Traits of a Godly Person: Moral Excellence - Part 1

The phrase, moral excellence, to some, might conjure images of judgment and prudishness that they want nothing to do with. However, moral excellence is simply the desire to do what is right, and the choice to avoid doing what is wrong.

We all face moral choices every day. Most of us will not kill, even though that customer we dealt with might be deserving. Most of us will not harm, especially those who are weaker, like a child or a person who is ill. But does this trait of moral excellence come into the world with us or does it have to be taught and learned?

If you have ever taken the time to watch children, you will know the answer to this. Children can be taught kindness, goodness, honesty, and other morally excellent characteristics, but left up to their own choices most will choose to demand their own way and demand it immediately. Moral excellence goes out the window when a coveted toy is involved or when competition to win the game is at stake.

Pixabay - boy with slingshot

The Bible confirms our sin nature:

All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
— Psalm 14:3 (NASB)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
— Romans 5:19 (NASB)
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification
— Romans 4:25 (NASB)

We live in a fallen world. It is easy to turn away from that which is morally excellent in order to have fun, feel good and be accepted. Our minds are filled with messages that tell us, if it feels good do it, if there is a rule break it, and anything that is conservative and restrictive is bad, while all that is freeing and pleasurable is good. We are inundated with bad news which causes us to wonder if it all is worth the effort, but even amidst all the chaos, God is still good and He is still working.

Here are a few quotes on excellence:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
— Aristole
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
— Will Durant
The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.
— Vince Lombardi
We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.
— Barack Obama

As you can see, most of these quotes, other than Aristotle’s are not specifically referring to moral excellence, but you could take each quote and plug moral excellence in for excellence to get the idea. If moral excellence is something that comes about only by habit, then what sorts of choices do we need to be making to be morally excellent?

I think the first thing we need to understand is the word morality. What does Webster’s online dictionary say? Here are several definitions related to moral as an adjective.

1 - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

2 - conforming to a standard of right behavior

3 - capable of right and wrong action

These definitions work from the perspective that there is a moral standard and that is what I want to address.

There are two other definitions that speak to a perceived morality - which means it is someone’s idea of what morality is.

4 - expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior

5 - sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment

My belief system revolves around a moral God. God is not only morally excellent, but He is perfect. A being that is purely loving, good, kind and just, cannot be morally corrupt. I also believe that God is the author of morality. He was the one to create us and to put us into a world dependent on choices. He also made us with a free will. We are able to choose to do right or to do wrong.

In the Garden of Eden, God set a moral parameter.

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
— Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB)

The command that God gave Adam, was straight forward; if you do this then this will happen. There wasn’t a plethora of other voices telling Adam, “Dude, you can make up your own morality.” Well, there was one voice, and that was all it took.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
— Genesis 3:1-7 (NASB)

How quickly this all came about. One day Adam and Eve are grooving in the garden, enjoying the beauty of their relationship with God and each other, in a setting beyond what we could possibly think or imagine. They had purpose in their lives to care for the creation God had given them and actually walked with the Almighty in this amazing place. BUT, that wasn’t enough. Eve was tempted by that which wasn’t known.

Isn’t that one of the major problems involved when we stray from the right and wrong that God laid out from the beginning of time? We want to know. We want to know what that tastes like, looks like, feels like and sounds like. We want to take our lives into our own hands, but in reality what we do is exchange a good and gentle master for one that is harsh, and unrelenting.

Image by  진혁 최  from  Pixabay

Image by 진혁 최 from Pixabay

When it comes to moral excellence it becomes a matter of choice. Adam and Eve chose to do wrong. I choose to do wrong when I get angry, eat too much or become fearful. We are no different from our forefathers. The Bible is full of real people who were less than morally excellent, yet God loved them and used them anyway.

Not wanting this post to get too long, I’m going to save what moral excellence looks like for a Godly person until next week. This week, do some homework. How often do you think about the choices you make? How often do you hear those messages that say you are the one who decides what morality is for you? If you come across something specific, or have a thought from the Spirit, I’d love to hear about it.

Have a great week, everyone and thanks for joining me on the blog. If you know anyone who might benefit from reading these blog posts, please pass it on. I appreciate all your support.






Traits of a Godly Person: Faithfulness - God's

This week and next, I want to look at the trait of faithfulness. Galatians 5:22 lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the Spirit. Let’s take a step back for a minute and think about the two passages we are looking at that list the traits of a Godly person. 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Galatians 5:16-26. When we compare the two we see many similarities, but the 2 Peter passage seems to put the emphasis for obtaining these Godly traits on us.

Image by  congerdesign  from  Pixabay

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
— 2 Peter 1:5 (NASB)

We are told to apply diligence.

Whereas, Galatians 5 seems to put the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. It is His fruit that is being brought forth in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

Seeing these two passages separately we might think they are not both talking about the same concept, that of Godly traits, but I believe these go hand in hand, complimenting and enhancing one another in a dance that only the Holy Spirit can direct.

Since we discussed Faith the last two weeks, it seemed fitting to move on to the trait of faithfulness. The definition of faithful goes something like this according to Webster’s Online Dictionary:

1 - steadfast in affection or allegiance

2 - firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty

3 - given with strong assurance

4 - true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original

5 - full of faith

This week I want to focus totally on God’s faithfulness to us.

The book of Psalms is probably one of the clearest books in the Bible on God’s faithfulness. The psalmist, who was most often David, understood the difficulties of life. He fought giants, ran from King Saul who was trying to murder him, committed, not only the sin of adultery by being married and laying with Uriah’s wife, but also had Uriah killed. He was on the run, running the kingdom and messing up, yet he repeatedly saw God’s faithfulness to him. That doesn’t mean he got away with his crimes. His sin found him out and the unrest in his kingdom lasted until his death. For more on David read 1 Samuel 8 - 2 Samuel 24, as well as 1 Chronicles 10 - 23.

Image by  Parveender Lamba  from  Pixabay

Take a look at how the Psalmist describes God’s faithfulness:

For the word of the Lord is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness.
— Psalm 33:4 (NASB)
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
— Psalm 36:5 (NASB)
I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.
— Psalm 89:1 (NASB)
Before the Lord, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness.
— Psalm 96:13 (NASB)
For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.
— Psalm 100:5 (NASB)

In addition to the psalmist, a man called Jeremiah understood what the faithfulness of the Lord was. If you have a few extra minutes today read Lamentations 3. Read all 66 verses. There are four verses that stand out and that you have probably heard before.

21 This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
— Lamentations 3:21-24 (NASB)

Why is it that both of these writers speak of God’s faithfulness during and after great tragedy or difficulty? I believe, that is when we see God’s faithfulness most clearly. Let’s face it, when life is going well, most of us don’t really think about what is going on behind the scenes. We get food from the grocery store. We go to the doctor if we are sick. We have the Geek Squad to help us with our phones and computers. We don’t really have to think about where the food comes from, or will I be able to get in to the doctor, or even waiting very long to get a problem fixed. We live in a drive up window, instantaneous fix society. When things really go wrong and we have no easy answers, that is the time (hopefully), that we realize how very precious each day is and how faithful God has been to us throughout the years.

I am sure each one of you has a story of God’s faithfulness. I love it when God goes over and above to show me His love in the simplest of things. During an especially difficult time in my life, I was feeling very hopeless. I knew in my mind that God was faithful and that He would work things out, but I felt very alone in my grief. It was spring time and my husband and I decided to take a walk at one of our local parks. In my mind I sent up a prayer to God that went something like this:

Image by  Ulrike Mai  from  Pixabay

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

“God, I know that You are faithful. I know that You will work all things together for good, but right now, I need to see You. I need to see something to remind me that You are there and that You are at work.”

I have inherited my mother’s love for birds. I don’t have the time to be a true birder, but I always get excited to hear them in the morning, especially in the spring, as birds that left for winter, return. Shortly after I prayed my desperate prayer, I saw a flash of red on the trail before me. Ohio’s state bird is the cardinal, but this was no cardinal. There perched in a tree right along the trail was a Scarlet Tanager (click on the link to see a picture and read more about this bird). If you know the bird I am talking about it is brilliant red with a striking black wing and tail. These birds like to stay hidden in the foliage of oak trees, but there he was, just waiting for me.

I knew that bird was my answer to prayer. It still makes me tear up, knowing that the Almighty God did that for little old me. That is faithfulness. It shows His steadfast affection for His creation and His allegiance to upholding me through every circumstance.

I know some of you who are reading this are going through terrible stuff. God wants to remind you, He is faithful. Always and forever.

I would love to hear your stories of God’s faithfulness in your life. We are all in this journey together, so please share. You never know how your story might encourage someone else and remind them of God’s great faithfulness.

Next week, we will take a look at what our faithfulness should look like and how we can make this Godly trait a regular part of who we are.