“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
The fifth measure of spiritual growth is character. Christ-like character is the ultimate goal of all Christian education. To settle for anything less is to miss the point of spiritual growth. We are to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NIV).
Developing the character of Christ is life’s most important task because it is the only thing we’ll take with us into eternity. Jesus made it quite clear in his Sermon on the Mount that eternal rewards in Heaven will be based on the character we develop and demonstrate here on Earth.
This means the objective of all our teaching must be to change lives, not merely provide information. Paul told Timothy that the purpose of his teaching was to develop character in those he taught: “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NLT). Paul told Titus to do the same thing: “Now you must tell them the sort of character which should spring from sound teaching” (Titus 2:1 Phillips).
Character is never built in a classroom. Character is built in the circumstances of life. The classroom Bible study is simply the place to identify character qualities and teach how character is developed. When we understand how God uses circumstances to develop character, we are able to respond correctly when God places us in character-building opportunities.
God builds character in our lives by allowing us to experience situations where we are tempted to do the exact opposite of the character quality. Character development always involves a choice. When we make the right choice, our character grows more like Christ.
If you want to know what Christ-like character looks like, a good place to start is the list of nine character qualities Paul enumerates in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (NIV).
The fruit of the Spirit is a perfect picture of Christ. He embodied all nine qualities. If you’re going to develop Christ-like character, you, too, must have these qualities in your life.
Whenever we choose to respond to a situation in God’s way instead of following our natural inclination, we develop character. For this reason, he allows all kinds of character-building circumstances: conflict, disappointment, difficulty, temptation, times of dryness, and delays.
Talk About It
In what difficult circumstances in your life might God be trying to build your character?
Understanding this, how does your attitude toward and perspective on your situation change?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life." His book, "The Purpose Driven Church," was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
This devotional ©2012 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.