Home Menu

How to Motivate Godly Character

On a recent road trip, my wife and I were listening to a novel somewhere in Mississippi. The story followed a thirteen-year-old amateur tennis player as she struggles to stay above the competition while facing the temptation to cheat. In amateur circuit matches fewer line judges are available to make calls, so the players call their own balls "in" or "out." The main character, Rosie, discovers that she can tilt the match her way on important points by calling her opponent’s shots "out" when they were really "in."

Rosie experiences heavy guilt because she knows she is a cheater, but the fear of losing matches is still much greater. At one of her lowest points, a friend approaches her, knowing that she has cheated. He speaks to her calmly, "Don’t you understand? You may have cheated, Rosie, but you’re not a cheater." That truth is the turning point for Rosie. When facing the next opportunity to cheat, Rosie doesn’t. She is not a cheater.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to define who we are by what we do? Thankfully, God does not play that game. He defines who we are by who his Son is. If we are in Jesus Christ, then his Spirit dwelling in us defines us (2 Cor. 5:17). The Bible says new covenant Believers are the "righteousness of God in [Christ]" (2 Cor. 5:21). We may have cheated, but we are not cheaters. We may have stolen, but we are not thieves. We may have slandered, but we are not slanderers. We may have lied, but we are not liars. No, we are holy, righteous, saints. At our core, new creatures in Christ truly want to obey God. We long to do what is right.

Is this approach being soft on sin? On the contrary, this approach is the only effective way to motivate godly character. What a man believes about himself determines how he behaves. If a new creature in Christ truly believes he is a sinner, he will live like a sinner; however, if he truly believes he is the saint that God says he is, he will be highly motivated to live like a saint.

Andy Knight

About the Author

Andy is the user interface designer for YouVersion, the Bible App. He has a passion for sharing God's story of grace and freedom through the internet. Andy lives in Roswell, GA, with his wife and three sons. You can follow him on Twitter at @andyknight.