You will know them by their fruits.
Several years ago, the Dallas Morning News reported that an elderly North Dallas couple, the Davenports, were sitting at home one quiet evening, enjoying a delicious meal. As they finished up, a burglar broke into their house, pointed a gun at them, and demanded money.
While Mrs. Davenport frantically searched through her purse for some money, the burglar noticed that the television was on, so he asked Mr. Davenport what they were watching. Mr Davenport replied, “The 700 Club.”
“Are y’all Christians?” the burglar asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Davenport replied.
The burglar said in all seriousness, “Me, too.”
It’s easy to be more than a little cynical of this man’s profession of faith, because we know faith is supposed to go hand-in-hand with a lifestyle change. Jesus used the example of plants to help us understand this concept.
Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
The reality is this: It is our character, not our words alone, that reveals who we are to others. Character is who we really are. It’s the essence of our being. It is, as D.L. Moody said, “What you are in the dark.” Without character, we can only fool people for so long. Without character, we can’t fool God at all.
What’s so important about character?
1. Character sets us apart.
In this day, age, and culture, people constantly strive to set themselves apart from the crowd. Some of us use shocking dress and behavior; some of us climb the rungs of the social ladder; some of us search for money and power. In reality, though, the lower elements of humanity are so prominent today it is the person of integrity and pure character that stands out from the rest. Deep inside, we long for someone to show us something real and solid and clean.
2. Character creates trust.
Solid relationships have to be founded on trust. Trust is the oil that keeps society moving forward and reduces friction from personalities clashing.
3. Character promotes excellence.
Excellence in behavior does more than promote the welfare of an individual. It is the glue that cements the higher ideals of families, the workplace, the political sphere, and nations into a cohesive unit.
4. Character gives us staying power.
It carries us through the tough times, because the same self-discipline we need to cultivate integrity also keeps us going when we are weary and discouraged. Ironically, trials are also the very tools God uses to solidify our character.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
and perseverance, proven character;
and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Like a good piece of pottery, we are “hardened” by the fire of trial. Someone has said fire either destroys or hardens that which it touches. When we emerge from the fire of hardship and suffering with our faith intact, our character has been “proven.”
5. Character extends our influence.
Everyone wants to have an influence on others. But without character, we are simply performing for others and competing to be noticed. If we want to have a lasting impact on others for good, it’s going to be the godly character we exhibit that will shout above the din.
So how do we cultivate godly character? Next week we’ll identify and discover how to implement L.I.E.S. in our search to live in integrity.