How do you define Christian character?
Hayford: The thing that makes the difference in Christian character is that we are answering to God foremost. Christian character is character lived out in the reverence for and respect for God, as opposed to simply honoring man. The “fear of God” is the biblical terminology for it. The fear of God is the starting place, but what it boils down to is the willingness to die to our own agendas, to die to our own conveniences.Genuine Christian character involves sacrifice, and that is something that the culture will not require of us. That is something that only faith will bring us to. We are called to be servants — not just honest people, but servants. Jesus cast it in the most severe terms. He said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10, NIV).
Why are we so easily enamored with charisma and so slow to cultivate character?
Hayford: People respond to charisma because a person with charisma is able to communicate to people the fact that they are worth something. People with charisma nourish hope. But character has to accompany charisma. A person needs not only affirmation but also discipline of mind and spirit.
Charisma can satisfy people’s desire for affirmation. Character, according to Romans 5:4, produces hope. But character also seeks to cultivate the kind of disciplined life that bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I hear leaders all the time who talk about high dreams — God has this great destiny for us, and He is ready to bless us and to bring joy into our lives. That’s true, but it needs to be coupled with a tenacious faith that depends on and relies on God’s faithfulness.
How do we practically apply “putting on the new man” that Paul talks about in his epistles?
Hayford: It boils down to committing ourselves to a lifestyle of repentance. It has to do with defining repentance in terms of an immediate willingness to stand corrected on a moment-to-moment basis in our walk with Christ, as the Holy Spirit deals with us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us will affirm our alignment with God’s ways, and He also will automatically, immediately signal us with an internal sense of His conviction. Our response to that—which is what I mean by repentance—literally means a change of mind, a change in course. We make a mid-course adjustment at that moment. We are in the middle of a sentence, and if we are wrong, we stop. It is not some climactic moment of “full sanctification,” but rather a process—the moment-to-moment, sanctifying work of the Spirit.
So, in other words, we must count on God’s help to be holy men and women?
Hayford: Redemption’s process in our lives has been made possible through what Christ has already done through His death, burial and resurrection. I’m banking on what He has done through the Cross. Self-effort isn’t sufficient for a holy life.
I’ve read many books about what is often called “the Christ life,” and some outstanding authors have had a great influence on me. The issue that I keep addressing is this: “How can I make this real in my life?” The fact is, we can’t be “done” without going through the “doing.” It’s like somebody telling us he is going to put $100,000 in our account to pay for our college education, and our saying, “Since we have this money, how can we act educated today?”We can’t. We have to go through the process. The key is to rest in the knowledge that in Christ, our “bill” is paid; to rest in the certainty that everything we need is covered through our relationship with Christ. This changes the approach to our quest for character, holiness and godliness. Instead of an effort to verify that we’re doing sufficiently well, we rest in faith in God’s sufficiency. This is pivotal, because to the degree that we think we can achieve a godly lifestyle apart from reliance on Christ, we eventually will become self-righteous. Christianity for such people becomes a club of the godly elite rather than a fellowship of the growing and the learning.
In forming Christian character, how much depends on the role of the Spirit and how much on the cultivation of godly disciplines?
Hayford: Human nature will tend always to want to keep control, but abandonment to the Holy Spirit is the fountainhead of real release. It is the joy that becomes our strength. Lots of people become uneasy when we talk about surrender to the Holy Spirit. The whole concept of opening up to the Holy Spirit’s fullness and joy is so much more important to believers’ lives than often is seen.
Biblically focused evangelicalism tends to substitute the nurture and feeding of the Word for the fellowship and enabling of the Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for the Scriptures, obviously, but there is Spirit-led praise and worship from which we draw strength through the joy of the Lord. This strength enables us to live out the character of Christ and gives us perseverance for the journey. We need times of rejoicing in His presence as well as times of waiting.
Jack Hayford, founding pastor at The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Calif. and the founder and chancellor of The King’s College and Seminary, is known for his keen insights on living for Jesus Christ. His seminar at The Cove, “A New Time and Place” will be streamed free of charge Friday at 7:15 p.m. on The Cove’s website
BLOGGER’S RESPONSE: I’m posting this for several reasons, but the greatest reason is as a response to the Democratic party’s attempt to remove GOD from the party platform. Though representatives are justifying and back stepping carefully, the mere THOUGHT that a major political organization might present a platform removing GOD from our midst, is appalling!
Not long ago, Bill Clinton was President of the UNITED STATES. He got caught with his pants down, literally, and the nation held its collective breath to see what would happen. Nothing happened! Oh, sure there was an meek attempt to “impeach” (whatever the heck that means these days), but life went on. WE-the-PEOPLE even warmed to the idea, in a sick, perverted kind of way. It was as though the thought of the POTUS in “sinful” activities somehow justified our own lapses in judgment.
Sadly, the nation seems to take on the character of the President. Look around! What kind of “character” do you see? I see hate, divisions, jealousy, envy, greed … and as remarkable, I also see a mockery of all that is Godly. We can continue to put on this “character,” or we can turn the tables and demand our representatives reflect US, our morals, our “character,” our goals and ambitions.
Clint Eastwood hit on a monumental precept in his brilliant monologue. YES, BRILLIANT! The government, the elected officials, are supposed to be a reflection of the American people. They are our representatives, and as such, they speak for us. Or at least, that’s what we hired them to do. But for decades, we have been absentee bosses! We checked in on election day, voted … maybe, and then went out way. Now, these EMPLOYEES we hired, have outlived their usefulness – most of them. They certainly no longer REPRESENT WE-the-PEOPLE!!! They do their own thing, represent their own best interest, and rarely, if ever, give a thought to US … their BOSSES! It’s PAST time WE-the-PEOPLE engage in the political system our Founder’s established, educate ourselves on the Founding Documents, and take responsibility for SELF-GOVERNMENT!!!
WE-the-PEOPLE must regain, re-establish CHARACTER in ourselves so that we recognize it in the men and women we elect to lead us and govern us through the next decade and onward. Yes, that means cleaning up our own act, working toward VIRTUE, pursuing honorable and desirable traits like HONESTY, FAITHFULNESS, TRUSTWORTHINESS, CITIZENSHIP,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.