Character reflects the traces of the sinful nature (influenced by the world), or traces of the divine nature (influenced by the Word of God). Character is the sum total of all of the influences positive or negative, learned throughout life and manifested through values, motivations, attitudes, feelings and actions.
The Bible assures us that Christ is the character of God incarnate (Hebrews 1:3). Character is like a stamped impression that distinguishes a person. Just as God stamped His character on Jesus Christ He also intends to stamp it on the church, so that in this way the world believes in God. Our first decision is to believe. We must make a decision to follow Jesus by becoming His disciples and then we will be formed into His own image (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49) and we will be identified in this way as Christians.
Character in the Greek means image. When the Word of God affirms that Christ is the very character of God, the very stamp of the nature of God, upon which God stamped or branded Himself (Hebrews 1:3). He is speaking of image.
Character is the identifying signs of the nature of any being or thing and the set of aspects that characterize the ego. God forms our character through the process of learning. Every human being beginning at birth begins to receive influences from his surroundings. We assimilate these influences as time passes and they become part of our character. This process of learning is accomplished by identification, imitation, punishment and reward. The purpose is for man to take on the likeness of the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the God man. This purpose has not changed. The fall of man did not change this plan or this purpose. Beginning with Adam, continuing through Jesus and onto the church, the plan of God has remained the same.
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)
If the church is to reach this goal, its leaders must show the way and must lead the way. The leaders of the church must allow God to develop the character and personality of the Lord Jesus Christ in their own lives before they can expect Him to form it in the lives of its members. Character possesses three basic elements:
1. Way of thinking
We perceive the way a person thinks by the way that he builds his set of values. In the first place, our character is determined by the moral aspect, or by what we consider correct, wrong or forbidden. If we approve of something that is definitely wrong, then we can say that our character is defective, that our character is bad.
When we become converted, the first thing that we should do is to renew our mind. In this case, to renew means to change our way of perceiving things as well is our set of values. The will of God is that we receive the character of Christ, His mind (1 Corinthians 2:16).
The lifestyle of a person is determined by his or her goals, habits and customs. If the biggest goal in life is to make money, we must develop a lifestyle compatible with this goal. We must develop the habits and customs that are coherent with what we want to reach. If I want to be an athlete and I do not train, something is wrong. If I want to develop my studies, but I do not apply myself to a studious lifestyle, again, something is wrong. Our lifestyle is part of our character. The proof of this is that normally people from the same profession share similar characteristics with one another. It is not difficult to perceive this in businessmen, truck drivers, computer programmers etc.
Conduct is the set of behavioral patterns that we learn and establish internally. Conduct is everything that we do, say, feel, hope for and desire. Conduct manifests itself in my relationship with other people. My behavior in front of other people manifests my character, or my way of thinking and the motives within my heart.
These three elements compose our character. Certainly, we cannot observe them separately. In everything that we do, we manifest these three aspects at the same time. All of us at conversion already possess a formed character. Everything that we have received from the surroundings in which we live contributes to the formation of our character. Much of what we have learned is correct, but God must transform part of our way of thinking, our lifestyle and our conduct that does not meet the requirements that the character of Christ requires.
Our character demonstrates the extent of our spiritual growth. If with the passing of time, we accumulate much knowledge but we do not demonstrate any change of character, this shows that whatever knowledge we were able to receive was in vain. God is deeply interested in our conduct. Jesus and the apostles spent a lot of space in their teaching dealing with fruit, behavior, and conduct of the heart:
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete. (2 Corinthians 13:9)
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (Ephesians 1:4)
That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:17)
As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2 Peter 1:3).
The apostle Paul said that the eternal purpose of God is to have many children, but not only that, these children must have the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). God wants sons that manifest the character of Jesus. Man’s fall did not change the purpose of God it merely delayed it. The church of the Lord must reach this goal and its leaders must show the way, they must go before the flock. God must develop the character of the Lord Jesus in the leaders of the church before beginning to form it in its members.
The scandals that have arisen among leaders that the Church has entrusted with authority before approving their character are many and widespread. A leader that manifests serious deficiencies constitutes a great obstacle in the Lord’s work.
The deficiencies of character in the lives of the members of the church are due in great part to its own leaders. In a way, the church is a picture of its leadership. Hesitant leaders engender a hesitant membership. Lazy leaders engender a lazy membership. If the leadership is immature, the people inevitably will also be. We can never overemphasize the character of the Christian worker because this determines success in ministry. Only a developed and approved character can support the pressures of the work and the difficulties of ministry.