God: The Character Creator
It is 7:30 on a Saturday.
I woke up at six, played several games of solitaire on my phone before getting out of bed, started coffee, prayed, took a shower and did my devotions like I always do. In 30 minutes the 10:31 office will “open” and I’ll be busy with website updates and statistical analysis from yesterday’s launch of our “Guest Writer Program.” At some point during the day this article will come out and I will be met with feedback emails that I will give a lot of attention too. Then at three our office will close and I will start getting ready for Saturday Day Night Church at Lyons First Baptist where I play drums in the worship band.
But all throughout the day I will be pondering a question that came into my mind yesterday at work and was with me all through the night and into this morning. The question: “What is Character?”
What is Character? I have been told a lot in the last two years that I have “Good Character” but what does that mean? The more I thought about it the more I started to wonder. Is Character something you do? Or is it something you are? Are you a man or woman of good character based on your actions? Or does your character determine your actions?
These are piercing questions and require a lot of self-evaluation to be answered. But what is character? Character is something you show when someone hurts you, when the stock market crashes and you lose your 401K. Character is how you treat the waitress at the diner who has had a very bad day, character is how she treats you. Character is the way you treat the girl/guy that broke up with you, the best friend that pulled away for no reason. Character is partially how you react in both good and bad character.
And Character can be good and bad. A Person of bad character might say; “She broke up with me, so I am going to spite her.” A person of good character will say; “She broke up with me, but I will still honor and respect her, and say no evil thing about her.” See the difference? A person of bad character will be spiteful because they did not get what they want, a person of good character will continue to honor and guard the integrity of the other person, even if the other person may not deserve it. A man or woman of good character does not pass judgment or blame, or shame. They seek to reconcile the friendship and allow God to do His work.
But where does character come from? Can we be man and women of good character on our own? If you believe, as I do, that man is naturally depraved then the answer is “No, man cannot have good character on his own.” Why? Because apart from God we can do nothing good, Israel ceased to be a nation of good character after they turned away from God. I was far from a man of good or noble character until God started to radically transform my heart on the side of that mountain in Colorado.
Paul gives Timothy and Titus lists of characteristics of good character that should be found in leaders (1 Tim. 3, Titus 1:5-10). But in 1 Timothy 3 Paul equates all of those characteristics with the pursuit of “The Mystery of Godliness.” Paul has this idea all throughout his writers that if we pursue God and the things of God we will be transformed by the spirit of God (Titus 3:5-6, Phil 2:1-11, 4:6-9). That the work of Sanctification is what will produce good character, that God is making us to bear good fruit and a person of good character will bear good fruit ( For Fruit of the Spirit see Gal. 5:22-23). That we are to put off the old self with its old practices and put on the new self which is being “formed in the knowledge into the image of Christ the creator” (Col. 3:9).
C.S Lewis says in Mere Christianity “God is not in the business of making nice men nicer, but of making old men new.” This means God is in the business of recreating our character, of making us to bear good fruit for Him. But the work is entirely His, and I believe He loves it. Yes, this is the God who made a nation out of a barren woman and her husband Abraham. This is the God who established that nation out of a screwed up younger twin who deceived his father and stole an inheritance. This is the God who took a bunch of dirty, smelling fishermen and made them into the greatest and longest lasting kingdom the Earth has ever seen. This is the God who chose to save Saul, a man who had been persecuting the church, making Paul and a new creation. God creates Character, and He loves doing it. He loves the molding and transforming process.
So character is both, it is something you are, and it is something that you do, you show character by your actions. But Character is determined by the work of Christ in our lives through the process of Sanctification.
So after evaluating you do not think you are a man or woman of good character? Then pray for it, I will tell you this though, it may mean rough sees ahead. It will mean giving up thoughts and behaviors that you do not necessarily want to part ways with. The chiseling, the refiners fire, they hurt, but the results are much better. You may find yourself more joyful, with more energy, more love for others. You may even find that you want what is best for the people around you. When God creates Character in us our entire world is different, every situation is transformed and every interaction is warmed. Yes, someone you love may hurt you, but instead of acting in spite or anger you will be able to look at them and say: “They are a son or daughter of God, and God still loves them and so I too will not allow the pain I feel to dictate how I treat them.” Instead we will look to the God who creates Character as beautiful as He does a Rocky Mountain Sunrise and say “Praise you Oh God, for making me a man or woman who reflects you.”
Jonathan David Faulkner is the executive director and found of 10:31 Life Ministries, as well as heavily involved in music, preaching and mentoring in his local community.