People are seeking for men and women of character. We look for them in the political, social, economic, and religious arena. We look for them to lead, to make an impact. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of such men and women.
The Bible speaks of the importance of character, and that it is God’s intention that believers be transformed into Christ’s character.
Rom 8:29 (TLB) says, “For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him-… should become like His Son,”
The more familiar NIV states,
“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son …”
The transformation of our character to that of the Lord Jesus Christ’s is the goal of our Christian experiences. “God has decided (predestined) …”(Rom 8:29). The reason for this becomes clear when we see how the life of Christ has impacted billions through the passage of time.
Jesus impacted people by loving them. It has been said that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I would like to reproduce an adaptation from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis from another generation entitled, “One Solitary Life.”
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter’s shop until He was thirty. Then, for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials, but Himself…
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed unto a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today, He is a centrepiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of Man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.
Jesus impacted this world because of His love, His care, and His concern for people. Although He spoke to large crowds and performed miracles (eg. feeding the 5000), He also made time to speak to the Samaritan woman, to Zacchaeus, to blind Bartimaeus, to Jairus, to the woman with the issue of blood, and many more. Since then, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He continues to impact men, women, young people, and children of many generations. And of course, He also impacted you and me.
How do we develop this character? The Apostle Paul urges us to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). Jesus is God and we develop His character by imitating Him. This is God’s purpose for us and He will give us the grace to be transformed into His likeness.
From Ephesians 5:1-21, the Apostle Paul gives us three ways we can be imitators of God. They are all connected with the word, “walk.” The Greek sense is linked to the idea of the way we live, our lifestyle. The call is indeed to walk the talk.
Firstly, we are to walk in love – live a life of love. This is clear from the fact that God is love. Our inspiration is that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.This is the love that costs, that requires, that in fact demands, a sacrifice. We become imitators of God when we are able to love the way He loves. We are able to love other people the way Jesus loves us. We do not love people because we like them or because we can get something out of them. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love is not based on emotional feelings, but is centered in the will.
When we love people with God’s kind of love, we will live holy lives. We will love godly behavior and we will abstain from sexual immorality, from impurity, and from greed. There should also not be unholy speech like obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking. These types of unholy behavior and speech only harm others and are improper for God’s holy people.
When we live holy lives, we will be rewarded by God and we will possess an inheritance in Christ’s coming kingdom. The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be deceived and not to partner with unbelievers who are “children of disobedience.” When we partner with them, we will land up behaving like them.
Secondly, we are to walk – live – as children of light. The fruit – result of light is goodness, righteousness and truth. These please the Lord. By contrast, we should have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. These deeds should be exposed. The world loves darkness, rather than light, lest their deeds are exposed. But, we are children of light, and therefore, we should live like such.
Thirdly, we should walk as wise people. Wise people are conscious not to waste time and opportunities.
They understand God’s purposes and stay sober and focused on what He wants. Foolish people dull their senses by living to indulge their sinful desires. Wise people make the most of every opportunity, understanding that life is a gift from God. They become sharp to eternal things with eternal values.
Paul further reminds his readers to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making music in their hearts to the Lord. Wise people look to God in every circumstance of life.
Wise people are also grateful and thankful to the Lord for everything. This gives them a cheerful disposition, a pleasant attitude, and a faith that overflows with hope in a living and good God.
Wise people make it a point to account to others. In the process of accountability, they will submit to those over them in the Lord. This makes them humble and avails themselves to others who may guide, counsel, and direct them to succeed. This ensures their inheritance in Christ’s coming Kingdom.
In conclusion, far too many people have rejected the gospel of Christ due to the bad behavior of Christians. When Christians do not imitate God in their character, they have little impact on others. Not only that, they have failed to earn the right to speak of God’s love, God’s light, and God’s wisdom. Consequently, they are not fit to share their faith.
To be like Jesus
To be like Jesus
All I ask – to be like Him
All through life’s journey
From earth to glory
All I ask – to be like Him.
May we walk the talk. Then we can talk the walk.
(This is an adaptation of the address given at the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Malaysia, Central Region, Annual Members’ Conference held in Kuala Lumpur on 10th October 2009, by Rev. Voon Yuen Woh, Chairman of EE Malaysia.)