Cultivate a Christlike Character

Cultivate a Christlike Character

Chapter Three

Cultivate a Christlike Character
Concerning Hypocrites 42 Letting Go Of All That 49
Spirit-Control Brings Tongue-Control 44 Praying Just As I Am 51
A Lesson Learned – Down Under 45 God Reveals His Son In Me 53
Tolerance Must Not Become Moral Compromise 47 Discussion Questions 55

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Concerning Hypocrites

There are few words that are loaded with more negative baggage than the word "hypocrite". Hypocrite means "to pretend". It was first associated with the Greek plays where the characters used large masks and loud voices to build up a certain character they were pretending to be. The absence of substance on the inside required props on the outside.

A hypocrite can be as glaring as a TV evangelist who leads a double life or as subtle as a speaker who stands up to address a crowd of swindlers and thugs, street-walkers and bar-flies, and begins by saying "Ladies and Gentlemen"!

I have observed this curiosity among the general populous: they are quite willing to associate with hypocrites everywhere except in the Church. People will stay away from Church because there are hypocrites in it; but they never give a thought about being with the hypocrites who go to the ball games, the department stores, restaurants, or their own places of work This double standard is confusing-even a bit hypocritical.

One of the strangest ads I have ever seen was placed in a New Orleans newspaper by a downtown Church. On either side of the ad was a caricature of snooty Church members. Between them the ad asked in bold print, "Tired of the old hypocrites in Church"? Following in small letters it read, "Come meet some new hypocrites at (Name of Church)". The message of the ad was stated: "We are all sinners and sometimes hypocritical, but the Lord is working on us." Then followed the times of the services when the Lord was working on them. At the bottom of the ad was the pastor's name with this notation, "Chief Hypocrite".

I have met very few true hypocrites in my life, I have, however, met many sincere and devout people who have made honest and regrettable mistakes, as well as others who were trying their best and "tripping up" as they did. Hyper-critical people would label them hypocrites.

The great majority of Church people are not hypocrites, imperfect for sure but not hypocrites. The Scottish preacher, James Denney, describes our situation: "What's bothering us is not religious difficulties, but the difficulty of being religious".

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Considering my own failures, I will refuse to pass judgment on the failures of others.

– William Jenkins –


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James 3:1-12

Spirit-Control Brings Tongue-Control

The human tongue is amazing. How we can control it by moving the muscles in the tongue is even more amazing. By simply rotating the tongue in various directions and uttering guttural noises, we are able to communicate with other people. In fact, the tongue becomes so well developed that we have no need to think about the motion of the tongue to form the words we wish to speak. Perhaps it is that fact which caused my father to constantly tell me, "Think before you speak". To our embarrassment, we too quickly speak words which we would not normally say if we would stop to consider what we are saying. The finest response I have ever heard to someone who used foul language was, "Did those words pass through the lips with which you kiss your mother"? Unfortunately for me, those words pass over my tongue and through my lips on occasion.

Warm sunlight penetrated through the bedroom window as I proceeded to dress. As I normally do, I reached to the lowest drawer on the dresser to select an item of clothing. Apparently I had pulled the drawer a bit too far and the drawer slipped out of its rails, falling to the floor. Before it hit the floor, it hit my uncovered toes, cutting the flesh at the point where the toe-nail begins to grow.

Do I need to describe how much it hurt. I think not!

Instantly, as I withdrew my foot from under this sharp, heavy object, my tongue went into action. You can just imagine what words came out of my mouth. You would have to imagine it, because nothing more than the word, "ouch" filled the room. I can assure you, it was a sincere "ouch".

As I hobbled around the room I became very aware of the fact that I did not swear. It was a bitter-sweet moment. I was proud of the fact that I did not let my tongue get the best of me, yet pride does not remove the pain of a bleeding toe.

You may not think of this as a great victory, but learning to control my tongue has been a difficult undertaking. The Bible admonishes us to bridle the tongue, and I can say with great joy that, for once, I succeeded. The toe is healing, thank you, but the happiness I feel still lingers. There are two reasons for my happy thoughts: first, I did something I have been striving to be able to do for a long time, and second, my mother would be proud to be kissed by these lips.

"Lord, make me aware that what I say matters to You. May every word I utter be spoken as if I were speaking to You. May only what is pleasing to Your ears ever be released from my tongue. With Your help. Amen".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Positive, affirming words of life bring health and healing.

– Thomas Duckworth –


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Proverbs 6:6, Philippians 2:5

A Lesson Learned – Down Under

In Proverbs 6:6, we read these words from the New International Version, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise"!

Several years ago, I decided to look into the meaning of this verse. I went to our local library and found several books which helped me learn more about ants. I prepared several sermons on this Topic. I did the same with the Topic of palm trees, eagles and geese. There are many lessons we can learn from God's creation. The following experience is a good example.

In 1987, my wife, daughter and I made a trip down-under. We spent a week in New Zealand, and a week in Australia. The thing we wanted to do most, while in Australia, was hold a koala bear. We inquired as to where we might do this. After purchasing our tickets and boarding a tour bus, we arrived at a small zoo where Tasmanian devils, wallabies, and koala bears lived. Before leaving the bus, we were instructed how to hold the koalas. Each live koala bear would be clutching a stuffed koala bear. Since Koalas are nervous animals, their toy provided them with a sense of security. If we tired to take it from them, we would probably be bitten or clawed. Obeying the rules, gave us the enjoyment of holding one of God's special creatures. Later, as I was ruminating, I realized that these cute little animals had an attitude problem.

While traveling as an evangelist, I often spoke on Godly Attitudes. I mentioned that, as a teenage boy, I disliked my curly hair. As I grew older, I realized that since God had given me those curls, I had better like them. In two different churches where I preached, I had someone come and tell me they had not liked me at first, because they thought I had a permanent. When they found out I had gotten my curly hair from God, they changed their minds, and even enjoyed my preaching. I had not changed; their attitude had!

An excellent translation of Philippians 2:5 is, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ's". When we do not possess the same attitudes that Christ possesses, we are apt to jump to conclusions or unintentionally hurt people. It reminds me of the koala bear, who would attack if's toys were taken away. The word attitude is defined as "a disposition, or way of acting, thinking or responding". I am sure this is why the Apostle Paul encourages us to have the same attitudes Christ displayed.

"Dear Jesus, from the depths of my heart, I pray that You will create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. May I respond to Your directions, and display Your righteous attitudes.

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will pause before reacting, and take an attitude check.. May I always ask myself, "Is this how my Saviour would respond"?

– Lowell Welder –


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1 Corinthians 9:1-27, 2 Peter 2:1-22

Tolerance Must Not Become Moral Compromise

Biblicists believe that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God, the standard for a Christian's daily life. Departure from that position reaps dread consequences.

Homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian teachings. "God's plan for a sexual union is one man and one woman in heterosexual, monogamous and lifelong marriage relationship". Both statements are equally taught and demonstrated in Scripture.

Sodom and Gomorrah no longer exist – not even on a map. They were destroyed with fire and brimstone from heaven as God's wrath was poured out. God's people had cried out against the wickedness of homosexuality.

Have God's people today become so tolerant that they are afraid they might offend people? Why should there be any need for "reasoned discussion" on the issue of homosexuality within a Church when considering a person's membership? Tolerance is not listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit. Have we become so tolerant of acts that God calls sin that we have ignored or lost our standards?

People used to say, "Let's call a spade a spade." Today we say, "If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck" Sin is still sin in God's sight and we ought not to be afraid to condemn it as such. Certainly in the world there are a variety of understandings on human sexuality but God's instruction given to us in the Bible should be the Christian's standard. Jesus prayed that the Father would keep the ones that followed him from evil because he had given them God's Word. The Church is not to be a part of the world; it is to be a lighthouse, warning of dangers which can destroy any people.

In consideration of whether there is a place for homosexuals in the churches' pews, the individual's attitude must be taken into consideration. If he comes to demand special rights and seeks to defy God's Word and to propagate his "life-style", then, of course, he should not be accepted into the membership of the Church. If he comes to confess his sin and seeks to repent and turn his back on his sinful ways, God, of . course, will forgive him, and the Church members should rally around him and teach him God's Word. He will no longer be a homosexual, but a Christian brother.

1 Corinthians 9 states, "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God And that is what some of you WERE." Every other person sitting in the pew is also a sinner, but the difference is that he has been washed, sanctified, and

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justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. He is a new creature, the old life is gone.

2 Peter 2 reminds the Church that it is possible for false teachers to come and teach damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. If a pastor becomes a homosexual and expresses to his congregation that he believes it is an acceptable lifestyle, he has erred from the Word of God and should be asked to resign or be dismissed from his position. Then he should be dealt with as any other brother who slips into sin. Matthew 18 teaches that we should strive to restore him to God's grace.

The real issue here is that the leadership needs to call for a return to God's Word, the literal, inerrant code for Christian conduct in our world today.

"Lord, help us to believe your Word, practice it, and teach it that our children may accept your standard for their lives, and not the standard of the world. Help me to hide your Word in my heart that I may not sin against you".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Bible is God's literal, inerrant message to us, telling us how to live and the rewards that are promised to a consistent, pure life, pleasing to God.

– Laura Drewer –


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Matthew 6:1-18, Colossians 3:15-24

Letting Go Of All That

Though it is embarrassing to confess, I want to tell you of my struggle with a quiet, insidious sin that has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I write of it today because I know I am not alone in my struggle. The sin I speak of is the desire to have my life to be significant in the eyes of people.

This struggle, I find, comes from deep inside – some inner hunger to have people recognize and affirm what I do, and deeper than that who I am. Like every other sin, the wages of this one is death. My hunger to have the affirmation of others leads to the wages of this one is death. My hunger to have the affirmation of others leads to the death of contentment. Stewardship of my days suffers and dies also, as I allow myself to be preoccupied with the "next thing" – the "something" that I will do that will cause others to notice and affirm me. This sin gives birth to envy of other's accomplishments and recognition, and, when I allow it to grow, kills love. It is an ugly situation, and knowing there are others who share it with me is no excuse and no comfort.

What is comforting, and what has kept me in the battle against this attitude of my heart, this sin that I want to defeat, are the marvelous words of challenge and affirmation and promise in the Scriptures. Re-read the verses from Colossians 3. First, concentrate on verse 17: "…do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…". Now look again at verse 24: "since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving". It is the Lord Christ you are serving! Return now to Matthew Chapter 6: "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them…". Then three times before verse 19, Jesus affirms, "then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you".

What is the message for me here? The recognition of men is not as important as it seems to me (in fact it is not important at all), and when I am tempted to judge my significance by what others think of me, I am called by my loving Father to turn away from that false standard and remember that I am already significant in Him and He will be faithful to give me things to do that are significant to Him as I obey Him. It is the Lord Christ whom I serve. Not myself, not my Church, not the world, but Christ alone. Desiring the praise of men, the affirmation of the crowd, the rewards of the here and now – I must be continually letting go of all that in order to receive the deeply real, genuinely significant things Christ would bless me with instead. When I am free from desiring the affirmation of humanity, then I am free to love and minister in Jesus' name to any to whom the Lord calls. Then my significance will be in secret, where the Father rewards, and I will be able to rest content in the role the Master Director has given me to play.

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Mine eye too quick to hold, mine ear to hear 
The glittering, noisy baubles of the world so near. 
Oh God! 
Let all my senses, all my fear, 
Center only on that which You hold dear! 

"Lord, the thought that I must accomplish something that people will call significant in order to have my life count is a recurring theme with me, but does not honor you. Help me, Father, to let go of all that, and be content with only, and always, You alone. Amen".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To have the 'smile of God's approval' on my life is worth more to me than having the applause of the multitudes of earth's inhabitants!

– Erik Ritschard –


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Matthew 6:5-8

Praying Just As I Am

Mac moved from Alaska to Oregon and got a job as a window decorator in a large department store, where I worked. Though I was supposed to work with him, I disliked his mannerisms and found ways to avoid him.

One day Mac told me that the store wasn't happy with the way I was (or wasn't) working. Then I realized something had to change and knew I needed to pray. That I did not want to do, knowing God would want me to change.

I didn't want to like Mac. Finally, however, I stated to pray, "Lord, help me to want to pray, for I really don't want to." Soon I was praying more earnestly, admitting to God that I didn't want to like Mac! Then God surprised me! "Don't tell me you don't like Mac, tell me you hate him." "Oh, no," I cried, "I'm a Christian, I don't hate anybody"! But I had to obey God, and confess my real hatred for Mac. I was really convicted and prayed for forgiveness. Peace soon followed. Mac and I began working well together. I thought he had changed! When he told me he was moving on to Mexico we had a final coffee break together. I looked at him in amazement – he had not changed at all! His looks and ways were the same as before. God had done a miracle – He had changed me! How exciting!

What did I learn from this experience.

First, start where you are. I had to start with, "Lord, help me to want to pray". God honored that honest request and in a few days I could pray with urgency. We usually associate the gospel song, "Just As I Am" with altar calls and repentance. But 'just as I am' is a prayer for older Christians too. There is only one way to come to Christ at any time – in simple honesty about true conditions. God wants to hear it 'like it is'.

Secondly, let God lead you in your praying. He can help you pray in truth. (See Romans 8:26) In my case, admitting the awful truth and saying the very words to God caused me to repent. Then, without realizing it, hate and rejection began being replaced with caring and cooperation. We need God to reveal what we do not know and cannot change about ourselves.

Then, thirdly, love will always impact the situation. Love is lining up with God's nature and His way of working in people's lives. LOVE WORKS.

The thing that remains with me to this day is that God performed a real miracle back then – He changed my heart, something I could not do.

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"Father, I want to pray honestly and urgently about the situation that confronts me. Come alongside and help me".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, I open my heart and give myself and my situation to God my Father. He will change me.

– Beth Stewart –


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Galatians 1:15-17, Job 1:1-22, Genesis 39:1-23

God Reveals His Son In Me

Paul states that" God, who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles."

After a person has become a Christian, it is only natural that God desires to reveal Jesus in that life. When we are baptized, Romans 6:4 states we are "buried with him in baptism, risen to walk in newness of life." That will be a life of integrity, holiness and righteousness.

A Christian should be a replica, a reproduction, an image of Christ. My friend made chalk drawings of my grandchildren as Christmas presents. I was delighted to discover a likeness of my own children in my grandchildren.

Some people have never read the Bible and have never darkened the door of a Church. The only way, whatsoever, that they can know about Christ, is to listen to my testimony and watch my actions.

An old hymn prays, "Oh to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, pure as thou art, stamp thine own image deep on my heart". The Holy Spirit living within me produces fruit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self control. God desires to reveal his perfection and attributes in my attitudes and my actions every day. This is not something I can do in and of myself. It is God's Spirit working in me to do His will.

God was so pleased with Job's integrity that He was willing to allow Satan to test him. Job exhibited God's character even as he sat in the ash heap, arguing with his friends. He stated that he would never give up his integrity when his wife suggested that he curse God and die, thus ending his pain and suffering.

Joseph was an upright, honest young man. He refused to be tempted into sexual gratification by Potiphar's wife, so he chose to leave the scene quickly. Although she told lies about him and he landed in prison, he did not feel sorry for himself, he let God's light shine. Wherever we go, we take ourselves along. Our character does not change according to our surroundings or circumstances.

Paul and Silas were put in prison for preaching in Jesus' name (Acts 16), but they sang praises to God at midnight. When the prison gates were opened and the chains fell off the prisoners, the guard was sure they had all escaped and he was ready to take his own life. However, because they chose to be honest, Paul and Silas had the opportunity to win the jailer and his family to the Lord. When God's image is revealed in us, IDs love and forgiveness flow freely also. Job, Joseph, Paul and Silas all chose to pursue a holy

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lifestyle. God was revealed in their lives and others came to God because of their testimonies.

Pursuing a holy lifestyle is a choice each Christian must consciously make daily. God has given us the ingredients: purity, godliness, honesty, virtue, integrity, uprightness, cleansing, newness of life, sanctification, devotion, and service. It is our responsibility to display them for the world to view, judge and desire.

"Oh, God, let the world see Jesus living in me. Reveal your holiness and righteousness in my walk and talk very day, in every way, wherever I go."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The reproduction of God's Holy Son, Jesus, in my life allows me to exhibit a holy lifestyle in order that others might be drawn to Him and come to know Him as personal Saviour.

– Laura Drewer –


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Discussion Questions

  1. Give your reaction or response to the following statements: "People will stay away from the Church because there are hypocrites in it; but they never give a thought about being with the hypocrites who go to the ball games, the department stores, restaurants, or their own places of work. This double standard is confusing – even a bit hypocritical."

  2. Do sincere Christians, who seek daily to be "filled with the Sprit", sometimes act inconsistently (i.e., act in ways that are less than fully "Christlike")? Why or why not?

  3. What is the "secret" to effective "tongue-control" in your personal life?

  4. When you, as a believer, are severely tempted to judge your own worth and significance by the praise and recognition which others give to you, what can you do to conquer this temptation?

  5. Why is it so easy for Christians to "jump to conclusions" about people, or to intentionally "hurt" people? What can you personally do to correct your tendency to judge other people's actions?

  6. How can you learn to be tolerant of other people's actions and beliefs, without morally compromising your own moral principles? How do you "reconcile" the two following Biblical statements?

    Statement One: "By their fruits you shall know them".

    Statement Two: "Judge not that ye be not judged".

  7. How can you ( as a believer) properly be a "fruit inspector" of other people's lives without improperly becoming a "moral judge" of other people's lives?

  8. As a sincere Christian who is committed to respecting and obeying the moral principles of the Bible, what should your reaction be to a person who practices a homosexual lifestyle?

  9. What should be your response to yourself and to God when you (as a sincere believer) suddenly or gradually realize that you have been "entertaining" resentful or hateful feelings towards a fellow human being?

  10. Is it possible (in light of human weaknesses and the universal vulnerability to sin) for a Christian to be a "replica, a reproduction, an image of Christ"?

  11. Share your honest response (or reaction) to the following statements: "Some people have never read the Bible and have never darkened the door of a Church. The only way, whatsoever, that they can know about Christ, is to listen to my testimony and watch my actions."

  12. Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Pursuing a holy lifestyle is a choice each Christian must consciously make daily."

  13. Why do you think believers are so concerned to make a "good impression" with others, in order that other people will think highly of them? What "steps" can believers take to be delivered form this "bondage"?

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