BLOCKS OF CHARACTER: MORAL EXCELLENCE!"
and preached by David P. Nolte
2 PETER 1:5-11
We often say of that which we find enjoyable or beneficial, "That is
excellent!" We may say, "That
was an excellent dinner or movie or concert." As we continue to add
building blocks of character,
we come to the third building block which is "moral excellence!" Peter
calls for excellence in our
moral character. The Greek word for "moral excellence" or "virtue" is
"aretes." It was used in 3
ways; it referred to "fulfilling a purpose" and "choosing a virtuous
course" and "showing courage." Understanding how the word was used
helps us understand how we might possess moral excellence
and how we may thereby add another building block of character.
- TO ATTAIN TO
MORAL EXCELLENCE WE MUST SERVE THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH WE WERE CREATED:
- The word was used to describe anything that did what it was
created to do, that
performed its intended function, or that fulfilled its proper purpose!
In short that
which does what it ought to do is termed "aretes" or "excellent!"
- A field was called "aretes," "excellent" if it was fertile
- A knife was called "aretes," "excellent" if it cut well and
didn't simply hack
- In reference to serving our purpose, George Bernard Shaw said,
"This is the true joy
in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a
mighty one." Now,
the question is "For what purposes have we been created?" To be
"aretes" or morally
excellent, we need to find and fulfill those purposes.
- One purpose is glorifying and bringing pleasure to God:
- God said, "All who claim Me as their God will come, for I
them for My glory. It was I who created them." Isaiah 43:7 (NLT).
- The 24 elders in the Book of Revelation said, "You are
Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you
created everything, and it is for Your pleasure that they exist and
- Paul wrote, "Our purpose is to please God, not people. He
is the one
who examines the motives of our hearts." 1 Thessalonians 2:4
- Another purpose is loving and helping and serving others.
- Paul wrote, "For you have been called to live in freedom -
freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one
another in love." Galatians
- And Peter enjoins, "All of you, serve each other in
humility." 1 Peter
- A third purpose is to bring others into relationship with God
- Jesus commanded, "Go into all the world and preach the Good
to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will
be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned." Mark 16:15-16 (NLT).
- Paul reminds us that "We are Christ's ambassadors, and God
us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ Himself were here
pleading with you, 'Be reconciled to God!'" 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
- Sometimes we are like the giraffe and the leopard. The giraffe
said to the leopard,
"Man! I hate leaves. All I ever get to eat is leaves! I wish I could
have a nice chunk
of cadaver for a change!" The leopard said, "Well, I get sick of eating
dead stuff. I'd
love a good leaf salad for a change." So, they decided to swap diets.
would eat dead meat and the leopard would gobble up leaves from the
tree. It didn't
take them too many meals to discover that the giraffe had not been
created to eat
dead zebras, nor had the leopard been created to eat leaves. So they
decided to eat the things they were created to eat. Good thing they
did, too, or they
both would have starved to death in futility trying to fulfill a
purpose other than the
one for which they had been created. And how many of us fail to fulfill
for which we are created and live our life in utter frustration and
futility. A good
question to consider is: "What have you done that you believe in and
you are proud
of and were created to do?"
In order to attain to moral excellence, we need to serve the purpose
for which we have been created.
- TO ATTAIN TO MORAL EXCELLENCE WE MUST
CHOOSE THE VIRTUOUS COURSE IN LIFE:
- The word "aretes" refers to choosing and following a virtuous,
course, a course of life consistent with the revealed will of God in
- We are all confronted with myriad choices: not all moral but
some are intensely moral! To be "aretes," "excellent," we must choose
the best from all the options. The world
sets before us its course, God sets before us His - we must choose.
- James says, "Don't you realize that friendship with this
world makes you an
enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world,
be a friend of God." James
4:4 (NLT). To shun friendship with the world
is to follow the virtuous course.
- Peter wrote, "You have had enough in the past of the evil
things that godless
people enjoy - their immorality and lust, their feasting and
wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols." 1 Peter 4:3 (NLT). Avoiding the immoral life
is to pursue the virtuous course.
- Paul said, "I pray that your love for each other will
overflow more and more,
and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding.
I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure
blameless lives until Christ returns." Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT). Pure and
blameless lives - that's the virtuous course.
- "So now the Lord says, 'Stop right where you are! Look for
the old, godly
way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your
The old, godly way: that's the virtuous course.
- Psalm 23:3
says, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for His
name's sake." That's the virtuous course.
- To choose the virtuous course we must drastically refuse all
choices which strip us
of dignity, ruin our testimony, harm others, enslave us, destroy honor,
- "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything
you do. Avoid all
perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and
eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stick to the path and stay safe. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet
following evil." Proverbs
- "You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about
citizens of heaven." Philippians
- And as the poem says: "If you have some worth while plans
You've got to
watch your can'ts and can's; You can't aim low and then rise high; You
succeed if you don't try; You can't go wrong and come out right; You
love sin and walk in light; You can be great if you'll be good And do
will as all men should; You can be honest, truthful, clean, By turning
low and mean; You can uplift the souls of men By words and deeds, or by
your pen. So watch your can'ts and watch your can's. And watch your
and watch you stands, And watch the way you talk and act, And do not
the false for fact; And watch the things that mar and make; For life is
every man Who lives to do the best he can."
To attain to moral excellence we must choose the virtuous course in
ATTAIN TO MORAL EXCELLENCE WE MUST POSSESS GODLY COURAGE:
- in Greek usage, the word, "aretes," referred to courage,
fortitude, and valor!
- That's what it takes to have true godly character. Listen: any
old dead salmon can
float downstream! Anybody can get drunk and do drugs and cheat and
adultery and on and on - but it takes "aretes," courage, to buck the
current and to
stand alone! It demands courage to say, "Others may, I may not!" It
courage to take C.E.'s out and out stand: "I hereby take an out and out
Christ, surrender to Him and purpose to do His will in all the affairs
of my life." It
takes courage, but that's the meaning of "aretes," "moral excellence!"
- Consider some who demonstrated "aretes"
- The Egyptian midwives in Exodus 1
who refused to kill the male Israelite
infants, defying Pharaoh's order showed "aretes" or Godly courage.
- Daniel who continued to pray to God in spite of the decree of
which forbade it and who braved the den of lions showed "aretes," Godly
- The Apostles who preached Christ though beaten for it showed
Godly courage. Acts 4:18-20.
- General Von Zealand who spoke up for the faith when the
Frederick the Great began making crude jokes about Christ. Von Zealand
arose and addressed the king: "Sire, you know I have not feared death.
fought and won 38 battles for you. I am an old man; I shall soon have
into the presence of One greater than you, the mighty God who saved me
from my sin, the Lord Jesus Christ whom you are blaspheming. I salute
sire, as an old man who loves his Savior, on the edge of eternity." The
went silent, and with a trembling voice the king replied, "General Von
- I beg your pardon! I beg your pardon!" And with that the party
ended. Von Zealand had shown moral courage, he was "aretes."
No one was ever as morally excellent as Jesus. He came to
fulfill the purpose of God in saving man! He chose God's way, the
virtuous way! He
manifested courage in facing death on the cross! He Who was "aretes,"
"excellent" in every way
demands moral excellence in all of us! That means that we must come
before Him and allow Him to
cleanse us of all moral defects, of all failures, of all sins. We have
not been 100%, consistently,
always morally excellent! We all stand in need of forgiveness, healing
and cleansing! "If we claim
to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If
we confess our sins, He is faithful
and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9
(NASB). "Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us
cleanse ourselves from everything that can
defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete purity
because we fear God." 2
Corinthians 7:1 (NLT). Even as I speak, The Holy Spirit invites
each of us to come to Jesus for
cleansing and renewal. Those who come will find the power which
transforms us and works in us
to create moral integrity, moral excellence.. Moral excellence is not
something we put on; it is not
mere behavior. It is the product of the Holy Spirit in the yielded
life. It is the result of a changed
heart. He stands ready to work that change today; a change of heart; a
heart of moral excellence. (Change my heart / Search me)
Giraffe from unknown source; Poem from
unknown author; Von Zealand from Today In The
Word, August, 1989.
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