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CAN A PERSON CHANGE HIS PERSONALITY, PART 2

Is it possible to change your personality? Replace bad habits with good ones? The Bible implies that we can...

By requiring us to add the Christian virtues. We are to give all diligence to add to our "...faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8). "Add" (epichoregeo, "supply or equip") here has an interesting background. Coffman says it refers back to old Athens where it was considered a great honor for a citizen to cover the expenses of a public ceremony, outfit a warship for the state, or provide community entertainment. It was used specifically of providing a "chorus" (which is derived from this Greek word, as is choreographer). Guy N. Woods notes that the graces which adorn the Christian's character are to be chorused into a grand symphony to the delight and pleasure of Him who fashioned and made us for His own good pleasure. There are eight graces, and they thus form an octave of soul tones, the first being faith, the last love, an octave higher. When these are harmonized and played on by thedivine Spirit, disharmony disappears and life's discords vanish. How we should rejoice that we have been privileged to provide such an instrument in the hand of God!

Several of these graces stand out as personality traits.

-"Virtue" (areta) is used in only four New Testament verses: one by Paul (Philippians 4:8) and three by Peter (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3, 5). It denotes courage. Our English word virtue is derived from the Latin vir, meaning "man." But it de-scribes only a certain kind of man. (Homo was the more common word for "man.") Vir denoted a man who was a "cut above," a man of moral strength, courage, and high character. This is still seen in our words virtue and virgin being used as synonyms for purity. Peter's word means the manliness to be a good man and the determination to do what is right. A virtuous person has the fortitude to stand for Christ no matter the odds, to speak out for Him no matter the costs, even to die for Him if necessary. Peter implies that this personality trait can be added if one lacks it, and can be improved by one who has it.

-"Temperance" is found only two other times in the New Testament (Acts 24:25; Galatians 5:22). It refers to self-control —"keeping oneself in check" (engrateia, from en and krates, "one who holds himself in; getting a grip on self"). An athlete's discipline is an example of temperance (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; cf. Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7, 8). Robert R. Taylor, Jr., states it memorably by saying temperance is "reason's girdle as well as passion's bridle." Chrysostom said it meant "mastering passion of tongue, hand, and unbridled eyes." Felix trembled when Paul discussed controlling the excesses of his personality with him (Acts 24:25).' A saint is not one who gets away from the world, but one who stays in the world but never lets it get into him. Temperance is the opposite of the "let go" philosophy of the wild world around us. Those who do not master themselves are controlled by the whims of their peers or the majority. By contrast, Christ's personality was controlled to the point that He yielded Himself only to God (John 8:29; cf. Romans 6:13), as should we. This surrender produces self-control of these expressions of our personalities: (1) Our tempers (Ephesians 4:26; cf. Genesis 43:31); (2) Our tongues (James 3:1-12; Psalm 39:1, 2). (3) Our thoughts (Matthew 15:19) or our passions (e.g., sports) (Philippians 3:12-16; Titus 2:12). (4) Our tendencies (1 Corinthians 6:12). A temper-ate person totally abstains from forbidden things and re-strains from overindulgence in allowed things. The second is harder for many of us. We can avoid drunkenness, for in-stance, but it takes great effort to stay within proper limits of eating, exercise, recreation, and sleep.

-"Patience" (hupomone, "abiding under") is the ability to resist evil and bear up under difficult circumstances (James 1:3; 5:7-11; Romans 2:7; 5:3-5). It means to "remain when others have departed; not to flee." 2 Thayer says "... un-swerved-from his deliberate purpose...by even the greatestof trials and sufferings." No race was ever won by a runner who quit (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). Self-control is the ability to handle life's pleasures; patience is the ability to cope with life's pressures; longsuffering is the ability to endure problem people. Often, one who "gives in" to pleasures will "give up" under pressure and "blow up" with people. Jesus said, "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19). Patience does not come automatically; we must work at it. We must alter our personalities (cf. James 1:2-8).

-"Love" (agape) is the crowning virtue. Love leads off Paul's list of the Spirit's fruit (Galatians 5:22); love closes Peter list of virtues. Paul wrote, "And the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13; cf. Colossians 3:14). Agape is the highest level of love, the kind God shows sinful, unworthy men (Romans 5:8). It is the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, and the love the Spirit produces in our hearts (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22). With brotherly love, we love because of our likenesses to others; with agape love, we love in spite of our differences with others. This does not come naturally; we must alter our personalities to be more loving.

Can we change traits of personality? Absolutely! Let's get started!

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 9/November 18, 2004
Page 2