Lesson 1- Character Building
“The Purpose of True Education”
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 2:5
“Character building is the most important work ever entrusted to human beings; and never before was its diligent study so important as now.” (Ed 225)
“The change from earth to heaven will not change men’s characters; the happiness of the redeemed in heaven results from the characters formed in this life, after the image of Christ.”( 6BC 1072)
“In every generation and in every land the true foundation for character building has been the same-the principles contained in the word of God. The only safe and sure rule is to do what God says. ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, and he that doeth these things shall never be moved’ (Psalm 19:8;15:5) It was with the word of God that the apostles met the false theories of their day, saying ‘Other foundation can no man lay than that is ‘ (I Corinthians 3:11)” (AA 475)
Matthew chapter 5, 6 and 7
The Desire of Ages pages 298-314
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing
Our study begins in Matthew chapter 5 with what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount opens with what is known as the Beatitudes. It is important to know the backdrop upon which these words were spoken.
“Understanding what the words of Jesus meant to those who heard them, we may discern in them a new vividness and beauty, and may also gather for ourselves their deeper lessons. When the Savior began His ministry, the popular conception of the Messiah and His work was such as wholly unfitted the people to receive Him. The spirit of true devotion had been lost in tradition and ceremonialism, and the prophecies were interpreted at the dictate of proud, world-loving hearts. The Jews looked for the coming One, not as a Savior from sin, but as a great prince who should bring all nations under the supremacy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (MB 2)
With this misconception of His ministry, Jesus spoke to the disciples in the hearing of the multitude. He began the sermon with these words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:2,3. This teaching was contrary to all the teachings the disciples or those in the multitude had ever heard from any priest or rabbi. They had been taught to honor and covet positions and rankings.
“In the days of Christ the religious leaders of the people felt that they were rich in spiritual treasure. The prayer of the Pharisee, ‘God I thank Thee, that I am not as the rest of men’ (Luke 18:11 R.V.) expressed the feeling of his class and, to a great degree of the whole nation. But in the throng that surrounded Jesus there were some who had a sense of their spiritual poverty.”
Christ’s very first lesson to the multitude was that they needed to recognize their spiritual poverty. This is the first lesson for those who would become students in the school of Christ and teach others. In classical education the opposite is taught. Students are encouraged to be the best, to be prideful, to choose careers based on how much money can be made.
Christ continues, stringing together important principles of true education.
“Throughout the Beatitudes there is an advancing line of Christian experience. Those who have felt their need of Christ, those who have mourned because of sin and have sat with Christ in the school of affliction, will learn meekness from the divine Teacher.”
We feel our need for Christ, we mourn because of our sins, and we learn meekness from the divine Teacher. This meekness creates in us a hunger and thirst for righteousness, as the hunger and thirst are filled we learn of the mercy of God which creates in us a desire to be pure in heart. Because of the purity that is now within, we desire to be peacemakers. This change within us stirs our enemies and we begin to be persecuted. We count the persecutions a blessing because Christ was persecuted in the same way and we can now rejoice knowing that our reward is in heaven. Within the Beatitudes, we have a beautiful picture of the progression of the Christian walk.
The Spirituality of the Law
The sermon continues. “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” Matthew 5:17
Christ knew that His teachings were not only revolutionary, but contrary to anything those in the crowd had ever heard. He knew that some would accuse Him of doing away with the law and teaching His own thoughts and ways. Addressing this reasoning within their hearts, He declared that He had not come to destroy the law, but yet to fulfill it.
“But Israel had not perceived the spiritual nature of the law, and too often their professed obedience was but an observance of forms and ceremonies, rather than a surrender of the heart to the sovereignty of love.
What is the main objective of True Education-that our hearts and minds would be completely surrendered to the heart of God. We want our children/students to obey, but we want them to do it out of love and not as an observance of forms and ceremonies.
The True Motive in Service
“The words of Christ on the mount were an expression of that which had been the unspoken teaching of His life, but which the people had failed to comprehend. They could not understand how, having such great power, He neglected to use it in securing what they regarded as the chief good. Their spirit and motives and methods were the opposite of His. While they claimed to be very jealous for the honor of the law, self-glory was the real object which they sought; and Christ would make it manifest to them that the lover of self is a transgressor of the law. “
In True Education, the motive for service is never selfish. We never seek to help others so that we may be benefited. We may be and often are benefited by helping others, but this should never be our focus. Service is an integral part of true education
The Lord’s Prayer
“The disciples had come to connect His hours of prayer with the power of His words and works (MB 103).
Christ gives the Lord’s Prayer twice. Once to the multitude in the Sermon on the Mount and then again while with His disciples alone. This repeating of the prayer shows just how important it is. As important as this prayer may be, it serves only as a model of how we should pray to the Father.
First we address Him as “Our Father”. Not my Father, or your Father, but Our Father signifying that we all are a part of His family. He is not ours alone. He died for the entire world. And though He would have died if there were just one individual needing to be saved, He died for all.
“The very first step in approaching God is to know and believe the love that He has to us (I John 4:16); for it is through the drawing of His love that we are led to come to Him. The perception of God’s love works the renunciation of selfishness. In calling God our Father, we recognize all His children as our brethren.” (MB 105)
We recognize that His name is holy.
“We are never in any manner to treat lightly the titles or appellations of the Deity.”
We pray for His kingdom to come.
Christ promised the disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for them and that He would return to take them home. “His kingdom will not come until the good tidings of His grace have been carried to all the earth. Hence, as we give ourselves to God (character building), and win other souls to Him, we hasten the coming of His kingdom.”
We pray that His will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
“…In heaven, service is not rendered in the spirit of legality.”
“There is perfect unity between them (the angels) and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His word are re-echoed, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yeah Thy law is within My heart’” Psalm 40:8 (MB 109)
We pray that daily Christ will give us bread.
“The first half of the prayer Jesus has taught us is in regard to the name and kingdom and will of God-that His name may be honored, His kingdom established, His will performed. When you have thus made God’s service your first interest, you may ask with confidence that your own needs may be supplied. If you have renounced self and given yourself to Christ you are a member of the family of God, and everything in the Father’s house is for you.” (MB 110)
Just as we pray “Our Father”, we pray to give “us” our daily bread. In this prayer we are asking not only for ourselves, but for others. “And we acknowledge that what God gives us is not for ourselves alone.”
“The prayer for daily bread includes not only food to sustain the body, but that spiritual bread which will nourish the soul unto life everlasting.
“We receive Christ through His work, and the Holy Spirit is given to open the word of God to our understanding, and bring home its truths to our hearts. We are to pray day by day that as we read His word, God will send His Spirit to reveal to us the truth that will strengthen our soul for the day’s need.” (MB 113)
We pray for forgiveness.
“Jesus teaches that we can receive forgiveness from God only as we forgive others.” “He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God.” (MB 113)
“God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart.”(MB 114)
This is the essence of character of building. As we experience the forgiveness of God, that forgiveness will automatically flow out to others.
“The one thing essential for us in order that we may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has to us.”I John 4:16
“Forgiveness, reconciliation with God, comes to us, not as a reward for our works, it is not bestowed because of the merit of sinful men, but it is a gift unto us, having in the spotless righteousness of Christ its foundation for bestowal. (MB 115)
We pray to be delivered from temptation and from the evil one.
“Temptation is enticement to sin, and this does not proceed from God, but from Satan and from the evil of our own hearts. ‘God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man’. James 1:13 R.V (MB 116)
“God in His great love is seeking to develop in us the precious graces of His Spirit. He permits us to encounter obstacles, persecution, and hardships, not as a curse, but as the greatest blessing of our lives. Every temptation resisted, every trial bravely borne, give us a new experience and advances us in the work of character building. The soul that through divine power resists temptations reveals to the world and to the heavenly universe the efficiency of the grace of Christ.
“But while we are not to be dismayed by trial, bitter though it be, we should pray that God will not permit us to be brought where we shall be drawn away by the desires of our own evil hearts. In offering ourselves to the guidance of God, asking Him to lead us in safe paths. We cannot offer this prayer in sincerity, and yet decide to walk in any way of our own evil hearts. In offering the prayer that Christ has given, we surrender ourselves to the guidance of God, asking Him to lead us in safe paths. We cannot offer this prayer in sincerity, and yet decide to walk in any way of our own choosing. We shall wait for His hand to lead us; we shall listen to His voice, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it” Isaiah 30:21 (MB 117)
God allows us to be tempted so that our characters may be strengthened. When we patiently bear these trials and teach our children to do so, we will experience victory.
We affirm that the kingdom, power and glory belong to God.
“The last like the first sentence of the Lord’s Prayer, points to our Father as above all power and authority and every name that is named. “In the prayer that breathes their daily wants, the disciples of Christ were directed to look above all the power and dominion of evil, unto their Father and everlasting Friend.”
As we look unto God, our characters will become more and more like the one we are beholding.
Not Judging, but Doing
As we allow Christ to transform our character, we will have sympathy for those who are not in Christ and the spirit we manifest toward them will be gently and not one of judgment.
“The effort to earn salvation by one’s own works inevitably leads men to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. For, seeing that they fail to keep the law, they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this turns the mind away from God to self. His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for his fellow men. A system of human invention, with it multitudinous exactions, will lead its advocated to judge all who come short of the prescribed human standard. The atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism stifles the noble and generous emotion and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies.” (MB 123)
“Those who have never experienced the contrition of an entire surrender to Christ do not in their life make manifest the softening influence of the Savior’s love. They misrepresent the gentle, courteous spirit of the gospel and wound precious souls for whom Christ died.” (MB 125)
“When the doctrine we accept kills sin in the heart, purifies the soul from defilement, bears fruit unto holiness, we may know that it is the truth of God. When benevolence, kindness, tenderheartedness, sympathy, are manifest in our lives; when the joy of right doing is in our hearts; when we exalt Christ, and not self, we may know that our faith is of the right order.”
Each chapter has a nature lesson that ties in with the theme that is being studied. The objects for our consideration are rock and sand.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ refers to the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man that built his house upon the sand. In our lesson, we are given a definition for both rock and sand and shown how this applies to our lives and character building.
|You can be a wise man!||You, hopefully, are not a foolish man|
|The Word/Jesus is the rock.||Self if the sand.|
|“We build on Christ by obeying His words.” (MB 149)||“But every building erected on other foundation than God’s word will fall.” (MB 150)|
|Character is the house being built.||Character is the house|
“There are five areas of disharmony with the Word of God in educational theories and practices. These are only a few examples of disobedience; there are others, such as: social structure and codes agriculture as part of the curriculum, ostentation in place of simplicity, and character of entertainment.”
- Incentive Motivation
- Nature Study and Occupation
- Parent Education
We will cover these in greater detail in our future studies.
“Never for all our alarms and challenges and calls to repentance and prayer and revival efforts, never shall we effect a reform, till we go to the roots of the matter. We need to face up, as Christian men and women, to the stark facts, repent of our folly and indifference and neglect, and turn with all our heart to God. May the Lord so direct and control you that your homeschool shall become more like God’s Eden school than like the Greek school of the past.”
Additional Resources for further study:
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