Change the Character

By Jarrod Jacobs

We see much immoral behavior in society today. Con- sider the sin of abortion. When we see people willingly take the life of another for convenience sake, we truly are in bad shape as a people! This attitude of debasing the sanctity of life has now spilled over into other aspects of society. Once people got used to the idea of killing babies, it wasn’t such a stretch to consider killing the elderly and those who are considered “vegetables” or are dying of certain diseases. Now that people seem acclimated to this, we see people who are willing to kill just about anyone, so long as there is consent to it! Consider Jack Kevorkian — he will not only kill you, but will sell your organs as well (or at least try)! Like Judah in Genesis 37:26-27, there is no reason that Jack shouldn’t make a tidy profit in the process of taking your life! I mean, after all, he has the up-keep of that rusty old van to consider; lawyer bills are piling up as well, you know! Brethren, selfishness truly rules the day.

Consider smoking that kills so many by the slow, steady, deterioration of the lungs, heart, blood vessels, etc. I have seen a chart that details what happens when one quits smoking after one minute, one hour, one day, one month, etc. It is amazing to note the positive changes that occur so soon after one stops smoking. If you put these things in reverse, you then see what happens to a person when he smokes, and how quickly things deteriorate and ruin the body. The Bible teaches that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and must be respected as such. The Bible teaches that our body is not ours to ruin, maim, or kill (1 Cor. 6:18-20)! Paul said that he would not be brought under the power of any (1 Cor. 6:12). Nicotine in the cigarettes will cause one to be “hooked” for life just like any other drug. Alcohol fits in here as well. Though so many consider the drinking of alcohol to be “acceptable” under certain conditions, the Bible condemns drinking alcohol from the first drink (1 Pet. 4:3-4; Prov. 23:31-32).

Further, we notice the sin of immodest dress. Though it is acceptable in society; to dress in such a way as to cause one to lust after you is to sin. Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” and “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 5:27-28; 18:6). Therefore, not only is it a sin to lust after another, but it is a sin to cause another to lust after you! It works both ways, you see. The Bible teaches that people are to dress in a modest way — not to overdo the clothing, or to “underdo” (if that is a word) the clothing! The Bible teaches that we are to dress modestly, with shame fastedness and sobriety (1 Tim. 2:9-10). While the immediate context deals with the women, this is a principle that equally applies to the men. By the way, how do you dress when you are in public? When you come to worship services? When you know you are in mixed company, wherever you may be? This is something serious to consider — your eternal soul rests on your answer!

Let us also think about the sin of homosexuality.

While many homosexuals are wishing for “inclusion” and “acceptance” from society (and are getting it for the most part), they need to understand that this behavior is unacceptable and is sinful. This is akin to the behavior of those who will commit adultery with one another, and never consider the fact that this behavior is only acceptable and pure in God’s sight when the man and woman are married to each other (Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:4- 6). Homosexuality is a sin just like the other things we have talked about. One will not be in heaven if he is a homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9-11; etc.). He needs to repent of this sin and turn away from it.

What can we do? What can be done to stop the slow, steady deterioration of society? What can we do to keep people from sinking lower and lower into sin? “Make new laws!” many people cry. Some may suggest that we need more and stiffer penalties for those who smoke, drink, use drugs, etc. “We need not accept homosexuals who wish to be ‘married,’” some might say. “We need to get people like and including Jack Kevorkian behind bars, stop listening to their emotional pleas, and see that they are murdering people, ‘by consent’” others could add. These things sound good on the surface, and might curb some of the activity, but don’t people see that what we are discussing are merely the symptoms of the problem, and not the problem? Yes, it’s true!

What is the problem, then? The problem is character! People do not have the character that they once did. Brethren, if we can change the character of people, we can put an end to so many problems! What is the character of people today? As we mentioned earlier, it is one of selfishness! Me! Me! Me! When people think of themselves first, they will do those things which please/satisfy them first, and leave others to “fend for themselves.” Just think about this: Why is it that time after time in the Old and New Testaments, we read God’s warnings not to leave him, not to forsake him, nor to turn to the right hand or the left from his word? It is because when people do this, their standard will change from asking “What does God want?” to asking “What do I want?” The Gentiles, as recorded in Romans 1, “glorified [God] not as God, neither were thankful . . . changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things . . . changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator . . . their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly . . .  they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:21-28). What started them on this downward slide? It was when they stopped glorifying God as God and refused to show gratitude to him — selfishness! They thought they could do it their own way, and found out too late how wrong they were!

Sometimes changing a law in society can be a good thing, but understand the only way to truly change behavior is to change the character of a person. When one’s character is changed: (1) It is a change from the inside-out, not merely an outward change to “keep from getting caught. ”The change “inside-out” was command- ed of God’s people in Romans 12:1-2. (2) It causes one to understand that he is not the center of the universe. The Bible makes this clear as we read the comments made and questions posed by different Bible characters (Jas. 4:13; Job 7:17; Pss. 4:8; 144:3; Heb. 2:6; Gen. 18:27). (3) They will be interested in what God has to say more so than what men/themselves have to say. 1 Peter 4:11 will mean a great deal to them. Colossians 3:17, which commands us to do all “in the name of the Lord” will be followed when one’s character is changed.

As we consider the sins mentioned earlier in this lesson, we now know that these things will not be committed, nor justified, when one’s character has been changed. When one’s character is changed, he will do that which is right because he wants to, not because he has to! When we change the character of the baby-murderer or the slayer of the old, they will no longer do that, but will work to preserve the lives of the young and old, realizing their body is not theirs to “do as they please.”

When we change the character of the smoker, the alcoholic, drug addict, etc., they will no longer look to those things for a “high” (yes, smokers get a “high,” too, but in a milder way), but will strive to have their bodies pure, and their minds clear to do the work of the Lord.

When we change the character of those who dress immodestly, they will no longer do that, nor try to justify their lack of clothing (or the over-doing of such). They will not ask, “where’s the line?” but will respect what God has said on this subject, and do so willingly.

When we change the character of the homosexual, he will not say it is an “alternate lifestyle,” but realize that it is sin, and he must stop it and live right (see 1 Cor. 6:11 — the people in Corinth did this).

When we change the character of people (and our- selves), we will not need “new and stricter laws,” we will respect and obey the ones we already have! First and foremost, we will respect and obey God’s law, and we will also respect and obey the laws of the land.

When we change the character of people, they will not offer excuses for why they have failed in the past. They will move on, learning from their mistakes, and striving to be better day by day. Brethren, there are a lot of things that are determined by genetics, this is true. But one thing