Merriam-Webster defines character as “moral excellence and firmness.” I appreciate the term firmness used in the definition. To be of great character, one must not waver in his/her moral standards. Now, does this mean that we can achieve perfection?
Unfortunately, no; not until Jesus returns for us. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with moral failure throughout his ministry. Paul writes in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (NASB, 2020).
It is humbling, but also encouraging to see that not even Paul was perfect. In fact, the only One to live a perfect life was Jesus Christ. It makes sense then that we need the righteousness of Christ to cover our lives, declaring us forgiven and justified (Romans 3:21-26). If we depend on our own goodness, we will never meet God’s standards, which results in eternal separation from God.
So, speaking to Christians (those who are considered righteous because of Christ), why is it important to live a life of character? If we are considered righteous in Christ, then why not live however you please?
The primary reason to live with great character is because God has commanded this from us. Leviticus 11:44 instructs, “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, because I am holy” (NASB, 2020). The simplest way for us to understand holiness is to think about it as being set apart.
Living with character means not living in the ways of the world but living for God in a way that is contrary to the world (John 17:16). It is for this reason that the world hates Christ and His followers (John 15:18). Living a Christ-like life exposes the wickedness that is ingrained in the very nature of the world.
This leads to the next reason for living with character: It is a testimony to the lost world about a loving God. Living holy lives of high character allows light to shine into the darkness. What happens as a result? Others will “see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NASB, 2020).
When you live in a way that is contrary to the world’s ideology and expectations, people will become interested. Some will hate you for it, but others will seek to understand. As a result, living a godly, character-filled life will lead to Gospel conversations with seekers, which will lead to some coming into relationship with God … glorifying Him.
Lastly, if we lack character, people will view us as hypocrites, wanting nothing to do with the God we serve. Colossians 3:17 reads, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (NASB, 2020). If we are not doing everything for Jesus, then we are hurting the cause.
People can see when we are living for ourselves, and this will turn them off to the Gospel message. Also, practically, who trusts a person with little to no character? It would be miserable to live as though no one trusted you.
Having poor character displeases God and creates a less than desirable lifestyle. Pray for God to guide and strengthen us in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18).
And be sure to check out best-selling author Steve Arterburn’s take on why the character we produce in our lives trumps any earthly competition we could ever win: