Creflo Dollar - Maturing In Character
If you have your Bibles tonight, welcome to Bible study tonight. Welcome to what I have to say tonight. It's been a very interesting day for me because I spent all day just really preparing these teachings on character. I never knew how right on time it would be to begin that, but there is a crisis of character, and we've got to, as Christians, we've got to mature in character, and the reason why, you know, I say there's a crisis of character, because I meet people all the time, who they're questioning and wondering why haven't they been promoted in this certain area, how come they're still at the same place after ten years, why have they not been able to make any progress, and it is a character issue, and there are a lot of things that are holding you back as an individual, holding cities back, holding countries back, nations back. It is a issue of character.
You know, it's been said that you will never go above the character you have. I want you to think about that. You will never go past your character, and there are people who are still trying to ignore their character issues, but they never seem to go past that character. And so you can't be, you know, a successful person if you don't deal with the character issues. Yeah, we can never be a successful nation if we don't go past and deal with those character issues, but if we wanna be great and if we wanna be successful and if we wanna be all we can be and reach those benchmarks that we have for our life, then we've got to pay attention to the issue of character. Character is what defines you, and I wanna spend just five minutes or so just really looking at what it is and what it is not.
Character defines you. Character defines an administration. Character defines a nation. Character defines a business. Character is simply doing what's right and doing it right because it's right. Character is doing what's right, doing it right because it's right. It's not doing somethin' that you think somebody would agree with you that it's right. It's doing what's right because it's right, and then you do it right. Character is what people have come to understand and believe about you. Character has come to be, it's something that people have come to expect from you. What you do when no one is looking is really the ultimate definition of your character. It's not doin' what's right because it's right and doing it right when people are around you, but it's doin' what's right because it's right even when no one else is watching, even when no one else is around you.
Let me give you an example. As the excellence of gold is its purity and the excellence of art is its beauty, so the excellence of a man is his character. The excellence of a Christian is his character. The excellence of a nation is its character. You see, a person's character is the sum of his or her disposition, the sum of their thoughts, the sum of their intentions, the sum of their desires, and a sum of their actions. 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 33, let's read it in the New Living Translation. It really tells what happens, you know, when you are ignoring character to the point where, you know, you're not paying attention to who you're hangin' around. I told each of my daughters when they graduated, I said, you know, "The three or four people you choose to hang around will determine what kind of person you're gonna be". And the Scripture says this in 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Don't be fooled by those who say such things, for bad company corrupts good character".
Bad company corrupts good character. What kind of company have you been keeping? See, I know you're saved, and I know you're a Christian, but the issue that will determine how far you can go in life is your character, and if you're wondering why you hadn't made it and if you wondered why this door hadn't opened, I am telling you, it's an issue of character. And this Scripture tells us that bad company will corrupt character. And we've got to be a little bit more cautious, or should I say more prayerful about who and what we're hangin' around because the devil is after your character. Don't you know the devil knows that you won't go past your character? And if he can get you stuck at a certain place and get you in a place of compromise, then you'll find yourself there year after year after year until you're ready to develop and master the issue of godly character. Character, please let me make sure you understand this, is gauged by general tendencies, not on the basis of a few isolated actions. And what I mean by that is you have to look at the whole life of a person, you know, before you start talkin' about their character. I mean, we all miss it every now and then, and so I can't judge your character because of a few things that go on in your life.
I've gotta look at your whole life, and I often tell people, "Don't let one mistake define who you are. Don't let one bad decision define who you are". And so one bad decision should not define who you are. One stupid action should not define who or what you are, but it's amazing how that Christian people love to define, we love to define one another by the one action or the one bad decision, and what happens is you hold on to that, and you don't see somebody for ten years, and when you see 'em later on, the first thing you bring up is that one bad decision or that one action, and you don't recognize that they're not at that point anymore; they have gone down the road. They have dealt with their character issues. Their life, in some cases, is much better than yours because you're not looking at the whole picture, the whole life. And so I wanna look at a few Scriptures here and make commentary on these Scriptures where character is concerned, and over the next few weeks, we wanna get into this so we can start cultivating our character.
I wanna begin to teach you how to develop character so you can teach your children how to develop character. Man, I wish I'd have known this when I was raisin' my kids. Taffi and I had to learn a lot of stuff as we were doin' it, but I'm gonna teach you how to develop character and teach you how to minister to your children so they can grow up with character that will allow them to become all that God intended for them to become. I noticed this Scripture, let's begin in Colossians chapter 3, in verse 12 through 15. Let's read all of 'em in the New Living Translations. Colossians 3:12-15, and he says, "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience". He says, "Make allowances for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourself with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called," watch this, "to live in peace. And always be thankful".
You see, character is shown in how you deal with things. Character is displayed in how you deal with things, and these verses show us how we should treat each other. These verses, verse 12 through 15, each verse tells you, "Here are the things you need to do. This is how you need to start treating one another". And as Christian people, I mean, what good is it if God is tellin' us, "Use these things," "This is how you treat one another," and we ignore them and just start treating each other based on our emotions and our opinions and our political views and not treat one another according to how God says we need to treat one another. So character is shown in how you deal with things and how you deal with people. Look at 1 John chapter 4 in 8. What else can we learn about this? 1 John 4:8, he says, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love".
I started off praying that we've got to figure out how to walk in love above everything else, and we're not doin' that. We've kind of thrown it out the window, and we've exalted these other things above the thing that's the glue for our life, and that's the love of God. How do you treat those around you? I mean, do you love them, or do you retaliate against them? See, because, when you're lovin' someone, you're not so busy trying to figure out how to retaliate against them. You're not so busy trying to figure out how to get back at somebody. You know, the love of God may even cause you to kind of back up a little bit off certain things just out of love. And I'm tellin' you, when we, the body of Christ, can genuinely walk in the love of God instead of walkin' in retaliation because we were offended, then that's gonna show the type of character that you need in order to reach the places where God wants you to reach.
Look at Romans 13, in verse 14. Romans 13, in verse 14. He says, "But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provisions for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof". Look at this in the New Living Translation. See, pleasing God, this Scripture is talkin' about either you're gonna be pleasing God, or you're gonna please yourself. Now, look what he says: "Instead, clothe yourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don't let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires". See, this is real simple, and I'll go back, you know, earlier this year or the end of last year. You've gotta decide, "Am I interested in pleasing God, or am I interested in pleasin' myself? Do I wanna bring pleasure to God, or do I wanna bring pleasure to myself"? That's a character issue. That is a character issue, bringing pleasure to you instead of bringing pleasure to God. And if you're bringing pleasure to yourself, it won't be long before you're so self-centered that you're only interested in what you can do for yourself. That will limit you. I promise you. You won't have the character to see hardly any success with that type of attitude.
Look at Matthew chapter 12, in verse 35. Matthew 12, in verse 35. In Matthew 12:35, this is real cool. You're gonna either be a blessing or a stumbling block, and your character here is gonna determine are you a blessing, or are you a stumbling block? He said here, "A good man out of the good treasures of his heart bringeth forth good thing". So you're not gon' bring forth somethin' that you're incapable of bringin' forth, and your character determines what you're capable of bringin' forth into other people's lives. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things," but if you don't have good character, you're not gonna bring forth good things. This next verse says, he says, "And an evil man out of the evil treasures", is your character evil, or is your character good? "An evil man out of the evil treasures of his heart, he's gonna bring forth," what? "Evil things".
Listen, man, I can tell you everything about the tree if you'll let me see the fruit that comes on the vine. And I don't know. We just ignore it like it's not there. If there's fruit on the vine, you can't go back and say, you know, if there's an apple on the vine, you can't go back and say that's an orange tree. You gotta call it what it is. It's an issue of character. Look at this, Matthew 23, verse 25 and 26, while we're there. Matthew 23:25-26, he says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess". Verse 26, "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also". In other words, you can fool men, but you can't fool God. You can fool men with that bad character, but you can't fool God. He sees your heart, and he knows your intentions. He sees your heart, and he knows your intentions.
And let me look at this one right here, Titus chapter 1, verses 15 through 16. Look at this in the NLT. I believe that our character will be shown. I believe that what you end up doing is a result of your character. And verse 15 and 16, says, "Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothin' is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and their conscience are corrupted". Verse 16, "Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good". That's a character issue. When you see these kind of things and when you see this kind of character operate through the life of people, you already know. I think we just kind of want it not to be so, but you can't continue to go and just ignore what the Bible already tells us. I mean, you don't even need to prophesy out loud when you examine the very truths of the Scripture, especially the heart of man and the character of that.
And so character is somethin' that you hold fast to on the inside and that people see in you on the outside. Character is something you hold fast to on the inside that people see in you on the outside. In other words, eventually, the evidence of your character will be displayed. You hang around a person long enough, the evidence of your character will be displayed. You'll keep it in as long as you can, and then, all of a sudden, man, we'll start seeing it just seep out, bit by bit. You see, cultivating godly character is the objective of this series. It's what we wanna learn how to do, cultivating godly character qualities; now, why? Because it's gonna help you to achieve godly character and probably raise the possibilities of your achievements in life. There are certain things that won't be achieved until you begin to allow some of these godly character qualities to infiltrate your character and to change you.
Now, please understand somethin'. External character, sometimes some people polish their character, and they appear well-polished, but without a new heart, without the new creation, then all you're gonna do is produce works of righteousness that are born out of self-centeredness and that are born out of legalism, and so I'm not talkin' about you just, "Oh, I hear character is the problem, so I'm gon' do these five things in my own ability to try to fix it". The first thing I want you to know is that you need God, that you need a new heart, that you need a new creation because to try to achieve what I'm talkin' to you about tonight cannot be achieved without that new creation on the inside of you, without that new heart on the inside of you, and you can try and try and try to do all kinds of things to produce better character in your life, and it'll only remained for a minute because it's legalism that you're operating in.
But what I'm asking you to do is invite Jesus to come into your life. Invite Jesus to come into your heart. Let him give you a new heart, have a new creation, and then out of that new creation, it'll give birth to fruit. It'll give birth to a good character. And I see lots of people that try to, you know, polish their character up, make it look like that they're this kind of person or that kind of person, and it never works. Eventually, the real you will be on display, and so I'm not talking about a work of the flesh. I'm talking about a work of the Spirit where eventually we'll be talkin' about the fruit of the Spirit, but I want you to know that it takes fruit time to grow. But, you know, if you have the Holy Ghost workin' on the inside of you and you have God living on the inside of you, then you're gonna see some things change in your life.
So let's look at some qualities that will produce godly character. I won't have time to cover 'em, but this is just an introduction to this message, and let's look at the first thing. I believe that this first one, this first quality that produces godly character, without it, I don't think you're gonna see anything else. And so, yeah, you probably guessed it, and it would be love. But I wanna teach this to you a little differently. I know that, you know, people say, "Well, love is a decision and not an emotion". The love I'm talkin' about is so much more powerful than that because, if people really had the God kind of love, no matter what the issue is, they would always face that love. And love would always, like, pull 'em back in place and put 'em back in place, but if you're walking in an imitation of love or some kind of a polished love, but it's not love that's come by the Spirit of God, you'll be able to tell because there are certain things your emotions will move you to do a lot greater than the love that you say you have for people or a spouse or whatever.
So this is important that you hear what I'm saying. So Romans chapter 5, is the one Scripture I want us to go through here, well, several of 'em, but in Romans 5:5, he says, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us". So, first of all, you see the love of God given to us by the Holy Spirit. So this is not a man-made manufactured love. This is not an emotional love. This is a love, it is a supernatural God kind of love that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is supernatural because it came from God, and it is now a part of our natural lives, and we have access to a love that is probably the greatest weapon that you could ever have as a human being.
I believe that love is the foundation for godly character, and I believe that's what's missing. I believe, when we walk away from the Bible and we walk away from our churches and we walk away from prayer, and then we try to be like God without God, we try to be Christians without principles from his Word... heh, you know, I just believe that, when you understand where this love comes from, comes from God and his Spirit, then you'll understand you have somethin' that this world doesn't have and can't give you.
1 John chapter 4:19 says this. I want you to see. He said, "We loved him because he first loved us". See, we didn't even have the ability to love God with the human love, but what God says is "I'm gonna give you my love, and now you can love me". So, again, this is love that comes from God. God says, "I'm gon' give you my love, and you're gonna love me". And then look at Galatians chapter 5, in verse 6. So I'm talkin' about a love that comes from God. I mean, we call ourselves "one nation under God". Come on, man, let's get the love that comes from God. Let's be a Christian nation. We don't look like one right now. Let's be a Christian nation and abide by the principles of God.