Subject: The Proverbs Ladder of Character: How do I determine My Personal set of Morals?
Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Over the past 3 months, we’ve looked at 72 detailed Old Testament prophecies that were all fulfilled by Jesus Christ, as God who came in the flesh to not only offer me salvation from my sins but to be the Lord of my life. The evidence is incontrovertible. These prophecies were outside the control of any person to fulfill them on their own (such as the specific town they would be born in). The odds that any person could fulfill just 8 of these 72 prophecies is 1:100,000,000,000,000,000. The odds are so enormously in favor of Christ being who He claimed to be, that the Bible says those who ignore the evidence are foolish.
So what does Christ want from me? He doesn’t want my money or my time, or whether or not I go to church. He wants to live in my heart – He wants me. He is after a relationship built on trust, as a Father with a son or daughter who love each other. He cares about who I am becoming, not what I do. He promises that if I allow Him to lead me, He will work in me to mold my character, so others around me see Him in me. That’s what it means to glorify Him. I hand over the controls of my life to Him, as my trusted Father.
It’s the essence of Matthew 5:16, when Jesus said “Let your light so shine among men, that they may see your works and glorify your Father in heaven.” The light Jesus is talking about isn’t my light that I somehow have manufactured within me. It’s Him, the Light of the world (John 8:12) who lives in me. Listen to His promise in John 14:23: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and my Father will love Him, and We will come to him and MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM.”
So where does He focus His energy? It’s not on improving my performance, working to make me a “better” person. It’s what Proverbs 18:10, the focal verse this week, is all about The Hebrew word for ‘name’ is CHARACTER. It means my inward MORAL integrity that manifests itself in my behavior. So God is saying “people I see as righteous are the ones who run to Me because they desire My character in their lives.”
But what do we mean by morality, and where does it come from? God says in the Bible that my moral character isn’t the same as my nature. When we speak of the “nature”, we mean the inherent, physiological characteristics of people or animals that direct their function and behavior (for example: the nature of fish is to swim and breathe underwater, while the nature of man is to walk and breathe air). But moral character isn’t found in animals, and it isn’t made by God and given to us. It’s the essence of who He is. To define morality, we only need to examine the character of God.
Is this how American culture defines morality? In the 1828 edition, Webster’s Dictionary defined morality as “relating to the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, with reference to right and wrong. The word moral applies to actions that are good or evil, virtuous or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined.” Now look at Webster’s 1990 edition: “living in accordance with an established set of principles of right or wrong conduct; capable of recognizing and then conforming to such principles”. Notice that the reference to the absolute standard of “right vs. wrong” being God’s written law has been removed from the 1828 edition.
How did we end up in this place? Pastor R.C. Sproul explains: “Morality looks at the verb ‘IS’. Ethics looks at the word ‘OUGHT’. This distinction has been obscured in our day. People use the term ‘morality’ and ethics as synonyms. That leads to statistical morality. We go around the nation seeing what people are DOING (‘is’), rather than seeing if what they are doing conforms to what they OUGHT to be doing (example: if statistics show that cheating on your spouse has become a common practice, then the ethics of fidelity to your spouse is replaced by an acceptable moral practice of adultery). So ‘good’ ends up being determined by what IS instead of what OUGHT to be.”
The foundation of my personal morality is the set of truths I embrace within me that define who I am. How I think will then be based on how I view who I am, and then how I feel and ultimately how I act are expressions from my thoughts. As Proverbs 23:27 says, “..as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”. If my moral foundation isn’t God’s character, then He isn’t living within me and leading my life. I’m left to make up my own morality (Webster’s 1828 definition doesn’t apply to me). It comes down to a choice I must make: God’s way (as He reveals His ethics in His word, by His very character) or the world’s way.