Are Christians to stay as they are? What are we supposed to strive to do? What is character? Why is it important to build it in this life?
This article will attempt to answer those questions. There is also a related video sermon available online: Going on to perfection and building character.
(There is a separate article Living as a Christian: How and Why? and a sermon with the same title, Living as a Christian: How and Why?, for certain specifics that many wonder about.)
Notice what the New Testament Book of Hebrews teaches:
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1, NKJV throughout unless otherwise specified)
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20)
Christians are to go on to perfection, and Jesus is our example.
Notice also some things that Jesus taught:
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
9 ... "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
While we are not perfect in this life (cf. 1 John 1:10), we are to strive for perfection. God will perfect us if we submit to His mercy:
8 The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands. (Psalms 138:8)
The Apostle Paul taught that he was striving towards perfection as he had not yet attained it:
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Part of the purpose of the ministry is to help Christians become perfect. Notice some of the Apostle Paul's writing:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:28-29)
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12-13)
9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10)
These passages help demonstrate that perfection takes time, teaching, and effort.
Notice that even Jesus was made "perfect" through His sufferings:
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
And what about us? Notice what James was inspired to write:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:2-12)
Christians have to endure.
Some who profess Christ think that they have faith and that they do not need to build character or truly strive for perfection. James apparently ran into that argument.
So, let's notice something else that James was inspired to write:
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:18-26)
Notice something the Apostle Peter wrote:
10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
It takes effort to become perfect AND God's help.
Notice what the Apostle John taught:
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)
Love is to be perfected in us. The Apostle John also wrote:
God is love (1 John 4:8,18)
We are to be like God. God is love and love is to be perfected in Christians (for more on the destiny of Christians, please read the article What is Your Destiny? Deification? Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? and/or view the video sermon What is Your Destiny?).
The Bible teaches that God's law, if properly understood, is perfect:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression. (Psalms 19:7-13)
Converting the soul is a way of saying that if you practice God's laws as you should you will change for the better. You will be getting closer to perfection.
Notice how James referred to the law:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:8-13)
James said that this was the perfect law of liberty, the royal law was to love one's neighbor, and this was a reference to God's commandments.
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther referred to James' writing as an "epistle of straw" (Luther, M. Preface to the New Testament, 1546; see also Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?). Why? Because he believed his own views above what the Bible teaches.
Many modern Protestants do the same thing. In April 2014, I caught a couple of minutes of a Protestant minister (did not catch his name) on television explaining the following passages:
17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
At first, I thought he was actually going to tell his followers to keep God's law. Instead, he ended up saying that Jesus fulfilled the law when He was killed therefore, he basically taught that Jesus came to destroy the law of God.
Sadly, it seemed like his followers were accepting his explanation--despite it being contrary to the rest of the Bible. Perhaps I should also add that this is another area where lack of knowledge about church history is hurting many, especially Protestant leaders. Other than certain recognized apostates and heretics such as Simon Magus, Marcion, and Gnostic leaders, those known to have professed Christ in the first and second centuries A.D. believed that the law, at least the Ten Commandments (see The Ten Commandments and the Early Church) was still in effect. Those people understood the Greek better than later Protestant scholars who often have tried to reason around what Jesus actually taught.
Jesus did not teach that He was about to do away with the Ten Commandment law. He denounced those that would teach otherwise. Notice what Jesus says that He will say to various ones who claimed to follow Him:
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)
Those who practice lawlessness are obviously not going on to perfection. Lawlessness is sin:
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4, NKJV)
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4, KJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:15-19)
You might be wondering about sin, the law, and righteousness.
So, is there anywhere that the Bible defines righteousness?
Certainly. Notice the following:
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness. (Psalms 119:172)
8 I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart."
9 I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know. (Psalms 40:8-9)
Notice a prophecy about Jesus:
11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11)
Well, when Jesus judges in righteousness, will that not be based upon the laws of God and the word of God?
12 ... And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:12)
Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the 'faith chapter' of the Bible. Notice something from it:
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
Notice that righteousness is something that the faithful worked. And thus, out of their weaknesses were made strong.
Some have been deceived that they do not need to keep God's commandments. And apparently that was a problem with some heretical apostates around the time of the Apostle John who wrote:
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. (1 John 3:7-12)
Christians were to practice righteousness, avoid sin, and strive to be perfect.
This was also the position of early Christians such as Polycarp of Smyrna who wrote:
But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing”, or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing ...
These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness ... if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all”. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin ...
For I trust that you are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, “Be you angry, and sin not,” and, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”. Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God , and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who “raised Him from the dead. Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him. Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapters II, III, XII. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson; American Edition, 1885; Reprint Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, pp. 33-36)
Living righteously, keeping the commandments, and striving for perfection is something that Christians realized was important from the beginning.
While the Bible mentions that striving for perfection is important for Christians, it also indicates that such striving leads to the development of character.
Character includes reputation, but it is more than that. But let's first look at some scriptures related to reputation:
11 Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right. (Proverbs 20:11)
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; (Acts 6:2-3)
1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Of course, some have false reputations. Jesus condemned people for that:
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28)
Character, while manifested in reputation, is real, whereas some reputations are not. Some appear real when they are not:
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
However, those who truly strive for perfection and not hypocrisy will, with God's help, build the type of genuine character that God wants His people to have.
Here are some passages from the Apostle Paul about character:
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:1-4)
Notice also that Paul commended Timothy for having proven character:
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:19-22)
Character is built as one strives for perfection and endures to the end.
In the early 2nd century, Ignatius of Antioch taught about love, character, and Christ living His life in Christians:
…the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ, by whom, if we are not in readiness to die into His passion, His life is not in us. (Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 5. Roberts & Donaldson, Anti-Nicene Fathers)
So, early Christians valued character and believed that they needed to demonstrate proper character.
Notice what the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, in the 20th century, related to character:
The human spirit of itself cannot see, hear, think or know. The only real LIFE, inherent and self-containing, lies in the Holy Spirit of God, united with the human spirit…At death, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). The spirit is the depository of memory and character. The spirit is like a mold. It retains even the human form and shape of the deceased, so that in the resurrection to judgment those who have died shall look as they did in life, retain whatever character they established in life, remember everything that was stored in their memory. But in the meantime, in death, there is no consciousness--they "know not any thing" (Eccl. 9:5) (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 3)
WHY did the Creator God put MAN on the earth? For God's ultimate supreme purpose of reproducing himself--of recreating himself, as it were, by the supreme objective of creating the righteous divine character ultimately in millions unnumbered begotten and born children who shall become God beings, members of the God family. Man was to improve the physical earth as God gave it to him, finishing its creation (which sinning angels had deliberately refused to do) and, in so doing, to RESTORE the GOVERNMENT OF GOD, with God's WAY of life; and further, in this very process FINISHING THE CREATION OF MAN by the development of God's holy, righteous CHARACTER, with man's own assent. Once this perfect and righteous character is instilled in man, and man converted from mortal flesh to immortal spirit, then is to come the INCREDIBLE HUMAN POTENTIAL--man being BORN INTO the divine FAMILY of God, restoring the government of God to the earth, and then participating in the completion of the CREATION over the entire endless expanse of the UNIVERSE! ... God shall have reproduced HIMSELF untold millions of times over! So, on the sixth day of that re-creation week, God (Elohim) said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). Man was made to have (with his assent) a special relationship with his Maker! He was made in the form and shape of God. He was given a spirit (essence in form) to make the relationship possible (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, pp. 102-103).
So mark well this super-vital truism - that perfect, holy and righteous character is the supreme feat of accomplishment possible for Almighty God the Creator - it is also the means to His ultimate supreme purpose. His final objective.
But how?...such perfect character must be developed. It requires the free choice and decision of the separate entity in whom it is to be created. But, further, even then it must be instilled by and from the Holy God who, only, has such righteous character to endow.
Perfect, holy and righteous character is the ability in such separate entity to come to discern the true and right way from the false, to make voluntarily a full and unconditional surrender to God and His perfect way - to yield to be conquered by God - to determine even against temptation or self-desire, to live and to do the right. And even then such holy character is the gift of God. It comes by yielding to God to instill His law (God’s right way of life) within the entity who so decides and wills.
Actually, this perfect character comes only from God, as instilled within the entity of His creation, upon voluntary acquiescence, even after severe trial and test...
God made us in His image, after His likeness (form and shape), only composed of matter instead of Spirit. But God says, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). (Armstrong HW. The Incredible Human Potential, pp. 39-40, 52)
How Christ Was Made Perfect
Now grasp this: ". .. to make the CAPTAIN of their salvation. ..... Christ is the CAPTAIN of our salvation. Or, that may be translated also as the PIONEER, who has gone on ahead, before us, into this matchless GLORY. He already has inherited all things-the universe!
But notice further: "to make the captain of their salvation PERFECT"-HOW? How was even Christ made perfect?-"THROUGH SUFFERINGS"!
And notice, in verse 11: "… he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Christ, in GLORY, is not ashamed to call us-who have His Spirit-who rely on and obey Him -BRETHREN!
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:8-9).
There it is again. Jesus is the author of our salvation-He wrote that salvation by His experience, and that was the first writing of it-He was the first human ever to achieve it-to be perfected, finished as a perfect character!
Jesus learned! He suffered! But out of it came perfection.
Do you see?
Do you begin to understand?
Satan did not upset God's Plan. All that has happened, God foreknew and permitted-for a purpose. Redemption is not a repairing of the damage-not a restoring to a condition "just as good" as Adam before the "fall." No, that was merely the beginning-the material creation. Redemption is the great spiritual creation. In it, God is creating in us something infinitely superior to Adam before he sinned.
Do you see now WHAT God is creating, in you and me?
He is creating something higher than angels or archangels. He is creating the supreme masterpiece of all God's creation. .. holy, perfect spiritual characters.
And what is character?
What Spiritual Righteous Character Is
Perfect character, such as God is creating in us, is a person finally made immortal, who is a separate entity from God; who, through independent free choice has come to know, and to choose, and to do, what is right. And that means to believe and know that what God instructs is what is RIGHT.
Inanimate rock will roll downhill by power of gravity. Water runs in its channels through creeks and rivers into oceans. Great planets, some many times larger than the earth, must travel in God's ordained course. These things are marvelous examples of the creative power of God. Yet these things are inanimate-they have no mind, no free choice, no character.
Dumb animals do not sin. They do not know enough to sin. They act by instinct, or according to training of others. They do not have this character.
Character is the possession and practice of love, patience, mercy, faith, kindness, gentleness, meekness, temperance, self-restraint, and right self-direction. Character involves knowledge, wisdom, purpose, ability, all properly controlled and developed, and through independent choice.
Holy, righteous character is something that is developed only through experience. Experience requires time, and circumstances. And so God creates time and God creates circumstances which produce character.
And so God first formed out of the dust-out of matter-the flesh-and-blood man, in the image of God (and "image" means form, or shape, not composition). And through seven thousand years of experience, God is taking the human family through a process, the results of which, even "as we have borne the image of the earthy [mortal Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" -Christ Jesus immortal, the "second" Adam-(I Cor. 15:49).
Yes, once fashioned, shaped, molded according to God's Purpose, even we shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:1-2).
WHY All This Human Suffering?
There are just two broad principles of life-God's Way, or God's Law, summed up in the Ten Commandments, and Satan's way of competition, greed, vanity.
All suffering-all unhappiness, fear, misery, and death-has come from the transgression of God's Law. Living by that great Law of Love, then, is the only way to peace, happiness, and joy.
God placed man on this planet to learn that lesson -to learn it through generations of experience.
Yes, we, too, learn by suffering. God has revealed the true way-His revelation always has been available to man But man, given the right of free choice, always has turned his back on God, and God's true way. And even though man as a whole still refuses to see or learn the lesson, he has written this lesson indelibly in the history of human experience..
We learn through experience. And through suffering. This, then, is the very stuff of which character is made.
What We Shall Be Like
Once this godly CHARACTER is developed in us, what shall we be like in the resurrection?
Already, now, in this life, the truly converted Christian, having God's Holy Spirit dwelling within, being led by God's Spirit, is a SON of God. In prayer he calls God "Father."
Notice it in your Bible: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be ." (I John 3:2).
What we shall be is not now apparent-does not now APPEAR-is not yet SEEN. Continue, "… but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall [then] see him as he is." Our appearance, then, will be like that of Christ now.
And what does Christ look like, now?
His appearance is described in Revelation 1:14-16: "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.... and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."
Sinless Spirit Beings
But once actually born of God-entering into His Kingdom-His FAMILY-by the resurrection, we shall be composed of Spirit. We shall be like God, and like Christ now is, completely sinless. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (I John 3:9).
As Christ was born of God by His resurrection (Romans 1:3-4), so shall we be. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).
At that time we shall be changed from mortal to immortal. "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body..." (Phil. 3:20-21).
Do you begin to comprehend why you were born?
One religion believes that the end result of human life after countless rebirths is extinction of individual consciousness. How glorious is the TRUTH-promising the very opposite extreme! (Armstrong HW. Why Were You Born. Circa 1957)
Christians need to follow Christ and physical sufferings help us go toward perfection in this life so that we can be after the resurrection. Character to always do right--character to truly lead a life of love is why God created humans. God wants us to build character (Romans 5:4). Christians are not to sin, but live the way of love, the give way of life--God's way!
Building proper loving character is what God is doing with us--this is what your life is all about (see also the article What is the Meaning of Life? and/or watch the video titled What is the meaning of your life?).
Because those called of God will strive to live according to His law, they will have tests and trials that will build a certain type of “character” (Romans 5:1-4, NJB/NKJV) (δομκιή; Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). This character could be considered a type of the “testimony of our conscience” (2 Corinthians 1:12, RNT) that God wants his children to possess.
Why would God want Christians to build character to be like Him and to strive to be perfect like Him?
Because deification is part of the plan of God.
Jesus taught deification:
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods" '? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? (John 10:34-36).
And this was not only referring to His deification as He quoted from Psalm 82:6 which also is in the plural:
6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High..." (Psalm 82:6).
God wants godly offspring, and that is why God made humans male and female and created marriage, as the Prophet Malachi was inspired to write:
14...she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. (Malachi 2:14-15)
Paul also taught that we are God's offspring:
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. (Acts 17:28-30)
Additionally about real Christians, the Apostle Paul specifically taught "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16)--we do and strive to have that more.
Paul wrote that Jesus was to be the firstborn of many brethren:
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
Some will exercise hard their physical bodies to try to resemble what they believe will be a better physical image of themselves. And while that is fine, it is godliness that needs to be developed:
7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
Many will endure hardships for physical rewards, but we need to endure and develop spiritual ones:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Even the Apostle Paul did not think he could simply coast, because of his past service--neither should we.
Notice also the following:
12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. (2 Timothy 2:12)
10 And we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
If we are to be like Him and reign with Him, then we need to endure and truly build character. God cannot have future rulers who cannot be trusted.
Yet, since He will be able to trust the resurrected saints, all will be fantastic in the future as it says in Revelation:
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:1-8)
God cannot have another future Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15), who turned away (Ezekiel 28:14-15).
As the Apostle Paul wrote (Galatians 2:20), we need to allow Christ to live His life in us. We need to go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1).
If you respond properly to God (either in this age, or if applicable, the age to come), then ruling the creation, the universe is part of your destiny. Notice:
21...the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:21-22)
As joint heirs with Christ, resurrected converted humans are to rule the universe :
2:5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying:
"What is man that You are mindful of him,Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7 You have made him a little lower than the angels;You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet."
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:
"I will declare Your name to My brethren;In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You."
13 And again:
"I will put My trust in Him."
"Here am I and the children whom God has given Me."
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 2:5-3:6)
Ruling the universe is part of the destiny that God has in store for the vast bulk of humanity.
Christians need to follow Christ and physcial sufferings help us go toward perfection in this life so that we can be after the resurrection. Part of how this is done is by building character and striving for perfection.
Some who deny the doctrine of deification have pointed out that God is eternal and humans had a beginning.
And they are right that the Bible clearly teaches that God is eternal (e.g. Deuteronomy 33:27) and has existed eternally and that humans were created (Genesis 1:26-27) and thus humans had a beginning. So, there will always be certain differences between the Father and His children.
But that is not a legitimate argument against the doctrine of deification.
For example, while the differences differ, there will always be differences between a human father and his children. But the children will still be part of the family of the father and are still human as their father is human. Yet, the human father will always be older than his children and in other ways different from them.
Are Christians finished once they accept Jesus as Savior and are baptized?
No. We must endure (e.g. Matthew 10:22). We must strive for perfection and allow God to build proper character within us.
Those who actually live as a Christian realize that the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days teach us that we are not yet complete.
The seven day week ends with the weekly Sabbath of rest which is a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3). It is a time to rest (Exodus 20:8-11) and a time to learn the word of God (Acts 13:44).
The annual Passover is a reminder to us that Christ had to die for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7, 15:3). The Days of Unleavened Bread pictures that we need to live sincerely and in truth (1 Corinthians 5:8). It lasts seven days (Exodus 12:15-20), which, like the weekly cycle, indicates a completion--we should strive to be completely without sin.
If you have kept the Days of Unleavened Bread, you realize that leaven is pervasive in society--and hopefully, the spiritual lesson of the fact that sin pervades society has also been impressed on your mind so that even when these days are over, you realize that you need to watch out for sin and go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1). And if you did not keep the Days of Unleavened Bread you did not learn that as you should have. The Apostle Paul taught:
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (Ephesians 6:11-14)
Obeying God and living as God wants us to live girds our waists with truth and puts on the breastplate of righteousness. The Apostle Paul also taught:
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
And by obeying God and living as Jesus and Paul did, we are imitating Christ.
Notice something else that the Apostle Paul wrote about how Christians should live:
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:1-17)
Brethren, are you doing that?
Will you do that?
Thiel B. Building Character: Going on to Perfection. http://www.cogwriter.com/perfect-character.htm 2014/2015 0924
There is also a related video sermon available online: Going on to perfection and building character.
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