Evidence of Christian Character
We are nearing the end of our study. This final unit will deal with evidences that we are growing into Christian maturity. It is important to have measurements to check our progress against. The word evidence means “something that will furnish proof.” Evidence is often presented in a court of law. It is the proof of the guilt or innocence of the person on trial. A judge, magistrate, or jury of persons must weigh the evidence. They have the
responsibility of judging whether or not the evidence is sufficient for a decision.
Scriptures contain many clear teachings on Christian evidences. In a sense the world is like a jury as even unbelievers recognize whether or not the Christian lives up to what he professes or says. This lesson deals with the most convincing evidence of mature Christian life: the believer’s manifestation of Jesus’ character in his or her life.
The newborn spirit (seed) within the new believer contains the likeness of God. Like a baby growing into the likeness of its family, the believer grows into the likeness of God. That likeness was seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus was God living in human form. He set a pattern which gives every believer a model and standard for spiritual growth.
Reviewing the Goal
Let us review the goal of Christian growth: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:29–30)
What we have already studied in this course has helped to define what it is to become like God’s Son. In this lesson, we are presenting the highest Christian evidence of all. This is the reflection of the character of Jesus Christ in our own character and lifestyle.
Another description of the goal toward which we press is found in Ephesians 4:12–13: The body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity
in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Notice that the “knowledge of the Son of God” is a factor in becoming a mature person. There are three basic levels of knowledge. We can know facts about someone we have not met; we can know a person better through having met him; and we can know a person intimately, such as we know a close friend.
Now compare your answer with the detailed one given in the answer section. Hopefully, Paul’s heart-cry also illustrates our desire to know Christ intimately. We need to seek the most intimate knowledge of Christ as an aid to Christian maturity.
Growth was a constant goal for the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3:12 he states, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” A few verses later, Paul writes, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15). This should greatly encourage us. We can be mature—growing as we should—yet seek the goal of likeness to Jesus Christ.
Characteristics of Jesus’ Life
Jesus Christ lived among us. He learned and developed in His human role. He grew physically, mentally, and in favor with God and people (Luke 2:52). He accepted the role of a servant in order to fulfill God’s purpose for Him.
Look back in Lesson 2 and review this material. Please do not go on until you have done so.
Our purpose now is to see what Jesus was in His character. Character is “the parts or features of our essential nature which distinguish us from others.” When we see a person’s character, by their words or deeds, we see the essential person.
The children of God have basic characteristics though they may be from different nations, speak different languages, and have different skin color. Yet, when outsiders study true Christians, the observers can see common traits among the Christians. This commonality shows that Christians belong to a common group—the family of God.
To study the character of Jesus is a lifelong effort. For this study, let us look at several primary aspects of His character. First is Jesus’ selflessness. He lived entirely to the glory and credit of the Father. John 1:14 writes, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father.”
In Hebrews 1:3 Jesus is referred to as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” Even evil spirits recognized that He was the Son of God. (See Matthew 8:29, Mark 1:24, Mark 3:11, and Luke 4:41.)
In addition to Christ’s selflessness, there were two prominent characteristics of Jesus’ life that are patterns for us. Both of them are found in Philippians 2, where Jesus is shown taking upon himself not only human nature but also, by a choice of His will, the role of a servant.
These qualities of the character of Jesus Christ are apparent throughout His ministry. We find many of the character traits of Jesus more indirectly. As you study His life, you see the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.
The traits we have listed above are some of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They are what we will produce when we yield to Him rather than our human nature. These traits are like windows of our soul through which God reveals himself to the world. Jesus had all the windows of His human spirit open for showing the Father to the world.
BEING LIKE JESUS
To be like Jesus is both natural and difficult. It is natural because the “seed” or nature of God is in us when we are born again by the Holy Spirit. This seed manifests God’s likeness as it grows in us. Paul expressed this truth: “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5). It is difficult to be like Jesus because “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17).
Choice of Will
Philippians 2:7 says Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
While there is in every believer the seed of God’s likeness, the believer must allow God’s nature shine through. Ephesians 3:16 and 19 give important insights on how the believer makes this decision: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, . . . and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
It is God’s wish that all the virtues and characteristics in the phrases you have listed be ours. One notable goal for the Christian is “to live a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1).
Thus, there is a standard, and the individual believer must decide to live up to that standard.
This principle of the believer’s will determining the character traits is found in many Scriptures. Read the book of Ephesians, and you will see how many times an appeal is made to your will. For instance, there is “Put on the new self” (4:24); “Be very careful, then, how you live” (5:15), “Put on the full armor of God” (6:11), and so on.
The passage below shows that God provides, but we must will to do something to manifest the character of Christ: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3–8, italics mine) Reread this passage, noting the italicized words.
In this passage, the believer has the responsibility to add virtuous traits to his or her life. Yet we are told that God has given us precious gifts and the divine nature itself. The power to be like God is realized through our new birth and our own free will. This balance between God’s gift and our work is seen in another: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13).
Salvation can best be described as wholeness: the completion of the plan of God for each person. We must work, but God must make us willing and able. Praise God for that wonderful balance!
Surrendering to the Holy Spirit
We have studied the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Lessons 4 and 6. Remember that it was the Holy Spirit who enabled Jesus to fulfill His human role. Jesus was led and anointed of the Spirit. The character of Jesus can only be ours through the Spirit’s control of our lives. The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
When the Holy Spirit is in control of the believer’s life, He produces the character of Christ in it. The following chart will help you visualize the nine windows of Galatians 5:22–23 through which Christian character is seen.
The more we let God’s Spirit control us the more like Jesus we will be in character and life. Sometime, read the book of Acts and underline each place that tells of someone’s being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Type of Lifestyle
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most notable of Jesus’ sermons. The sermon consists of brief statements called beatitudes. Beatitude is a word which means “the utmost happiness or bliss.” Hence, in these short statements, Jesus described happy or blissful living.
Each of the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10 describes an attitude of heart and character which the Holy Spirit will produce in believers who allow Him to do so. Let us examine the beatitudes.
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor (v. 3). The Holy Spirit will help us to be constantly aware of our need. This attitude of dependency on God will produce rich rewards.
Happy are those who mourn (v. 4). This refers to an attitude of sorrow concerning anything that will keep Christ from being glorified in our life. It is the godly sorrow of confession and repentance.
Happy are those who are humble (v. 5). The nature and attitude of Jesus shows humility and submission to the will of God. Humility is the most easily recognized characteristic of a servant of Christ.
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires (v. 6). This is obedience. The actions of the lover of God must be: “‘Here I am…to do your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:7).
Happy are those who are merciful to others (v. 7). Here is the outgiving attitude of the forgiveness and grace of God. There can be no bitterness and resentfulness in the heart. Again, this is an obvious quality of Christ’s life.
Happy are the pure in heart (v. 8). If the heart is not occupied with desires of human nature, our vision of Jesus’ reality will be greater.
Happy are those who work for peace (v. 9). Here is the characteristic of a sharing that pours out concern and compassion to others.
Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires (v. 10). Here is the quality of rejoicing in all things. The believer can recognize the Father’s loving care in every experience.
The evidence that most demonstrates Christian maturity is the character of Christ in one’s life. The Bible says that believers were first called Christians in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). Up to that time and for several more years, they were simply known as “the people of the Way.”
Antioch was the slave capital of the world, and slaves bore their master’s names. Perhaps the unbelieving world saw these believers as slaves of Christ. Nevertheless, there is no greater honor than being called a Christian, for a Christian is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, who both does the Lord’s bidding and conforms to His nature.