Christian Chraracter

by Mike Ratliff

Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, desiring to live honorably in all things. I strongly urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you sooner. Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, our Lord Jesus, make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:18-21 WEB)

R.C. Sproul shared the following story in the September 2007 issue of Tabletalk magazine. “Several years ago I was participating in a discussion with some business men in Jackson, Mississippi. In the course of the conversation, one of the men made reference to a man who was not present at the meeting. He said, ‘He is an honorable man.’ When I heard this comment, my ears perked up as I thought for a moment I was hearing a foreign language being spoken. I realized that I was in the middle of the Deep South where customs of old had not entirely been eradicated, yet I still could not get over that somebody in this day and age was using the word honor as descriptive term for a human being.”

Is the term ‘honor’ as a descriptive term for a human being out of place in our day and time? If we look up ‘honor’ in our dictionaries we will find that its chief synonym is ‘integrity.’ Before we begin to determine the lack of this characteristic in the current body of Christian believers, especially among its leadership, let us define what we mean. Integrity describes one who has an uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles. It describes one who possesses soundness of character. There are many more definitions, but this is enough for now. A honorable person is a man or woman of principle. He or she puts principle ahead of personal gain. Also, they do not compromise their principles. That would mean that once they grasp the truth they would never let go, no matter the cost.

One of the major attacks against my posts on the doctrines of grace over the last several days was that I presented them as truth. This aroused some very ugly attacks because I did not say what I presented could possibly be wrong and the opposing views could be right. If I believed that then I wouldn’t have bothered posting them. What sort of truth is it that we can say, “this is the truth, but I could be wrong and your view could possible be true too.” That’s not standing on principle. That’s called compromise. Some would call it political correctness. This is why I despise our political system in the United States. Politicians must often compromise everything, including their principles in order to function. That is not right. That is why I could never hold public office.

Compromise is with us wherever we go. It seems that our entire lives are challenges to our principles. Those of us who are Christians experience this on an even higher plane. I promise you, the world system is anti-everything that God tells us from His Word that should makeup genuine Christian character.

“Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-16 WEB)

When Christians uncompromisingly stand on their principles, which are the very ones our Lord gives us through our sanctification, which are also born from our regenerated hearts, the world seethes in anger. These honorable people will be reproached, persecuted and falsely accused of all kinds of evil. None of that is pleasant, however, it is our lot if we seek to live godly lives.

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2Timothy 3:12 WEB)

To live godly in Christ Jesus is to emulate Him. He is the epitome of honor and integrity. How can we do this since we are mere clay pots who have no goodness in us other than what God has put in? Well, what He has given us is enough. What is “it?” We have the Holy Spirit. How can that fact help us live godly in Christ Jesus?

“Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and singing praises in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-21 WEB)

We do not simply let go and let God here. If we do then we will find ourselves in spiritual squalor. We will have no self-control and our flesh will dominate us. In other words, we will not be people of honor and integrity and, therefore, not Christlike. What we must do is be filled with the Spirit. How do we do that? I suggest that you read my post Breaking the Chains. If we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand of sanctification, we will submit to those whom God wills. We will worship Him instead of self. We will walk by faith not by sight. That means that temptations to not be honorable can be defeated and left powerless because they depend on our functioning within our flesh and pride.

It’s time to do some self-examination. When we read or hear of God’s sovereignty how do we respond? If we detect any resentment or any temptation to compromise by convincing ourselves that some passage from Sacred Scripture does not really mean what it says then we are in functional unbelief. If we try to force God to live up to our standards of fairness or logic or any other flesh contaminated reasoning then we are in functional unbelief. Another name for this is Selective Rationalization. A hardening of the heart causes this condition. What causes that? Heart hardening is a symptom of pride reigning there. Pride can easily masquerade as humility and fool its host into believing that he or she isn’t really spiritually blind and in unbelief.

What must we do? We must forget our own suppositions and made up doctrines we have developed in our own minds as we honestly and honorably seek the truth. This does require us to submit to God’s Sovereignty here. We must draw near to Him. If we do this, He will draw near to us. We must ask Him for wisdom and discernment and knowledge so we can live for His glory alone. If we humble ourselves this way, God will give us more faith to believe what His shows us. By His grace, through that faith, God will open our hearts further and teach us His truth.

If we do these things then God will change us. He will develop Christ’s character in us. Some of this may not be pleasant. We may move away from traditions and beliefs we have held with our friends and families for lifetimes. However, being honorable Christians who have Christ’s integrity growing in us, we do not compromise. We move forward with our Lord. Yes, we do tell the truth to those we left behind in their unbelief, but unless they also repent as they seek the truth, they will see us as something other than what Christ is developing in us. That is where the warnings from our Saviour come in.

What’s it going to be then? Are we going to continue to insist that God do things our way or are we going to surrender to His sovereignty in all things by humbling ourselves in repentance and move forward with Him?

SDG

All scripture references in this post are from the World English Bible (WEB)

“World English Bible” is a trademark of Rainbow Missions, Inc. Permission is granted to use the name “World English Bible” and its logo only to identify faithful copies of the Public Domain translation of the Holy Bible of that name published by Rainbow Missions, Inc. The World English Bible is not copyrighted.

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13 thoughts on “Christian Chraracter

  1. There is one thing, of many I am sure, that I have discovered recently, that has marred the integrity of many Christians, and that is thinking they must be tolerant of others. Some will even question your faith if you do not show tolerance toward them (that is, the one in whose conduct you won’t tolerate). They think that is the love like Christ had. But love is very intolerant. And tolerance is the key that opens the door to compromise. If we think God is tolerant of our sin and is too loving to exact consequences, we will compromise (as well as reveal that we don’t truly know Him). If we tolerate bad behavior, we will compromise, maybe even make excuses for the behavior. To more than a few, I am not a Christian because I lack tolerance of other’s ways and beliefs. But it was tolerance that led me to be on the wrong path! I am not yet as I desire to be and ask the Lord to help my unbelief, soften my heart, and remove every vestige of spiritual blindness. And Breaking the Chains is an excellent article and was key to my restoration not too long ago. Bless you, Mike for writing it. May I be a Christian of integrity from here on out for our Lord’s Glory.

  2. Amen!
    Thank you Mike for this post. We are surrounded by compromise, in and out of the church (the reference to our current political system sums up my thoughts). The world and the church at large in America are virtually indistinguishable.

    I am thankful to the Lord for saving me (for as Sherry states above), I too was headed down the path of man’s idea of “toleration”, “that’s true for you, not for me” and compromise (which is a state probably true about a great many of us at one time). That way leads to confusion (which we see all around us daily) and for many, eventually death.

    Your post also reminds me of a recent study we did on Psalm 139 In particular v.23-24):

    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
    24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

    (A good commentary on these verse can be found in Spurgeon’s, Treasury of David)

  3. Sherry C.,

    This is tough stuff. There is an element of tolerance that is born in our willingness to forgive and guide other into the truth, but we cannot tell professing Christians that its okay for them to believe false doctrines or live according the flesh. Nor can we compromise our beliefs for the sack of fellowship. That is where compromise begins and is the it is the root of hypocrisy. Great comment mys sister!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Mike:
    I can’t express how encouraging this post is for me. I also appreciate the comments made by others. I feel less alone. It is true that if you refuse to compromise, refuse to bend the knee to tolerance and refuse to consider anything else other than the Word of God as authoritative in your life you’re considered either arrogant or a nut case.

    The Scripture promises that this would be so. I take comfort that “they” thought the same of the Savior. Thanks for the post. I am going to print it out so I can file it under encouragement and edification. I know I’ll read it again and again. Grateful for His Grace, Wendy

  5. Good article Mike. We didn’t compromise but tried to tell them the truth in love. 2 churches in a small town of 350, and it didn’t go over at all. In fact because you won’t compromise, you have to pull away from them slowly and then they get mad and black ball you. Oh well. The truth is the truth and we will not back away from it. Our Lord and His truth is first. One church believed you can lose your salvation, the other one was into ‘making a descision’ and numbers for baptisms. Thank the Lord we did find a church, but its 40 miles from here one way and worth every mile of driving!! Out of the 4 churches in this town where we live not one has it even close to the rightly divided truth. Its sad. Northern Missouri is quite hilly on the ‘alphabatized’ roads, so we just take our dramamine and hit the road to get to a true church. :) Good good article Mike. Much needed for today.

  6. Wendy,

    To be obedient no matter what is to be alone. At least it feels that way. However, God has His obedient servants everywhere and, of course, we have the Holy Spirit. We are to encourage one another while we fight the good fight. I really appreciate your encouraging comments and I pray that the Lord will continue to edify and bless you in Him.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Paul and Luann,

    I know what you mean about the desolate church landscape out there. Stay obedient and faithful guys. This time here in these bodies in this sin-sick world is such a short time compared to what is coming to our Lord’s Sheep. We must pray for those deceived people in those compromised churches.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does. Job 23:13

    If we fail to humbly understand God’s sovereignty, we build our beliefs, theology, and doctrines on a false foundation. Isn’t this how so many have gotten off track?

    “Are we going to continue to insist that God do things our way or are we going to surrender to His sovereignty in all things by humbling ourselves in repentance and move forward with Him?”

    We should ask ourselves that question every morning moment!

  9. Mike,
    I struggle with understanding GOD and HIS attributes. I don’t understand exactly what they say about HIM, even the big words we use to try to understand HIM I don’t know exactly what they mean. I struggle with my beliefs and actions; are they mine or are they a part of GOD’s sovereignty. Am I reaching to far in trying to understand GOD? Should I just accept the fact that I will never reconcile the seeming contradictions in GOD’s word about GOD’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? Some of your descriptions of people who are struggling with their understanding are hard to take but I know from reading your articles that you have the heart of a pastor and only mean well for your sheep so I’ll just take your comments as GOD using you as a chisel to chip away at the granite rock of my pride.
    Captured by HIS grace, Gene

  10. Gene,
    These are really good questions. I struggle with them constantly. I hope Mike writes more on them.

    It is so easy for us to go too far one way or the other. The Bible says that God is sovereign AND we are responsible. If we struggle to understand this, then God has ordained this struggle for us, and we are responsible to struggle with these issues and not say “it doesn’t make sense, nobody can understand this” (as I do).

    These aren’t issues to be taken lightly. I’ve read of people who have contemplated suicide when struggling with issues such as these. So, why does God give us these struggles? And why do they seem to last so long?

    I believe it is for the same reason that God afflicted Paul with persecution: …For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

    The godly purpose of every Christian’s struggle is that we humble ourselves to the point of full dependence on God.

    Impossible for us to do? Yes. And that failure (like all the others) should cause us to humbly throw ourselves on the mercy of God. That is our only hope.

    I will wait for the LORD… and I will hope in Him. (Isaiah 8:17)

  11. Great article. Thanks dec and Gene ! Paul and Luann, isn’t it wonderful that God blesses you once a week with a drive where you can enjoy the Fall colors ? Hope it is a scenic route though hilly !

  12. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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