So, I write character building resources for children and adults, for parents to help their children grow in godliness, for churches to instruct new believers in becoming Christlike, for individuals hungry for holiness. Will studying character building books make you a model Christian? Will they solve your integrity issues? Here’s the truth: NO.
Christlike character is not something that can be gained from a book. It is not something you can discipline yourself into achieving. If we are not careful, we can become legalistic about good character in ourselves and in others. You see, godly character cannot be applied from the outside-in. It starts in the heart and spreads outward.
As I see it, Bible-based character building resources are meant to be tools to make us aware of Who God is and to spark a desire to be like Him as we see Him for Who He is. They provide a framework, a guideline, to get us to think about His purity, to drive us to gaze at Him, so that as we gaze, we are transformed into His image. They are not self-help materials that promise, “Do it this way and you will be perfect.” They are not a set of rules. They are not the answer.
Jesus is the answer. True godly character comes from being with Him, in His Presence, spending time in love relationship with Him. As we do that, Holy Spirit, Who dwells inside of all believers, begins to transform us into the image of Jesus. He starts to nudge about this and that thing in our lives that He wants to make better. Most of the time, when we are so close to Him, we don’t even notice the transformation taking place in us until after the fact.
When I was first baptized in the Holy Spirit, I had a terrible temper. But that melted away, because He was living in and through me, until one day, I discovered with shock, “I haven’t had a temper tantrum in the last six months! How or when did that happen?” Today, it would be a totally foreign thing to me to blow up in anger. Why? He just did that in me. It didn’t come by me striving for it. Sure, there are times we must consciously exercise discipline over things we see in our lives that need to be different, but by and large, it is His transforming work from the inside-out that makes a genuine change. We just cooperate with Him by staying attuned to Him and yielding ourselves — kind of like letting Him lead in the dance while we follow.
When we get hold of the truth of just letting Him re-form us, rather than striving to do it to ourselves (or to our children), we have freedom and joy in our Christian life.
So, how do you really come into having good character, excellent integrity? Hunger after Jesus. Listen for His whispers. When He speaks, yield to Him. He’ll get you where you need to be. You are His workmanship, not your own.