Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Character Matters

Most churches and denominations have a list of beliefs that are considered basic to a person’s membership in that church. Some call the list of beliefs a “creed.” Among protestant churches, most start out with statements about the Trinity, the Bible, and salvation. I went through the list I am most familiar with the other day and put a “B” beside every one that simply required me to give mental assent, and “B/A” if it required belief and some sort of action. The “B’s” far outnumbered the “B/A’s.” Then I looked up all the passages in the Gospels where Jesus described who would be a part of His Kingdom. Of course, I began with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, then with the help of the concordance, using the word “kingdom,” proceeded to other passages. I came up with a list of 14 descriptions of the saved. I attempted to use my “B” and “A” system to compare them to the requirements of belonging to a church. It did not work. Instead, I had to come up with another letter: “C,” standing for a character quality. Here is the list of character qualities I found: 1) meek (humble), 2) mourning over one's spiritual condition (as opposed to pride), 3) gentle, 4) merciful, 5) pure in heart, 6) peacemaker, 7) standing for right even when persecuted, 8) trusting in Christ in spite of persecution, 9) doing God’s will rather than merely professing it, 10) forgiving others, 11) being willing to obey, 12) persevering, 13) giving to those who cannot return the favor, 14) and being born of the Spirit. Obviously numbers 7, 8, 9, and 11 imply deeply held beliefs. I am not advocating the current trend toward no absolutes — everything is relative. But character is how a person holds his or her beliefs. What would happen if a church required that people who belonged were moving in the direction of character development through the Holy Spirit’s power rather than submitting to a set of beliefs? It seems that God can take a person of character and quickly help them on their beliefs — even in heaven — as opposed to taking someone who is “right” on beliefs, but has little or no character. Maybe we should bring Jesus up to date on how things work today! Or, have we morphed in the direction of that which can be measured as opposed to what God is really looking for? I would like to hear your response.

Dennis Pumford
Assistant Directional Leader


Anonymous said...

I was approached after a sermon on community and loving each other by a well-meaning individual who asserted that what we really need to focus on is raising the standards back in harmony with the Bible. He said you should be able to tell an Adventist in a crowd of hundreds by five things: 1. diet, 2. dress, 3. music, 4. entertainment, and 5. worship style.

Maybe I'm a heretic, but I think the church in many minds/places has become a bastion for 1950's cultural preservation rather than a community of believers who endeavor to manifest true, Christ-like character. Don't get me wrong, I love white shirts and black ties (if you don't mind looking like Agent Smith:). But "church" to me has almost become useless in helping me really live a Christ-like life among my non-Christian neighbors.

Mission Catalyst said...

Jesus said all people will know we are His disciples by our love for each other. We have somehow lost our love for each other as we continue to judge each other by what we eat, look like and listen to. I do not know when we got off track with this, but God's will for our obedience is simple and short -- the 10 commandments. They define love to God and people. Somewhere along the way we added allot of other cultural things
and finally made them God's will, then as culture around us changes, we have slowly become irrelevant. Our subculture gets in the way of evangelism -- people who visit our churches ask themselves: "What would I have to do to be one of these people?" Unfortunately, our lifestyle peculiarities stand out more than the joy of the Sabbath, the peace of knowing people are not burning in hell forever, the difference it makes to love as defined by God's law and the eagerness of knowing that Jesus is returning soon. God's will for people is always simple and easy -- for Adam and Eve it meant not eating from one tree; for those in Noah's day, it meant walking up a gangplank into a boat; for the Sodomites, it meant leaving the city; for the Jews at the time of Christ it meant accepting the Messiah. God has never made obedience and salvation difficult, and He even provides us with the power to obey. We, like the Jews, have added many "smart" things to the short list.

Dennis Pumford

Mstguide said...


I see that God's church is not doing Godly work, but it is doing a lot of police work. We are not qualigy to be a religious police. Too many SDA's are policing their culture with complete disregard for other cultures. Let' see what happens when we preach the "Word of God" with love. Let the Holy Spirit bring the Change he will do a better job than any of us ever will.

Mstguide said...

I think too many people have confused Adventist (USA) culture with the word of the Bible. SDA's have taken to the duties of police work. I believe that when we preach God's word with love and honesty that the Holy Spirit will do the change on the individual. He will lead them into all the truth. It is not our job to change people. We don't have that much power. Besides the Holy Spirit will do a much better job a changing people. There is not heresy in putting Jesus X first. I think some where in the Bible Jesus said help your neighbor not change your neighbor.