For a considerable period of time, the media kept a “hands off policy” when it came to exposing errant political leaders and officials. The view was that as long as these imperfections did not affect the job, exposing these people was not necessary. This is no longer true. With the increase of media outlets and fierce competition, ratings have become the all-important thing as the public seems to revel in the indiscretions of important people. Leaders of all kinds have become fair game. This is not because the media has come to realize that behavior is important, but because uncovering the latest scandal is now a part of the game. It makes media people and journalists “famous.”
What Is Character?
Informed people know that how a person behaves is what he or she is. Why? Because what a person is reflects his character. Character has been defined as the way we are as opposed to the way people see us. While this statement is true, it does not define character, and we know little more than when we started. More accurately, character can be defined as the ability to discern right from wrong and then to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. But this definition requires a standard by which to judge. That standard is the Law of God. Those who view truth as subjective, that is, what may be wrong for you may not be for me, will never be able to develop character. Why? Because they have set their own human standard, which is constantly subject to change. One who does not have the true knowledge of right and wrong has not even begun the first step in character development. As noted above, the definition of character requires more than knowing right from wrong. It also requires doing.
The attempt to define right and wrong goes back at least to the Greek philosophers. Greek philosophers, as a whole, advocated clean living and a high moral life, but they were unable to agree on what was a clean and high moral life. The fact is: They had no revelation of a higher standard by which to judge. They attempted to determine the difference between right and wrong, not realizing that God has never given man that option. God already decided that aeons ago. Man, as a free moral agent, has the option of accepting or not accepting that standard. The truth is: A clean moral life can come only if one is willing to accept God’s standard and to live by it.
Greek philosophers were so skeptical of any revelation from God that they could only conclude that one could not only not know right from wrong, but even what appeared to be the best course of action was highly questionable. Socrates once wrote that if one did not know the truth to begin with, how would he recognize it when he found it. Greek philosophers were not given God’s revelation, and there was no way to recognize right from wrong. They were unable to teach the meaning of true character. Some historians say that Greek culture eventually became so depraved that homosexuality made their military effete, incapable of standing up against the Roman legions.
God’s righteous standard defines sin. And what is sin? “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Men are born with a nature that is hostile to the Law of God. The Apostle Paul wrote: ” . . . The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). What is man’s nature? “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Because of human nature it is impossible for men, in their present state, to build holy, righteous character. Unless one’s character is guided by the perfect standard of God’s Law, no matter how much one determines to do what he thinks is right, he cannot build righteous character in the sight of God. Character, by its definition, requires right action, and right action must be predicated upon right knowledge.
The Need for Redemption
The Bible does not present a pretty picture of human nature. Man’s present condition is supposedly the result of “The Fall.” Redemption is regarded as restoring man to the condition he had before the Fall. But man did not fall. He sinned and, as a result, was cut off from God. The nature he had before “the Fall” and after it are the same. The lusts and passions that led men to sin in the beginning are the same lusts and passions that exist today. Jesus said: ” . . . That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22). This nature is what prevents man from developing holy, righteous character. The object of redemption, therefore, is to rescue man from sin, and through Jesus Christ, to free him from the enslavement of his nature.
Sin exacts a penalty. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). One who is redeemed has been ransomed and released. But ransomed and released from what? From the penalty of sin and the bondage of his nature. Christ came to do that very thing. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under [the penalty of] the law, To redeem them that were under [the penalty of] the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). The shed blood of Jesus Christ purchased or bought back man from the condition of depravity-sin and degradation-to be renewed in spirit and life. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain [course of life] received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We read that it is God, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). Acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ and repentance of sin enables one to begin building holy, righteous character. Christ came to redeem us from lawlessness-sin. Lawlessness is sin (1 John 3:4). Paul tells us that it was Jesus Christ, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all [lawlessness, Gk] and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
Jesus warned that in the “time of the end” the world would be filled with wickedness. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37). “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . . The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:5-11). That world was destroyed. We reap what we sow. “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10). ” . . . For thou renderest to every man according to his work” (Ps. 62:12). The pre-Flood world rejected God’s revelation. Paul wrote: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22). The Bible warns those who reject knowledge: “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Prov. 1:29-31). “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Prov. 5:22-23).
Today the world suffers from the consequences of sin and rebellion against God. Many people are God haters (Rom. 1:30). Yet at one time or another, we have all been subject to the customs of this world. Christ came to deliver us from this oppression-the miseducation and practices that lead us in the wrong direction. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:20-21). “Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him” (Eccl. 8:6). The object of redemption is to rescue man from sin and the resulting degradation. Christ ” . . . gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4). During this present dispensation God is making fit those who will become kings and priests in His kingdom (Rev 1:5-6). “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron . . . ” (Rev. 2:26-27).
Must Live a Holy Life
Character building requires living a holy life. God’s Law defines holiness and, as such, defines right and wrong. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). Many today hate God’s Commandments, but the Psalmist wrote: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172). Is there any advantage in keeping God’s Commandments?
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
The Apostle Paul charged the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). Christians are the temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
One living a holy life will not embrace the philosophies and cultures so valued by today’s societies. The highly touted notions of prevailing society, while highly esteemed by men, are abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15). “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Forsaking many of the ungodly customs of this world requires that we ” . . . cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Immoral behavior of all kinds is becoming increasingly popular today. How should Christians conduct themselves in this kind of atmosphere?
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. (Col. 3:5-10)
Paul admonished the Colossians Christians to ” . . . walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:10-11). “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Christians who live holy lives must walk worthy of the vocation to which they were called (Eph. 4:1). This is what holiness is all about.
Man Must Overcome
Living a holy life is building character. Trials and tribulations of all kinds must be faced and dealt with in a godly manner. ” . . . We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Many Bible texts tell us what we must face in this physical life. Consider this text: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). The “if need be” in this verse is important. It is necessary for all called of God to be put through trials. This is how character is built. A weight lifter does not build muscle unless he lifts weights. A man cannot build character unless he is put to the test. Character is knowing right from wrong and then always choosing the right in opposition to the wrong. So, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).
There are many things that must be overcome. Three broad categories are addressed by the Apostle John.
I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:14-17)
Each of these categories has many aspects, and it may take years to fully grasp the extent. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote: ” . . . Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). The overcomers will be in the Kingdom of God, and the rewards of salvation are unbelievably great. ” . . . To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). ” . . . He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (v. 11). “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron . . . ” (vv. 26-27). “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God . . . ” (Rev. 3:12). “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (v. 21).
Remember, it is through much tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). This physical life is a testing ground. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10). “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him . . . ” (2 Tim. 2:12). The time is coming when the saints will possess the Kingdom (Dan. 7:22). “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (v. 27).
Christ is coming to establish a literal kingdom on this earth. The overcomers-the resurrected saints-will rule with Him. The Kingdom of God is not something “within” the hearts of men, nor is it “the church,” nor is it any government of this world. The days of these present human governments are coming to an end. ” And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44). Those who overcome will rule with Christ. “And they [resurrected saints] sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).
A Relationship With
God Builds Character
Newly converted Christians are babes in Christ. They are admonished to grow spiritually. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . . . ” (2 Pet. 3:18). This requires regular prayer and Bible study. When Paul wrote, “pray without ceasing” he meant that Christians should pray incessantly, that is, regularly. We are all required to gain a livelihood and attend to the physical duties of this life, but we should not neglect the spiritual duties. Bible study is one of the essentials of these spiritual duties-an indispensable requirement for spiritual growth. “[Endeavor] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). When we pray we speak to God. When we study the Bible, God speaks to us. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Both study and prayer are fundamental for spiritual growth.
Bible study should be approached with a particular thing in mind. We must seek to understand what the will of the Lord is. If one studies the Bible with a preconceived idea of what it says, he will never be able to understand what God wills him to do. One who is refuses to be corrected by God’s Word will never grow in grace and in knowledge. Why? Because the Word of God is very intrusive and corrective! “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29) Bible admonitions tell us the value of God’s Word. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130). Men need true spiritual guidance. This is why Jeremiah wrote: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing” (Jer. 10:23-24). Who will receive God’s blessings and favor? The answer: One who seeks God’s will and accepts correction. ” . . . To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Over a period of time this is how holy, righteous character is developed.
God hears the prayers of obedient believers. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). Believing prayers can include many things, among them are requests for our needs. We can have the confidence that Jesus encouraged when He said:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? . . . Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt. 6: 25, 31-34)
The Bible tells us that God works in us to do His will “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Without God’s help our efforts are in vain. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Isaiah wrote: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isa. 64:6).
God’s purpose for man is to give him the gift of eternal life. This physical life is a testing ground, a place and time where and when holy, righteous character can be developed. Those who build holy, righteous character are qualifying to rule with Christ when He returns. Redemption means the rescue of man from sin and its degrading misery and unhappiness. By faith, through a life of trial and testing, a life of overcoming the evil pulls of human nature, man is able to live a clean, pure, holy life according to the Bible standard. By means of constant prayer, study, and trusting God for all things, a relationship with God can be established and maintained. With the help of God, this develops holy, righteous character and ultimately the gift of eternal life.