Traits of a Godly Person: Moral Excellence - Part 2

In our world today, it is hard to talk about morality. As soon as the word shows up in a conversation or on social media, accusations fly of a judgmental attitude or intolerance. While it is true, that some people who try to be moral, can be harsh and unloving, that does not define what morality is, or who authored the idea. As I said last week, moral excellence is merely the desire to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. The question then must be pondered as to who determines what is right and what is wrong.

Image by  Johannes Plenio  from  Pixabay

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

If we believe we evolved from a primordial soup, then the determination of what is right and what is wrong can get a little slippery. The mentality of most animals is survival of the fittest. If we did, evolve from animals like monkeys or, as my husband likes to ponder, bears (since we really should be hibernating in the winter), then we would only be concerned about our own survival and our own well being. If I feel I am being threatened, don’t I have a right to eliminate the threat? If I feel hungry, don’t I have a right to eat whatever I want, wherever I want without any repercussions? If I believe I need a new car, shouldn’t I just be able to go to the car lot, pick out a car I like and then go demand the keys? Maybe I feel a little blue, shouldn’t I be able to drink, smoke pot and take opioids without any long term effects?

My examples are a little extreme, but I am trying to make a point. Our society and our world as a whole does have a moral standard. We have laws in place that are meant to protect. Where did those laws and standards come from? Did some monkey come up with them? Did a being, somewhere along the evolutionary line decide, “Hey, I want to be a good person and I want everyone else to be a good person, so I am going to come up with a set of standards. I’ll call it a moral code. It’ll include things like: we shouldn’t kill each other; we shouldn’t go over to our neighbor’s cave and steal his wife, no matter how pretty she is; we probably shouldn’t steal his food either….”

If we have truly evolved, then why are we still so blasted ugly? We hate, we kill, we covet, we have affairs, we promote twisted sexuality by making porn available, we steal, we do drugs, we even kill ourselves. How is this moral excellence? How is this morality at all? It’s not.

By placing ourselves under the authority and wisdom of a loving and just creator, we can easily buy into the moral code that He provided. The ten commandments were taken as truth ever since God’s finger wrote them down for Moses on Mt. Sinai. In recent years, however, attacks have been made on these commandments in a real and visceral way, from cars crashing into stone fixtures on which the commandments were inscribed, to Satanic groups protesting them, to lawsuits filed by the ACLU, this early list of moral codes has been focused upon as a religious issue, but in reality aren’t the ten commandments a moral standard that everyone, should ascribe too? From the religious right, to the liberal left, the Satan worshippers and the members of the ASLU, shouldn’t all of us live by these ideals: to not murder, to not covet, to not steal and so on.

Image by  Jondolar Schnurr  from  Pixabay

It is hard to talk about moral excellence without broaching these ideas. That being said, let me remind my readers, I am writing to an audience made up mostly of people who believe similarly to myself. I am not trying to convert you to my belief system, though I would be thrilled to talk to you about it. I am just trying to get you to think about the whole picture. Why is the world so against the idea of a moral compass? What is wrong with wanting to have standards of right and wrong? But hey, if I take on the mentality of those who would prefer to not have a moral code, then by all means, do whatever you want, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone. But then who is going to decide what hurt really is and who is really feeling it?

Okay, I’ll step off my soap box now. Ha, ha.

Image by  jussiak  from  Pixabay

Image by jussiak from Pixabay

So how do we, as Christ followers attain and maintain moral excellence? I have several ideas and if you have more, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

1 - Know To Whom You Belong

Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
— Psalm 100:3 (NASB)

If you have made a decision to believe in the work, death and resurrection of Jesus you are part of His family now. Knowing where you belong, can make a big difference in where you place your trust. The one you trust determines where you are going to place your faith and how you are going to live your life.

2 - Grow in that Knowledge

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
— Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB)
Image by  O12  from  Pixabay

Image by O12 from Pixabay

A relationship with Jesus is not static. When you determine to follow Jesus, you don’t suddenly arrive and become that morally excellent person you should be. You have to learn more and learning takes place by studying His word, being around others who will encourage your growth and reading authors who studied the Bible and lived life.

3 - View it as a Relationship

I think we learn more and are more motivated if we are invested in the relationship. Being a Christian isn’t just a contract between, you, Jesus, the Father and the Spirit. It is a living, thriving, growing, loving relationship.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
— John 14:23 (ESV)

I have always loved that verse, because it sounds so familial. God is going to come and make a home with us. it doesn’t say, He’ll meet us at the office or in the garage, but in our homes. That is so relational.

4 - Choose morally good things

It is easy to let our guard down and start watching shows and reading books or going to movies that may not be what is best for us. We all have a different standard factor, meaning some people can watch horror films and not have nightmares afterwards. When I was younger I used to love to watch scary movies. I still occasionally get fearful when I am home alone, thinking the boogie man is lurking in the shadows. I don’t watch scary movies any more. Now I am noticing that other things seen in shows are starting to bother me as well. That is only one example. You know what your standard triggers are. Just like an alcoholic has to stay completely away from alcohol and those situations, we need to make choices to head to the moral high ground, so that God’s work in us is not for naught.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)

I love this passage and I often quote it when I am feeling anxious, but verse 8 really can up our moral excellence factor, if we allow God to bring those things to mind.

Image by  Pexels  from  Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I hope this study of the traits of a Godly person is challenging your thinking and causing you to dig deeper into God’s word and into your relationship with Him. Thanks for reading.

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.






Mulling It Over - Part 4

Hi again! I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Here is another look at the passage in its entirety.

Pixabay

Pixabay

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

The last few weeks we have looked at verses 1 & 2 (here), 3 (here) and 4 (here). Today, I would like to ruminate on verse 5.

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)

As usual, I want to take the verse apart piece by piece.

Now for this very reason also…

I believe this phrase is referring back to the previous phrase in verse 4, “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” The fact that we are in the world means we are exposed to the corruption in it. We are bombarded with images and messages telling us we are the center of the universe and if we aren’t happy with ourselves we can buy this, or do that and all will be well. Unfortunately, there are also darker forces at work that we cannot see, motivating people to do things that are even more corrupt. Evil is targeting our marriages, our families and our children. Because of the corruption that surrounds us due to darkened hearts and even dimmer understanding of the truth, it is for that reason that we also….

…applying all diligence…

What do you think of when you hear the word, diligence? I think of teeny critters like honey bees and ants. These tiny creatures go about their business day in and day out, working to keep their hives or their hills intact and in working order.

<a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/bee-honey-bee-insect-collect-pollen-3360682/">Image</a> by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Myriams-Fotos-1627417/">Myriams-Fotos</a> on Pixabay

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How does Webster define the word diligence?

steady, earnest, and energetic effort persevering application

I don’t know about you, but I do not always fit into the steady, earnest, and energetic effort description. I really struggle with being diligent in many areas of my life. I put diligence up there with discipline and self-control, which are also words I struggle with. But, here Peter is admonishing us to apply diligence. He’s telling us when it comes to the corruption in the world, we need to be steady, earnest and energetic in our effort to not become marred by it. We are to be like the ant or the honey bee diligently taking care of the people God has given us charge of. That may mean our coworkers, our spouses, our children or our fellow worshippers.

You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.
— Deuteronomy 6:17 (NASB)
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
— Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)
I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
— Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
— Proverbs 11;27 (NASB)

The next few phrases refer back to the idea of applying all diligence. In other words we are to be diligent in each of the following areas:

…in your faith, supply moral excellence…

Why do you think the word faith here is paired with moral excellence? It is my belief that our faith can be easily swayed by the corruption in the world, because we do not adhere to moral excellence. Moral excellence encompasses issues having to do with morality, think Ten Commandments sorts of issues. Whether we are talking about murder, adultery, taking God’s name in vain, jealousy and others, when we begin to loosen our moral suspenders we risk being caught with our spiritual pants down. Our faith is only strengthened and grown as we continue to make morally excellent choices. In today’s world that is hard, but Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, I am pretty sure that is why He inspired Peter to pen these words. He knew we would need the reminder.

&lt;a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/suspenders-clips-shiny-fix-keep-1526418/"&gt;Image&lt;/a&gt; by &lt;a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Couleur-1195798/"&gt;Couleur&lt;/a&gt; on Pixabay

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…and in your moral excellence, knowledge…

Once again, we need to ask, why is moral excellence paired with knowledge? Let’s face it, there is an awful lot of knowledge out there. With the onset of social media, Google and other computer applications we are able to instantly know about everything. Do you want to know what people think about a political issue? Open that can of worms on Facebook or Twitter. Do you want to know what the side affects are for that medication the doctor just put you on? Type it in to Google. Do want to keep track of your calories, your steps, your sleep or your water intake, there is an app for that. We have knowledge pouring into us in at a rate that is not only unhealthy for us mentally, but emotionally as well. If you want to see news stories and videos of people getting handcuffed or beat up, you can access it. If you want to know how to grow marijuana, you can find out. Some will say we are living in the enlightened age. I believe we are living in the burdened age. While it is true that knowledge is power, knowledge can also be a weighty thing to carry around.

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However, Peter was not talking about knowledge of the world. He is talking about knowledge of God. The more we know God, His character and His mind, the easier it is to discern what is morally excellent. in order to be diligent in our moral excellence we must learn of and know God. We do that by being in His word, praying, fellowshipping with other believers and by sitting under teachers who specifically adhere to the truth of Scripture and moral excellence.

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
— Deuteronomy 7:9
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
— Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
— Psalm 100:3 (NASB)

Being morally excellent does not take on the guise of moral judge. What it does do is puts itself in the hands of the Perfect Judge and let’s Him take care it. Being morally excellent doesn’t mean never being tempted, nor does it mean never giving in to a temptation, but what it does mean is knowledge of the perfect forgiver of sins and the way to receive that forgiveness. Knowledge is essential for attaining and maintaining moral excellence.

There is so much more to be learned from these verses, as we could study each and every one of these words in depth. I would encourage you to continue study on your own. Do a word study of the words diligent, diligence, moral, excellence and knowledge. Feel free to share your own experiences with these words in the comments below.

Until next time, have a great Wednesday.