Summary: A series of lessons on Christian ethics (1-4)
The Key To Moral Excellence
The apostle Peter says:
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;" (2 Peter 1:5)
The word virtue, as we understand it, means, ’moral excellence,’ and the apostle exhorts us to give all diligence, i.e., to ’simultaneously give our whole earnestness,’ in adding moral excellence to our faith.
The apostle Paul concurs saying:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)
To, think on these things, is to do so with a view to putting them into practice. If there be anything virtuous or of moral excellence, we are to think on these things with a view to putting them into practice.
There are many scriptures that exhort and admonish us to modify our behavior; the way we behave is either moral or immoral. Murder, for example, is universally recognised as unacceptable behaviour, it is immoral. A person who is charitable, on the other hand, is universally recognised as good or virtues.
In this lesson we shall discuss the following points:
1. Prerequisites To Moral Excellence
2. Developing Moral Excellence
3. Moral Excellence And Associated Dangers
I. Prerequisites To Moral Excellence
A. In order to live a virtuous life there must be a desire on the part of the individual to change. Without such a desire there can be no genuine attainment of virtue.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6)
1. The essentialness of desire before change is seen in the following illustration.
"A friend of mine was encouraged by his wife to attend keep fit classes. Every week should would invite him to come along but he always refused. Why did he refuse? Quite simply, he did not have the desire."
"On a visit to the doctors for a regular check up, my friend was told that, unless he started shedding some pounds pretty quickly, he was heading for some serious medical problems. My friend did not need to be told twice and has been attending keep fit classes with his wife ever since."
2. The doctor’s warning aroused a desire in my friend to modify his behavior.
3. The scriptures abound with examples where desire precedes change:
a. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
1) He demanded his inheritance and then squandered it all away in riotous living (15:12-13).
2) When he finally ’hit bottom’ he reflected on his predicament (15:14-17).
3) Now note the sequence: thought (17), desire (18-19), then his behavior was modified.
"And he arose, and came to his father" (Luke 15:20).
b. King David, desiring to preserve his life, modified his behavior accordingly.
"And David arose and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house" (1 Samuel 21:10-15)
c. Eve’s desire to become wise led her into sin.
"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:6-7)
B. It is also necessary that we nurture the appropriate desires:
1. Only God’s law reveals what is morally good and bad:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16-17)