Character.


What is it?

Do we need it?

If we do, how can you create it?


Recently - on the "collective-evolution.com"  web site, I took a quiz to see if I was addicted to certain foods. I am not promoting the site, just showing how Biblical papers can be started from an unusual source. To get the results of the quiz, I had to give an email address, and this took me to the "brightlineeating.com" web site.

Which turned out to be interesting.

It soon became obvious to me that there is a connection between "food addiction" (or any addiction for that matter) and "character building".

First - some explanation.

"Brightline" is a legal term, for a judgment given that is straight forward and easy to apply. There is no room for argument about what is meant by it.

When applied to eating, "brightlines" make clear cut rules about what to eat and when to eat it. Why would someone want to do this?  So that they can gain better health by eating the right foods in the right quantity.  A side affect is that they will either loose or put on weight, and return to a body image that is right for them.

As Susan Peirce Thompson (the author of the Brightline eating web site) explains, just about all people who go on a diet, sooner or later fail - for one main reason.

If the diet involves will power, then there will come a time when will power will let you down.

So - Susan has come up with a way of eating that depends very little on will power.

Then the connection.

As I was reading and listening to videos from Susan, it became obvious to me that people who are addicted to flour and sugar (or any other refined food), are in the same position as people who are addicted to sin (or more correctly, people who are addicted to the "payback" from sin)..

If you are just relying on will power to stop yourself from sinning, then eventually the will power will let you down, and you will fall back into sin.

Some comments about addictions.

I have not paid to listen to the full story from Susan, so those who have, would have a more detailed knowledge than myself. However, in her promo, Susan makes some interesting points.

Across the population, there are about one third of the people who never have a problem with a food  addiction. Another third could go either way, and the last third will most likely become addicted.

Most human addictions are based on natural products found in nature, but then have been refined and concentrated by man. Some examples:

Sugar is extracted out of sugar cane and other plants, and refined to white crystals.

Cocain is a white powder refined from cocoa trees.

Wheat flour (white) is refined from the grains of wheat.

Corn syrup is refined out of the kernels from corn.

Nicotine from the leaf of the tobacco plant. Tobacco companies also use additives to make sure more of the nicotine is absorbed from the smoke.

Concentrating alcohol by distillation, or producing new yeast strains that can ferment to higher alcohol levels.

Once addicted, human beings are then battling a craving for these sort of products.

I might add, that 100 years ago, addictive substances like white flour and sugar were not readily available to the general public, so back then there were no where near the problems that exist today. So - why are they more readily available today?  Because men have figured out that they can make a lot more money out of the refined/concentrated product than the natural product.

To put it another way - if you are "addicted" to their product, then they stand to make more money (the god of mammon wins again).

Applying "Brightline" to eating.

OK - I'll start with the physical (eating) first, since it should be the easiest to understand.

To be very blunt about it, we all know that if we are placed in a position of constraint - such as a jail cell or concentration camp -  where we have no control over what we can eat, and we are not given enough food, we will lose weight.

Also, people who have given up smoking, know that the longer they go without smoking, the easier it becomes to resist. Yes, it might take months or even years, but, making a break with what is causing the addiction, will - with time - reduce the urge.

OK then.  How do we apply those constraints in a more "user-friendly"  way?

One way is to have a "brightline" decision for every situation, worked out in advance.

In actual fact, large "brightline decisions" need to be supported by smaller "brightline decisions".

For example:

A large "brightline decision" would be to never eat foods that contain white flour or refined sugar.

To make this happen, you will need smaller "brightline decisions" for every product for sale in the supermarket. After sufficient research, you will know what each item that is for sale contains. Then, before you even go near the supermarket, you establish a "brightline" that you will not buy white bread, biscuits, cakes, sweets, "health" bars (full of sugar), and so on.

By not bringing products into your home that contain flour or refined sugar, then you will not have to rely on will-power not to eat them. Remember, at some point in time, will-power will let you down.

Having stocked your pantry with healthy food, you then need more smaller "brightlines" about when to eat and how much to eat at each sitting.

Creating useful habits.

Through investigation, research and trial and error, you can identify the foods you should not eat,  those  you may eat, and when to eat them, and how much to eat at each serving.

Then through large and small "brightlines" we can come up with a system for eating that will reduce (and in time almost eliminate) our addictions for certain foods. By working out what our menu is going to be for the next day and writing it down (or committing it to memory), we have eliminated our need to apply "willpower" to make the right decisions with our eating during the next day.

By eating correctly each day, it soon becomes habit. Something we do without putting a lot of thought into it in time.

As the results come in, this reinforces our desire to follow all the "brightlines" - the clear decisions we have made - about what and when to eat.

There is no on-going battle in our mind about what food to eat. We don't have to wander up and down the isles in the supermarket looking at processed food.  The 'brightlines" we have made for ourselves have "squeezed out" the food addictions and the unhealthy food choices.

Applying "brightlines" to sinning.

We are not left without any major "brightlines" when it comes to sinning, as God has already supplied them in the form of the Ten Commandments. These are clear cut decisions that are fundamental to our obedience to God.

The problem is - that just like people with food addictions to white flour and sugar, people have a hard job of just following the rules. Especially if they are relying on will-power.

However, just as applying clear cut decisions to the foods we buy stops the wrong foods coming into the home in the first place, we can come up with smaller rules that will help to keep us safe from breaking the ten big rules of the Commandments.

Instead of will-power, we need character.

So what is character, and how might we define it?

Wordweb lists 9 definitions for the word "character" - so the word can be used in a number of ways.

However, for this article, we are only interested in "character" as it is involved with our spiritual lives.

Mr Herbert Armstrong gave us one definition along the lines of;

Character has to do with making choices. However, before those choices can be made, work has to be done to establish in our minds what is right and what is wrong - from God's perspective.

Rom 3:20 NET ... for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

Then - knowing right from wrong, we have to chose to do what is right, even if there is strong temptation to do otherwise.  Those who can always make the right choice to do God's will - are the people with "character".

Notice - you can't make choices without first knowing what the choices are. This involves a deep study of God's instructions - the instructions that have come from God's mouth (Mat 4:4). Yes, the words from God's mouth are in the Bible - but don't jump to the conclusion that everything in the Bible has God's approval. As I see it - it doesn't.

Making the right choice when there is no reason to do otherwise, does not require character (but should be done anyway). Character comes into play when there is a "pull" to go in the wrong direction, but we reject the "pull" and do what is pleasing to God.

Another definition from Cauett Robert is;

"Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed."

Which echoes another one by Bill Hybels - "Who are you when no one is looking?"

The above two definitions zero in on the fact that character has to be long lasting, and the right thing has to be done, without peer pressure.

Why do we need it?

First up - we need to see that it is important. As we are told - more important than gold.

1Pe 1:3-7 NET  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
(4)  that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,  (5)  who by God's power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last     time. 
(6)  This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials.
(7)  Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold — gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away — and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Notice - trials (outside pressure to do the wrong thing or give up) show up the amount of character we have produced.  If we have produced character, then the Apostle Peter says that it is more valuable than gold.

Character will get you into the Kingdom - gold will not.

Notice the sequence given in Romans 5.

"Sufferings" are the temptation to "give up".  But if we don't give up - that is we endure - then by resisting the temptation we produce character.

Having produced character, we then can have a real hope of being selected by Christ to be part of the Kingdom of God.

Rom 5:3-4 NET  Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  (4)  and endurance, character, and character, hope.

Why temptations and/or obstructions are necessary.

If If there are no temptations, no trials, no suffering - then there is no opportunity to create character.

On the flip side, if there are temptations, trials, sufferings - and we give in to them, then we are destroying character - not creating it.

What aspects of life are involved in character building?

The answer is simple - all.

It is just as character building to have a "rule" against buying food with man-refined sugars in it, as to following a "rule" "not to ever be alone with the opposite sex", to avoid fortification or adultery (breaking the seventh Commandment).

Both require us to resist temptation - so both will build character, or destroy character if we give in to the temptations.

Driving a car.

Let's look at the example of driving a car.

This gives everyone a great opportunity to either create of destroy character.

The Apostle Peter tells us to obey the laws of the land.

1Pe 2:13-14 NET  Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake, whether to a king as supreme  (14)  or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good.

This is backed up by the Apostle Paul.

Tit 3:1 NET  Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.

In most countries, governments put up speed signs to indicate the maximum speed for that section of road under good conditions.  If we are going to be "subject to rulers", then as a Christian we should follow their direction. And we should follow their direction regardless of who may or may not be watching. OK - in some countries there are two speed limits, the posted one and the local interpretation, but both still have limits.

If you only follow the directions of a speed sign when you can see a police car in the rear view mirror, or think that one might be in the area, then you can be sure that your character building has not got off the ground as yet.

Day in, day out, by sticking to the speed limits (regardless of who may, or may not, be watching), you can build character.  It should be something we do out of habit - not by exercising will-power all the time. In other words, we don't start making decisions every time we see a speed sign - we just obey it out of habit.

Character in history.

Just for a moment, I want to look back in history, and ask the question - "Does character define the nature of a kingdom?".

There are two great accounts of character - men following their previously thought out rules in the face of certain death - back in the Book of Daniel.

You can fill in the background on the two stories in Daniel 2 and Daniel 6.

First, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Dan 3:17-18 NET  If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well.  (18)  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don't serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected."

They had done their study, they knew it was breaking the second Commandment to worship a golden statue, and they had formulated a "rule" in their mind to never do it.

And by sticking to their "rule" - even in the face of certain death - they displayed tremendous character..

The second example involved Daniel himself.

Some men were jealous of Daniel's position, and had come up with a plan to take him down. They tricked the King into making a decree that only the king could be worshiped for 30 days. Daniel knew that this was not right before God - but notice his response.

Dan 6:10 NET  When Daniel realized that a written decree had been issued, he entered his home, where the windows in his upper room opened toward Jerusalem. Three times daily he was kneeling and offering prayers and thanks to his God just as he had been accustomed to do previously.

Daniel was thrown into the lion's den - usually certain death - but God protected him.

However, not backing down in the face of possible death, shows great character.

A bit of speculation.

We don't have all the details, so we don't know for sure, but is it possible that Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom is described as the head of Gold because men had a better understanding of what it meant to have character back then, than the kingdoms that followed?

Even though the king wanted to protect Daniel from the lion's den (Dan 6:14), he did not go back on his word. The head of gold?

Today, politicians often can not keep their word for 12 months. The feet of clay?

Where the rubber hits the road.

OK - let us get serious for a moment, and hopefully see how necessary character is if we are going to please God.

As we have talked about elsewhere, mankind does not have a natural disposition to obey God. In fact, mankind is constantly looking for ways to water down our requirement to put God first (Mat 22:37).

Just as an aside - is this the reason that the translation errors in our English Bibles are so accepted by men in general?  They can be used to introduce "flexibility" into their belief system.

The will of God.

Time and time again, Christ talks about the need to do God's will (Mat 7:21, Mat 12:50,
Mat 26:39, Mar 3:35).

Doing God's will takes character.  This means that there are pulls that we need to resist. John spells out three of them for us.  They all come under the umbrella of not loving the world (because it is temporary but God's Kingdom is permanent).

1Jn 2:15-17 NET  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 

Then John breaks it down further.

(16)  because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world.

(17)  And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.

This takes us back to why character is more valuable than gold.

We should keep in mind, the very simple definition of what is sin.

1Jn 3:4 NET  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness.

When we do things contrary to God's Law - contrary to God's will - we are sinning. We need bright lines  - thought out decisions in advance - that stop us even getting close to this.

As the verse below shows, if we are sinning, we will not be invited to be part of the God family, but instead we will become fodder for the lake of fire.

1Jn 3:10 NET  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness — the one who does not love his fellow Christian — is not of God.

In other words - a reject.


Back to the initial questions.


What is it?

Character is the ability to do the right thing - from God's point of view - regardless of its impact on our own personal lives.

Do we need it?

Absolutely.

If we can not practice righteousness, then we are not of God.

If we do, how can you create it?

We can create character by always doing the right thing in little things. This helps "doing the right thing" to become habit. Habits work - will power will not always work. In the short term - yes - but eventually it will let us down.

Luk 16:10 NET  "The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Christ our example.

Jesus Christ did not get "tricked" into doing God's will.

He knew exactly what was involved - but had the resolve to do God's will anyway.

Mar 10:33-34 NET  "Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles.  (34)  They will mock him, spit on him, flog him severely, and kill him. Yet after three days, he will rise again."

That is the sort of character we should aspire to.

Testing Christ's character.

During Christ's life, he was tested many times as to the amount of character he had.

As an example, in Matthew 4 we read about Christ being tested by Satan.  Three times Satan made statements that were a mixture of truth and error.  Christ was able to separate the truth from the error, and then apply bright-lines from God's instructions, and reject the errors.  By putting the instructions from God's mouth first, Christ became the enemy of the "establishment" of his day.

The ultimate test came when Christ accepted death on the stake at the hands of the "establishment".

He put God's will before his own and all others.

Testing our character.

Today, our character is being tested in exactly the same way by Satan.  Satan has inspired men to insert errors into what we call today - the Bible.  We can either put the spoken word of God first - or we can use other words in the Bible that contradict God, to reject or modify the words spoken by God.  If we put God's spoken words first, then our circle of friends will be greatly reduced, and this does not sit well with the average person who wants to belong to the tribe/group/family/cult/church of their choice.

We are told by Moses (Deut 8:3) to live by "... everything that comes from the Lord's mouth", and this is confirmed by Christ in Mat 4:4, that we are to live by - "... every word that comes from the mouth of God".

Satan has deceived the whole world (Rev 12:9) into thinking that our English Bibles have a higher authority than the words spoken by God.

We know we have started to create character when we live by the words spoken directly by God, or through His prophets (which includes Christ), and reject everything else in the Bible that disagrees.

Understanding that we need to select out, keep, and obey, the words spoken by God - but reject the words put into the Bible by men that go against God's instructions - is a major key to moving into a closer relationship with God and His Son. To do that takes character,

Why don't we have enough of it?

Human nature.

Our human nature has a way of telling us stories that "justify" our lack of character.

I am tired, so I don't have to help with ... .
I am under a lot of stress, so I can be easy on myself.
I am hungry, so I can eat .... .
I am running late, so I can speed up a bit.
No one is looking so I can ... .
No one will know, so it is OK to .... .
I deserve .... .
I have given financial support, so I don't have to give emotional support as well.
And so on, and so on.

Satan.

Satan has a way of putting temptations in our way.

Just as Christ rejected Satan's temptations (Mat 4:10), so we must reject them as well..

Giving in to Satan's temptations destroys good character.

The world.

Mainly though the media (TV, Internet, papers, radio, and so on) we are bombarded daily with suggestions to do certain things, buy certain things, watch certain things, so that "we can keep up with the Jones", or satisfy our lusts. Usually these suggestions are not character building.

Escapism is not character building.  

Summary.

Over the course of human history, there have been many men and women who have demonstrated strong character.

Our guarantee to join them in the Kingdom of God, is to do the same.




Bob Orchard Feb 2017

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