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Christian Character

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Characteristics of the Christian Life

Romans 12:9–21 ESV
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Introduction

God love them, Bless their hearts, They mean well - all phrases we have heard Christians use to describe fellow Christians and non-Christians alike. What other phrases have we heard?
Why do you think we have such an issue with the acceptance of others and the actions they take when they don’t do exactly what we would do or the way we would do something? If we notice, we usually speak ill towards people we know and are close with much more than we do those in whom we may not know as well. Yet…what type of character is that showing? Are we exhibiting the traits God wants us to, when we react in (sometimes a quite humorous) manner?
Paul has just spoken to the believers at Rome about their need for God’s mercy and righteousness, and that we are to live a life that would be pleasing (worthy) of God. We are to give ourselves completely to God, as a sacrifice - meaning we have a new life and new soul that belongs to God - who we were in the past not longer exists. What is our purpose after this? Worship - including giving ourselves over to God completely. We know though, that there are things that will keep us from having the joy we desire and the full ability to worship in the way God desires for us to worship Him. These tests we go through in life are ways for us to grow, both in our walk with God, but also in our walk with each other in this world. These next few verses give us a guide, some pointers, in how we should interact with each other on a daily basis. We should love one another, and hate what is wrong. We are to recognize the blessings that come through peace, even when those we want to be peaceful with desire turmoil. It reminds me of a story I read which starts out:
There was a little old lady who was very spiritual who would  step  out on her porch every day, raise her arms to the sky and  yell, "Praise the Lord"
One day, an atheist bought the house next door to her, and he became very irritated with the spiritual lady. So after a month or so of her yelling, "Praise the Lord" from her porch, he would go outside on his porch and yelled back, "There is no Lord."
 Yet,  the  little  old lady continued. One cold, wintry day, when  the  little  old lady couldn't get to the store, she went  out  on  her  porch,  raised  her hands up to the sky and said, "Help  me  Lord, I have no more money, it's cold, and I have no more food."  The next morning, she went outside, and there were bags of  food  on  the porch, enough to last her a week. "Praise the Lord," she yelled.
The  Atheist stepped out from the bushes and said, "There is no Lord, ha ha ha, I bought those groceries!"
The  little  old  lady  raised her arms to the sky and said, "Praise  the Lord, You sent me groceries and you made the Devil pay for them!"
Last, we must understand that revenge is not ours to give.
A truck driver stopped at a truck stop and ordered a cheeseburger. As he was ready to eat, a motorcycle gang pulled up. One of the gang members insulted him and ate his cheeseburger. The truck driver walked out out of the truck stop.  A gang member said to the waitress, “He's not much of a man, is he?” She said, “He's not much of a driver either. He just backed his 18 wheeler over 6 motorcycles.”
But a righteous vengeance will come to those who truly deserve it - we, in the mean time, should continue to exhibit the character of Christ, loving one another, caring for their needs, and telling others of our Savior.

Love and Hate

Romans 12:9–13 ESV
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Here, Paul is addressing how believers should act towards other believers. It is a reminder to look no further than the attributes God shows towards us as believers.
Love - Agape - describing the attitude/feeling of God toward Jesus, giving us (as believers) the attitude we should have towards each other. Love can only be truly known by the affection and actions that accompany the feeling. Genuine love is a divine and deliberate choice that comes from our understanding of and relationship with God. To love conditionally, with stipulations, with the thought of personal gain attached goes against what God requires of us to receive HIS genuine love and makes us hypocrites when we try to get something in return for our “love”.
We are told:
2 Corinthians 8:8 ESV
8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.
1 John 3:18 ESV
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Abhor - denotes “to shudder” (apo, “from,” here used intensively, stugeo, “to hate”. We are to stand against whatever is evil in character through qualities, emotions, and deeds. It is the exact opposite of goodness,
There are four very practical ways the believer is to demonstrate his love for other men. Remember that the love being commanded is love for all men, for the lost as well as for other believers.
a. The believer is to love by hating evil. The word abhor (apostugountes) is strong, very strong. It means to hate with intense feeling, to loathe, to look upon with horror. Love desires the very best for people; therefore, love hates evil, for evil destroys human life. The believer stands against evil, doing all he can to fight …
• hunger and poverty
• hurt and pain
• drunkenness and drugs
• cursing and bitterness
• suggestive and enticing dress
• unjust and improper behavior
• hoarding and divisiveness
• disease and suffering
• ignorance and godless education
• family divisiveness and divorce
• off-colored and dirty talk
• immorality and destructive sex
• selfishness and greed
• corruption and death
The list could go on and on. The point is that the believer must love, and he shows his love by hating and fighting against that which is evil.
Good - in character, morality - in comparison to God who is essentially, absolutely, completely, and perfectly good.
b. The believer is to love by holding fast to that which is good. The word “hold fast” or cleave (kollomenoi) means to join or fasten together, to attach, to cement or glue together. The believer is to desire only the very best—all the good possible—for people. He is to hold fast to the good and to work for everyone to know and experience the good. The believer shows that he truly loves people by holding fast and working for the good.
Galatians 6:10 ESV
10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
c. The believer is to love by loving his brothers in Christ, by being kind and affectionate toward them. The word affectionate (philostorgoi) means the love existing between family members. This charge is dealing with the Christian family, the brothers and sisters within the church. We are to love each other by being kind and affectionate. We are a family of children who have actually been adopted by God as His sons and daughters (2 Co. 6:17–18; Gal. 4:4–6; Ro. 8:16–17). Therefore, the believer is to live as a family member with his brothers and sisters; he is to live being both kind and affectionate. Note: there is no dissension or divisiveness in love. The church is to live in love, and living in love is peace.
John 13:34–35 ESV
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
d. The believer is to love by giving preference to other believers. The word honor (time) means to reverence, respect, esteem. The word preferring (proegoumenoi) means to go before, to lead, to set an example. The charge is clear: the believer is to take the lead in esteeming and expressing respect for others. Imagine a church full of believers with each taking the lead in esteeming and honoring the other. What a picture of true love and care, of real warmth and tenderness, of great strength and manliness.
How often have church members been upset by being overlooked, not thanked, not recognized, not honored or not appreciated? We should be looking at bringing OTHERS up, not looking for ourselves to be elevated.
Romans 12:3 ESV
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
How do we get around feeling left out or overlooked? Verse 11 says we are to “SERVE THE LORD”. If we are busy doing God’s work, we do not have the time to think about what is not being done on our behalf. It is when we are slothful - lazy, slow-moving, sluggish, lethargic, complacent, etc that we have time to think of the selfish desires - what we are not getting, instead of what we are GIVING on God’s behalf. We are to serve with enthusiasm and diligently. We are to be on fire for Christ!
Revelation 3:15–16 ESV
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
We live in order to serve the Lord - that is our main focus and purpose while on earth - to take the word of God to others so that His kingdom can be proclaimed!
Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
However, we cannot escape all trials and tribulations. While on earth, we will face problems, troubles, trials, and tests. We will go through suffering and pains. But, we are to rejoice in the Lord - in His hope knowing we will either be delivered FROM the trial, or THROUGH the trial. We do not have to face it alone. How are we to face them, though? Through patience - we are to endure, remain, persevere, and be brave throughout all things.
Philippians 4:13 ESV
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
What helps us through? Constant communication with God the Father through prayer. We can overcome any trial we go through in life by keeping our eye of God, our communication open with God, and patiently waiting for His deliverance.
Meanwhile, we are to meet the needs of others unselfishly. When we receive our paychecks, have we ever truly sat down and though whose money it was we received? Was it our bosses? Was it our employers? Absolutely…not! All we have ever had, all we currently have, and anything we have in the future is simply by God’s graciousness to us. SO, we should spread our blessings.
Acts 4:34–35 ESV
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Acts 11:29–30 ESV
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
We should be seeking peace and blessings with each other, but especially, we should be taking care of those who are strangers in need.

Blessings and Peace

Romans 12:14–18 ESV
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
We are expected to conduct ourselves in a Christ -like manner. What does that mean? Even when dealing with unbelievers, we are expected to treat them in the same manner Christ would have treated them, giving a strong testimony to the love of God, and demonstrating His love and forgiveness to everyone. Even when we are persecuted - there will be times when we may be spoken bad about, but we are to speak well about them. We are to bless those who bless us out!
Notice this does not mean to return their favor by speaking ill towards them, or striking out at them. We try to find the best in everyone. Then we pray for them;
Matthew 5:44 ESV
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luke 23:34 ESV
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
We are to have servants heart - one that allows us to rejoice at the happy times in everyone's life. A new child, achievements, promotions, anything that gives joy to them, we rejoice with them. It is never easy to rejoice with others that we do not think earned these achievements, but we should still take our pride, put it away, and celebrate our neighbors in their successes.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We are to cry with those who are hurting. Just as the believers will come upon bad times, so will unbelievers. We are to feel their pain also, no matter what the cause. This is a trait of God also.
Romans 15:1 ESV
1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Acts 20:35 ESV
35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
What better time for us to show the love of God than when someone is down and out and needs to see some mercy.
We are also called to unite together with other believers. If you are always in opposition with what is going on around you, it is not because you are super intelligent, it is because you are selfish and want your way. We are told that we should understand the other person and their lives. To do so helps us identify and feel the other persons nature, their needs, their feelings, and their condition in life. It is then, when we understand them better, that we can minister to them effectively. To the best of our ability (as much as possible), we are to attempt to live in peace with everyone.

Righteous Revenge

Romans 12:19–21 ESV
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
There are three reasons mentioned in these verses for allowing vengeance to be God’s. Vengeance belongs to God. Note the words, “Dearly beloved.” The exhortation is definitely directed to believers. It would be a wonderful thing if all men practiced and lived by this rule, but the world never has and never will live free of vengeance. However, the beloved of God are given no choice. Any person who follows God is to leave vengeance up to God. Vengeance belongs to God, not to man. No man has the right to judge others, not in a private judgment nor in a personal vengeance. The right to judge and to execute vengeance is God’s and God’s alone and we are to grow closer to God through it.
Even though others, believers and unbelievers alike, may not accept God’s place for their lives, we are called to a higher standard. To speak well to our persecutors, and pray for our persecutors, and do good to our persecutors. How best to show someone you love them, and are showing God’s love through them, than to do good to them.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV
15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
By doing so heaps “coals of fire on his head”. BY striking out back, we allow evil to win. If we are to embrace the character of Christ, then evil cannot win.

Closing

A boy was having the time of his life shooting arrows aimlessly into the air without thinking where they landed.  When his father rushed out and grabbed the boy’s bow, he complained, ‘I was having fun - why did you stop me?’  His father replied: ‘Son, you are completely oblivious of the damage you are causing.’
Today when we get together with friends, it is socially acceptable and seems like fun to spread the latest gossip or mind other people’s business.  However, when shooting off our mouth recklessly (as in gossiping, maligning and judging), we are firing a very dangerous weapon that can (intentionally or unintentionally) cause irreparable harm.  Like an arrow in flight, careless words cannot be recalled once released.  If we shoot off our mouths, not thinking of the consequences, it’s only a matter of time before we bring someone down - followed by the inevitable repercussions. God wants us to guard our tongue.  He sees all things and has witnessed time and time again the mass damage caused by reckless words.  Our tongue should be used for what it was created - to praise, to glorify and to encourage.  Thus God warns us in Proverbs 15:1, ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’
What do we accomplish when we seek to make ourselves look better, and forget the example Christ showed to us? Paul reminds us, we are to love good and hate evil. We are to have blessings and peace with those closest to us, strangers around us, and even those who chose to try to harm us intentionally. And the hardest, it understanding we are just to love others as Christ loves us, because it is God alone who has a righteous revenge.
Matthew 22:34–40 ESV
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
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