by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Romans 7:14-25
I. One of the educational fads is “values clarification”
A. Government run schools have a problem.
1. It is good for society to have morally good citizens, but the whole concept of morality assumes a standard of right and wrong that is greater than mankind.
2. How do you teach morality without getting into religion?
B. Hence, came courses in “values clarification”
1. By its own admission, “Values clarification will not tell you what your values should be.” The goal is to get a person to realize they do value certain ideas and that they should live consistent to those values.
2. The problem is the assumption that everyone values similar things.
3. The promoters admit, “Values change over time in response to changing life experiences.”
a. So values are not consistent between people or even with an individual.
b. Yet, this is urged to be the guide for what a person chooses to do!
C. So what do you do with the fanatics who value the death of people they disagree with? Are they not clear about their values?
II. Values versus Virtue
A. The real problem is the word “values” has been hijacked.
1. Values is knowing what is right.
a. This means admitting there is a standard of right and wrong - John 17:17
b. If another standard is proposed, then let’s debate its usefulness.
c. But values must be higher and greater than the individual
B. But values alone are not enough - James 4:17
1. Let’s select a sin, say adultery. If you ask most people who commit adultery whether it is right or wrong, they will readily tell you that it is wrong.
2. But they commit adultery anyway.
C. Where values is knowing what is right, virtue is doing what is right.
1. Virtue is civilized behavior.
2. It is people acting according to a standard that is greater than mere instinct.
D. Paul’s dilemma is between values and virtue - Romans 7:14-24
1. Paul looks at his life and sees difference between what he knows he should be do (that is the things he values) and what he actual does.
2. Everyone who has struggled against sin recognizes the dilemma.
3. The discord comes from learning God’s law, but acting according to the flesh (that is following our instincts).
4. Which defines us? The things we know or the things we do?
E. It is not that we must sin.- Galatians 5:16-17
F. Virtue is not what we happen to do once in a while.
1. It is the course of action we take from habit. It is our disposition, what we do without much thought.
2. But it is not any action, virtue is only those habitual right or good actions.
3. Virtue is the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.
III. Developing Virtue - II Peter 1:5-7
A. Virtue is the foundation of our character
1. Charles Reader wrote: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
2. Habitual right action is virtue, but Mr. Reader has it correct in noting that action begins in thought.
B. Philippians 4:8 - Think on virtue
1. Bad actions – sin – begins with thought - Mark 7:20-23
2. Good actions – virtue — begins with thought as well
C. It requires a change that puts good knowledge into action - Ezekiel 36:26-27
D. Jesus calls us by his virtue - II Peter 1:2-4
1. We have to put our knowledge of what is right into action.
2. Jesus is our ultimate example of putting right knowledge into right action
3. From there we can imitate his followers - I Corinthians 11:1-2
E. The idea of virtue is that the standard of living we are striving for is far above us
1. Often virtue is defined as moral excellence.
2. Ephesians 4:15-16 - effective working toward being like Christ
3. Virtue is not moral mediocrity
a. “It’s good enough” is not good enough.
b. When we strive for better, then we will be productive - II Peter 1:8, 10-11 (note the emphasis on doing)
c. Doing the minimum necessary is not virtue
F. Reaching this level requires breaking ties with the bad
1. I Corinthians 15:33 - Associating with the evil will corrupt the good habits we have developed.
2. We have to come out of the world - II Corinthians 6:17-18
IV. Demonstrating Virtue
A. In Hebrew, the word for virtue is chayil which literally means strength. It is translated as virtuous, valiant, and other ideas in which a person is strong.
B. In Greek, the word for virtue is arete, which is translated as manliness, valor, excellence, or praise
C. Doing the right thing takes strength and courage
1. Jesus demonstrates this - John 2:17
2. You can’t dip your toes in, you have to dive in - Romans 12:11
3. Act like men - I Corinthians 16:13-14
D. Christianity is described in military terms
1. II Timothy 2:3-7 - The military knows it can’t have half-hearted soldiers and neither can the Lord. Athletes don’t win with “good enough” effort, so why do we put in less effort in being a Christian than in our sports?
2. Ephesians 6:10-12 - Be strong! We’re at war!
3. It is a war of ideas, not a physical war - II Corinthians 10:3-6
A. Virtue is used to refer to mastery in a specific field, an excellence in achievement
1. We still use it in this way. A virtuoso is a highly accomplished musician.
B. We too must master Christianity. We can’t be satisfied being an entry level Christian - I Peter 2:1-3
C. We do so by putting what we know to use - Hebrews 5:12-15
D. I Peter 2:9-10 - Our duty as God’s people is to proclaim God’s praises, that is the word for virtue.
1. We are here to proclaim God’s virtues – His mighty deeds of righteousness
2. He called us out of darkness into light
3. We had nothing and now have everything
E. Are you still in the dark? Are you virtuous? Isn’t it about time you do something about it?