My daughter purchased a set of vanity lights for the mirror in her bedroom. People seem to have one of two reactions to the glaring light they emit. Either they say, “Wow, this is awesome! I can see all the blemishes on my face in this light!” or they say, “This is awful! I can see all the blemishes on my face in this light!” It’s all a matter of perspective and ultimately, a matter of the end goal.
Here’s the deal: Choosing to keeps the lights OFF doesn’t mean the flaws aren’t there. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean no one else can see them either or that they don’t exist. And I’m not just talking about our faces but about our hearts. The truth is that in the light of God’s Word and the perfection of Jesus Christ, all of our flaws and blemishes are revealed. It’s not a matter of comparing ourselves to others to see how our righteousness stacks up. It’s too easy to find someone we deem worse than us in order to give ourselves a little spiritual boost. But we don’t compare ourselves among ourselves; we compare ourselves to a holy God, and in that case, we all fall woefully short!
D. L. Moody once said, “Character is who you are in the dark.” Most of us aren’t going around actively or intentionally breaking the Ten Commandments, but to take any pride in that is rather silly and leads us down a path that is dangerous to our spiritual health. Patting ourselves on the back for not murdering anyone and then turning around to gossip about them is more than a bit ironic. You see, murder is just so … obvious. Gossip? Well, that’s a bit easier to hide, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when our conscious pricks us.
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.” Once God brings you into the light, you can no longer plead ignorance. You can no longer ignore the things in your life where God is pointing a finger and saying, “Here. Let’s work on this!” We all have these areas, and if you are anything like me, the minute God helps you find victory in one area, you become aware of another!
Here’s the bottom line … our character, conduct, and integrity tell the world who we are from the inside out. They are our strongest testimony of a life transformed BY Christ, lived FOR Christ, by the power OF Christ. This is the stuff that sets us apart from the world, and it should be the thing that draws them to Jesus. But even someone who doesn’t know Jesus can be a nice person. So what should be our motivation for becoming a person of character?
If we are gut-level honest, many times we do the right things for the wrong reason. Fear is a motivating factor when we are afraid of what people will think about us or of publicly humiliating ourselves. So we make decisions about what to do or say based on the opinion of man or fear of punishment or humiliation. Outwardly we might look holy, but inwardly things don’t match up. But God is looking for people whose motives are pure, whose insides match their outsides, if you will. People who are the same in the dark as they are in the light.
Our primary motivation for living a life of character and integrity is two-fold. First and foremost, we should love the Lord and want to please Him. Secondly, we should love other people to the extent that we would never knowingly or willingly hurt them. And it’s not our job to try to conjure up devotion to Christ or love for our fellow man. It’s our job to admit to the Lord that we are sadly lacking and desperately need Him to give us purity of heart and thought and deed and then trust that He will do so. He starts us on a path of obedience to His ways, and as we take those steps in faith, He does the miraculous by using our obedience to soften our hearts and open our eyes. Suddenly, we find ourselves wanting what He wants more than what we want. And that, my friends, is the process of sanctification.
This is a lifelong journey. And thankfully we have each other (iron sharpens iron and all that!) to encourage us to stay the course. And we’ve got a heavenly Father who says ”He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). That’s enough to motivate me on any given day. My character counts, and so does yours, and if we are called to “impact lives for eternity,” this is a necessary part of that glorious calling and privilege.