The Character of a Christian
the preceding seven chapters we have learned about God and what He has done for
us. He has made us and given us our
own will. He has created a universe for us to live in, and provided for us in
every physical way. He has sent His son Jesus to give us eternal life and a
relationship with Him. Now we will look not at what God has done but at how He
expects and enables us to live.
be a human being is a marvelous gift. We are unique in all of creation. We have
been given the privilege of self-determination: the ability to learn from others
and to discover new things for ourselves. We are not like this computer that I
am typing on.
computer at first glance seems to be intelligent, versatile, and speedy. It has
in its memory two translations of the Bible, as well as a Greek and Hebrew
Lexicon. It is able to calculate rapidly, make precise drawings, keep tract of
accounts payable and receivable, and much more. It is able to communicate both
with me and my family, through a keyboard and monitor, as well as other
computers over the Internet.
it can do all of these things, it is still only a boring box when compared with
us. When presented with a given set of conditions, the computer’s response
will always be the same. Some people would have you believe that we are like the
computer. They will tell you that we are the result of “programming” we
received from our upbringing and environment. They will tell you that there is
no difference between each person other than that which can be explained by the
application of psychology. To some people we are only naked apes.
Bible tells us however that we are very different creatures indeed. We are not
at all like a computer or an animal. We have the gift of a free will. We have
chosen to accept that our own efforts will not lead to a holy relationship with
God. We have accepted that Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection are
sufficient to justify us before God. This was the very important first step in
obtaining the eternal life we now have. But this new life is not something for
the distant future, it is needed and available to us now.
Christians we can go far beyond simply responding to our surroundings. We can
live a life that is inspired and empowered by God. This life, which He has
provided for the Christian, is so different from what we see around us that many
times we, and the world around us, fail to understand it.
Bible, and especially the words of Christ, provide us a blueprint for the
Christian life. What we will try to do is develop some general principles for
Christian living. These general principles, together with our prayers and the
work of the Holy Spirit, will build us up to be God’s person.
Does God expect the Christian to be Different?
Jesus, through His death and resurrection has given us the key to heaven.
Eternal life is freely given to all who ask by having saving faith in Him. What
is it about God and man that requires more than that? If we have security in our
salvation why is it necessary to live a changed life?
first century Christians wrestled with this as well.
Look at Romans chapters 5 and 6. Paul
is responding to believers who said that if Christ brought forgiveness for sin,
why should we stop sinning. This is
what Paul says in Romans 6:1–4. “What shall we say then? Shall we go on
sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live
in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him
through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the
dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
start with a short look at what saving faith encompasses. Remember that our
saving faith is more than “our personal faith”. Saving faith is a
combination of the exercise of our free will, the truth of Christ’s message,
and the operation of the Holy Spirit in our heart. Therefore we need not fear
that this faith we speak of is beyond our ability. Already the Holy Spirit is
working to produce saving faith in all who ask. Remember that it is not behaving
differently that makes us a Christian, but being a Christian makes us behave
faith will produce a change in our life now, not just on judgment day. Let’s
look at some of the main elements of saving faith.
saving faith is believing and trusting Christ with all our heart as our personal
Lord and Savior, yielding our will to Him and committing our total self to Him.
saving faith is a repentant faith, involving true sorrow for sin. Furthermore
true repentance involves turning away from the sin that has been committed.
faith includes obedience to Christ, an “obedience that comes from faith”
(Romans 1:5). This obedience is out of gratitude to God for saving us and to the
Holy Spirit for the work of regeneration in us.
this faith includes a heartfelt personal devotion and attachment to Jesus Christ
that expresses itself in trust, love, gratitude, and loyalty. Faith in the
ultimate sense cannot be separated from love.
new life of faith is not a matter for only our future in heaven, but for the
here and now. In the book of Matthew the disciples asked Jesus how they should
pray. When we pray, we are asking for both God’s help and direction.
Matthew chapters 5 and 6 Jesus is speaking to a large crowd that had come to
learn from Him. He went up onto the hillside and gave us what we know as the
Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus taught in His sermon was not just the outward
characteristics of being godly, but what it means to be godly. A Christian does
not just appear to be a Christian, but truly is one.
When we look at the picture of godly living that Christ gives us in the
Sermon on the Mount we are overwhelmed, indeed we must be. We cannot of
ourselves live this way. But God has made provision for us to grow beyond our
own strength and understanding. He enables us to go beyond a computer programmed
response to our surroundings and become a child of God.
of the things Jesus taught on the hillside was how to pray. Rather than start by
looking at the Sermon on the Mount as a whole let’s look at the “Lord’s
Prayer” first. After we begin to understand what our Heavenly Father provides
for us in response to our prayers, we will then look at some of the specifics in
Jesus was delivering His sermon He probably faced a very depressed crowd. They
had come to Jesus not knowing quite what to expect, He was famous for miracles,
perhaps they would get to see one. Perhaps they had a personal need that Christ
would address. Often we as well come before our Lord not knowing what to expect
of Him, or what He expects of us.
of seeing miracles what they learned was what it means to be holy. They learned
that they must be better than the best to get to heaven by virtue of their own
actions. (Matthew 5:20) says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly
not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In fact it was worse than that, for later in
the sermon Jesus says (Matthew 5:48), “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly
Father is perfect.”
then continued with what we know of as “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is not
only a pattern prayer for us to use, but also shows us that Jesus takes a
different approach to our relationship with God than we might.
we pray, and think of our relationship with God, we tend to be self-centered. We
ask “What’s in it for me?” The following passage is from Matthew 6:9–13.
This is what Jesus tells us to ask for. “After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will
be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And
forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Henry in his commentary states “It is taken for granted that all of the
disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living person who does not
breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless then
graceless.” One of the characteristics of a Christian is that he prays.
we say “Our Father” we are acknowledging that we are His adopted children.
We know that God the Father loves us. Look at 1 John 3:1–2 “How great is the
love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did
not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has
not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.:”
hearts tell us to respond to the love God has shown us with our own love, and
that is exactly right. God has given each of us, no matter how else gifted, the
ability to love Him. All of the other changes we work in our lives grow out of
the central fact that we love God. When we ask for God’s direction we can
always use love as a litmus test. Ask God if our actions show our love for Him.
else do we respond to our parent the Heavenly Father? What does an earthly
father expect of his child, or better yet what does God tell us? Deuteronomy
5:16 tells us how we are to treat our parents. “Honor your father and your
mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and
that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
should live in a way that will bring honor to our heavenly Father. This of
course means many things. To put it in simple terms we can think of how we can
honor our parents and apply those same things to our Heavenly Father. I once
heard a quote; it said that we should never say anything that we would be
ashamed to have our mother hear. How soon we forget that our Father in heaven
does indeed hear what we say, and see what we do. Are we doing things that hurt
our Heavenly Father?
Father which art in heaven”. We acknowledge that God is in heaven, and that
that is His rightful place. Knowing that God is in heaven and we are here puts
things into perspective.
we say “Hallowed be thy name” we are giving glory to God. All other things
in our life must be subordinated to the worship of God. Again this is more than
a prayer, it is a statement of God first, and us after. We need to live our
lives this way.
Christ tells us to ask for the coming of the kingdom of God. This means that we
must be prepared for its coming. It also means that we must be actively helping
others to be prepared. If one is not a Christian, the last thing you want is for
the kingdom of God to come. We need to be ready for Luke 12:40 says, “You also
must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not
comes a key point. God’s will is to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. This
must start with us personally. There is no value in complaining about the sinful
state of the world while God’s will is not being done by His own children. We
must submit our will to His. This means His priorities not ours, this means
building His church, not our glory.
our will is a hard program to buy into. We are justifiably proud that we in the
western world live in freedom. This freedom is popularly believed to be the
freedom to do as we please. The proper use of the freedom God has given us is to
be free to love and obey Him. We
must choose this path of our own will. The Holy Spirit will then equip us to
walk the path.
ask for our daily bread. There are three nuggets here. First, notice that we
aren’t demanding but asking. The Christian is humble, and lives in dependence
upon his Father. Second, do not
worry about the future. We live in daily dependence on our Fathers provision.
This takes trust. We must know in our heart that God will provide each day for
third, we don’t demand cake or caviar, but are looking for the basic resources
we need. Riches or other material goods are not evil in themselves, but they may
do much mischief inside of us if we are not careful.
See Proverbs 30:7–9.
Christian is a forgiving person. We realize that we must ask for and accept
forgiveness from God to be justified. This causes us to be humble and forgiving
in our relationship with our fellow man. We, who have needed forgiveness
ourselves, must always be ready to forgive.
ask that God might deliver us from temptation. As a Christian we recognize that
we have not become some kind of invincible warrior. We remain weak and ask God
to deliver us from temptation. This means that we do not seek out places where
we will be tempted. There are some places where a Christian will not be found
because they are full of temptation to sin. In this visually oriented age it
means that there are magazines, TV programs, videos, and movies that Christians
will not watch lest our hearts are tempted to sin.
addition we need to realize that each of us has unique weaknesses. If we know
that we are easily tempted by drink, stay away from the bar. The Christian is
prudent because the Holy Spirit is guiding us.
for Christian living
Looking back at the Sermon on the Mount we see some key aspects of
Christian living. One of the reasons that Christ gave them to us together with
the Lord’s prayer is that we must realize that the power to live the Christian
life comes from above. We have the responsibility to choose to live a godly
life. Our Father is a great respecter of our independent will, and allows us to
go astray if we choose to. When we keep the wisdom of God’s word in the Bible
before us we have God’s help for godly living.
Christian acknowledges God the Father and Jesus Christ in his heart and before
men. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says “And
thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a
perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and
understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be
found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” David
is telling Solomon that knowing and serving are linked together.
Notice also that God will respond in kind to our seeking Him.
Look at what Jesus has to say about the importance of acknowledging Him.
Matthew 10:32–33 says “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him
will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall
deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
Christian loves Christ. Ephesians 6:24 says “Grace to all who love our Lord
Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Paul is telling the Christians that
God’s grace will be poured out for all of the believers at the church in
Ephesus who love Christ. This same promise and obligation hold true today.
Christian worships God. Worship is a daily part of the Christians life. Look for
opportunities to worship and give glory and praise to God. John 4:24 tells us
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Worshipping God is an exclusive act. We
are not to worship the things of the world, or other powers. Satan tries to take
our worship which is rightfully God’s. Some of the things he may substitute in
our lives are job, money, house, and even our spouse or children. One way to see
who you are truly worshiping is to examine your priorities. In Luke 4:8 the
Bible says, “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan:
for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou
Christian is kingdom minded. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he prays that
they will be thankful that they are citizens of the heavenly kingdom. When we
remember that we belong to Christ’s kingdom it is easier to make sure that our
goals go towards those things expected by Christ rather than those things
expected by the world. Also we live in the expectation of the imminent return of
Christ. We live each day prepared for His coming. Colossians 1:12–13 says
“giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the
inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from
the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,”
Christian surrenders his will to the Father. This obedience is our way of
showing our love and commitment. By being in the word we can fill our hearts
with the good things of God. The
Spirit will be alive in us. When we are filled with the work, and love, of the
Lord we don’t worry about what not to do. Rather, we are happily doing what we
should do. In John 15:9–10 Jesus says “As the Father has loved me, so have I
loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my
love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
Christian lives in dependence on the Father. We have the choice every day to
depend on ourselves and others, or on the Lord. The Scripture contrasts the two
ways in the verses below.
36:6 “Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff,
which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh
king of Egypt to all who depend on him. Psalms 55:22 “Cast your cares on the
LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
Christian asks for forgiveness. Just as it is impossible to receive salvation
unless we recognize we are sinners, so it is also impossible to be a Christian
and not recognize that we are still have the ability to sin again. God, in his
love, has sent his Son to pay the price for our sins, the penalty is removed.
How can we appreciate Jesus if we don’t remember our daily dependence on His
forgiveness. Here is 1 John 1:9–10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful
and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If
we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no
place in our lives.”
Christian forgives others. Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with each other and
forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the
Lord forgave you.” I believe that we should extend forgiveness beyond just the
community of believers as well.
Christian flees temptation. Think of fleeing temptation as preventive
maintenance for the human soul. By avoiding situations where we know we are weak
we can prevent the desire to sin from growing in us. Look at what James
1:13–15 has to say “When tempted, no-one should say, ‘God is tempting
me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one
is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then,
after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is
full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Christian loves his fellow man. In 1 Peter 4:8 we find the following “Above
all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
This can be safely extended beyond believers. Christ is an example for while we
were yet sinners he loved us. The sin that this covers is ours by the way.
the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 to 7:28) and answer the following
you know anyone who can live according to the ideals in the Sermon on the Mount?
Do you know anyone who thinks they can?
Do you think you can?
How would you describe a righteous life?
How are we able to live a righteous life?
What kinds of gifts does God have in mind for us?
Find some parallels between the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer.
In what areas do you feel you need to improve in?
Elements of saving
faith are from The Full Life Study Bible, commentary
on Faith and Grace, pp 302. General
editor Donald Stamps, c 1990 by Life Publishers International.
Pub by Zondervan, Grand Rapids