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The Importance of Godly Character

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Many people have wondered: Why didn't God in the beginning simply create humans as spirit beings without human nature? Why did He first make us physical—from the dust of the earth—then offer us eternal life only if we vigorously resist the weaknesses of our flesh?

If God can do all things, why didn't He just create us with perfect character? In other words, what is the purpose of this difficult and trying physical life? Couldn't our heartache and suffering have been avoided?

Of course God could have done all of that—if He had been willing to create us without the personal character we need for making personal choices. It all gets back to our free will, our freedom of choice. God Himself had a choice about how man would be created. He could have made us automatons, functioning like programmed robots whose only course of action is to carry out the instructions of their maker. But He chose to create us like Him, capable of making choices that are limited only by our knowledge and character. This requires that we learn right from wrong and that our character develop gradually by our decisions under God's guidance and assistance.

Is God actively creating character in human beings?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×
).

“. . . Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and . . . put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 Ephesians 4:22-24 22 That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
American King James Version×
, King James Version).

God is not finished with us. We are still His workmanship. He is creating in us “righteousness and true holiness”—His character.

As long as we are human, our character is not firm; it is not permanent. We can change our minds and behavior. We can make mistakes and learn from them. We can learn from the fruits of our right and wrong choices.

Since we can change our minds—and repent of our errors—God can change us even more and create in us the will and the capacity to steadfastly choose what is right over what is wrong. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 Philippians 2:13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×
).

Of course, God requires that we first recognize and willingly reverse our wrong behavior by allowing His Spirit to empower us to make those changes. Then we can become a new person “created in righteousness and true holiness.”

What aspect of our character is most important to God?

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×
).

The Bible uses the word heart to describe our innermost thoughts, motives and attitudes. God knows what goes on inside our minds. He evaluates our intents and motivations (Hebrew 4:12-13). The internal aspects of our character count the most with Him. He considers our behavior in light of what is in our hearts (compare Jeremiah 17:10 Jeremiah 17:10I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 10:12 Deuteronomy 10:12And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
American King James Version×
).

Can God change our hearts?

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
American King James Version×
).

If we yield our will to God, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit to live by the principles of righteousness as He defines them in His laws. Each of us must be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×
). It is through studying the Scriptures that we “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
). God writes what we learn in our hearts by His Spirit (Hebrews 8:10 Hebrews 8:10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 3:3 2 Corinthians 3:3For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
American King James Version×
), making it a permanent part of our thinking and nature.

How can God be sure what is really in someone's heart?

“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18 Job 7:17-18 17 What is man, that you should magnify him? and that you should set your heart on him? 18 And that you should visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
American King James Version×
).

We face trials and difficulties so God can know how committed we are to His way of life. He has to find out if our character will endure hardship and suffering. Only then can He trust us with the powers that come with eternal life. This life is not only for building character; it is for testing that character.

Why did God test ancient Israel?

“And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2 Deuteronomy 8:2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or no.
American King James Version×
, compare verses 15-16).

Does God test the faithfulness of even the righteous?

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 1 Peter 1:6-7 6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
).

Even the righteous are tested to see how faithful they remain in their commitment to God (Psalms 11:5 Psalms 11:5The LORD tries the righteous: but the wicked and him that loves violence his soul hates.
American King James Version×
). When we face difficult choices, God can see how committed to Him we are. Only when we obey Him under duress is the depth of our character fully evident. Paul tells us we should “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 Romans 5:3-4 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
American King James Version×
, compare Revelation 2:10 Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life.
American King James Version×
).

Will God allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure?

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version).

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