What is character? Does character really even matter? I would say yes, on the basis of 2 Peter 1:5-8 which tells us to “make every effort” in our character qualities. According to The Dictionary of Bible Themes, character is defined as “The moral and mental features that define a person, whether good or evil.” In other words, the character of a person is the heart (moral) and mind (mental) of a person. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, and the heart speaks what the mind has thought upon, which then reveals your character. The words a person speaks are the pathway into the heart and mind of a person. That is why after many conversations with a person, you feel like you know what they are like, you see their heart and mind, you see their character. So character is important in the Christian life, but how is character formed?Your character is formed essentially by what you love and hate. What you love and hate will form what you are like (your character). I have heard it said before, “You will become what you behold.” And I think that statement has truth in it. After all, Scripture does say that we become like Christ by beholding Christ, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). So, what should we behold about David to help our character? What did David love and hate? Two essentials in his life were that David hated sin and loved God. And this made David a man who was repentant of his sin and devoted to his God. That is what David was like, that was part of David’s character, and it should be a part of ours. Let’s look at these two qualities of David then, and hopefully become more like David in these areas.
Repentant of His Sin – The two Psalms where we can see clearly that David was genuinely repentant (which in essence is turning away from sin and turning towards God) are Psalm 32 & 51. In Psalm 32 David says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit… I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity.” We see in Psalm 32 that lack of deceit was a characteristic of true repentance. What is repentance without deceit? It is hating your sin in private as well as in public. It is having the same degree of hatred toward sin in private as you do in public. Deceit is defined as misrepresenting the truth, it is saying one thing on the outside, but not saying it on the inside. So repentance with deceit is essentially the definition of an actor. What is an actor? An actor is someone who is confessing to be someone on the outside but under the mask is a different person entirely. That’s deceitful (I’m not saying being an actor is wrong, it’s just an illustration to prove the point). In essence then, outward confession alone is two things. 1) love for sin, and 2) hatred towards God. Inward confession, which will bring outward confession is 1) love for God and 2) hatred towards sin. Where do you stand? True repentance then is confession on the inside (heart & mind) which leads to confession on the outside (privately always & publicly when necessary).
Psalm 51 is the other Psalm that reveals what genuine repentance looks like. David says in it, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (vs. 1). We see honesty here. True repentance is honest with God. He admits his sin and does not hide any. He is not saying, “I am willing to give up this sin, but not that one.” No, true repentance is complete repentance. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being” (vs. 6). Again, we see a lack of deceit occurring as we saw in Psalm 32. We see truth on the inside. We also see brokenness. David says, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (vs. 17). David actually cared about obeying God. He had a real hatred of disobedience. It hurt him, not just when he was in public, but when he was in private. Do you grieve your sin before others but not when you’re alone? That is false repentance… It is not real, it is being an actor. Lastly, I would like to point out that false repentance brings false joy, while true repentance brings true joy, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (vs. 8). And they will, joy and gladness will come to those Christians who truly repent of their sin and seek to live obediently for God.
Devoted to His God – Acts 13:22 refers to David and says, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” That is the definition of being devoted to God. Being devoted to God is being devoted to God’s will: “Father not my will, but yours be done” Jesus taught us. Importantly though, we must never seek to be devoted to God for establishing acceptance with God, but rather we must seek to be devoted to God from already having acceptance with God by faith alone in Jesus Christ. True devotion to God starts with recognizing that you could never be truly devoted to God. Here’s what I mean: You cannot earn your righteousness, nor does Christ give you the power to earn your righteousness, Christ has earned your righteousness for you and gives it to you freely, by providing you with it and the faith to receive it. He gives you a box (faith) and puts his gift in it (salvation). Salvation belongs to the LORD and every component thereof. I say all this because true devotion to God should produce a desire for God to receive all the glory. Real devotion starts with this truth: relying on another’s work in your place for your salvation, namely, Jesus Christ and his perfect devotion unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). There is a lot in Scripture about how the Christian should live in devotion to God, and that is good, but the foundation of devotion to God in Scripture is the gospel (see Romans 1:5). The gospel is not just Jesus takes your sin off of you, it is also Jesus puts his righteousness on you. Paul found this out the hard way, and what he had to say after the fact was, “I have suffered the loss of all things (self-righteous deeds) and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). Paul tried to be devoted to God through self-righteousness, and he was found to be opposing God, but later God showed him he was wrong.
David, like Paul, experienced the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ apart from works as well (see Romans 4:6-8). David believed in the future King of Israel who gave David forgiveness, covered his sin, and did not count his iniquity against him (see Psalm 32:1). David’s foundation of life was that he looked at God’s merciful promise to provide the Passover Lamb, and rested his case in that. David was forgiven because his faith was in God’s promise of giving him the Christ. David’s punishment was put on Christ, David’s sins were covered because Jesus covered them with his blood, David’s iniquities were not counted against him because they were counted against Jesus on the cross. And it is the same for anyone today who trusts in Christ Jesus alone for their forgiveness of sin.
In summary then, devotion to God starts with knowing and trusting in the fact that Christ devoted himself to God in your place, so that you could be forgiven and live a life devoted to God by faith. And because of this, you ought to live a life of devotion to God in doing good works to the glory of God (Titus 3:8).