What is Christian Character?

by Mike Ratliff

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:18-21 (NASB) 

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.

As most of you know, I am a Calvinist and I post from time to time on the Doctrines of Grace. Most the heat I receive from these posts never see the light of day because those who despise the Doctrines of Grace and are bent on silencing those of us who love and adhere to them also seem not to care very much about following the rules for commenting on this blog. Their comments still sting though. They are ugly attacks and many of them are vehement because I post those articles in such a way that they are the truth. I do not say that what I am posting could possibly be wrong and that 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.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:11-16 (NASB) 

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.

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB) 

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?

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NASB) 

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.  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 repent and 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?

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “What is Christian Character?

  1. God bless you brother Mike. I wish I could give you the encouragement that our Lord gives to me and so many others through you and this blog. I think the best I can do is continue to offer prayer for you, and say thank you. I look forward to that day in Glory when I can tell you thanks face to face.

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  2. KJ King

    The TR, the Textus Receptus is not a Greek Manuscript. It is a Greek Text translated from the actual KJV New Testament English Text into Greek by a man named Scrivner. I suggest you look that up. In any case, I too have done a great deal of study of Bible versions and I can assure you that while the KJV was as good a English translation as we had for several hundred years, since then there have been many newer better ones and many newer worse ones. I have done Greek word studies on the texts that make up our actual DOCTRINES and compared them between the TR and NA28 and TICHENDORF and the WH. Guess what? The differences amount to jots and tittles. God has preserved His Word. There is no KJVonlyism except in the cult that created it. There is no conspiraacy to hide God’s Word from God’s people. We have it because God is Sovereign and cannot be defeated.

    In Chirst

    Mike Ratliff

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