The Basics of Christian Character

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What does it mean to have character? There are a lot of different answers to that question. Some people say that character is what you are in the dark, or when no one is looking. Some people say that character is who you identify with. In our modern world of logic, you can identify as a person of character and not really have any.
Essentially, character is the essential qualities that we demand in other people, but often don’t required of ourselves. Christian character on the other hand is essentially being like Christ. Our purpose and goal in christian character is to become so one with Christ that when others see us, they see Jesus. That’s what it means when the bible says that we are hidden with Christ in God ().
So how do we get this Christian character and how do we become like Jesus? That’s what we will find out today.
Read Text. Pray.

1. Faith is the Beginning of Christian Character (v. 5)

Illustration: Nutrition Supplements
How many of you have ever gone into the GNC store? If you go in there, it is absolutely mind boggling at the stuff they have that I have no idea what it does! I mean, they have got powders and mixes to make just about anything you want. It’s kind of like space food!
But the people that shop at GNC usually fit a certain mold. They are health conscious and are usually trying to either get a certain figure or keep it.
Now, nutrition is a major part of getting in shape and staying their, but no matter how many products they sell that are designed to help you get in shape, they do not carry an exercise pill. You cannot get fit simply by taking nutritional supplements! You have to have something to supplement!
Christian character is the same way. You cannot become godly by developing a list of character traits that you would like to work on. You have to have something to start with. You have to have faith. You see, the Holy Spirit is actually the one that does the work in you both to will and to want to follow Jesus.
Philippians 2:13 ESV
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
A major question that we all need to ask ourselves, especially we parents is whether or not I am teaching my child the gospel or christian moralism. Am I following Christ to know Him or do I just want to be a good person?
You may ask, what’s the difference. The answer is heaven or hell! You can be a really good person and go to hell. Really good people don’t actually exist, by the way. At least not like you might think. There is no one righteous according to the Bible.
Romans 3:10–12 ESV
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:11–12 ESV
no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:10-
Romans 3:22–23 ESV
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
So without Jesus, we are all doomed. But my question goes deeper.
Do you bring your children to church so that they can know Jesus in a relationship with Him, or just so they will be good kids for you?
What about yourself?
Do you come to church to worship God out of a deep abiding relationship that you have enjoyed with Him throughout the week, or do you just want to feel better about yourself because you did your deed?
The answers to these questions may reveal whether we operate from a faith or pride. It may reveal whether or not we follow what has been termed moralistic therapeutic deism or true Christianity. It’s whether we are taking nutritional supplements trying to get fit or actually exercising as well.
Listen to this description of moralistic therapeutic deism and see how easy it is to fall into this trap, and notice what is missing.
1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Now, that sounds real nice doesn’t it! In fact, these people probably can ride in their cars with a coexist bumpersticker and be just fine. They can blend into crowds and have no problems with people of other religions. The reason is because the guts of the gospel, of faith in the central truth of the gospel is missing!
They don’t believe that we are sinful people separated from a holy God, headed for eternal destruction, unless we repent and turn back in faith to Jesus, who is the only one who can save us!
By the way, just so you understand why I am camping out here for a minute or two on this moralistic therapeutic deism, it just happens to be the dominate religion in America, especially among teenagers. It’s why people can check “Christian” on the religion survey and we can declare we are a Christian nation, when in fact we aren’t!
So, we have to get the fact that faith comes first. Then, we can notice that Peter says we “supplement our faith” with Christian character. This character is always expanding and becoming more and more like Christ. It is what we call progressive sanctification....or “I’m a work in progress!” Christianity.

2. Christian Character is Constantly Progressing (vv. 5-8)

* virtue = moral excellence
* knowledge = wisdom and understanding of
* self-control - ability to resist temptation and control urges
* steadfastness - perseverance under pressure
* godliness - piety
* brotherly affection - care and concern for others
* love - ultimate Christlike love (selfless love)
These traits are ever increasing and culminating in love.

3. Character is the Result of Forgiveness (v. 9)

The reason we can have Christian character is not because we never mess up. It is because we have been forgiven and the old you has been put to death so that you can live in Christ now. Listen to what Paul says in Colossians.
Colossians 3:1–4 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-
There are three main points to Peter’s argument here in our text that match up to what Paul just wrote.
First, we were saved from a sinful lifestyle.
Second, we are expected to walk in a new life
Third, when we lack the character that a new life produces, it is a good indication that we lack genuine faith.
Have you ever seen someone who was severely near-sighted? I mean they were so bad that they had to hold the paper they were reading right up to their nose to read it? Peter says that someone who lacks Christian character is like that person only they are so nearsighted that they can’t get close enough to the paper to see it. It is as if they are blind.
Isn’t it sad that religious people can be like that? They can be so close to the truth it’s practically at the end of their noses, and yet they can’t see it. They are blind!
For us to think somehow that since we are saved from our sin, God no longer wants us to refrain from sin is spiritual blindness. If we encourage anyone to do something contrary to the word of God, no matter how much we love them, it is sin and it will not go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. It is like the blind leading the blind!

4. Christian Character Must Be Practiced (vv.10-11)

The last thing we need to say about Christian character is that it must be practiced. In fact, it cannot help but to be practiced, because it becomes who you are.
Peter says we are to be diligent to confirm our calling and election. Our salvation is at stake! We are not being told that we earn our way into heaven by being good. We already know that we cannot be good. What Peter is saying is that we ought to always examine ourselves for rotten fruit. If we are full of the wrong fruit, then their is something wrong with the tree!
Listen to how Jesus said it.
Matthew 7:17–20 ESV
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Now, just so you know, being cut down and thrown into the fire is a reference to judgment. It is not the judgment that awaits believers. So we are talking about the bad fruit trees being cast into hell. It’s interesting that you can look at a good apple tree and a bad apple tree and the foliage may be identical, the trunk may be identical, they may even be planted in the same garden. They may look the same, but one could be dead and the other alive. The only way to tell is to look at the fruit. The proof is in the fruit.
Now, if you are not bearing fruit, be sure that God will prune you to give you a chance to produce.
John 15:1–2 ESV
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
So God’s discipline is His pruning. And, He is a patient gardener. But, we need not miss the point of Peter’s message. If we are also inspecting our lives, we would do well to check our fruit. The fruit we are speaking of is Christian character. If we don’t find ourselves becoming more like Jesus every day, then we have something wrong with the tree. We need to make sure that we are genuinely following Jesus, and not some quasi-Christianity.
So, have you been to the gym lately? Or, are you sitting at the snack bar. Maybe it’s worse. If you are at the snack bar, you know you’ve given up on your attempt at fitness. Some of you may be in the food store of faith trying to find that supplement that will get you out of the hard work of a relationship with Jesus. It will never work, so hit the gym of faith and get into the World of God and pray. You won’t have to work hard finding Jesus. He wants to be found! Let’s get in shape and develop some Christian character!
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