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God is NOT Trying to Build Character into You!

The common teaching by many is that when we experience trouble in our lives, God is trying to build character into us. The premise behind this is that though we are Christians, we are incomplete and problems are God’s way of getting his character into us.

Let me say as clearly and as loudly as I can in print.  That is not true because it is a gross misunderstanding of the gospel! The real gospel is that because we have Jesus Christ in us we have everything we will ever need to live the Christian life. Listen to what Peter wrote in his second letter in 1:3,  “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…”  Do you see that?  We have everything we will ever need already. Paul wrote something similar in the second chapter of his letter to the Colossians in verse 10,  “…in Him you have been made complete…”.   Complete is sometimes translated with the word fullness.  In either case, I think the idea is the same. In Christ, we are already complete or full. If this is not enough for you, then let’s look at Hebrews 10:14,  “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” The offering i.e. the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ has made us perfect/complete because we were set apart by God (sanctified) when he saved us.

How do we unpack this in an understandable way when we all know we do not live our lives with perfect character? In fact, we may think that our character is very poor because of the mistakes we make and the sins we still commit. That is why our identity in Christ is so important to understand, to believe, and to live from. While our behavior, thoughts, and motives are not perfect, our identity in Christ is perfect, complete, and full. You see, we already have in us all of the character we will ever need – Jesus!

If that is accurate and it is, then all of the remainder of our lives is an opportunity for that character to “come out of us”. Our Father is not trying to build his character into us.  He is working in our lives to get it out!  Yes, we have many problems, trials, and challenges in our daily life. These are all opportunities for the character He placed in us to be lived out. As we trust Jesus Christ to live through us more consistently (not perfectly) we mature in our expression of that character.

Isaiah prophesied in 61:3 that those who would believe in the Messiah would be called “oaks of righteousness”. Righteousness is the perfect character of God. When He gives us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), He give us His perfect character minus His deity. We don’t become little gods but we do become His children.

I have lots of oak trees around my home. I have noticed that when an acorn from one of those trees sprouts up from the dirt, it is an oak tree, not a palm tree or a pine tree. Did you know that little seedling will never be any “oakier” than it is the day it pushes up from the ground? The rest of its life, it will simply mature into what it already is, an oak tree.

We are complete in Christ having all of the character we will ever need in our identity in Christ.  The remainder of our lives is one opportunity after another to mature into who we already are – sons and daughters of God!

Mark Maulding

About the Author

Mark Maulding is the President of Grace Life International in Charlotte, NC. Grace Life International desires that every person experience the reality of Jesus Christ in them. Since 1995 Mark and GLI have been sharing the grace of God through counseling, teaching, and training. www.glionline.com