DAY 1: Peter’s List of Virtues2 Peter 1:1-11 While the Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the letters in the New Testament, the Apostle Peter wrote two letters. In his second letter, Peter gives one of the most impressive lists of virtues you find in the Bible. And Peter does a few things with this list. First, in verses 1–2 he grounds everything to follow in the saving work of Jesus. Righteousness, faith, grace, and peace are ours in abundance. God’s initiating work is always the foundation and the framework for all other words to be said about the formation of our character. Second, he gives us an incredible promise in verses 3–4. Be sure to see the promise. It is staggering and exhilarating. You may need to read these two verses several times to believe it! Third, Peter encourages vigorous effort and engagement on our part. God’s sovereign work and God’s gracious promises do not ELIMINATE our hard work. They MAKE IT POSSIBLE to “make every effort.” Fourth, Peter links qualities of character together. This is unique. Usually a list is just a list, but this list has intention and strategy. There is progression. Each character and your choice to put it into action sets the stage for the next. Pay close attention to each individual quality and to the progression. Also be aware of any link in the character chain that may be weak or missing in your own experience. Fifth, in verses 8–9 Peter tells us why these qualities are so important. Notice what they will do for you and notice what missing them will do to you. Finally, in verses 10–11 Peter returns to an energetic exhortation to “make every effort” on these matters. These are strong words. Remember, character counts, morality matters, and the ongoing sanctification of your life is of inestimable importance. Christ died to make you wholly his and to make you holy as he is holy.
DAY 2: Can You Be Good Without God?Colossians 1:1–23 This is a substantial passage. There is one main goal as you read this passage. Look at everything God does for you. Look at all you need, what you do not have, and what God gives to you. As you do this, pay attention to who Jesus is and what Jesus does for you. Every moral philosophy in history agrees on the need to be good and the problem of being bad. There is some difference in their descriptions of what is good and what is bad, but there is a good deal of consistency as well. Where every other moral philosophy falls short is on how the bad is overcome and how the good is developed. In this, Christianity is unique and beautiful. Transformation is first and foremost the work of God in you to forgive you, heal you, and renew you. The presence and power of God is with you. Salvation has many meanings. One of them is to be saved from your sin, or saved from all that is wrong and all that is broken internally. That means a fundamental reversal and renewal as God makes you holy. Without God, this will not happen. You don’t make yourself holy or pure on your own. It is the gift of God that empowers you and invites you to work together with God (Philippians 2:12–13; 4:9) in the growth of character. Reread Colossians 1:10. This is always Paul’s goal. It is God’s goal as well, that you live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. That is the road to character. That is why we are doing this series. This is the deep need of your heart. This is the desperate need of the world. Make it your prayer today. Can you be good without God? The answer is obvious - NO. But with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27; Philippians 4:13). Virtue, goodness, beauty, and holiness are now not only possible, they are your destiny. Keep walking the road and Way of Jesus and you will become conformed to the image of Christ.
DAY 3: The Humble Heart1 Peter 5:5–7 If pride is the original sin from which all others flow, perhaps humility is the necessary virtue that makes all other virtues possible. Read each of the following Proverbs: 11:2; 15:33; 18:12; 22:4. What does each saying teach you about humility? Yesterday I mentioned that every moral philosophy agrees on the need to be good, but they are not always in agreement as to what is good. When it comes to humility, this is another strength of Christianity. The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers saw humility as a weakness. Humility was NOT a virtue. It was a problem. To be strong, independent, and self-sufficient was to be virtuous. Only the weak and lowly were humble. The great philosopher of atheism, Nietzsche, despised weakness and mocked Christianity as being a religion for weak people. The ways of the world and the ways of Christian faith are often at odds. See 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:3 for this counter-cultural Christian way. For most of us, humility is not natural nor easy. Pride is natural and easy. But pride is the great obstacle and the great character flaw. We need humility to see ourselves truly. Without humility you will not gain self-awareness, you will remain stubbornly self-centered and independent. You will go your own way, no matter how much damage it causes. Change in character requires the virtue of humility. It requires what you don’t naturally possess, so pray for the grace of humility. Pray for it daily.
DAY 4: The Humility of JesusPhilippians 2:1–11 Christian morality and character formation is essentially dependent on the work of Jesus and is always directed toward becoming like Jesus. That is exactly what Paul describes in this magnificent passage. This passage has two sections with a transition verse. Verses 1–4 describe the moral relational interactions that should characterize all Christian relationships. At the core is a gentle humility toward one another that values the other person above self. Verses 6–11 describe the way that Jesus demonstrated the way of humble servant love. Verse 5 is the transition verse. It says to have the same mindset Jesus had. Paul often talks about the imitation of Christ. Read Ephesians 4:32–5:2 for the other most important passage that says “be like Jesus.” Why is humility necessary? Because Jesus is the Humble God who humbled himself for our sake. He shows us the way of God’s moral universe. Without humility, you won’t love others, you won’t serve others, you won’t be patient or kind or caring. Without humility you won’t admit weakness or wrongness and then ask for forgiveness and help. No wonder all good things are launched when we see our need and ask for the helping grace of God. Three good prayers today are: 1) Forgive me. 2) Help me. 3) Thank you. Say these prayers often. [Thank you to Anne Lamott for this approach to prayer.]
DAY 5: The Chief VirtuesColossians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 13:13 Last week you were introduced to The Seven Deadly Sins. However, not only did the ancient Christians describe deadly sins, they also pursued Cardinal Virtues. The word cardinal comes from the Latin word that means hinge. To hinge on something means to depend entirely on that thing. The Cardinal Virtues were the chief, great, original, source virtues that are the foundations of a good life. And of all the virtues, Paul says, the greatest is love. More on this virtue next week. The chief virtues are made up of two groups of virtues. First, the ancient philosophers gave us four virtues. They are: • Justice - considered the most important virtue by the ancient philosophers, as well as central to the Hebrew prophets • Prudence - wisdom and discernment about what is right • Temperance - restraint, self-control, discipline • Fortitude - courage, strength, endurance The early Christian theologians and pastors accepted and nuanced all four of those virtues, and to them added the three great theological, or spiritual, virtues: faith, hope, and love. These are the virtues listed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13. We’ll hit most of these virtues in the coming weeks. As the series continues and we introduce you to the lists of virtue and vice, of what is good and evil, you are building a mindset of what good character is like. This is a vision of the good life you are meant to have. May you be increasingly attracted to a life of virtue. Long for such a life. Pray for such a heart like this. Look to Jesus as the true (cardinal) Source of all goodness. Receive daily grace for shortcomings and daily grace for transformation.
- Songs We Sing
Other Messages in Series