Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 26 April 20:
Ruth 3:11 — “My fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.”
Ruth’s reputation of honor was well known despite her poverty. Boaz spoke of her integrity above her beauty — “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.” (NIV) “…for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” (KJV) Though not wealthy, famous, or equipped with any particular skill or talent, Ruth had a reputation of possessing noble character.
The Bible says that noble character is worth more than great riches. (Proverbs 31:10) Luke 2:52 points out that, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” But the world honors talents, skills, and appearance over character. Those lifted up by society are often those who are good at something (or just good looking), regardless of whether or not they are good people. In fact, the world is quite willing to overlook major character flaws of those who have enough talent or beauty. However, God calls His people to have both character and competence — character first.
Romans 8:29 – “…be conformed to the image of his Son….”
So how does a Christian develop character? The character development process is a perpetual cycle – your thoughts turn into decisions; your decisions turn into actions; your actions become habits, which solidify into your character (who you are); and the cycle continues as your character guides your thoughts. To develop a Christ-like character, the Bible will instruct you to target all areas of the character development cycle, simultaneously and persistently, through a changed heart, changed mind, changed thoughts, changed decisions, changed habits, and, overtime, a changed character (be the new you that you already are). In other words, the perpetual (hopefully virtuous) cycle of change is not simply linear (one step to another), it is interdependent, mutually supportive, synergistic, and continuous. The Bible also explains that your decisions and actions both reflect your current character and shape your future character. Most revealing are the decisions you make when no one is looking.
The secular world sees character development as a wholly human endeavor, a product of the human will. Many religions hold the same viewpoint. However, though the Christian understands the importance of willpower in the process of sanctification, the Christian realizes their total dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit for both salvation and for sanctification (Christ-like character development – oneness with Christ).
Without Christ, character development is a house built on a foundation of sand. Without Christ, one can obtain the appearance of character without the true life and power of character; a person can act out character (hypocrite is the Greek word for stage actor), but become a whitewashed tomb – outwardly impressive but dead inside. The worldly version of character can produce results in life, but not eternal results. It is easy for Christians to be deceived by the many popular secular teachings on character development, placing their faith in the inherent goodness of people, which only needs to be unleashed through proper education and practice, but the Bible teaches that “self-control” is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of human willpower (Galatians 5:23). “Let no one deceive you with empty words (Ephesians 5:6).”
Christian character development is not building up a better you but rather sacrificing yourself for Him – being crucified with Christ and no longer living for self but for Christ alone. As stated above, the Bible gives many instructions on how to personally develop Christ-like character, instructions which demand daily discipline (disciples require discipline) and long-term perseverance, but we must recognize these as disciplines as acts of worship and as acts of denying self rather than self-denial – there is a big difference between denying self and self-denial.
Jesus said the first step was to “deny self” (Matthew 16:24), while the secularist says the key to success is self-denial. Self-denial has been described as giving up something you want now in order to get something you want more later – making daily sacrifices to achieve long-term goals. For example, you don’t eat that cheesecake so you can look good at the beach this summer, and you motivate yourself by saying things like, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” Ultimately though, the focus is still on self, self-control for self-glorification.
Conversely, denying self is putting an end to self-seeking, self-serving, self-justifying, self-glorifying, self-centered and self-confident living. It is no longer living, but Christ living in you, abiding in Him. Instead of resisting what you want now for sake of what you want later, it is no longer wanting what you wanted but rather wanting only Him and His will, appreciating that you have Him, walking in fellowship with Him, and sharing Him with others. It is an end to chasing after the worries of this world. Jesus said that eternal life was knowing Him. (John 17:3) Are you experiencing eternal life today and the fullness of joy which comes from knowing Jesus intimately? What might be standing in the way? Ask yourself this question: “Why do I do what I do?” What is your true motivation behind your actions? What is the foundation of your character?
“The Lord lifts up the humble. (Psalm 147:6) “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 ) “Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6) A key virtue of godly character is humility. Someone once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less.” Humility is obtained by not focusing on humility but rather by focusing on Christ. Humility is something that can only be attributed to you by others, not self-assessed. As soon as you begin to consider your own humility, you have begun to lose it.
– Luke 9:23 — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Apr 20: “My fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” (Ruth 3:11) Today, consider what the people in town would say about you. Would you primarily be described as a faithful follower of Jesus or just a ‘good’ person? Next, consider what God knows about you that others don’t. If others knew about you what God knows, would your reputation change? Strive to be a genuine person with no secret self. Seek the truth of you to be nothing but Christ in you. Be honest with God, yourself, and with others, and be transparent. The grace of God eliminates guilt, shame, and fear and brings freedom. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)