What is character, and why is it of utmost importance?
Why take time to learn and go through an entire Bible study on this topic?
Character, in its simplest form is the display of who we are when put under fire, or to the test. As we will learn together throughout this study, when we are put to the test is when we typically see the fruit of who we are shine brightly. The Bible makes it clear that it is important for us to, “bear good fruit,” and to be ready to bear good fruit in season and out of season. This makes sense, because this aligns with the character of Christ. He bore healthy fruit for all to see at all times, and persevered through the most fiery of the trials a human could face. He showed us that we too, possess the ability to remain the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, despite the trails and circumstances that may arise. Matt. 7:18, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Trees represent leadership symbolically. We need to be rooted to produce good fruit, and the fruit of the spirit!
Walking in the likeness and character of Jesus will lead others into a serious and committed relationship with Him. This in and of itself is worth studying the topic for! 2 Peter 1 God gives us an outline of the steps to take to develop Godly character that, “will not stumble,” as well as that will draw others close to Him.
“...3 For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through [d]true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has bestowed on us His precious and magnificent promises [of inexpressible value], so that by them you may escape from the immoral freedom that is in the world because of disreputable desire, and become sharers of the divine nature. 5 For this very reason, applying your diligence [to the divine promises, make every effort] in [exercising] your faith to, [e]develop moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge (insight, understanding), 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, steadfastness, and in your steadfastness, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly affection, and in your brotherly affection, [develop Christian] love [that is, learn to unselfishly seek the best for others and to do things for their benefit]. 8 For as these qualities are yours and are increasing [in you as you grow toward spiritual maturity], they will keep you from being useless and unproductive in regard to the true knowledge and greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is blind—shortsighted [closing his spiritual eyes to the truth], having become oblivious to the fact that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, believers, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you [be sure that your behavior reflects and confirms your relationship with God]; for by [f]doing these things [actively developing these virtues], you will never stumble [in your spiritual growth and will live a life that leads others away from sin]; 11 for in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly provided to you. 12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth which is [g]held firmly in your grasp. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this earthly tent, to inspire you by reminding you, 14 knowing that the laying aside of this earthly tent of mine is imminent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 Moreover, I will diligently endeavor [to see to it] that even after my departure you will be able, at all times, to call these things to mind.”
When I, Brandi, was around 17 years old, I had begun to attend a church I would go on to attend for almost 10 years. Not too long after I had begun attending, the pastor and her pastor friend led a young women’s retreat in her cabin at the lake for a day. It was a very life changing trip for me, and others that attended. The leaders introduced the Bible study to us called, “Character: Who You Are When No one is Looking,” by Bill Hybles.
Up to this point in my life, I had heard the word character used, but I had only heard it used to describe actors of movies, plays, etc. I had literally never heard the word character, and I had much church experience by this point in my life. Little did I know, I needed this Bible study so much. I can honestly say that at the time I was not walking as a woman of the character of Christ, even though I was doing the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. Sure, I was good in some areas, but most needed serious improvement and I never even knew it. This Bible study led me on the course to a lifelong journey of becoming transformed into the very image of Jesus. Yes, I said lifelong. Sorry! Haha. Rest assured, we will never be perfect. However, we are to continually be doing our best to be daily transformed and moving towards being excellent humans.
While this Bible study was a huge game changer for me, it was missing something, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was missing. I kept trying to walk this Bible study out for weeks and for years, until one day it hit me while hearing a teaching being delivered by the same pastor I had mentioned earlier. She began to teach on the basic and fundamental needs we have as humans and the, “pitfalls,” that we can go in to if we are not getting those needs met in Christ. This teaching hit me like a ton of bricks. Over the years, she taught it one more time throughout the course of my commitment in this church. Again, it rocked me, even though it was several years later when it was taught again.
This teaching has stuck with me and I will forever be so thankful to God for having her teach this. Over the years, God began to work in me and further taught me a great deal about our fundamental needs, how to get them met in Christ, and what happens when we do or do not get them met in Him. How does this factor into character, you might be asking? Well, Holy Spirit revealed to me that we cannot live in and walk out the character of Christ if we are not getting our most basic needs met by God. This was it. This was the missing piece all along. I had just gone through a very traumatizing church split from my previous church, my parents were going through a divorce, I got a new step family, I was a junior/senior in high school, and there was just so much going on in my life that was trying to emotionally wreak havoc on me.
It felt emotionally like I was tied to an anchor and couldn’t get myself loose. No wonder I was struggling to walk in the fullness of His character! I was in emotional need and did not know how to get those needs met in a real and functional way. I was operating in so much dysfunction that I couldn’t even see what I was doing. It would take much face down worship sessions with Jesus and the love of very patient human beings to help me get truly set free. Needless to say, this Bible study will begin with an in depth look at our needs as human beings and how to get them met in Christ. Then, and only then, can we dive into living into the amazing Christian men and women of God that we were created to be.
If you are like most other people I know, you may not have a bunch of time to just sit around and think about all of your actions all day, every day. t is important that we develop such character that we are doing the right thing when we don’t have time to think about what the right thing to do is. It must become automatic to us to do the right thing. It must become second nature, instinct. Our bodysuit, the flesh that we walk in, always tries to prevent us from walking in that second nature type of godly character, but as we focus on the Holy Spirit within us more than we entertain our flesh, the spirit begins to rise up and act more and more quickly. Essentially we can create it a habit, through a character trait of self-control, to respond righteously to situations making it easy to be transparent with the world, our disciples, children, and all those we influence on a daily basis and don’t even know it. Remember, someone is always watching how you act, and even more so when you declare yourself a Christian.
Let me stop here for a moment. We cannot learn to have good character by listening to a teaching, or even reading about it. We can only develop character over time, but that means building it has to have a beginning. Please note that if you have been accused of having poor character or have shamed yourself for previous mistakes, now is the time to forgive yourself and move forward. Forgiveness is first and foremost essential to having and maintaining good character.
You may be thinking, “How do I determine if I have good character or not?”
Let me give you a list of things that build good character, then you can evaluate yourself in each of these areas. I personally would rate myself on a scale from 0-10 and work on the ones that I rank the lowest in first. Before you do this, please keep in mind that you are worthy of love and belonging and that no matter how you rate yourself at this time, we are all struggling and you are not alone. You are not expected to be perfect and are allowed to just be exactly where you are rating yourself in this moment. You are worthy of love and belonging.
Self control (Decision Making Skills)
The key to developing the fruit of the spirit, which we will further touch on in other teachings a couple specific fruits of the spirit, such as patience; as well all know patience is a must in being a great leader, and we are all called to be leaders as Christians.
You may work through this workbook in the order it is written, or you may begin where you think you might want to bring the most improvement to. It’s totally up to you. We will end with this: please know that developing character is not always comfortable. We have to work our spiritual muscles to grow them just like we do our physical muscles.
Just know that you will not always feel like you’re walking uprightly as you could be, but know that you are the righteousness of God in Christ. We work with the Holy Spirit to go from glory to glory, to continue to move forward, but the beautiful thing is that Christ makes Himself strong in our weakness. Please take time before you dive in to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage you about beginning this study. We recommend becoming part of a group where you can have spiritual and emotional support during this Bible study if you are able. One of the important pieces of character is obtaining and maintaining community, so we encourage that from the start.
You are always welcome to connect with us through our facebook page, “Fireside Grace,” or through our website at www.firesidegrace.com. Let us know you are going to walk through this book so we can lift you up in prayer during the process. We are excited to be able to bring to you life changing information that will set you up for greater fulfillment in your relationship with Jesus, your relationships with others, and your relationship with yourself. Let’s do this!
(If you are interested in ordering this Bible study, please go to www.firesidegrace.com/shop and purchase yours today. We recommend this Bible study be done alongside all of our other courses. Having the character of Christ should be the foundation of everything we do).