Christian Character

What is Christian Character

An overview of the discipleship process

Paul, at the end of his life, wrote these words to his protégé Timothy,  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)  We all want to finish the race, keep the faith, and be spiritually transformed by the work of God's Holy Spirit within us.  The acquisition of knowledge is not adequate alone to lead to spiritual transformation.  A deeper and broader approach is needed, one which touches not just our minds, but our emotions and will.  I believe there are 5 things which need to take place in order that we might be transformed.

First, we need to be related to Christ and be growing in our love for and relationship with Him (Matthew 22:37, 38).  Second, we need to understand Christian community, to be related to each other, learning how to love each other, resolve conflict and build one another spiritually (Matthew 22:39).  Third, we need to be transformed in the inner man and become like Christ in our thinking, our integrity and our character (Romans 12:1,2).   These first three components have to do with being disciples who run the race well.

The last two of these components have to do with moving from being a disciple to making disciples.  Fourth, we need to understand and implement our calling in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:2).  Fifth, we need to build competence in ministry skills, learning how to build Christ in others according to our own spiritual calling and gifting (Romans 15:14).

This book and website concentrates on the third component, Christian character.

What is Christian character?

Christian character is the endpoint, the goal of sanctification in Christ; the perfect man, the spiritually mature believer.  It is the place of peace with God, with ourselves, and with other men; the NT counterpart to shalom in the OT.  It is Christian because we can reach perfection only through the work of God’s Holy Spirit remaking us in the image of Christ.

Perhaps the concept of Christian character can be best illustrated with a story.  Oswald, king of Northumbria in the 7th Century, said this of Aidan, a monk:  “He helped me to see how to be a practical Christian and turn my faith into action.  I’ll never forget the look on the hungry warriors’ faces when I gave our Easter dinner away to the poor!  But Aidan was thrilled.  He’s genuine through and through, is Aidan.  There’s no difference between what he teaches and what he is.” Our growth in Christ seeks to transform our lives until there is no difference between what we believe and teach and how we live our daily lives.

Some significant scriptures

Romans 12:1   Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship. 2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.


2 Timothy 2:1   You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.


2 Corinthians 3:17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

An overview of Frank's book on Christian Character

Frank is writing a two volume book entitled "Christian Character, Remade in the Image of God" Volume one will be ready for publication before the end of 2015.  There are five reasons why this book is unique, useful and necessary.

First, even though many have written on Christian character in the past, this book is the first to look in depth at the particular character qualities into which the Holy Spirit is transforming us.

Second, there is a profound lack of understanding in our culture, and even in church culture, about what Christian character is.  There is much written about how to make disciples, but little written about what a disciple looks like.

Third, Christian character is one of the major themes running through both the Old and the New Testaments.

Fourth, this book is merely a Biblical exposition on the subject of character and inner transformation.

Excerpts from the Book

Chapter One: Definition of Christian Character

There is an interesting contrast of two Greek words dokimazo and peiradzo. Both words have to do with testing, but with dokimazo the agent is usually God and the stress falls on a positive result from the testing, with the one tested passing the test and being recognized as genuine and trustworthy. But peiradzo is used of temptation to evil, in which lusts, want, and affliction, or Satan himself, entices one to fall. Satan does not want us to succeed, so his testing is for the purpose of seeing us fall. God’s testing is for the sake of causing us to succeed. Both have to do with testing, but the testing is for completely different purposes.

Philosopher Dallas Willard describes a disciple as “one who walks with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus.” The word “disciple” translates from the Greek word mathetes [1] which means “a learner.” The Greek noun comes from the verb manthano, which means “to learn.” Our English word derives from the Latin word discipulus, which means a scholar or an apprentice. It means one who directs his mind to something as a learner, disciple, or pupil, or one who attaches himself to a spiritual leader; or who adheres intellectually and spiritually to religious leaders such as Jesus. In all cases, it implies that the person not only accepts the views of the teacher, but that he is also in practice an adherent. A disciple, then, is a disciplined learner.

Chapter Two: Inner Transformation

The word in the Greek in Romans 12:2 for “do not conform” is syschymatizesthe [2] which means “the act of an individual assuming an outward expression that does not come from within him, nor is it representative of his inner heart life.”[3] The Greek is a compound word meaning formed together with, to be formed like, or be conformed to. Therefore, the pattern of this world is not representative of what we have in our inner being as a regenerated child of God. When we, as Christians, conform to the pattern of this world (mannerisms, speech expressions, styles, and habits), it is an unnatural act. We have been recreated in the image of Christ. When we assume an outward expression which doesn’t come from within us, we are denying the reality of the change which has occurred as a result of the new nature within us.

As we come to resemble Christ, we become in our whole being who we really are on the inside, a new creation. Our lives become integrated and we experience wholeness, integrity, harmony, and the fruit of the Spirit. The inside and the outside of our being (our conscious and our unconscious life) come into harmony, and our thought, emotional, and physical lives gradually become integrated and whole. We are now longer merely trying to conform to Christian norms, but we become what Christ intended us to become. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life.” (John 10:10) We have been “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) All of these blessings come from the process of transformation in our inner being.

If you have been born again, realize the profound change that has taken place in your inner man. You are not just a different person, or even a better person, you are a new person. As you allow this realization to fill you with gratitude toward God, you will realize that Christ has broken the power of sin in your life. God does not want you to just “get by.” He wants you to live a victorious, Christ-centered, overcoming life.

[1] μαθητής in the Greek.

[2] suschmati,zesqe in the Greek.

[3] Wuest, vol. 1, pg 206.

Chapter Three: The Agents of Inner Transformation

God’s Word is not just ideas and theories; it is truth—that which is as opposed to that which is not. Every doctrine and every thought which does not line up with God's Word is a lie. Truth sets a standard of perfection in our lives. We learn from Scripture what character is meant to be, both through the examples given in the lives of those who have gone before us and in the exhortations to holy living which run throughout the Bible.

Third, God’s Spirit will use God’s Word for our transformation. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth, but it cannot guide us into that which we don’t know. I find that when I need guidance from the Lord, He will bring a Scripture to mind—but it is a Scripture I have meditated on beforehand, memorized, or been taught. Those who are subject to being deceived and misled are those who have not personalized the Word of God or made it an important part of their lives.

God is weaving the fabric of our lives to mold us into His image so that we can be used by Him to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. We can trust that it is God who works in us to will and do His good purpose. This trust flows out of a deep, heartfelt conviction that God is good and that He wants only good for us—that He is our shepherd, that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, that the Lord is great, that His goodness is abundant.

Our central purpose in life as a Christian is to walk with Christ. We do that through two major goals—learning and applying God’s Word and walking by God’s Spirit. In your life with Christ, you will either be building spiritually or be led astray by your sinful nature, Satan, and this world’s system. There is no middle ground. You will not be transformed unless you put Christ first in your life. You put Christ first in your life by seeking Him above all else. When that happens, your life begins to gradually be changed into the image of Christ.

Chapter 4: Theological Perspectives

 The differences between justification and sanctification

Justification Sanctification
1. Removal of guilt Removal of pollution
2. Legal standing Internal condition
3. Once for all time Continuous throughout life
4. New birth Progressive growth
5. Entirely God’s work We cooperate
6. Perfect in this life Not perfect in this life
7. Positional righteousness Practical righteousness
8. The same in all Christians Greater in some than in others
9. Christ’s work for me Christ’s work in me
10. Christ’s work for me Benefit: eternal rewards
11. Inclusive invitation Exclusive invitation

To live a productive and fruitful life, we have to be grounded in biblical theology. Jesus says that no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine and can bear spiritual fruit only if it remains in Christ (John 15:4). If our theology is off, we will not bear fruit. This is the mistake of those who have a “liberal” theology. They try to divorce orthodox theology from ethics, believing that it is enough to do good works even though they don’t believe in the orthodox faith. This eventually led to adopting ethics which stem more from the culture’s social agenda than from a biblical ethical agenda.

Chapter 5: Law and Grace in Christian Character

This issue of law and grace is a tension which runs throughout our Christian life. There are almost twice as many commands in the New Testament as in the Old Testament. Jesus came to us full of grace and truth. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Jesus was able to balance law with grace, to offer truth when truth was needed (such as His “woes” to the Pharisees in Matthew 23), but able to offer grace when it was needed (such as to the woman caught in adultery in John 8). He embraced both truth and grace equally and in full measure. It is difficult for us as believers to truly understand the balance of law and grace. We either tend toward grace—“then neither do I condemn you”—or truth –“go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) Jesus both condemned sin and offered grace to those who have left their life of sin. He embodied both God’s wrath and His kindness; God’s condemnation for sin and God’s forgiveness of sin.

It is important that we be consistent in our use of the Old Testament law. What do we do with the ceremonial law which required the offering of sacrifices for sin? Are we, as New Testament believers, to keep the Sabbath? What about tithing? Should we try to impose Old Testament principles of civil law in our age, such as capital punishment for murder? The key is to be consistent and have a good theological rationale for the laws we choose to retain from the Old Testament and those we don’t keep. In the New Testament, the Christians in Galatia struggled with the question of whether or not they were required to be circumcised. There are similar hot-button issues today, such as same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and the ordination of women. I have seen much inconsistency in the application of the Old Testament to present-day issues such as these.


Chapter 6: Our Cultural Concept of Character

There is a cultural war going on in America, an ongoing clash of differing worldviews. This conflict has been characterized as the left vs. the right, liberal vs. conservative, secular humanism vs. Judeo-Christian values, unbelievers vs. believers, and Satan vs. God[4] This cultural war is gaining momentum and the divide between the two sides is becoming larger. The battle is more felt than understood because most people are not acutely aware of the cultural divide, yet it spills over into all walks of life—political, financial, educational, and religious. It separates people on ideological, generational, ethnic, and geographical fronts.

I do not believe this cultural war is primarily political, although it is often manifested along political lines. It is actually a battle of worldview and values, biblical vs. non-biblical. At its core issue is the question of whether or not God exists, and if the Bible is a God-inspired document. Those questions are key to determining the ethical standard on which to base our values. If there is no God, then we can believe anything we want and are free to come up with naturalistic explanations for everything in the universe. If there is no ethical standard, then we are free to do as we wish and do not have to be accountable to anyone.

CategorySecular HumanismBiblical Christianity
1. View of GodAtheismGod created and preserves the universe
2. AuthorityMan is his own final authority. The individual is autonomousMan is under God’s authority
Man's NatureMan is inherently goodMan is inherently sinful
4. Source of problemsInner disharmony and societal corruptionSin
5. Primary toolHuman reasonThe work of the Holy Spirit and application of God’s Word
6. Methodology for reformGetting in touch with our “real self”Getting in touch with God
7. Ultimate goalCreate a utopian society where every person is self-actualizedEnjoy God forever

[4] Dennis Prager, in his book Still the Best Hope, Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, divides this ideological war into three components: Leftist, Islam, and American. David Noebel in his book Understanding the Times divides the ideological conflict into biblical Christian, Marxist/Leninist, and Secular Humanist worldviews. I have chosen to limit the discussion to two categories, since I believe that two categories is the more biblical view. Culturally, however, they are right in including the categories they include.

Secular humanism and the New Age movement are diametrically opposed to Christian theology and practice. Because a secular humanist worldview and a biblical Christianity worldview begin in different places, they end up in totally different places theologically. The quest for Christian character must begin with the existence of God, with moral absolutes, with the sinfulness of man, with absolute truth as found in the Bible, with the forgiveness of sin and a new nature through the new birth, with the Kingdom of God coming to Earth, and with Jesus Christ reigning in eternity.

Chapter 7: Complete the Quest

 When God’s people are transformed, the Christian church becomes a place where Jesus is exalted and where peace reigns. When the Christian church is sinful, there are divisions and strife (Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13). When we are led by the Spirit, we will get along with others. I’m not saying there will never be tension or times when we have to confront each other, but the atmosphere of the church will be one of growth and maturity. One of the sure signs in our lives that inner transformation is taking place is humility, the prerequisite for harmony in the Christian church.

God has given us clear directions in the Bible about how we ought to live, and when we live in the way which God has designed, the result is that we live a blessed life. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses gives the blessings for obedience to the Lord and the curses for disobedience to Him. For obedience, the nation of Israel would receive blessing for their children, their crops, and their livestock. They would have success against their enemies. They would become a special people in God’s household. If, however, they disobeyed, they would be cursed in everything they did. These admonitions apply to us today. When we don’t live as God desires, we reap the consequences of our own disobedience. Christian character is simply living the way that God ordained for us to live.



The "Vision" of Timothy