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Author: J. O. Soboyejo, Ph.D
Definition of Character
Character is the total of personal traits an individual possesses that make him what he is. Character refers to moral qualities, ethical standards, and principles that govern a person’s conduct and cause him to choose one course of action over another. Christian character growth is based upon allowing God to develop His attributes in our personal lives.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul says:
And all of us, with unveiled faces (because we) continue to behold (in the Word of God) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another (for this comes from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit). – 2 Corinthians 3:18 (AMP)
Character development is a continuous process in our lives and is dependent upon our constant “beholding” of the Lord through His Word. Peter also emphasizes this in 2 Peter 1:3-8:
Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace? Then learn to know Him better and better. As you know Him better, He will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a perfect life: He even shares His glory and goodness with us! And by that same mighty power, He has given us all the other rich and beautiful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us and to give us His Character.
But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good (Virtue), which is not enough. You must learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do (Knowledge). Next, you must learn to put aside your desires (Temperance) so that you will become Patient and Godly, gladly letting God have His way with you. It will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them (Brotherly Kindness), and finally, you will grow to love them deeply (Charity). The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and beneficial to our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3-8 (LB). It is clear, therefore, that Christian Character requires we constantly work at these areas of our life as we walk by faith daily. We can never become what God wants us to be on our strength – we must trust Him to produce His Character in us. But neither can we sit back and wait for this to happen spontaneously. We must work hard at obeying what God reveals to us from Scripture. Growth in Christ-like Character is a matter of allowing God’s Spirit to indwell our lives completely.
This will allow the fruits of the Spirit to become evident in our lives. (Please refer to Galatians 5:22,23 for a definition of Fruits of the Spirit). That is why the basics of the Christian life are so essential. The Word and Prayer Hands help us continue in God’s Word so that we behold God as He has revealed Himself to us.
We live in a day and age where people are recreating Jesus in their images, and their characters are affected due to their pride and arrogance. We also have a faithful enemy trying to distort God’s image so that we disobey and no longer walk in obedience. Fleshy and Christian character traits are emphasized in the Old and New Testaments – Proverbs 6: 16, 17; Galatians 5:19-21; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peters, 1:3-8; Matthew 5:3-12.
How Character is formed:
When God controls our lives, He produces His fruits or attributes in our characters (Thesis). But if we allow Satan to be in control, he will produce the opposite of God’s fruits (Antithesis) in our characters or a compromise (Synthesis). Either of these alternatives is less than God’s best and prevents us from becoming what He wants us to be. Every believer is a new creation in Christ, and his inner man has been born again by the Spirit of God.
Therefore, he has a new capacity to develop a character that reflects the qualities of Jesus Christ. These qualities of life are the Christian traits that we have already listed. Sometimes Christians fail to form a character that glorifies God. Why does this happen? Although our inner man is saved, our outward man is still corruptible and perishing and waiting for completed redemption. Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, the inward man is renewed daily. – 2 Corinthians 4:16 And not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for our body’s adoption and redemption. Romans 8:23
The desires of the flesh press us to allow them to be manifested through our bodies. Daily, decisions are made in our inner man—whether to obey God’s will and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit who lives within us or yield to the flesh’s desires. God created us with a will, intellect, and emotions. Satan will try to influence these three faculties to condone evil thoughts (intellect), to yield to what feels good (emotions), or to act upon what we want rather than what we know is right (will). To develop actual Christian character traits, we must not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. It means bringing every thought (intellect) into captivity to the obedience of Christ, submitting our feelings (emotions) to the scrutiny of the Word of God to see if they are in accord with His desire for us, and yielding our wills to the Spirit’s control so that we obey instantly and joyfully God’s revealed Will for us in His Word (will). As our minds, emotions, and will, are brought into the service of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us through obedience to God’s Word, the works of the flesh will not be manifest in our bodies. Instead, Christian character traits will be formed in our lives.
How to Develop Character:
- Recognize the Influence of Your Environment
Your home, parents, school, church, job, government, and friends significantly influence you. Some of that influence occurred when you were only a child and cannot be erased. However, it can be overcome by carefully regulating your current lifestyle.
2. The Holy Spirit—The Chief Agent
The Holy Spirit can transform any Christian’s life into one that will please God. Trust Him to do miracles in you. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
The Word of God—the Chief Tool
Unless we consistently look to God through His Word to guide us in our decisions and thoughts, we can never expect continuing character growth to occur. A Christian must continue in the Word to have a disciple’s Character.
Then Jesus told those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” John 8:31
Reputation vs. Character:
Reputation is what people think you are:
- Diplomatic (tactful, cooperative)
- Transparent (open, teachable, frank, sincere, receptive)
- Disciplined (self-controlled)
- Faithful (dependable)
- Pure (holy, godly)
- In Control of Tongue
- Innovative (resourceful)
- Neat in Appearance/Dress
- Wholehearted (driven, persevering, thorough, diligent)
- Enthusiastic (cheerful)
Character is what God knows you are.
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Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina
Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina:
Lectio Divina means “divine reading.” It is an ancient practice of praying with the scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if they are in conversation with God, and God is leading the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes:
- Moments of reading (lectio).
- Reflecting on (meditatio).
- Responding to (oratio).
- Resting in (contemplation) the Word of God to nourish and deepen One’s relationship with the Divine.
Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer:
Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer are two distinct prayer forms. Lectio Divina is a reading, reflecting, responding, and resting in the Word of God that helps one grow in relationship with God. Centering Prayer is a method of Prayer in which we consent to rest in God’s presence. This Prayer moves us beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him and prepares us to receive the gift of contemplation. Lectio Divina is a gift to Centering Prayer. As our relationship with God deepens, we will be renewed in our intention to rest with God in Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a gift to Lectio Divina as it frees us from obstacles to hear the Word of God on a much deeper level in Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina and Bible Study:
Bible Study is the reading of the scriptures for information and an understanding of the passage’s context. It provides a solid conceptual background for the practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is a reflective reading of Scripture and a method of Prayer that leads us into the deeper meaning of Scripture and the transformation of our lives. A contemplative reading of the Scriptures is compatible with a well-grounded interpretation of the Bible, and Lectio Divina is concerned with reading for transformation.
Step by step through Lectio Divina
Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6).
To start Lectio-Divina, you will first find a quiet place free from distraction (as much as possible). Sit quietly with your Bible, close your eyes, and place yourself in the loving presence of Jesus.
One way of doing this is slowly repeating the name of Jesus in your heart or quietly out loud or using the “Lord’s prayer” Take a passive stance and allow yourself to be taken by Him. After all, He loves you more than you could ever imagine and desires to reveal Himself. The Bible, or Holy Scripture, is God’s words about Himself. These divine words testify and point us to the Divine Word: Jesus Christ, the Savior. Remember, the Bible was a gift from the Lord to His Bride, the Church. Sacred Scripture was written for YOU. To pray with the Bible is a genuine encounter with the Lord.
Read the passage attentively, reverently, and slowly. Lectio is a listening reading that patiently waits in trust for the Word (Jesus) to reveal Himself. Prayer means to open yourself. We recognize that we cannot contain or control the divine mystery. Allow yourself to be taken in by the words and be drawn towards the Word, Jesus Christ.
Depending on what happens, you might read the passage several times or linger on one phrase or Word. Whatever you do, please don’t rush through it. Praying takes time, patience, and perseverance; it takes effort and cooperation with the grace of the Lord. St. Ignatius of Loyola said:
It’s true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes intense as the tempest and loud as the thunder, but before reaching the heart, it is as weak as a light breath, which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise and is silent amid agitation.
This stage is our human response to God’s words. Here, we ponder and meditate on what was read. Quietly savor the Word and meditate upon it in expectation. Remember, Jesus wants to reveal Himself and pull you closer to Him.
Consciously open yourself to the Lord, allowing Him to touch your heart. Seek Him whom you love. Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. In meditation, God can deepen your faith, rapidly convert your heart, and strengthen your will to follow Christ. A question to ask yourself is, “What does this Word mean for my life? What do I need to change?” Notice this isn’t “star gazing,” but an honest accounting of our lives and always directed outward to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is the Prayer of the heart. It is unique, personal, honest, and spontaneous, specific to the experience of encountering God in his Word. It can be abandonment to the will of God, like Mary: “Thy will be done.” It is a response to the Word from the center of our hearts, and it may be in words or even just a sigh of love.
- You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth. (St. Catherine of Siena)
- O God, give me stillness of soul in you. Rule me, O King of gentleness, King of peace. (St. John of the Cross)
- Take, Lord, And Receive All My Liberty, My Memory, My Understanding, And My Entire Will, All I Have and Possess. You Have Given All to Me; To You, O Lord, Now I Return It; All Is Yours, Dispose of Me Wholly According to Your Will. Give Me Only Your Love and Your Grace, For This Is Enough for Me. (St. Ignatius Of Loyola)
This stage is God’s response to us, which is beyond our control. We cannot create contemplation by ourselves. It is a divine gift that the Lord, in His goodness, gives us. In contemplation, one is passive, held by the mystery of God. Essentially, it’s a gaze, God’s gaze into us and our gaze of faith back at Him. Your whole self becomes focused on the Lord. It is nothing more than a close sharing between friends. It is deep, intimate, intense, sometimes tearful, and often too deep for words. It is childlike. It is a surrender to the loving will of the Father in an even more profound union with His beloved Son.
His gaze purifies our hearts, illumines our eyes to see with the eyes of Jesus, and teaches us compassion for our neighbor. The aim is to allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into the form of the Son. It is not weird, unusual, or exceptional, but rather the typical fruit of the devoted and faithful practice of Lectio Divina. Devotion to Prayer leads anyone to a personal union with God.
- Learn to abide with attention in loving waiting upon God in a calm state. Contemplation is a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which, if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love. – St. John of the Cross
- Contemplative Prayer is nothing but a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him, who we know loves us. – St. Teresa of Avila-
- Prayer is sowing, contemplation of the reaping of the harvest when the reaper is filled with wonder at the ineffable sight of the beautiful ears of corn, which had sprung up before him from the little naked seeds that he sowed. – St. Isaak of Syria
- The grace of contemplation is granted only in response to a longing and insistent desire. St. Bernard of Clairvaux
- I need nothing but God and to lose myself in the heart of God. – – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque