What do we mean when we say ‘Christian Character’? We mean the ‘behavior’ of a Christian – how a person lives out Christianity in their daily thoughts, decisions and actions.
Our culture emphasizes surface behavior and appearances. Unfortunately, that has affected Christians to the point that many are more concerned about how others see them than how God sees them.
It should not be that way in Christian Martial Arts. Christian martial artists should hold themselves and be held to a higher standard. That higher standard is the focus of this new Grace Martial Arts series.
What God Sees
Something quite powerful on this subject occurred in Israel thousands of years ago. God was displeased with King Saul and told Samuel the prophet to anoint a new king who would come from the family of Jesse of Bethlehem. Samuel thought that Jesse’s oldest son Eliab would be God’s choice, but the Lord said this to Samuel –
“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
God’s choice was Jesse’s youngest son David, who was not even at the house with his brothers. He was outside keeping the sheep. Samuel anointed David king and he later became Israel’s greatest king. Why? The Apostle Paul explained it this way –
“And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus.” Acts 13:21-23
Christian character is how we reflect the qualities and traits of Christ in our lives. Paul explained it this way –
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
Christians are predestined by God for the highest purpose imaginable – to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” The word ‘conformed’ is the Greek word summorphos. It is the idea of sharing the same inner identity and showing similar behavior. The word ‘image’ is the Greek word eikón. It means ‘likeness’ and is properly ‘a mirror-like representation’ (Strong’s Greek). It is a very close resemblance of something.
God predestined (proorizó, marked out beforehand, predetermined) Christians to be identified with His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul made this bold statement several sentences earlier in Romans –
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
Every person who is “in Christ Jesus” is not under God’s condemnation. That’s remarkable in light of how many billions of people on earth today are trying to find a way to escape the condemnation they believe is connected to some power greater than themselves. Christians know the way to escape! It’s identification with Jesus Christ.
Does that mean being a Christian means saying some combination of supernatural words and calling themselves a ‘Christian’? Not at all – because that doesn’t work. That’s not the meaning of being “conformed to the image” of Jesus Christ.
The “image” of Christ is not something any human being can claim or attain in their own power or by their personal will. There is no group of people on earth, no matter how large or strong, that can claim or attain to the “image” of God’s Son. No way! Cannot do it.
The only way to be identified with Jesus Christ is to become His disciple, His follower. What does it take to do that? Everything. We must give up everything we believe will help us escape from the condemnation of God and realize there is no escape except for God’s gracious gift of eternal life.
Here’s how Paul explained it to the Ephesians –
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:1-13
Identifying with Christ is agreeing with God that we are dead in trespasses and sins and that we are by nature children of God’s wrath. We had no hope and were without God in this world. We must agree with God about our miserable condition. We cannot identify with Christ unless we do. If we try to enter into a relationship with God by adding any little piece of goodness on our part, we will not succeed. We are saved “by grace – through faith” and neither of those come from us. They are God’s gift to us.
As Paul wrote the Romans –
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one … Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:9-12, 19-20
The true message has not changed in thousands of years. The prophets in the Old Testament told people to ‘repent.’ Jesus told people to “repent.” The apostles told people to “repent.” Why would we think that identifying with Christ would be different now? It’s not! We must repent and believe the Gospel.
“Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
What is the Gospel of Christ? The Apostle Paul explained it this way –
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The Gospel (good news) of Christ is the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, along with the evidence of more than 500 people who saw Him alive after His resurrection. That’s powerful!
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16
If we want to ‘identify’ with Christ, we must agree with God about our sinful condition, repent of our sin and believe in the Gospel of Christ. That Gospel is “the power of God to salvation” for everyone who believes.
Identifying as a Christian is not something we can self-claim or a box we can check on a form. It’s something we are. Either we are a Christian or we are not. It is God’s gift to those who repent and believe the Gospel.
So, how does that impact our life? In every way. We will not look like, sound like or do like people who do not share an identity with Jesus Christ. We will not look like, sound like or do like the people of this world. We will be different.
We will love different things, go different places, say different words and spend our time and resources differently. And why will we do that? Because we are new. God did something remarkable in our lives. He took the old man and made it new.
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Ephesians 2:14-16
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Galatians 6:14-15
“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:9-11
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:1-11
Our focus in this new Grace Martial Arts blog series is on what it means to be a Christian martial artist. It begins by being a Christian – not calling ourselves a Christian – but being a Christian. That’s the first step toward being a Christian martial artist.
The second step is to develop Christian character, which is another way of saying “Christ-likeness.” God wants to ‘conform’ us into the ‘image’ of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. God wants us to be “like” Jesus in our thoughts, decisions and actions.
We will look at many examples of Christian character as Christian martial artists in this series. You can see each of the character qualities emphasized in Grace Martial Arts by clicking on our online Black Belt Study Guide.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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