Character is the aggregate of features and traits that form each person’s nature. Presented here are those elements that constitute the character of a genuine Christian. Notice that these are often opposite to our instinct and human nature. Notice also that these are traits that promote success in any righteous endeavor. Aspects of worldly character (immorality, pride, envy, covetousness, idolatry, etc.) wither and die as these divine attributes increase as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. James 4:10
Humility is the subtle attribute that at first seems incidental, but in God’s word rises to be the most Christ-like characteristic that we could hope to attain. Being humble means putting the interest of others ahead of ourselves – just as Jesus did for us.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Jesus Christ, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
In humble obedience, Jesus went to the cross to atone for our sins. It is therefore not difficult to reason why God, the ultimate righteous authority, would have no tolerance for the arrogance of man – a creature who exalts himself even though he, on his own merits, falls terribly short by any righteous measure. Read James 4:6
Being humble does not mean to think less of yourself, but instead to think of yourself less. This is not a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or weak submissiveness but instead living in the confidence of your value to God and that he will take care of the circumstances of your life. Being humble is living with the absence of pride, working to serve others and not for your own gain. In pride, we are self-focused, self-sufficient, ungrateful, and hardened to the saving grace of God. God is crystal clear that he abhors pride and arrogance. The Bible repeatedly warns against being prideful and exalts those who are humble.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble spirit. Proverbs 29:23
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:18-19
Jesus also tells us that to be the greatest is to be the least, like in the humility of a little child.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4
Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3:4-8
You can destroy your life with what you say. In a moment of foolishness, you can hurt others, ruin your reputation, and dishonor God. An undisciplined tongue is the hallmark of a fool. Discipline in what you say, along with listening and calm control, are markers of a mature Christian . . .
But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19
The things you say also reveal what is in your heart. Listen to what people say and understand what they really are. . .
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks that which fills his heart Luke 6:45
Here Jesus tells us that the things you say are so impactful that judgment and salvation hang in the balance . . .
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37
Those who live in Christ, seeking the approval of God above all else, say things that are different from those who are lost in the world. People who spew boastful arrogance, slander (tearing others down), obscenities; offensive, malicious, and derogatory gossip are displeasing to God. Not to mention those who dishonor and disparage God, using his name as profanity! This is all filth from the world and should not be present in those who live in Christ. What you say matters and you will be held accountable for what comes out of your mouth.
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37
Often the best plan is to keep your mouth shut. Unless you are sure what you are about to say is rooted in the truth, adds some value, is not self-serving, and is pleasing to God, you are best served to keep it to yourself.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Proverbs 17:28
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
In the verses preceding those above, Peter tells us that “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” are given to us by Jesus. Because of all that is ours in Christ (salvation), Peter tells us to do the following:
Giving all diligence, add to your faith – this is striving with maximum effort, a result of self-discipline, to enhance your belief in the word of God (faith) with the following 7 excellent qualities:
- Virtue is moral excellence. The characteristic in your life that allows you to stand out as a godly individual. The model of moral excellence is Christ, and virtue is a product of sanctification.
- Knowledge is spiritual discernment, insight, and understanding of the truth in the word of God. This is required to pursue moral excellence.
- Temperance is self-control. This is to not allow the desires of the flesh to direct your thoughts and actions, the opposite of lustful indulgence. Temperance is essential to Christian living, otherwise, we are no different than the Pagans.
- Patience is perseverance and endurance under temptation without succumbing. This patience never gives in to difficulty or sin.
- Godliness is reverence for God. This is a practical awareness of God in every area of life. Godliness is at the heart of moral excellence.
- Brotherly Kindness is loving your neighbor. This is the second most important commandment!
- Charity is love, which is the greatest virtue and the most important commandment! Love of God results in love for our brother, and our attainment of the other six qualities.
If these things are evident in your life, then you will be an effective witness to the truth and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift from God, but becoming a mature, exemplary disciple of Jesus requires effort.
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We rejoice because of what we know to be true about God and his plan for us. We rejoice because everything is under his control, and he causes all things to work together for our good Read Romans 8:28 We rejoice because by his grace we have been saved from condemnation and made heirs to his kingdom. We rejoice for blessings we do not deserve and penalties we will not pay.
We are grateful for all these things! No matter our circumstance, we give thanks to God because our salvation is eternal, while the trials of this life are temporal. We are grateful for the ridiculous volume of blessings that have been showered down upon us. We are grateful that we were drawn to believe. We are grateful because every good thing in our life has come from him.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
A hallmark of the godly person is joy and gratitude! Being joyfully grateful is a wonderful and effective witness to the love of God and clear evidence of a transformed life.
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
I like the New American Standard translation . . . Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. All that you do must be done in love. There is a lot packed in this short verse about competence in living a consequential Christian life.
- Watch ye – to be alert, awake, and to know what is going on. Be aware of what the adversary is doing and what is going on in your life. Do not exist in a spiritual stupor where you fall prey to Satan, temptation, apathy, or false doctrine.
- Stand fast in the faith – to be firm in what you believe and what you know to be true. Do not let human wisdom infect and twist your faith. The lies and garbage of the world are incompatible with the revelation of God.
- Quit you like men – to act like men. That is to be mature and courageous. Do not be childish in your understanding of the word.
- Be strong – be strengthened by the lord and the power of his might. Resist temptation and be resolute in seeking and following the will of God.
- Let all your things be done with charity – Do all this with an attitude of love. A love that is not of emotion but is self-sacrificing service to the one in need. We should temper a staunch defense of the faith with brotherly love.
Being spiritually alert, steadfast, mature, and strong in love will make you what God wants you to be. Living by these principles results in a powerful, transformed life. Those who remain spiritually stunted, oblivious to the pursuit of the faith, are at great risk of being devoured by our adversary.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Daniel 6:3
While Daniel was a captive, he distinguished himself by attitude and unwavering devotion to the will of God. Known as a man with an “excellent spirit,” he was preferred above all the others. An excellent spirit is an excellent attitude. Our attitude is how we respond to the circumstances in life, and excellence is a positive attitude of service, contentment, and gratitude no matter the situation. It is consistent optimism and the desire to do well that endears us to others, especially to those who look to us for performance. Those with an excellent attitude are often rewarded with promotion and responsibility, just as Daniel was.
To a large extent, we can manage our attitudes, choosing to be optimistic, happy, and content. Our attitudes are also influenced by what we put in our heads and the kind of people we associate with. If we spend time in dark places and with negative, destructive people, then our attitudes will turn dark and destructive as well. An excellent attitude is both the cause and the result of the right behavior. We do the right thing because of a good attitude and doing the right thing lifts us up. To an amazing degree, our attitude determines our destiny. God approves a positive, humble attitude and those winsome souls go much farther in life than those with a negative, pessimistic, or otherwise bad attitude. It is obvious that an excellent spirit is a testimony to the goodness of God, and a powerful witness to the world.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22
The elements of Christian character presented in this section (love of God, love of your neighbor, humility, etc.) are enabled in us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us we are to walk (live) by the Spirit, which is to yield control of our lives to him. This is obedience to the commands and will of God. This is not easy as desires of the flesh are ever-present and contrary to the Holy Spirit. But as you strive to live in the spirit, you will develop virtuous attitudes or “fruit.” These attitudes will dramatically impact your behavior and actions, resulting in a blessed life and a powerful witness for God. These winsome fruits will increase as you are sanctified throughout your life by the Holy Spirit.
- Love – self-sacrificing affection for others.
- Joy – deep-seated gladness regardless of circumstances.
- Peace – inner quietness and repose regardless of circumstances. Tranquility in the soul; calm confidence that we enjoy.
- Longsuffering (patience) – forbearance even under provocation, being slow to anger. This is often patience for a time that is longer than you want it to be.
- Gentleness (kindness) – benevolent and graciousness, this goes hand in hand with patience.
- Goodness – constructive action, reaching out to others.
- Faith (faithfulness) –reliability, trustworthiness, loyalty, and fidelity to your word. Integrity.
- Meekness (humility) – not aggressive, acquiescence to authority and consideration of others, submissive to the will and word of God.
- Temperance (self-control) – ability to master oneself.
The poof of a genuine Christian is the habitual manifestation of the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Striving to embody these elements of Christian character and to bear the fruit of the spirit is what makes us a light to the world, demonstrating a life transformed for and by Christ. How awful is it to learn that you are not sufficiently transformed in how you live for anyone to accept that you really believe what you say about faith in God?
Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . Matthew 7:16
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Matthew 24:13
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; Hebrews 3:14
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22
Perseverance (endurance, steadfastness) speaks to one’s diligence in continuing in the faith until the end. To continue in the faith is persistent obedience to God (clear evidence of a saved soul), and the end is the conclusion of our testing here on Earth, our mortal death. We persevere in living a life that pleases God all our days in this life. But know that salvation is by faith alone, a saving faith that produces a life of obedience to God. You are not saved by obedience; you are saved for obedience. Read Ephesians 2:8-9