Let’s consider how our character can be confrontational in a biblical way (as opposed to just being nasty or antisocial). Once we put our faith in Christ, he justifies us – puts us in right standing with God the Father as his adopted sons. We’re now part of the family. We are God’s people, his possession, by the salvific work of Christ. But justification does not change our character, that would be the process of sanctification, and it’s life-long. Maturity, in the biblical sense, is the result of the process of sanctification, by which we increasingly reflect the image of Christ in every aspect of our existence.
So it would seem to me that the bottom line is this: to what extent have we been conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8.29)? Honestly, I’m not sure that we’re qualified to answer that question. We’re biased. Based on the context of our lives, we tend to either be too hard on ourselves or to quick to gloss over serious issues. No, we can’t be trusted with task of assessing ourselves. This is why King David cries out in Psalm 139.23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” We invite God himself to examine us, knowing that he will judge us perfectly.
Of course, David’s prayer is revealing. It shows us humility of character in that he doesn’t assume that he’s fine just the way he is. I think there’s a good chance that David wrote these words in a good time in his life. If this was on the heels of his sin with Bathsheba, there wouldn’t be any “if” in regard to “grievous way” would there? Humility is not only displayed in the way we respond to our failures, but in the way we comport ourselves in seasons of blessing and success.
Humility is also expressed in a desire to be led. David’s request that the Lord lead him “in the ways everlasting” not only reflects his inability to get there on his own, it shows us what he values. David wants this as much as he needs this. For many of us, following the Lord’s leading is more like taking our medicine than savoring a succulent steak. This reluctance to be led is rooted in self-will and our desire to do things for ourselves, much like my kids who would protest during their toddler years: “I can do it myself!”
A helpful point to consider is that our character is revealed not only in our sin, but in our good works as well. I’m speaking specifically in regard to our prayers. The content of our prayers reveals the content of our character. Do we pray as an effort to impress God or others with the soundness and depth of our theology? Do we pray with fear and panic, as though God may fail? Do we pray with an air about us, demanding that God “keep his word” and perform for us? These all reveal pride, anxiousness, and selfishness – not Christlikeness. We can rejoice as the content of our prayers increasingly conforms to thoughts such as, “glorify your son that the son may glorify you” (John 17.1), or “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26.39). Character like that serves the proclamation of the Gospel perfectly!