Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV).
When I was first considering writing on what I was studying concerning discipleship I began to have a different vision of the project. This project originally began as a personal study through the Sermon on the Mount, the first discourse of our Lord and Savior, and how it has, and continues to affect my walk with Him. The twelve disciples were chosen and this discourse is where the Christ started teaching the disciples. When I looked at my life I was like Paul in the passage above: I had not reached the goal of my Christian walk, and despite failures in the past I wanted to go forward towards the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I needed to develop my character to that which Christ built in His disciples – the character of Jesus. From my study of Scripture I saw that developing Christian character is a process; often slow; often painful; but always rewarding. So I ask the Church, my friends, and my family to join me on a journey towards putting on the character of Christ.
Character has been described as who you are and what you do when nobody is looking. Character is not the show you give other people in order to leave a favorable impression of yourself. Character is Christ in you, what He is doing in you, what He is shaping you in to. Abraham Lincoln said the following concerning character, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” What is the real you? How would you like to answer that question? Seriously consider your character development. The Bible is our guide to developing character and we will begin by studying the words of Christ as he addressed His disciples.
Character as defined in The American Heritage College Dictionary is “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.” It is the true you. Character is what people see when they really see you. Character is what drives ordinary men to do great things. These men do not know they are doing great things because it is in their character to just do it. Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that the qualities of a great man are “vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character.” The greatest Man is Jesus, and it is this Great Man’s character that we are going to study from the pages of His Word. Charles De Gaulle described how reactions during trying times builds character when “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back upon himself.” We shall look at this a little differently for we are to be falling back upon His character. Helen Keller stated a similar idea with, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
The process will be difficult, but we can achieve the goal of Christian character. Take a seat at the Saviors feet and take Him at His Word. The Sermon on the Mount is the starting point of developing Christian character. The Sermon is more concerned with who we are, not what we do. The Sermon is more concerned with our attitude, not our actions. A man’s character derived from being poor in spirit will do these things as part of his nature and not as something to garner a reward. The Bible consistently teaches that God cares about the heart of man; what drives man; the passion of man. This passion for God or for self is the ultimate question as we consider the first Beatitude. Let us start the journey.
Character – it matters.
Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them…. (Matthew 5:1-2, Amplified)
Read the complete Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in one sitting and begin to see the process of character building that Christ lays out for us.