past remind me of a toy I'm sure all of you have seen. The toy is a small wooden bird called the "Floogie Bird." Around the Floogie Bird's neck is a label reading, "I fly backwards, I don't care where I'm going. I just want to see where I've been." -- Harry S. Truman.

2. Follow __GOD_____

We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by. - Will Rogers.

3. God Will Bless __YOUR LIFE__

4. You Have to __OBEY____

Roger Staubach who led the Dallas Cowboys to the World Championship in '71 admitted that his position as a quarterback who didn't call his own signals was a source of trial for him. Coach Landry sent in every play. He told Roger when to pass when to run and only in emergency situations could he change the play (and he had better be right!). Even though Roger considered coach Landry to have a "genius mind" when it came to football strategy, pride said that he should be able to run his own team.

Roger later said, "I faced up to the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory."


1. Leave Your Old Ways

Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good… and moves toward the goal of true maturity.

(Romans 12: 2 Phillips)

A study conducted by The Roper Organization for High Adventure Ministries in 1990 found that the moral behavior of born again Christians actually worsened after their conversions. Examined were incidences of illegal drug use, driving while intoxicated and marital infidelity. The problem can be solved, says one researcher, with a new commitment to accountability and discipleship. -- New Man, November/December, 1994, p. 13

The surrender of one's will to Jesus is essential to a life of joy and victory. Oswald Chambers called this "giving up my right to myself." We hold nothing back-no earthly life, no material gain, no pride-filled position-but simply say, "Jesus, do with my life whatever You want." Many Christians hold back from yielding all to Christ because they fear that it will bring terrible consequences, the death of a loved one or some other great loss.

F. B. Meyer reflected on a turning point to his spiritual life and how he overcame this fear. "The devil said, 'Don't do it! There is no knowing what you may come to.' At first I thought there was something to it, then I remembered my daughter, who was a little willful then, and loved her own way. I thought to myself as I knelt, Supposing that she were to come and say-'Father, from tonight I am going to put my life in your hand. Do with it what you will.' Would I call her mother to her side and say, 'Here is a chance to torment her'? I knew I would not say that. I knew I would say to my wife, 'Our child is going to follow our will from now on. Do you know of anything that is hurting her?' 'Yes, so and so.' 'Does she love it much?' 'Yes,' 'Oh, she must give it up. But we will make it as easy for her as we can. We must take from her the things that are hurting her, but we will give her everything that will make her life one long summer day of bliss.'"

2. Follow God's Ways

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

(Romans 13: 14 NRSV)

I remember my summers while growing up at the cottage. We would love a day where the tide was out, because it meant 2 things: (1) the water would be warmer when it did come back, (2) we could build sandcastles. The task was to complete the biggest sandcastle of all time before the tide came back in and destroyed it.

They were always beautiful, and we liked to flaunt our castle as much as we could. But the same thing would happen every time. About an hour would go by, and that coastline we built next too would move on us. Because the tides of the ocean are always changing. And eventually that tide would roll our way, and we would watch in sorrow, as our mighty fortress became mighty gone. But fortunately, there was always next week, and there was always another chance to rebuild what was lost.

We all build castles don't we? Even we who are hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean build castles. We build them with our lives, with our jobs, with our degrees. We build them in our church, with our actions, with our words. We all build castles and we want others to take notice and we want to build something we are proud of. And when our castle is damaged, when our plans crumble, we have that assurance that there is always tomorrow, that there is always another chance.

But it's a funny thing, God doesn't really care about the castle's you or I build. They don't impress him very much. I mean we can build and build all our life. We can impress and impress, we can flaunt and flaunt, we can display all the right things, but God isn't too concerned with those things. It is too bad isn't it? Wouldn't it be much easier if all we had to do to please God was build a few grand castles? If all we had to do was say the right things and do the right things.

Are you a Christian? "Well yes I am a Christian, you and 80 % of North America."

Do you believe there is a God? "Why of course I do. I even believe that Jesus is the Son of God."

Should we help other people? "Sure we should help others, that is why I volunteer for 10,000 Villages, VBS, etc., that is why I am active in the community, that is why I send money to the Red Cross, World Vision, etc."

It is too bad that saying the right things is all it takes. It is too bad God doesn't judge us by our words. Because we have got the language figured out. Why then, we could go around talking like a Christian and sounding like a Christian and that would make us a Christian, because if it looks like duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck. Oh, don't we wish it were that easy.

Don't we wish that God would judge us by the castles we build with our words and with our actions? Don't we wish that God would be pleased merely by the way we look and by the outward appearances? It would so easy. Because we have all become experts at building castles.

But Jesus confronts that line of thinking and offers a different view.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

(Mat 7: 21- 24 NIV)

You see Jesus is not saying that there is anything necessarily wrong with building castles. He is not saying that we should not try and live a certain way, and talk a certain way. There is nothing wrong with building a family, with attending church, with professing Jesus as Lord. No, these things are not wrong within themselves. I mean is it wrong to preach the name of Christ, or to bring about healing. But those things in themselves are not what please God. Those things will not save us when the tide comes rolling in. They may impress other people; they may get you Good Samaritan of the year award. They may allow you to be accepted and revered by people. But when the real storm comes, when the real tide rolls in, when the real judge appears, then our castles will undergo the true test.

What are we looking for in life? No, I am not chasing rabbits, as many preachers like to do. That question has everything to do with what we have already talked about. What are we looking for in life? What are you looking for in life? I mean what is your ultimate goal, your ultimate satisfaction. We all have a goal in life. For some it is clearly laid out, for others this goal drives our choices and our decision without us even being made aware of it. What are you striving for? What do you think it will take to make you complete and fulfilled? What are you basing your life on?

What are you basing your life on? What are you living for? On what foundation are you building your castle?

You see Jesus calls us to an inside-out faith. That is what this whole Sermon on the Mount is about. A call to have enough faith to build our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ. A call to be different in character, in our your ambitions, in your devotion, in your relationships, in everything you do and in everything you are, as God's people we are to be basing our life on Jesus.

An inside-out faith is a faith that is founded on the salvation of Jesus Christ. God has saved you, he has given you a new life, a New Hope, and in every way our life should be a testimony of the salvation he has given us and the salvation he has offered the world.


o ___STUDY_____ the Bible for Yourself

Now these were more noble- minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

(Acts 17: 11 NASB)

The Scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation. - D. L. Moody

As C. S. Lewis declared: "If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now-not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground-would be to throw down our weapons, and betray our uneducated brethren who have no defense but us against intellectual attacks of the heathen.

"Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against muddy heathen mysticism's which deny intellect altogether. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. The learned life is then, for some, a duty."

It seems to me that this is the great need in our society today. People are tired of hearing the conflicting words of so-called experts, handing out so much pop-psychology passing for truth. But it is everywhere. And it is sickening to watch.

For the last few years, one of the fastest-growing types of television show has been the talk show. These shows purport to give us information, truth, if you will, which will be valuable to us in living our lives and sorting out the important questions we face. In these shows, the hosts bounce from one person to another, trying to tap the collective wisdom of man. The shows are interesting because we all like to hear what other people think. But are these shows full of truth? Do these shows give us a sure word? Far from it! They certainly do not!

You see, it doesn't really matter what the collected majority are saying or doing. We don't need to ask, "What are others saying?" We need to ask, "What is God saying?" We need a sure word. We must have a way to know what is true. The Bible is God's sure word to us

o ___TEACH ______ One Another

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...

(Col. 3: 16 NIV)

Life is a matter of building. Each of us has the opportunity to build something -- a secure family, a good reputation, a career, a relationship to God. But some of those things can disappear almost overnight due to financial losses, natural disasters and other unforeseen difficulties.

What are we to do? Daniel Webster offered excellent advice, saying: "If we work on marble it will perish. If we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men's immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with just fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which time cannot efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity. - Morning Glory, July 3, 1993.

3. God Will Give You __YOUR BEST LIFE______

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control...

(Gal 5: 22- 23 NIV)

4. You Have to __GO FOR BROKE_____

"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters- yes, even one's own self!- can't be my disciple. [27] Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

[28] "Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? [29] If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: [30] 'He started something he couldn't finish. '…

[33] "Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can't be my disciple.

[34] "Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing. Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

(Lk 14: 26- 35 MSG)

It is a surprising statistic but no football team that has a domed stadium and artificial turf (note that the stat includes both domed stadium and artificial turf) as a home field has ever won the Superbowl. And even if one should win in the future the statistics will not be in their favor. The conditioning of a Superbowl team requires rain, wind, mud, heat, cold, and snow, and sleet. No team will be ready for the challenges of the Playoffs who has not undergone the test of the elements. A winning team must consider all the possible scenarios and prepare for them. The hardship builds character and the character wins Superbowls.

-- Brett Blair, Sermon Illustrations, 1998.

"Will you please tell me in a word," said a Christian woman to a minister, "what your idea of consecration is?"

Holding out a blank sheet of paper the pastor replied, "It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet, and to let God fill it in as He will."