What is Christian Character?

Just as Jesus sought to develop the character of the disciples, not just training them for the task of the Great Commission, we must develop character. It is destructive to have a believer’s competence larger than his character. So what is character?

1. Character Defined:

  • “Character is who you are when no one’s looking” – Bill Hybels
    • It is NOT the same as reputation – what other people think of us.
    • It is NOT the same as success or achievement.
    • It is NOT what we have done, but who we are.
  • The Greek word for character is charakter. It is translated in Scripture as the “express image.” One of God’s primary goals for believers is to transform them into the image of His Son so that they may be a reflection of the character of Christ. – Bill Gothard
  • According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, the word “originally denoted an engraver or engraving tool. Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engravers, cut in, or stamped, a character, letter, mark, [or] sign. This impression with its particular features was considered as the exact representation of the object whose image it bore.” In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is referred to as the “express image” of God; He fully expressed the character of God through His life.
  • We can take comfort in God’s purpose when we experience difficulties because “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  • Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation.
  • Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life that determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think that no one is watching. It is the predictor of good behavior.

2. Character Needs to be Added to our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:5-7, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply (or add)  moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

3. Character Needs to Increase in Our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:8, For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.

4. Character Development Determines Our Maturity:

  • 1 Timothy 3:2-7, An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
  • 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13, Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach… 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
  • Titus 1:5-8, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
  • 1 Timothy 3:11, Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

5. Character Deficiency:

  • 2 Peter 1:9-11, For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my 3 possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

6. Character is Rewarded:

  • 2 Peter 1:11, for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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