The Character of Christ

Scripture: Exodus 33:12-23, Exodus 34:1-9
Date: 01/13/2007 
The theme of this message is the character of God. Moses had a yearning to know God more fully. God's glory is His goodness. Sin has separated us from God. There are many references to sinful man fearing death in the presence of God. When God passed before Moses, he fell down and worshiped because he saw God's character.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

We have a good church. I am so thankful for you folks and the spirit here. I really appreciate the men’s choir. I was impressed. The sounded good. I was thinking I might even join now. Of course that would ruin everything, wouldn’t it?

Happy Sabbath. It’s a pleasure to see you and our family as well as our visitors. We’re very thankful that you’re here. I’d like to invite you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Exodus. It was interesting that Carol in her offering thoughts was talking about Exodus chapter 35. Well, I’m going to invite you to go to Exodus chapter 33. Now this is after the Ten Commandments have been delivered orally and if you go to verse 12 Moses is conversing with the Almighty. “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people.” But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”

Then I want you to go down to verse 18 And Moses said, “Please, show me Your glory.” He said, “I want to know You; I want to know Your way.” Moses is yearning after God, and His prayer is “show me Your glory.” Our message this morning is dealing with the subject of the character of Christ. The Character of Christ. I do not think that there is any theme that is more worthy of our attention, after all, what kind of church is this? Christian church. What is a Christian? A follower of Christ. What would be the very best theme upon which we could talk and dwell? Christ, more specifically the character of Christ. So we are in a very real sense entering into sacred ground with our study this morning. Do you have the yearning that Moses had? I mean, here Moses is talking to God, he has seen the burning bush, he’s seen the miracles of God and after all of the wind and fire, manna from heaven, what is Moses’ prayer? I want more of You. He’s not saying, “Lord, I want riches” or “Lord, I want the vindication on my enemies.” He’s saying, “Lord, I want You. I want to know You. I want to know Your way. Show me your glory.” He’s not asking for fireworks.

He’s asking to know the Lord. Notice, I’ll prove this as we proceed here. “Show me your glory,” and here’s what God said, verse 19, I’m still in Exodus 33, “I will make all My goodness pass before you…” So what is the glory of God? The goodness of God. “…and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.” Remember one time Moses said to the Lord when he was first commissioned to go to Egypt, he said, “Whom shall I say sent me to the children of Israel. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but there are lots of gods in Egypt. Whom shall I say?” and the Lord told Moses that He is the self-existent, eternal One, “I Am that I Am,” and He also gave him more specifically the name Jehovah. So He has revealed His eternal nature; He has revealed His name, and Moses is saying, No, Lord. I want to see Your glory. I want to really get a picture of who You are. He said, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, God is speaking, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” Now that’s a heavy thought.

I want to take you on a little detour if that’s okay and talk about seeing God. I collected some verses this morning. We are separated from God because of sin. I mean, you would think why would God want to make creatures that couldn’t see Him? That was not His original plan. Man used to converse with God face to face in the garden, but in the beginning, after sin, man ran from God and God said, “Where are you?” The purpose of the plan of salvation is to restore us to fellowship with God. Sin has separated us. Your iniquities have separated you from your God. But it’s a little confusing sometimes. You read the statements about can we see God or can’t we see God. Jacob wrestled with an angel and he says, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet I am preserved.”

Well, evidently God did not reveal Himself in His full glory because when Jacob first starts wrestling with the angel he doesn’t even know who it is. If it was God in His unveiled glory he would have known right away, isn’t that right? But he found that God had veiled Himself, Christ had come in one of His manifestations before His incarnation. In Deuteronomy 5:4 God said to Moses, I’ve “talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire.” So when the Bible says Moses previously spoke to the Lord face to face, yes, but it was out of the fire. God’s glory was veiled somehow by this light, the smoke and the fire on the mountain He spoke to him. And then we just read where He said, “No man will see My face and live.” Judges chapter 6 when Gideon perceived this was an angel of the Lord he said, “Alas! I’m going to die for I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” Some believe this was Christ because he believed that he had seen the divinity of God, and the Lord said, “Peace, you will not die.” They believed if they saw God in His glory it would just destroy them. John 6:46 the Lord helps us understand this because He said, “Not that anyone has seen the Father…” So when it tells us no man can see God in His glory and live, well, God the Father in His unveiled glory, the presence of the Lord is a consuming fire. Who could endure that?

When Daniel saw the Lord he fell down as though he was dead. When Haggai saw the Lord he said he trembled with fear. When Ezekiel saw the Lord he thought he was going to die. You can see many examples of this among the prophets. Matthew 17:6 when the disciples were on the mountain and they saw Jesus glorified they were overcome with fear, “sore” exceedingly “afraid” when they saw Christ in His glory. I Timothy 6:15-16 “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in…” listen to this. God “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see…” No man in his mortal condition has seen or can see God in His glory. It’s just too much. Even Moses, as good and godly as he was, meekest man in all the earth, he, God said, could not see His undimmed glory, His heavenly glory that the angels veil their faces to. Even the angels cover their faces, holy angels, in the presence of God. Now some of the reason I’m sharing this with you is I just wanted to raise your concept of the glory of God a notch or two. When we come into church here, you know sometimes the pastors and elders here, we’re constantly harping about reverence. We’re doing this because God tells us that His holiness is something we cannot even endure.

If He should suddenly manifest Himself to us the way that He did to Moses I daresay that many of us wouldn’t survive the experience. I’m not done yet. I John 4:12 “No man hath seen God at any time.” Revelation 1:17, John gets this vision of God in His glory. “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” This is that holy Saint John. “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’” Just as He laid His hand on Daniel when he almost fell down. When an angel of the Lord appeared to resurrect Christ or to roll away the stone, the guard fell down as dead from the glory of an angel. So right now if God should enter this place and if He should peel back the veil that separates the physical from the spiritual and let His glory shine forth undimmed the presence of the Lord is a consuming fire. What is it that destroys the wicked? The wicked are destroyed by the brightness of His coming, His very presence.

God is awesome and glorious. I Corinthians 13:12, here’s the good news, right now in our mortal condition, in our sinful condition, we can’t behold Him. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then” in our glorified condition. We may veil our faces, but we will see Him “face to face.” And if you have any doubts, last chapter in the Bible, Revelation 22:4 “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” I want to see Him face to face, don’t you? So just to give you the background for why God is saying to Moses in his mortal condition no man, no human, your mortal flesh cannot endure it, but I want to show you as much as you can handle because I love you and we’ve got this relationship. He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” That’s verse 20. And God says in verse 21, I’m back in Exodus 33, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

Oh, it just gives you chills to think about the glory of God and here Moses is saying, “I want to see Your glory.” And God is saying, “The only way you can do it is if you’re in the rock.” You know you’ve sung that song, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,” based on this passage of scripture. So there’s another exchange between the Lord and Moses and finally in verse 5 the moment comes. He is going to receive the Ten Commandments, but what Moses wants is to see His glory. I’m in chapter 34 of Exodus, verse 5, “Then the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there,” Moses is in this cleft of the rock and God places His hand over Moses and He passes by as He descends and He removes His hand. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed,” verse 6, “‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.’ So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.”

Now after Moses saw just even this glimpse of God’s glory, he couldn’t see His face, oh, he was overwhelmed with a desire to worship. What was it that compelled him to just worship overflowing with adoration? He saw a bright light? A lot of religions talk about a bright light. You could go to Vegas and stand on top of the Luxor Hotel and see a bright light. There’s a lot of things you can do to just get a bright light. You can ask the police to shine their searchlights in your face. That won’t inspire your worship. What was it that evoked this desire to worship? He saw the character of God. Now I want you to think about that because the character of Christ, that’s our message today and we’re going to look at some of the specifics.

First I want to begin with a definition. What is character? It is “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group or thing from another. A distinguishing feature or attribute of an individual.” You may not know it, if you’ve been wondering what a character is, you’re probably sitting surrounded by them right now. We’re all characters. Sometimes a person says that in a derogatory way, “Boy, he’s a character.” But what that means is we all have our distinct characteristics and you all have your unique character. Someone said one time “Reputation is what others think about you and what you might want others to think about you, but character is who you are regardless of what people think.” Sometimes the public opinion will turn against a person who has a great character. It did against Jesus. his reputation changed among the politicians but His character did not change. What topic could be more important for us to talk about than the character of Christ? Nothing. This is the best thing we could do in church. II Corinthians 3:18, why are we talking about the character of Christ? Notice, II Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face,” God had to hide or veil His face, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” is it the bright light or is it the character? What is the glory of God? It’s His personality.

It’s who He is. It’s not just a bright light. By beholding “the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” As you and I behold the character of God, these attributes of God, our souls are something like a photographic plate. When you pull aside the shutter for an instant and close it again even digital cameras use the same principle. It’s got a shutter; it opens and closes. It captures an image. You and I beholding Christ, His characteristics, His character is impressed on our souls. This happens with children. Children often assume the characteristics of their parents. They say that with a number of animals and especially with birds, they’ve got this time they call imprinting. When ducks, it’s very common in ducks and swans and some of these birds, that when they first come out of the shell whatever they see they start peeping and chirping. They will bond, it imprints on them and they say, “Mama!”

It’s really funny because sometimes… Karen and I were watching this Nature video and they’re trying to retrain these Whooping Cranes, which are a threatened species, to multiply and get into their regular form of migration. It’s quite a challenge because the scientists that are trying to train them know about this bonding. They showed this one lady that happened to be there when this Whooping Crane hatched, and the thing just follows her around all the time like a dog in the house. They said, “This one, it’s hopeless now. We can never train this one to be a wild Whooping Crane because it bonded, it was imprinted with a human.” And it goes to the beach with her and everywhere she goes it follows her around her house, sleeps in a bed next to her at night. It would drive me crazy because the thing is like a little ostrich. So what the biologists have to do for these Whooping Cranes, they dress up like cranes. They dress up in white and they’ve got this puppet on their arm and when the chick first hatches all they see is this puppet and it’s got a crane’s head on it and they’ve got a microphone and it’s playing crane “music” through this thing and so they think it’s like a real crane and they can associate and they’re not malformed thinking that they’re humans. Every time these scientists do anything with these cranes they’ve got to dress up in their Whooping Crane suits. It’s kind of funny. They feed them with this little Whooping Crane puppet so they don’t get psychologically disturbed and need therapy and everything because they imprint.

When you’re born again, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and that’s why it’s so important for those of us who have been in the church that are Christians that we model Christ for others because when people first come into the church they’re going, “So what is a Christian anyway?” They’ve just hatched; they’re a baby Christian and they’re looking at you, and you’re going to imprint them. A lot of these folks come into the church, they’re wondering what’s appropriate behavior, what’s appropriate conduct and that’s why it’s so important we’re Christ-like in our behavior. Because if the existing Christians are not modeling Christ very well then the new Christians don’t stand a chance, do they? That’s why often in some churches where we’re not constantly lifting the standard the pattern of Christ-like living continues to plummet. So as we behold Christ we are transformed from glory to glory. When Moses began to behold the glory of God, what words came out of his mouth? First of all, it talks about the Lord, and the word he used twice there is Jehovah. Jehovah, God. And then he said God and the word God there is El Elyon and it means powerful God. And then he begins to give specifics.

Merciful which is synonymous with forgiving. This is a characteristic of God that should be replicated in His children. God is merciful. What does Jesus say in His constitution? In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” There in Micah 6:8 “what does the Lord require of you” oh, man, “but… to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” God wants us to love mercy. Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them,” Jesus said, “for they do not know what they do.” Even when Christ was dying He showed mercy on His persecutors. Heard about a missionary George Atley who was hired by the Central African Mission and he carried a Winchester repeating carbine with 10 shells in it. It was quite a lethal weapon in its day. He was out in the brush and in Africa they needed that for the wild animals. He was a missionary who had established a new mission. He ran into a small group of hostile natives and he sized things up.

They had their spears and they were threatening him. He knew he could have dispatched them quickly with his rifle, but he set his rifle down. He calculated, “I’ve got to show mercy on them because our whole mission project will be in jeopardy if I use violence against them.” He laid his rifle down and he allowed them to kill him rather than defend himself. When they found him, his rifle was at his side; he hadn’t fired a single shot. He showed them mercy. He was willing to sacrifice himself in order that he might save them. That’s what Jesus did. He laid down His life to save others. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” We are to model the glory of God and the character of Christ and one of those attributes is He is merciful, He’s forgiving. Psalm 52:8 “I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” He is longsuffering in His mercy for us which brings me to the next point.

Patience, this is one of the things that was identified in the character of God. Patience and longsuffering are characteristics of Christ. Galatians 5:22 By the way if you’d like to better understand the personality of Jesus… Would you like to know Jesus better? How do you fall in love with anybody? They send you a name? Some people begin to date on the Internet. I’m not criticizing that. I think it might be a nice vehicle. There are dangers there because if all of your exposure is based on the Internet, it’s possible that somebody could portray themselves as tall, dark, and handsome. They could e-mail you a counterfeit picture and you may not really know who they are. You can get to know a person through letters. I know two people who are very happily married.

They didn’t do it through the Internet, but one was doing mission work and the other was in North America and they corresponded by letter and they fell in love with each other based on the letters and they’re still happily married many years later. They got to know each other based on the communication. That’s one aspect. You can sort of get to know a person through their communication. But there’s more to it than that. You want to be able to behold them and really know who they are. I think I can find this for you real quick. I saw something just this morning as I was touching up my sermon. Sabbath morning, that’s 90% of my sermon I touch up. This is from Good Housekeeping 1985. Ladies, listen carefully. “Six ways to learn everything you need to know about a man before you decide to marry him.” I don’t see anyone reaching for their pen. This is good. “Watch him drive in heavy traffic. Play tennis with him.” I guess you have to learn to play tennis, but I think the point is that, see how he behaves competitively. Some men act like total gentlemen, but as soon as they’re watching a football game or they start behaving competitively it’s like they become possessed. “Listen to him talk to his mother when he doesn’t know you’re listening.” He’s going to talk to you that way someday. By the way, Spirit of Prophecy says the same thing.

Look at how he treats his mother because that tells you a lot about his concept of and respect for women. By the way, this works both ways. “See how he treats those who serve him.” Is he condescending to waiters, maids and people in fields of service, the clerk at the market? Is he degrading? Is he impatient? Is he kind and respectful to those people because if he’s not to them, someday he’ll treat you like a servant and he won’t be kind either. “Look at his friends.” And then it says, “Notice how he spends his money and what he buys.” That tells something about how a man spends their money, tells something about their priorities. And I like this, “And if you still can’t make up your mind, then look at his shoes.” I’m not going to look up, but I think everybody is probably looking at my shoes right now because I’m up front. “Look at his shoes. A man who keeps his shoes in good repair usually tends to the rest of his life also.” This was written by Lois Weiss. That’s pretty good wisdom there, right? I mean, you really don’t know a person just by getting their email. Sometimes you’ve got to behold them in a variety of circumstances.

I heard one pastor say, actually I think it was C. D. Brooks, he said, “Today everybody says you need to live with a person to get to know them before you get married.” He said, “You don’t need to get to know a person by sharing a bed with him. That’s usually not what causes divorce. You share a checkbook with him and you’ll find out whether you’re going to survive or not.” People always wonder if the plumbing is working. They say, “I’ve got to live together for a while to make sure we’re compatible. That’s rarely where the problem is. A lot of people… I think they’ve shown statistically that marriages are more inclined to fail when people live together before marriage than if they do it virtuously. That’s what the data supports. Now how did I get there from patience? I’m talking about patience and longsuffering. Romans 15:5 “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus…” He is the God of patience.

That’s one of His characteristics. II Thessalonians 3:5 “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” Our hearts must assume the mind and heart of Christ and what is it? the patience of Christ. Christ is patient. The very fact you and I are alive is evidence of that. Amen? The penalty for sin is death, we’ve all sinned and yet we’re alive, why? God is patient. He’s “longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish.” Revelation 1:9 “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” Do we all agree patience is one of His characteristics? Then he tells us Jesus said, “By your patience possess your souls.” Here is the patience of the saints.

Another characteristic that we find about the Lord that it would be appropriate for us to model is truth and honesty. Jesus is the truth. The Bible tells us “the truth will set you free”. God cannot lie, the bible tells us. He is the very embodiment of truth. It’s an attribute of His character that I would like to emulate. I think for a Christian you never hesitate deciding whether or not to tell the truth. You might hesitate deciding how to say the truth, but you never hesitate wondering shall I tell the truth? A Christian should always have it resolved in his mind never to tell anything but the truth. When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Pilate said, “What is truth?” It’s interesting they had this exchange because Christ had the opportunity to just alter the truth a little bit and save His life, but He was willing to die rather than lie. Have you ever known somebody that had such a respect for the truth?

I think the conventional wisdom of our age is, well, of course you’ve got to lie because you’d get charged more if you don’t. I remember, it made an impression on me I’ll never forget and, with all due respect for my mother, my brother and I stood in line. Mom frequently took us to the theater, plays on Broadway, or the movies and you know twelve and under different price. We’d stand in line. My brother, because he had cystic fibrosis, was short for his age. He was my size, even though he was two years older than me, most of my adolescence. Finally caught up and we were the same size in adulthood, but he was always the same size as his younger brother. So we’d stand in line, Falcon is fourteen years of age, and Mom would say to him, “Now they’ll never know. Just say you’re twelve.” That made an impression on me. I thought, “I guess it’s okay to lie to save money.” What kind of signal does that send? Then you wonder when your kids grow up why they evade their taxes.

Christian, you don’t even consider it. The truth is the truth is the truth. My father knew Eddie Rickenbacker. Eastern Airlines, he was the president. You know the war hero. Some of you still remember who I’m talking about. Ernie knows who I’m talking about. World War II aviation hero Eddie Rickenbacker survived in a lifeboat with his men and he came back to be president of Eastern Airlines which was basically across the street (now it’s defunct) but it was across the street from where my dad’s office was. Eastern Airlines was buying new jets when they were transferring from prop planes to jets. Eddie Rickenbacker was talking to Boeing, giving you a little inside history here, and he was talking to McDonnell Douglas. Back then Donald Douglas was still alive president, a very honest man. Eddie Rickenbacker was going to buy some planes and they were comparing the Boeing, comparing the Douglas aircraft. By the way, that’s how I got my name.

Did I ever tell you that? Yeah, my father was in the Burbank Airport, didn’t know what to name me. My mother said I’d been born and right there the St. Joseph’s Hospital across the street from Burbank Airport had a picture of a stork carrying a baby and it said “The only thing faster is the DC3 McDonnell Douglas.” My father said, “That sounds like a good name.” So that’s how I got my name. This story is close to home. Anyway. So Eddie Rickenbacker calls up Donald Douglas and he said, “The planes are very close, the Boeing and the Douglas, the new jets, and,” he said, “can you improve on Boeing’s sound efficiency for quietness?” because back then the jets were so loud. He said, “If you can tell me that, Mr. Douglas, I’ll buy the planes from you. All you’ve got to do is promise me that you can improve on Boeing’s sound efficiency.” It would have been so easy to glibly say, “Sure we can do it!” and have a multi-million dollar sale. He said, “Let me talk to my engineers.” He talked to his engineers, he came back, he said, “We can’t improve on it.” Eddie Rickenbacker said, “I knew you couldn’t, but I wondered if you were still honest.” And then he bought the planes from Douglas. Honest man, rather than lie and get a multi-million dollar sale, promise something he knew he couldn’t deliver, he told the truth and said, “You know I don’t think I can do it. Hate to lose the sale, but it’s the truth.” You know God is looking for people who are honest. Jesus is truthful. He is the truth and the truth will set you free.

How many of you know somebody who has that kind of integrity and honesty? Do you know somebody like that? Do you like them? Is that something that sometimes annoys you that they’re so honest? I love those kinds of people. I’m attracted. There’s so much deception in the world. Jesus is that kind of person. It should attract you to Him. Do you know patient people? How many of you know somebody that is a good listener? Everybody loves a good listener. Good listeners don’t spend all their time talking about themselves. They’re interested in you. We like those kinds of people. That’s how Jesus is. Sometimes it helps us love Christ when you meet Christ-like people, you say, so that’s what Jesus is like! He’s the embodiment of these characteristics. It goes on to tell us, I Peter 2:21 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example…” Jesus is an example. What kind of an example? “…that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth…” Not even a little bit. Not the slightest bacteria of dishonesty was in His mouth. Christ was perfectly pure and honest in everything He said, and He is our example, Peter said, that we should do as He did. We should be perfectly honest. D. L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” It’s who you are when you don’t think anyone is watching.

It goes on to tell us speaking of Christ and this is the vision of Moses, He is “abounding in goodness”. What is good? I looked up a definition: “Moral excellence or admirable, desirable, or positive qualities.” God is good. You know one reason I know that? Look at the creation. It’s interesting in Genesis chapter one the word “good” appears seven times. The last time it appears, it says, “very good.” And then James tells us “every good and perfect gift comes from God.” Everything God does is good because God is good. One time a rich young ruler came to Jesus and he said, “Good Master, what must I do that I might inherit eternal life?” And Jesus stopped him before he went any further. He said, “No one is good except One and that’s God.”

Christ was not denying His goodness, He was embracing His God-ness. And I understand even in old English if you trace the word God back it is drawn from the word good. So when you say good morning to people, in old English it used to be God morning. The word good and God were springing from the same word in the early Anglo-Saxon language because God is the embodiment of everything good. It’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. And so by beholding the glory of Christ and His goodness what does that do? It leads us to repentance. By the way, that’s Romans 2:4. Exodus 33:19, “He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you…’” Isn’t that what we read? Goodness is sort of the coalescing of all of His characteristics, but we go on and we read about the characteristics of Christ.

Is it safe to say that among His attributes Jesus is meek and humble? Meekness, humility. Matthew 11:28 Christ says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” By beholding His glory, we become like Him. “…for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” One reason I know that the Holy Spirit is working in my life is because of the way I drive; it’s changing. Some of it is, as you get older you’re not in such a big hurry. I was talking to Karen. I was on my phone, but I was on the cordless. I had both hands on the wheel on my way home from prayer meeting this week and while I’m talking to her she’s hearing me give her the blow by blow description of how I’m almost being killed. I stopped at this intersection of Fair Oaks turns onto Walnut, the way I always go home. Actually it wasn’t prayer meeting, it was last Saturday night.

These two cars were racing, two teenagers that were just full of vinegar racing. I stopped because the light turned yellow. When I was younger I would have… yellow is very close to green and I would have tried to go through. You mellow out a little bit and so I stopped. I’m in no hurry and these guys, one of them screeches on his brakes, almost plows into me, stops just inches from me, leaves a big black strip. And the one he was racing with, he didn’t have time to stop. He drives over the concrete median into oncoming traffic and just barely makes this deadly squirrelly turn off onto another road and I thought about that and I thought, praise the Lord my angels are on duty. Then I thought I remember when I used to drive like that. I remember when I used to get upset when someone pulled in front of me. You know when traffic is merging I’ll slow down and let one person in front, but sometimes people try and take advantage of you and they try and get their nose in there and I just crunch my nose up there and I say, I’m not letting you in. But you walk with Christ a little longer and you say, all right you too, go ahead. What would Jesus do?

It’s hard, but you let them in. They have no manners; they don’t understand roadside etiquette but be meek, let them in. You don’t have to honk the horn and make gestures. Just be meek. That’s how Jesus is. How would Jesus do it? Can you picture Jesus laying on His horn and glaring at them? So this is the meekness of Christ. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Two of the beatitudes have to do with humility and meekness. Did you know that? “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” That’s the humility, the meekness, the recognizing our poverty of spirit. “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” We must behold His glory and allow the meekness, the humility of Christ to be impressed on our soul.

I understand even though he was often very gregarious and outspoken that Winston Churchill was somewhat of a humble person. One time he had just finished speaking to ten thousand people and he walked off the platform and someone said, “Mr. Prime Minister, it must be quite a thrill to have ten thousand people gather to hear you speak.” He said, “It doesn’t mean anything to me,” in his gruff way. He said, “A hundred thousand would come and watch me hang.” You know some of the same people that gathered to hear Christ speak, some of the very same people that said, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” gathered to watch Him hang, didn’t they? Christ did not have any illusions. By the grace of the Lord, I try to keep balance. Whenever you stand up and you say anything if you do anything right there’s always the temptation that it’s going to be about you, but God has been good. I know that He can also have you stand up in front of a lot of people and have you make a total fool out of yourself at any moment and so you need to take it all in stride and keep perspective. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as a little child, he shall be great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:4. Let me read you a quote from the Spirit of Prophecy. Desire of Ages, page 134, “Jesus came in poverty and humiliation that He might be our example as well as our redeemer. We should be humble as Christ was. If He had appeared with kingly pomp, how could He have taught humility? How could He have presented such cutting truths as the Sermon on the Mount? Where would have been the hope of the lowly life in Jesus that He had come to dwell as a king among men?” Christ came humbly to teach meekness and humility. Moses who said, “Lord, show me Your glory,” what does the Bible say about him? He was the “meekest man in all the earth.” You know it’s always made me wonder where do you find that statement “Moses was the meekest man in all the earth?” Come on scholars. Where is it? It’s in the books of Moses. Who wrote that? Did Moses write that he was the meekest man in all the earth? I think it might have been a commentary that was inserted by somebody else. Joshua may have added it. Moses might have said it because he knew that he had a terror of crowds. Remember when God said, “Go talk to the pharaoh,” and he said, “I can’t speak! I’m no good up front.” He was a meek man. I’m anxious to find out in heaven who actually wrote that. Did Moses write he was the meekest man in all the world?

Another characteristic of the Lord; compassion. Now when you say the word compassion, in the word compassion is the word pathos. The word pathos means feeling. That’s where we get the word in our language empathy. When you empathize you feel what another feels. Sympathy means you’re feeling what someone else feels. Jesus feels what we feel. He has compassion. Matthew 9:36 After preaching He realized the multitudes had sat there all day, they hadn’t eaten, they were wandering around like sheep without a shepherd and He fed them. He had compassion on the multitude. Mark 1:40 Now “a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ And Jesus, moved with compassion…” He tells a parable in Matthew chapter 18 about the king and the unmerciful debtor and it says the king was moved with compassion. Jesus’ heart just pulsated, it was swollen with compassion for people. He feels what we feel.

Sometimes we wonder if the Lord knows what we’re going through, but oh, He does, better than you do. And if you’re hurting, He’s hurting. He feels it. How many parents ache with their children when their children are hurting? You ever have a child go into surgery? You ever seen your child really hurt themselves? I remember when little Nathan, I told you some of the story, he broke his arm this last year. You look at your kid and see their arm twisted and obviously broken and you see that they’re wincing and they’re in agony it just breaks your heart to watch him or her. the empathy we feel for our children is somewhat natural. Even animals have an element of that, don’t they? Love for their offspring. But the Lord feels that infinitely more for us. He feels. That’s why Jesus came. He’s sensitive to our state; He has compassion for us. And though He said to the leper, “I am willing; be thou cleansed.” You know I remember reading… I talked a little bit about pilots today.

You know Will Rodgers, the famous humorist, was also a pilot. He actually died trying to cross the polar cap in an adventure. He was a great humorist. Next to Mark Twain there have been few people who have had a better clean sense of humor than Will Rodgers. Periodically he would go and do these little benefit performances or talks and he would try to cheer people up. He went to this one hospital in Southern California. It was a polio hospital. A friend of his was the director. His name was Marion Barry. I know it sounds similar, but it’s someone else. Had this hospital for polio victims. Many of them could not walk. They also were treating people who had paralysis from back injury and other serious injuries. They all gathered them in this ward and wheeled them in then he got up and he gave his little talk in this very engaging way and had even these people that were paralyzed in stitches laughing. After a while he excused himself and went to the restroom and the director thought, “Oh, there’s no towels in there!” and he went to bring him a towel and he opened the door and Will Rodgers was leaning against the wall crying and sobbing uncontrollably. Pretty soon he collected himself and he went back out and he carried on and had everyone laughing again.

Somebody said one time, you can tell the value of a man by what it is that makes him laugh, what it is that makes him cry, what it is that makes him angry. That really reveals something about a person’s character. Do you laugh at other people’s misfortune or do you laugh at yourself? What made Jesus angry? When someone slighted Him? When someone mistreated Him? No, He never got angry about how He was treated. Jesus got angry when He saw others mistreated or when He saw the glory of God defaced as in the temple when He chased out the money changers. When He saw the disciples steering the children away from Him, it really bothered Him and He wanted them brought to Him. Jesus stood up for those who were oppressed. He got angry with false teachings that kept people in bondage when He derided the scribes and the Pharisees and the hypocrites because they were leading people astray like wolves. You can learn a lot about a person. Christ had compassion. You can tell from the way He responded.

In keeping with compassion I added another category. Jesus is gentle and tender. That’s one of His characteristics. Mark 10:14 and 16 When He saw the children chased away, Jesus “was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’” And notice, “He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.” This is what reveals the character of Christ: His tenderness, His compassion, His sympathy, His love, His goodness.

What is your character? Can you change your character? I’ve already told you that we are transformed by beholding the character of Christ. You become like your friends. Do you know why? Because people are creatures like little ducks we sort of absorb the behavior of those that we idolize, those that we spend time with. Why is it, why should it be a concern of parents who our children’s heroes are? Because they want to emulate their heroes. Why should it be a concern to parents who their friends are? Because they start talking like and acting like their friends.

You will act like your heroes; you will act like your friends. Is Jesus your friend? Is He your hero? That’s how we become like Him. Somebody once said, and I don’t know who it is, but this is an old adage, “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” It begins with your thoughts that often then play themselves as actions that then become habits that really communicates what your character is that determines what your destiny is. By the way, you know why it is so important for us to talk about the character of Christ? It’s by beholding His character it’s superimposed on us and what is the only thing you get to take out of this life? You don’t get to take your clothes. We might fix up our church, but we don’t get to take our church. It’s going to just melt someday. You don’t get to take your car, your house. You might remodel or redecorate, you don’t get to take it.

The only thing we get to take… You might even have cosmetic surgery, you don’t get to take that to heaven. The only thing you get to take is your character, who you are, and you get to take other characters with you. That’s true! That’s why I’m involved in ministry is because I’ve said many times this is the most important work in the world. You name something that’s more important than trying to win souls to Christ, trying to encourage people to stay with Christ. The work that you do as a Christian, and that I do as a Christian is a work in helping people to model the character of Christ that they could live forever. That’s the most important work in the world. Praise the Lord!

Christ is faithful. I Corinthians 1:9 if you had any doubts it says it many times. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” to bear. You can trust Him. How many of you have a friend that you know you can always count on? If they say they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it. If they say they’re going to be somewhere, they’re going to be there. If they say, “If you ever need help, give me a call,” they’re not just reciting clichés but they really mean it. Do you know some people like that? They’re faithful, you can count on them. Those are the kind of people that we love. Isn’t that right? Christ is that way. He will never let you down. He will never disappoint you.

It would be incomplete if I didn’t take some kind and talk about another characteristic of the Lord. He’s awesome! By the way, I need to give some credit to our pastors. You know what I did is we got together for our staff meeting this week and for worship I said alright, I’m going to get some mileage out of this worship. I asked everyone on our pastoral staff, Rosie and the pastors and Melissa, I said, “Tell me the characteristics of God that you think of. Name them.” They began to recite all the different characteristics of God. We got a pretty long list.

I can’t give you everything on my list. We just began to think of the characteristics of God and how wonderful He is and how good He is and all of the different beautiful attributes that He has and so I just wanted to give them credit where credit is due. Just thinking about the facets of His character, but one that we must not pass is the awesomeness of God. I Kings 8:27 Solomon said when he built the temple, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” He’s so big, He’s so awesome! Revelation 1:17 “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” We’ve already read that because of the power, the awesomeness of God. You know I think that word awesome sort of got overused a couple of years ago.

It was the in word among the teenagers. They’d talk about some television personality or some rock star and they’d go, “Wow, man! They’re awesome!” And the problem with that is, you use up a good word and you have nothing left. We’re in the day and age where everything is jumbo and mega and we apply it to soft drinks and pretty soon you don’t have the adjectives that really belong to God to use anymore for God because the same things we say for rock stars and jumbo drinks we’re using for soda pop and television personalities and you just don’t even want to use that word anymore for God. But what words do we have to describe the incredible immensity of God? Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” God is omnipotent. He’s all-powerful. Some of us appreciate our friends in high places, don’t we? He is omnipresent. He can always be with us. He is omniscient.

He knows everything. Do you have any friends that just always know everything? I guess they’ve got this TV program called “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and one of the features they have is if you don’t know the answer you’re allowed to pick your smartest friend at some point and call them up. If I was ever in that predicament, I’m not saying I’d ever apply for that program, I’m just saying that I know a couple people I would call. They’re just absolute brains. They’ve got facts tumbling out of their minds all the time. They know everything about everything. Sometimes they’re the most unassuming people. They’re so smart because they read all the time and they remember what they read. It’s fun to have those friends because whenever I’m in a pickle sometimes I can call them up and say, “Hey, I need an amazing fact. I’ve got a radio program.” And they just, “Well, let me see…” and they’re emailing me these incredible things, this knowledge. I like knowledge, don’t you? I like people with that characteristic. Jesus is like that. He knows everything. I Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal,” He’s a king, He’s a monarch, “immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever.” Paul is looking for words to describe the immensity of God. He really waxes eloquent.

Finally what would I be leaving out when I talk about the characteristics of Christ? There’s a lot I’m leaving out, but I’ll tell you, I didn’t want to quit before I said love. I mean if you’re wondering about His characteristics. God is love. For God so loved the world. Jeremiah 31:3, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” God is love. Jesus is love. Have you ever looked at somebody and you’ve seen their expression of love? You might see it in a mother looking down at her new baby before they turn into real children. You just see this sparkling glow of love and just adoring the child. Well, Jesus loves you more than that. He loves you more than any mother loves their child. Romans 8:37, one of my favorite verses, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. God is love.

As you consider the characteristics of Christ here are a few others you might add to the list. God is pure. God is good. He is our hero. He is strong. He is righteous. He is holy. He is our advocate. He intercedes. He’s our friend. He’s joyful. He’s rich. Anyone here like a rich friend? Merciful, generous, simple, selfless, eternal, fearless, consistent, gentle, wise, and He’s human. He was tempted in all points as we are tempted. He identified with us. Yet without sin. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His…”

Who knows what the next word is? “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” What was it that they beheld? Did John see Him shining? Well, at one point on the Mount of Transfiguration, but when John says, “We beheld His glory” what is he talking about? What was the glory of Christ that they beheld? His characteristics. Like a diamond that is shining with all of these beautiful, varied facets and it’s unique from every angle, they beheld in this human the Word was manifest the personality of God was revealed in Jesus. That there is probably one of the most important things I could say. The personality of God was revealed in Jesus, and you and I need to get to know Him because we become like Him as we get to know Him. I Corinthians 11:1 Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” How can you imitate Somebody that you don’t know? Have you ever known somebody who was an impersonator?

There are a few good ones out there and most of us here have tried at least once or twice to impersonate somebody, sometimes a family member or somebody who’s got some very (sometimes it borders on mocking) they’ve got idiosyncrasies. Probably one of the most famous impersonators was a guy named Rich Little. He could impersonate the singing of a man, of a woman to the tee their voice, their mannerisms and it’s hilarious because it was so much like them. He’d pick up on all the idiosyncrasies. I would like to be able to personate Christ, to model Christ. Paul says only imitate me as I imitate Christ. By the way, I’d like to say that to you. Friends, don’t imitate Pastor Doug except the areas where you see me imitate Christ and the characteristics of Christ. I’ve been praying this week as I prepare for this message, Lord, I want to be more like You in everything I do. I want to evaluate my behavior so that I imitate the characteristics of Christ. Horace Greeley said, “Fame is vapor. Popularity is an accident. Riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that’s character.” Are you developing a character like Christ? Could you love a person with these characteristics that we’ve identified? Jesus is that way and more and so I invite you to behold His glory, to behold His goodness, and that you might be modeling your life after His. That’s my prayer and we’re still early enough in the year where I think that’s a good New Years goal. Amen? That we could behold His glory and be like Christ, that we could model Christ for others and that we will be real Christians who follow Christ.

You know our closing hymn is going to talk about some of the characteristics of God, His immortality and His power. It’s number 21. It’s really an anthem and so before you stand I’m making my appeal now because I want us to sing this anthem without interruption to the glory of God. If it is your desire to allow Christ to plant His glory and His character in your heart that you could live out the life of Christ then let’s stand and let’s sing this song to His praise. Number 21. “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”

Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small; In all life Thou livest, the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; All praise we would render; O help us to see ‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

Father, we would pray show us Thy glory. Hide us in the cleft of the Rock, the Rock Jesus and then we pray that we will have the panorama of Your beautiful characteristics pass before us. Help each one of us here listening, watching to be awed as Moses was as we behold that there is a being that is so good and loving and merciful and compassionate and powerful. Lord, I pray that we will be overwhelmed with a sense to fall down before You and worship You, to praise You and then to imitate Your characteristics in our lives. Bless each person here that we might fix our eyes on Jesus and as we behold Thee that Your characteristics, Your attributes might be imprinted on our souls. Lord, I pray that we might imitate You and that we might model You in this lost world that people might know through Your body who Christ is. Bless each person here. Forgive us for the times when we have failed to imitate Christ. Help us to be Christians not only in name, but in character. It’s in Jesus’ name we ask. Amen.

You may be seated and again I’d like to remind you that this is a place, a house of prayer. If there are those who would like to stay behind a group will be offering prayer here in the sanctuary so we want to leave the sanctuary reverently.

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