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World Gone Crazy: The Character Cycle part 2

November 8, 2015

Tom Elenbaas

Proverbs are short sayings that provide wisdom for making good decisions and living life well. In the Bible, there is an entire book of Proverbs with everything from practical advice about friendships to advice about money and parenting. But there is one proverb that interesting shows up twice, and has a wider focus than a mere practical application. It goes like this:

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” [‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:12‬; 16:25]

For the sake of where I’m headed with this, let me break this down into three parts:

Way → Right (True) → Death

Jesus, when he is speaking to his disciples, says something that echoes this proverb, but in a way that turns it on its head. Jesus says this:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – John 14:16

Again, for the sake of where I’m headed with this, let me break this down into three parts:

Way → Truth → Life

Some would call this the “principle of first mention.” When Jesus gave his version of the proverb, his hearers – who knew the Proverbs well – would have most likely immediately recognized the first mention, and the change that Jesus made. In fact, it may have been even clearer to his disciples in the original languages. And the bible echoes this over and over again, this idea that there are two ways:

One way that seems true leads to death.

One way that is true leads to life.

In the Old Testament, God says something that echoes this idea to the Israelites when he says the following:

“I have set before you life, and death; blessings and curses. Now choose life.” –Deuteronomy 30:19

Psalm 1 talks about two ways to go: the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

Jesus says that there is a narrow path and a wide path, a narrow gate and a wide gate. The wide path (the one that seems right to us) leads to death. The narrow path leads to life.

There are no two ways about it, there are two ways. (see what I did there?)

So, this is how character is formed. Our characters are formed as we take one step after another in a particular direction, forming the pathways of our lives, the “way” in which we walk, the life that we live. So, going back to my previous post on Francis Schaeffer’s question, “How Then Should We Live,” we live according to the character that has been formed in us. We have all been “spiritually formed” through the practices of our lives and the paths we tread.

Enough background. In the next two posts, we’ll talk about habit formation, the character cycle, vices, virtues, and how we can literally begin living life differently.