September 11 , 2011. For those of us old enough to remember, September 11 is a tough day to recall, tough to realize how difficult those days must have been for the people living through the turmoil and smoke and dust. I want to start today’s sermon by taking the time to pray for the survivors and our nation, that we do not forget, as our leaders seem to be doing, that a false religion attacked our country simply because we didn’t believe in allah.
We, as Godly men and women must be willing to face whatever is necessary, whatever challenges, whatever teasing, whatever harassment that the world throws at us to bring us to its level, to remain strong in the Lord, to have the character that God wants us to have.
Last week we spoke about being un-equally yoked and about being either the horse or the sheep. We want to be the horse, we want to be the one who leads, not the one who is lead. God wants that for us also, and He works diligently to train us, to shape us, to build our character so that we can face the challenges of the world and remain strong.
So what is character?
Meriam-Webster has about 20 different definitions of character. The ones that apply are as follows:
- one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual
- a feature used to separate distinguishable things into categories; also : a group or kind so separated
- the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation <the character of the American people>
- REPUTATION <the scandal has damaged his character and image>
- moral excellence and firmness <a man of sound character>
- a person marked by notable or conspicuous traits <quite a character>
We can be either:
- — in character : in accord with a person’s usual qualities or traits<behaving in character>
- — out of character : not in accord with a person’s usual qualities or traits <his rudeness was completely out of character>
I like all of these definitions. I want to have attributes and features that distinguish me from others, I want to be individualized and have a reputation and moral excellence. I want people to know that I have a notable or conspicuous trait. And I think that everyone has something that we categorize them into, something that we define as their character, something that we use to separate them from everyone else.
God wants us to have His character.
Acts 17:10-12 (NIV) 10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
More noble character…? What does that mean? I think Paul defines that in the next few sentences. “they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day.”
It could be said that noble character means that we have the desire to know the truth and earnestly seek after it.
What else could we say, or better yet, what does scripture tell us that God wants to build into our character?
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT) 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Genesis 39:7-13 (NLT)
7 and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded. 8 But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. 9 No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” 10 She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. 11 One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. 12 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. 13 When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled,
What character did Joseph show through this? Trustworthiness, integrity.
We know what trustworthiness is, obviously it means that people can trust us to do what we say we are going to do. What is integrity? Integrity means that we have a rigid adherence to a specific code of behavior. Do we rigidly adhere to the code of behavior that God has set forth for us in His word? Do we practice it every day?
Humility, nobility, trustworthiness, integrity.
John 8:44 (NLT) 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan is a liar and a murderer, God hates liars. Would this not tell us that honesty, truthfulness is part of the character God wants us to have?
Humility, nobility, trustworthiness, integrity, honesty.
Titus 2:1-2 (NKJV) 1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;
Sound doctrine. What does that mean? I looked this word up also, since it has so many meanings:
- a : free from injury or disease
- free from flaw, defect, or decay
- free from error, fallacy, or misapprehension <sound reasoning>
- exhibiting or based on thorough knowledge and experience <sound scholarship>
- legally valid <a sound title>
- logically valid and having true premises
- showing good judgment or sense <sound advice>
It means to be whole or unblemished, free from flaw or error able to do what it was designed to do. We could use it to describe a bridge or a chair. Is that chair sound? Will it hold me? God uses it to describe our character.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:13 (KJV) 13Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:9-13 (KJV) 9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.13This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
Humility, nobility, trustworthiness, integrity, honesty, sound doctrine, sound mind, sound faith.
So our character is what people know about us, how we act, how we respond and how we deal with people and situations. We should strive to be what God has created us to be. He trains us, teaches us, guides us and reveals through His Holy Spirit what He wants us to be.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Humility, nobility, trustworthiness, integrity, honesty, sound doctrine, sound mind, sound faith. What do people see in you, what would your friends say is your character?
Philippians 1:10-12 (NLT) 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God. 12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.
Remember, are you the sheep, or are you the horse.