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God’s Strategy for Spiritual Development: Virtue
(II Peter 1:5-7, NKJV)
“For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
Part 1 - Developing the Character of Christ
(Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV)
“God…has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…
who being the brightness of His glory
and the express image of His person…
when He had by Himself purged our sins,
sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
When Peter wrote, “Add to your faith virtue” (II Peter 1:5b, NKJV), he revealed that once a person has exercised “faith” in the Lord Jesus Christ, the next issue upon which he should concentrate is “virtue.” The Greek word translated “virtue” refers to those characteristics that are “praiseworthy because of their excellence in quality.” It refers to godly character—the kind of character that was fully expressed by Christ Himself! It is those characteristics that made His the perfect example of moral excellence.
Sadly, the church of today casually overlooks the significance of what Peter wrote. Often when someone is brought to the point of “faith” they are immediately placed in a new believers class or small group where they are taught the core doctrines that are peculiar to that particular church’s denomination. What happens is they are given “knowledge,” while “virtue,” which refers to “moral excellence” or “Christ-like character” is bypassed. The problem with this approach is that God first wants new believers to concentrate on developing “virtue.” That’s why Peter wrote, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue” (II Peter 1:5a, NKJV).
Mankind can’t improve on God’s strategy for spiritual development. When we try to alter His strategy we create a set of unexpected problems. One of the problems related to emphasizing “knowledge” before “virtue” in the life of a new believer is the development of a prideful attitude. Paul warned the believers at Corinth about this problem when he wrote, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (I Corinthians 8:1b, NIV). “Knowledge” has the potential of creating a prideful attitude in a believer unless he first develops enough “virtue”—enough “Christ-like character” to handle “knowledge” properly.
The author of Hebrews wrote, “God…Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person…when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV). The Greek word translated “express image” is “charakter,” from which we get the English word “character.” So Jesus fully expressed the character of God, and as followers of Jesus, we are to develop His character in our lives!
II. Four Facts about Godly Character
Let’s consider four facts about godly character that will help us understand what it looks like in real life situations:
III. The “Secret” of Character Development—Knowing It Is Humanly Impossible
God designed life with continuing impossibilities so that we will be aware of our need for total dependence upon Him, and cry out to Him for His supernatural power. Those who think they can develop godly character qualities by human effort, don’t understand that it is humanly impossible to do so.
This fact is made obvious by a brief review of some of God’s commands:
Once you are convinced that it is impossible for you to develop godly character qualities by your own human effort, you will then understand the need to rely totally upon Christ to develop His character within you! That’s at least part of what Paul was talking about when he wrote, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6b, KJV).
One of the best examples of impossible instructions took place when Jesus told His disciples to row across the Sea of Galilee. Luke wrote, “Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!’” (Luke 8:22-25, NKJV).
Jesus knew that they could not do it. He knew it was humanly impossible. He knew that an upcoming storm would be so severe that it would be impossible to row through it. Yet, knowing this, Jesus climbed into the boat with His disciples, and they began rowing. As they rowed, Jesus found a sheltered place and went to sleep.
Soon the clouds formed, and the wind and waves began to rise. The disciples just rowed harder. After all, several were experienced fishermen. They had been through many storms—but none like this. The waves began to crash over the ship, and they were in danger of drowning.
It was only at that humanly impossible moment that they did the one thing God wants all of us to do on a regular basis. They cried out to the Lord! Not until they cried out to the Lord in recognition of their total inability to help themselves did Jesus rise up and rebuke the storm. When we cry out to Him because we realize it is humanly impossible for us to develop godly character within ourselves, He will begin to do His work of character development in us!
Part 2 - Three Important Character Qualities:
Love, Decisiveness, & Obedience
(John 14:15, NIV)
“If you love me, keep my commands.”
Jesus made it very clear that our love for Him has a definite influence on the decisions we make—especially the decision regarding whether or not we obey His commands. He said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15, NIV). Love influences our decisions; and our decisions determine whether or not we obey His commands. Since our decisions are so profoundly influenced by our love for Him, and our obedience is the direct result of our decisions, in this lesson we will study those three closely related character qualities—love, decisiveness, and obedience.
Love is a deep commitment to the well-being of another. Jesus help us understand the definition of love when He said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). The character quality of love is at the heart of the two most important commands given by God. A religious lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36, NIV). In response, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV).
There are two primary Greek words for “love” in our Bible. They are “phileo” and “agapao.” “Phileo” refers to the kind of human love that exists between the members of a family. It is the kind of love that is designed for earthly relationships. Even non-believers can experience this kind of love.
However, God wants His people to love others the way He loved us—with “agapao” love. “Agapao” refers to the kind of unconditional, divine love that can only be experienced as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Paul wrote, “God’s love [agapao] has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5b, NIV). This kind of love can’t be learned by human effort. It is “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” as we surrender our lives to Him.
Jesus used the word “agapao” when He explained to us how God loved the human race. He said, “God so loved [agapao] the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). Our Lord wants us to love others with that kind of love. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love [agapao] one another. As I have loved [agapao] you, so you must love [agapao] one another” (John 13:34, NIV).
The key to understanding how to love with “agapao” love is this: “It is humanly impossible!” It can only be accomplished as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer. Paul wrote, “God’s love [agapao] has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5b, NIV).
We humans do not have the power to love with “agapao” love, but the Holy Spirit is continually working to produce this kind of love in our hearts. So if you manage to experience this kind of love, it is actually the Holy Spirit loving others through you! That’s why Paul explained, “The fruit of the Spirit is love [agapao], joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a, NIV).
Remember “agapao” love is “The fruit of the Spirit,” not the fruit of man’s will, or his intellect, or his emotions! This kind of love can’t be learned by human effort. It is “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” as we surrender our lives to Him.
Decisiveness is choosing to do what is right based on accurate facts, wise counsel, and clearly defined goals. Simply put, decisiveness is the ability to make wise decisions. Joshua commanded the people of Israel to exercise decisiveness when he said, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15, NIV).
In order to consistently make wise decisions , God’s people must seek out and listen to wise counsel. King Solomon repeatedly urged his sons to learn the character quality of decisiveness by listening to wise counsel. He wrote:
Obedience is the ability to carry out both the express and implied wishes of divinely appointed authorities. A common Greek word that is often translated “obey” is “hupakouo.” It is a compound word composed of the words “hupo” which means “under or below,” and “akouo” which means “to listen attentively in order comply thoroughly.” Therefore, obedience occurs when one who is under proper authority listens attentively to the wishes of one in authority over him, so that he can thoroughly comply with those wishes. That’s the word Paul used when he wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1, NIV).
Obedience begins with a decision. When commanded to stop preaching about Jesus, Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, NKJV). He had made a decision!
Obedience results in a blessing while disobedience results in a curse. God said to Israel. “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28a, NIV).
The personal destruction that results from disobedience is often sudden and irreversible. Solomon wrote, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1, NIV).
Jesus made it very clear that our love for Him has a definite influence on the decisions we make—especially the decision regarding whether or not we obey His commands. He said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15, NIV). Love influences our decisions; and our decisions determine whether or not we obey His commands.
Our obedience or lack of it determines whether we enjoy God’s blessing or endure His curse. God said to Israel, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28a, NIV).
Therefore, it is imperative that God’s people do three things:
Part 3 - Three Important Character Qualities:
Availability, Dependability, & Punctuality
(Matthew 16:24, NIV)
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus wants us to be more than just believers. He wants us to be believers who are disciples—believers who consistently follow Him. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV). In order to be His disciple, you must make yourself available to Him. In order to be His disciple, you must demonstrate that He can depend on you. In order to be His disciple, you must be where He asks you to be, when He asks you to be there. In short, in order to be His disciple, you must develop the character qualities of availability, dependability, and punctuality. So let’s spend our time together examining each of these three character qualities.
When Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV), it was a statement dripping with the concept of availability. When He required His disciples to “follow me,” Jesus used the Greek verb “akoloutheo,” which means “to accompany someone.” When Jesus required a disciple to “deny himself,” He used the Greek word “aparneomai,” which literally means “to lose sight of one’s own interests.” Basically, Jesus requires His disciples to simplify their lives so they can be consistently available to Him. It has been said—and it is true—that, “Jesus is not as concerned about His disciple’s ability as He is their availability!
It is impossible to be consistently available to more than one Master. There are times when all of your masters will want you to do something for them at the same time, and you will be forced to choose the master to whom you will be available at that moment. That’s why Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV).
When Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24b, NKJV), the Greek word He used that is translated “mammon” was borrowed by the Greeks from the Syrians. It was actually the name of the Syrian god of wealth. So what Jesus was actually saying is His disciples must choose who will be their god—the Lord God or the “god of wealth!”
Every authentic disciple must choose the Lord God as his Master, or he will serve the “god of wealth” by seeking after such things as money, possessions, or other forms of wealth. That’s why Joshua made a definite, conscience choice regarding who would be his Master as well as the Master of his household. He said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b, NIV).
When Jesus called His disciples, He called them to a life of availability. The whole concept of discipleship is built upon the foundation of being available for training and serving. That’s why when Jesus called His disciples, He required them to forsake anything that would prevent them from being available for the mission for which He would train them. When He called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:20, NKJV). When He called James and John to be His disciples, “Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:22, NKJV). When Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, “He left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:28, NKJV). The life of a disciple is a life of availability.
Dependability is purposing in our hearts to do the will of God, whatever the cost. A dependable person is defined in Scripture as one who is “faithful.” The Greek word translated “faithful” is “pistos” and means “trustworthy, reliable, or dependable.” It is the word Jesus used when He said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, NKJV).
Dependability is the one quality Jesus will use to judge our work for Him and determine our rewards. He said in one of His parables, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).
Dependability is necessary for the spiritual discipline of making disciples. When Paul described the disciple-making process to his young understudy, Timothy, he wrote, “The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2, NKJV). A man who is not dependable cannot be made into an effective disciple of Jesus!
Dependability is a character quality that is required in order for God to entrust either the wealth or the ministries of His kingdom to men. Paul wrote, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2, NKJV). In the first century, a steward was a dependable servant whose master entrusted to him the responsibility of managing a portion of his wealth. God will not entrust to us the wealth or the ministries of His kingdom unless we are dependable. If we are to function as God’s stewards, we must develop the character quality of dependability!
Punctuality is making the best use of the time God has entrusted to you by being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. That’s at least one aspect of what Paul was describing when he wrote, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NKJV). The phrase “redeeming the time” means to make the best use of the time God has entrusted to you!
Punctuality is a means of expressing love to others by demonstrating that you value them and their time. Jesus said that the second most important commandment in God’s Law is, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39b, NIV).
We would never consider it proper to steal something from someone we love, but because of our lack of punctuality, we often steal their time. When I am ten minutes late for an appointment and there are six people waiting for me, I have stolen one hour of time from the group, and prevented them from making the best use of it! Among the Ten Commandments, Commandment #8 is “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15, NIV).
When you develop the character quality of punctuality, you become more like God. He is punctual! Paul described the punctuality of God when he wrote, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5, NKJV). At precisely the appointed time, God sent Jesus into the world to redeem the world!
People participate in and are on time for those things that are important to them—things that are high priorities to them. So our punctuality or tardiness is simply a reflection of our priorities. Any activity that will enlarge God’s kingdom should be a priority to God’s people. He said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV). When His Kingdom is our highest priority, we will be punctual for kingdom events and kingdom responsibilities. We will be where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there!
Is looking for believers who are authentic disciples—believers who consistently follow Him. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV). In order to be His disciple, you must make yourself available to Him. In order to be His disciple, you must demonstrate that He can depend on you. In order to be His disciple, you must be where He asks you to be, when He asks you to be there. In short, in order to be His disciple, you must develop the character qualities of availability, dependability, and punctuality. May God help us to do so!
Part 4 - Three Important Character Qualities:
Compassion, Alertness, & Boldness
(Mark 16:15, NIV)
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”
The spiritual activity that is nearer to the heart of God than any other is evangelism—proclaiming the Good News to non-believers! That’s why near the end of His ministry Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Peter explained why our Lord has such a heart for evangelism when he wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” II Peter 3:9, NIV). Because God loves humanity so deeply, He doesn’t want even one person to “perish” eternally in the lake of fire. That’s why Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
In order for God’s people to evangelize the world like He wants us to, we must develop three important character qualities—compassion, alertness, and boldness. Unless we have compassion on those who are living in jeopardy of eternal damnation every hour, we won’t be motivated to speak up. Unless we are alert to opportunities to share the Good News, we’ll miss those opportunities. Unless we develop boldness, we will remain timidly quiet. Therefore, we will briefly examine these three important character qualities in this lesson.
Compassion is the motivation to do whatever is necessary to meet another’s deepest needs. One of the Hebrew words translated compassion is “racham,” which means “to love so deeply that you extend mercy.” Ezra used this word to describe how God responded to the nation of Israel when they were oppressed by a foreign king. He wrote, “Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (II Kings 13:22-23a, NIV).
Matthew used the phrase “moved with compassion” to describe the response of Jesus to the deep needs of those around Him. He wrote, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, NKJV). Compassion is when love produces action designed to meet a need.
One of the most familiar stories told by Jesus is “The Story of the Good Samaritan.” This story beautifully illustrates what authentic compassion looks like in real life. Luke wrote, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead… But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you’” (Luke 10:30…33-35, NKJV). Compassion motivated the “Good Samaritan” to assume personal responsibility to meet the basic needs of another…and it will so the same for us! The greatest need of every non-believer is to hear the Good News, but we won’t act to meet that need by witnessing to them unless we have compassion for them.
Alertness is using my physical and spiritual senses to recognize every opportunity I encounter to please God! Peter wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8, NIV). We should be watching carefully for opportunities to please God, because the enemy is always looking for opportunities to destroy people.
Jesus had developed such a high level of alertness that He never missed an opportunity to please His Father. That’s why He could say, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29, NIV).
Jesus doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to repent and be saved. Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9, NIV). Therefore, He continually provides opportunities for His people to share the Good News with non-believers, and it pleases Him when we are alert enough to recognize and take advantage of those opportunities. That’s why He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NKJV).
One of the dangers about which Jesus warned His disciples to be alert was the presence and preaching of false prophets. He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15, NIV). A false prophet is anyone who preaches that people can be saved by any means other than faith in the Lord Jesus who was God in human flesh. John wrote, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh…Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (II John 1:7… 9-11, NKJV). God wants His people to be alter to anything that would hinder effective evangelism!
Boldness is the courage to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. It is one of the character qualities that identifies a man as righteous. King Solomon wrote, “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1, NIV).
In order to be bold, you must also be courageous. In order for Joshua, Moses’ successor, to be bold enough to lead the Israelites in the conquest of the land of Canaan, he would need to be “courageous.” That’s why God said to him, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them” (Joshua 1:6, NIV).
Boldness to speak the truth is the result of the prayers of other believers. Paul requested prayer for such boldness, when he asked the believers at Ephesus to continue “Praying always …for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18a…19-20, NKJV). Paul obviously realized that when other believers prayed for him consistently, his boldness increased.
When Peter and John were commanded by the Jewish council to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the church prayed for them; and, as a result, they received additional boldness. Luke wrote, “They called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus…On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God… Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness… After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:18…23-24a…29…31, NIV). Without boldness, God’s people will fail to declare the Good News to others!
Remember, the spiritual activity that is nearer to the heart of God than any other is evangelism—proclaiming the Good News to non-believers! For this reason, near the end of His ministry, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV). We will be motivated to obey this command only when we develop compassion for those who are living in danger of eternal damnation because they don’t know Christ. We must be alert to opportunities for sharing the Good News with them, and we must be bold enough to speak up when those opportunities arise!
Part 5 - Three Important Character Qualities:
Gratefulness, Joyfulness, & Enthusiasm
(Psalm 96:9, NIV)
“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.”
Worship is not a suggestion in the Bible—it is a universal command! Everyone on Earth is given the command to “worship the Lord.” King David recorded this command from God when he wrote, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9, NIV).
Since worship is a universal command from God, it is imperative that we know what worship is! Worship is the attempt of our human spirit to express the worth of God. Worship is a function of the human spirit. Jesus said to a Samaritan woman at a well, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23, NKJV). Originally, the English word for worship was “worthship!” Biblical worship is the passionate expression of the worth of God from the human spirit.
Unfortunately, too many people take their cues about what is appropriate in worship from their personal experiences in church—their personal religious history—rather from what the Bible says about worship. This is not a new problem. It was going on way back when Jesus was here. He mentioned it when He said about the religious leaders of His day, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matthew 15:8-9, NIV). This kind of attitude creates an environment of criticism toward any expression of worship that doesn’t fit the personal religious history of the majority. As a result, freedom of expression in worship—even if it is Biblically correct—is stifled.
There are three important character qualities that motivate God’s people to worship Him consistently—as a life-style, not as a one-hour-a-week occurrence. They are gratefulness, joyfulness, and enthusiasm. Let’s briefly examine each of these three important character qualities.
Gratefulness is expressing sincere appreciation to God and to others for the ways they have benefited my life. Gratefulness is God’s will for every believer. Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).
Our comprehension of God’s incalculable worth increases as we become more and more aware of His benefits to us. As a result, our capacity to express His worth in worship increases. That’s why King David wrote, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, KJV).
True gratefulness results from the awareness of our total unworthiness before a holy and just God. If we received what we deserve, we would all be sent immediately to hell. That’s why the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22, NIV).
When the hearts of God’s people are filled with gratitude for His wonderful benefits to us, the natural response is worship—a passionate expression of His worth! That’s why King David wrote, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, KJV).
Joyfulness is the bright spirit and radiant countenance that are the result of being in full fellowship with the Lord. John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (I John 1:3-4, NKJV).
Our greatest source of joy is the eternal salvation Jesus has given us. He emphasized this point to His disciples when He said, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20, NIV). Unfortunately, the joy of our salvation can be diminished or lost if we allow unconfessed sin to accumulate in our lives. After he committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, King David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12, NIV).
Because joy is the result of intimate fellowship with the Lord, anything that hinders that fellowship will diminish our joy. Therefore, it is vital that God’s people maintain a clear conscience. Paul explained that a clear conscience is vital to maintaining authentic joy. He wrote, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience” (II Corinthians 1:12, KJV).
Authentic, biblical joy is not something we can produce. It is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, we develop joy as we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He works in us. Paul wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a, NIV).
Many people today are wandering through life doubting that Christianity could ever give them a truly satisfying life. The character quality of joy is extremely important because joy in the lives of God’s people is proof to the world that He can fully satisfy the human heart. King David wrote, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV). What a motivation for passionate worship!
Enthusiasm is God’s energy in my spirit expressing itself through my mind, will, and emotions. To be enthusiastic is to be energized and inspired by God. One word for enthusiastic in Scripture is “fervent.” It is translated from the Greek word “zeo” which means “to boil.” It describes one whose spirit is boiling over with love for God and for others! Paul used this word when he wrote, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:10-11, NKJV).
Another word for enthusiasm in Scripture is “zealous.” Paul wrote, “It is good to be zealous in a good thing always” (Galatians 4:18, NKJV). The word “zealous” literally means “enthusiastic.” Obviously our enthusiasm should be limited to “good things.”
Enthusiasm is a wonderful character quality, but it must be guided by godly “knowledge.” Paul described the tragedy that can result when enthusiasm isn’t guided by proper knowledge when he wrote, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3, NIV). Knowledgeable enthusiasm results in powerful worship!
Worship is not a suggestion in the Bible—it is a universal command! Everyone on Earth is given the command to “worship the Lord.” King David recorded this command from God when he wrote, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9, NIV).
God is searching for people to worship Him. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23, NKJV). There are three important character qualities that motivate God’s people to worship Him consistently—as a life-style, not as a one-hour-a-week occurrence. They are gratefulness, joyfulness, and enthusiasm. May God help us develop each of these important character qualities!
Part 6 - Three Important Character Qualities:
Deference, Flexibility, & Forgiveness
(I Timothy 3:14-15, NIV)
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Jesus loves His church. Paul clearly stated that fact when he wrote to the men at Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV).
In fact, He loves His church so much that He gives us specific instructions on how to deal with anyone who damages His church. Paul wrote, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition” (Titus 3:10, NKJV). Anyone who damages the fellowship of the church by repeatedly causing division is to be rejected! He is not to be allowed to continue to harm God’s church.
In order for a church to remain healthy, its members must function together in harmony—contributing to the health and vitality of the body of Christ! That’s what Paul was describing when he wrote, “As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ… Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (I Corinthians 12:12…27, NKJV).
When members of the church conduct themselves in ways that are damaging to other members, the health of the body suffers. Therefore, members of the church must learn “how to conduct themselves in God’s household.” Paul wrote to his young understudy, Timothy, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (I Timothy 3:14-15, NIV).
In order to function harmoniously with other members of God’s church, we must develop three important character qualities: Deference, Flexibility, and Forgiveness. Let’s briefly examine each of these.
Deference is putting the needs, desires, and preferences of others before your own. It is the motivation to make personal sacrifices in order to make others successful. Paul was describing the character quality of deference when he wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV). Deference is valuing others so much that you are more concerned about their interests than your own interests.
Deference is avoiding any words, attitudes, or actions that would be offensive to others. Paul was exercising deference when he chose not to eat meat that would offend other believers. He wrote, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (I Corinthians 8:13, KJV).
Offenses within the church cause its ministry to be discredited and lose its effectiveness. That’s why Paul wrote, “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed” (II Corinthians 6:3, NKJV). The Greek word translated “blamed” in this verse literally means “discredited.” When believers allow offenses to create conflict within the church, its ministry loses its credibility! Therefore it is crucially important that we learn to avoid offending others by developing the character quality of deference!
As God reveals new ministry opportunities to His church which require changes in ministry methods, its members must develop the character quality of flexibility in order to effectively make the necessary changes to do His will. Flexibility is the willingness to change our plans or desires according to the direction God gives through the authorities He has placed over us.
During the time of King David it was common for heads of households to have hand signals for different instructions, which their servants understood and quickly carried out. In order to know what to do, the servants had to keep their eyes on the hands of their masters at all times. That’s why David wrote, “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.” (Psalm 123:2, NIV). The plans and desires of servants are always subject to the wishes of their masters. So it must be if the members of the church are to work together in harmony!
King David demonstrated flexibility when he spent years living in all kinds of conditions as he fled from King Saul who wanted to kill him. Samuel wrote, “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (I Samuel 18:29b, NKJV). This training in flexibility was an important part of David’s preparation for national leadership.
Flexibility is based on the desire to do the will of God. David was flexible because he deeply desired to do the will of God. He wrote, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”” (Psalm 40:8, NIV). He was willing to endure constantly changing circumstances in order to do the will of God!
The less we become emotionally attached to our plans and desires, the easier it will be to change them in order to do the will of God. For that reason, King Solomon warned his sons, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). As the church grows, change is inevitable. Change is hard for most people, but we can adapt to the changes God may require of us by developing flexibility!
Offenses will occur among members of God’s church. It’s not a matter of “if” they will occur, but “when” they will occur. The only way to resolve offenses is through forgiveness. Forgiveness is responding to offenders so that the power of God’s love through me can bless them. Jesus said, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV).
Forgiveness is clearing the record of an offender and choosing to live with any continuing consequences of the offense. A common Greek word in Scripture translated “forgiveness” is “aphesis,” which is a legal term that means “to dismiss a case in a court of law.” Forgiveness does not mean the offender is not guilty. It means that you choose to “dismiss the case against him.”
Jesus used a form of this word when He taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:9b-12, NIV). Therefore, God requires us to “dismiss the case” against others for their sins against us in order for Him to “dismiss the case” against us for our sins against Him!
Another Greek word that is translated “forgiving” is “charizomai,” which refers to “behavior that is pleasant and agreeable.” Nothing creates a pleasant environment or results in an agreeable situation like forgiveness! This was the word Paul used when he wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). The only way to maintain a pleasant environment in the church is when its members develop the character quality of forgiveness!
When members of the church conduct themselves in ways that are damaging to other members, the health of the body suffers. Therefore, members of the church must learn “how to conduct themselves in God’s household.” Paul wrote, “I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (I Timothy 3:14-15b, NIV).
In order to function harmoniously with other members of God’s church, we must develop deference, flexibility, and forgiveness. Failure to do so would be tragic to the health of God’s church. Paul wrote, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15, NIV).
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.