Character, Part 2 - page 2

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From the Winter 2006 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Character, Part 2

by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

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  Our thoughts definitely influence our actions. Our actions tend to form entrenched patterns—our habits—virtue or vices. The sum total of these habits (virtue or vices) is our character. And our character certainly influences our destiny. The battle for character is determined in the little thoughts and actions we do. When thoughts and actions are omitted, it can have a devastating impact on our destiny. To borrow the form of an old saying:

For want of a thought,
an act is lost.
For want of an act,
a habit is lost.
For want of a habit,
a character is lost.
For want of a character,
a destiny is lost.

  For a number of years I was an instructor for Prison Fellowship, traveling to numerous prisons throughout the country for two- to three-day in-prison seminars. At many of these prisons, I would be inside for about 12 hours at a time. Often I had time during breaks and during lunch and dinner to hear inmates’ stories. One inmate was a pharmacist. He started by selling a drug without a prescription to someone who wanted it. That led over time to numerous sales and a whole pattern of drug dealing. He told me that he never imagined when he sold that first drug illegally that he would end up where he was now—in prison.
  At another prison, I met a pastor. His wife got involved in an adulterous affair. When he found out, he was so angry that he wanted revenge. So he went to see a prostitute. He saw her again and again. That led to relationships in the underworld—prostitution and drugs. He gradually began (perhaps at first being blackmailed) to get involved in pushing women and drugs. The rumor of his involvement spread on the streets. One day after preaching his sermon, a little nine-year-old girl walked up to him and said, “My mom says you are the best preacher in the whole world, but I don’t see how you can be the best preacher and do the things that you do.” That comment devastated him. He was appalled at how far down he had fallen. For about a week he scarcely got out of bed. He repented of his sin, but he had to go to prison for the crimes he had committed. This pastor’s destiny was profoundly altered by that little thought of revenge and consequently acting on it. He went down the road quite a ways before he turned back.

Sow a Thought, Reap an Act

  Deciding what goes into our minds is the beginning of dealing with character. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of our thoughts. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” A first step in our transformation involves rejecting those thoughts from the cultural environment around us that are opposed to Christ and, rather than being conformed to that pattern of thinking, to pursue the renewing of our minds. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul indicates that prior to coming to Christ, we can be enslaved, “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Not only the flesh, but the mind is in captivity. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus says that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment.” So good thoughts in the heart issue good words, and evil words flow out of evil in the heart. The treasure of good thoughts filling the heart spills over into good words and good actions. Matthew 15 says, ‘’It is that which comes out of the heart that defiles.”

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