Vol.22 No.4 December 2003
How To Mentor Character Into Others
Part 2: Focus on Conviction For Character
The greatest golfer of them all was probably Bobby Jones. As an amateur, he won so many honors and
tournaments that he retired at the young age of 28. Bobby had played 14 years of incredible, superlative golf.
Grantland Rice, the famous sports writer, called him a man in 10 million. He conquered a terrible
perfectionist temper and his last years were even more courageous. This master athlete lived in a wheelchair,
having spinal degeneration.
Jones was a man of impeccable character. In 1926 at the US Open Tournament, he drove his ball into the
edge of the woods. Before hitting the ball, he moved a leaf under the ball, and then chipped to the green and made
par for the winning score. But he didn’t win! While no one saw him move that leaf, which illegally moved the ball,
Bobby realized it had happened. So he called a penalty shot on himself and, in so doing, lost the match by one
stroke and thousands of dollars. His character marked the game of golf and still influences much of its play.
Compare the character and control of most players in any other sport golfers are way ahead.
Convictions built over time make instant choices easy. This week I bought three, bargain-priced 2-liter
Diet Dr. Peppers (a favorite drink of mine, I might add!) and was given too much change for my $5 dollars.
I returned it. I didn’t have to think a second about giving back the overage. Years ago, my parents had taught
me with Scripture, spankings, and rewards that taking what wasn’t rightfully mine was stealing.
Our life is filled with tiny life-molding opportunities to be true to Christ. I wouldn’t trade Jesus’ love and
presence for a few dollars, or for a million, nor would our family. As a pastor of a large church I had all
kinds of deals presented to me. I was asked to put my name on someone’s project, book set, or real
estate deal, and share in the profits they would get from using me to get in the homes of my flock! Men asked
me to let them buy our church mailing list of over 3000 names. I said No to all of them. Remember,
convictions built over time make instant choices easy. These choices then become our character.
Steps to Developing Character
What are the steps to character
development in our lives, in our children and in those we mentor? A good answer came from Captain Jim Downing.
To give you a bit of his history, this Naval officer was stationed on the Battleship West Virginia with 2,349
other men at Pearl Harbor when six torpedoes and two bombs hit the ship, and it was partially sunk. I heard
Jim speak when he was in the Navigators’ ministry. He was white-haired, tall, 80-plus and strong. Later Jim
gave me permission to share some written words with you.
What is character and how is it formed? It all started when an army chaplain in Germany shared a particular
concern with me: I have checked the records of every person in my unit and found a majority have listed
themselves as belonging to my own denomination. And yet not one of them has ever shown up at my chapel service.
Why? I told the Chaplain I didn’t know, but would give it thought and study. Light on the chaplain's concern
was received when I did a study on character. Christian character may be compared to three links forming a chain
forged and joined to the existing links one by one. The names of the links are: KNOWLEDGE, CONVICTION, and CHARACTER.
Knowledge knows what the Bible teaches about a given subject. The members in the chaplain's unit who
belonged to his denomination were undoubtedly well taught. So their failure to attend chapel was not from
lack of knowledge as to what the Bible teaches about corporate worship.
The second link in the chain is CONVICTION. When reading the Bible seriously, most, if not all of us have
had the Holy Spirit impress on our heart and minds that the portion we are reading contains teaching which God
wants us to put into practice in our lives. For example we read, in Matthew 5:23, Therefore, if you are
offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift
there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.
When we resolve to obey, to take personal action on this or some other portion of scripture, conviction is linked
to knowledge. As soon as we make a commitment to obey as commanded in a specific scripture, He allows our resolve,
our conviction to be tested. We are placed in a situation with opportunity to do or fail to do what we have
resolved to do. If we are victorious, the chain is completed, as character is being formed and linked to
knowledge and conviction. The areas in our lives in which we are vulnerable to sin are areas in which we
do not have a history of prevailing when our conviction is tested. Conviction has not yet become character.
Christian character then is related to the commands of scripture… of which we have knowledge…. which we
have resolved TO OBEY…. which we obey consistently when tested.
Obeying all of God's commands is not a requirement for salvation. Obeying only selected commands leads to
self-righteousness and legalism. Obeying all commands applying to us leads to the right kind of Christian
CHARACTER. Having the right kind of character is synonymous with Christ likeness. If character is defined as,
that which characterizes our lives, Christ's life was characterized by, for I always do what
pleases Him.... John 8:29.
God gave Moses 10 Commandments. Jewish Bible scholars find 613 commands in the first five books of the
Bible often called, The Law. At the time of Christ the Jewish Talmud contained about 2800 additional requirements
to be right in God's sight. One of these was washing your hands before eating. Some Pharisees and teachers of
the law once confronted Jesus, Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash
their hands before they eat? Christ responded, And why do you break the command of God for the sake
of your tradition? (Matthew 15:2,3).
When Christ was asked to prioritize the 613 commands of the law He told us that all of them flow from
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind. This is the first and
greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets
hang on these two commandments
(Matthew 22:37-39). To the degree we know His commands, resolve to obey
them, and are consistently successful, we possess and radiate Christian Character. Once we have knowledge and
conviction tested to form character, Satan rarely attacks us in the areas in which he already knows how we
will respond. Instead he pressures us to give place in an area in which Character has not been
Surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s control daily, hourly, will enable us to live the Christ-life. And tiny, correct
decisions can give us strength to follow Christ in the big things. The great sculpturer and painter Michelangelo
said, Trifles make perfection; and perfection is no trifle.
Rick Warren (see http://www.Pastors.com ) writes: Why can millions go to church regularly, hear the Bible,
and leave unchanged? Why did God give prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? To produce Christ-like people.
That’s the purpose of preaching: to help people become like Jesus. How does this happen? Through application. The
only way lives are changed is through the application of God’s word. The lack of application in preaching and
teaching is, I believe, the
number one problem
with preaching in the United States. Application-less preaching
produces Christians who act no differently than non-believers.
A.W. Tozer said, It is change, not time, that turns fools into wise men, and sinners into saints.
For decades my good friend Charlie Riggs was head of all counseling and follow-up for the Billy Graham
Crusades. He shared this observation. I’ve asked literally thousands of pastors in meetings, how
many sermons do you preach a year? 100-150. Well, you’ve had at least that many times in the Word studying
the Bible. Then I asked, with a show of hands, how many of these verses you’ve studied and preached have
been applied to your life this year? I discovered to my amazement the same thing all over the world: that
a great majority of pastors couldn’t remember
a single verse in a year they had specifically applied
to their own life so that they changed!
As a pastor, knowing I needed to see change in many hearts, I prayed how to get closer to my men to help
bring about this change. Application of Scripture is never initially automatic. I felt led to use what
is perhaps the most profitable thing I have learned from Charlie Riggs. Each week as a pastor for 13 years
in Tampa, although pressured by lack of time, I gave priority to meeting with men for small group Bible study
early in the mornings. My goal was to produce self-feeders of the Word, whose lives would reflect Christ’s
character. We used the same four wonderful, inductive Bible study questions which I learned, modeled by
Charlie each week in Texas. Here they are:
Making an application from a passage of Scripture to one’s life was hard. Our group of men were in business,
worked with their hands, were teachers, and repairmen and they had problems with application each
week. Pew-sitters have been brainwashed to major on listening on Sunday, but not on applying. I knew they
had to be shown step-by-step how to link knowledge with a conviction, which produced life-changing application,
and growingly character. When any in the group applied a single verse’s idea to his life, both change and
growth resulted. Some of these men were promoted into major national positions. They wrote me that the times
of Bible study and application were a primary difference between their old lives, and their new jobs and walk
- What does it say? (paraphrase the passage)
- What does it say I don’t understand? (list every question you can think of)
- What does it say elsewhere? (cross references)
- What does it say to me? (personal application)
From that group I asked God to let me then focus on mentoring a handful of individuals a year. Again,
application that produced Christ-like character was our bottom line. The simple steps for getting people into
application of Scripture and character-building are included in my book,
Living God's Word.
Over 10,000 study groups have used this inexpensive tool with stories from life, about making the Word flesh
After you’ve done that marvelous Purpose-Driven Life book with Rick Warren, our
Living God’s Word
could be one of your choices to build character tools into many lives.
- Jim Downing's Essays. For list of essays write him at
- Adopted from web article Purpose Driven Preaching Conference (Minister's Tool Box, Nov. 2003).
- From The Incredible Christian, quoted in Waylon B. Moore's,
(Tampa, FL, Missions Unlimited, Inc. 1992), p51.
for the Bible study blank and
for the how to do it instruction for simple Inductive Bible Study.
- From Lifeway Press, available here at Missions Unlimited, order
or your local Lifeway Bookstore. $8.95, plus postage. With stories from life, about making the Word flesh
A New Year's Thrust Upward: Read A Good Book
HERE I STAND,
A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton, Abington Classic Paperbacks. The best book on a courageous,
country-hearted man, standing against the largest religious, political and military force on earth, and winning.
Larger print, hard covers? Try used bookstores.
Richard N. Smith. You’ll love knowing the real George Washington. No one did it better politically, or in
shaping a young nation for greatness.
LESSONS I LEARNED IN THE DARK,
Jennifer Rothschild, http://www.Multnomahbooks.com . Her gifted voice, piano playing, and joy lifted our
family. She is way beyond her blindness giving you light!
Susanna Wesley, by Dallimore, Baker Pub. A stretcher!
THE SPIRITUAL WOMAN,
Lewis & Betty Drummond, Kregel Pub. 10 principles of spirituality and women who have lived them. Short,
pungent sketches of great women. You’ll be stretched as a man or a woman, and start praising the Lord for
WILD AT HEART,
by John Eldredge, Nelson Pub. I don’t climb mountains or hike the wilderness, but this man found my heart,
and God was talking strongly to me. A major writer gets rather close to the secret of a man’s soul. Women
will discover men!
We are so thankful for you. We loved this new movie! See THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, nearly 3 hours of John's Gospel,
with many verses on the deity of Christ. If you can, see LUTHER film too! Both solid.
Your prayers and gifts continue to nourish us for His ministry. Doors are open! PRAY as I teach MENTORING
in 2004: Midwestern Seminary MDiv. class in Okla. City, (January 8-10); Birdville Baptist, Haltom City, TX (Jan.16:18).
Building Leaders Through Mentoring Workshop at Amerisuites Hotel, Tampa (March 15-16). Germany (April 5-9).
His…yours, love ya,
Waylon & Clemmie Moore