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Vices & Virtues

Written By Tom Nelson

What steals joy, impedes spiritual growth, ruins relationships, neutralizes leadership, and wreaks havoc on societies and nations? Throughout history, the word vice has been used to describe sinful habits of mind, heart, and body that reveal a lack of character development and characterize a life without God. How do we escape these vices? In the writings of both ancient and modern philosophers, as well as theologians throughout church history, we learn that escaping the enticement of vice means growing in the empowerment of virtue.

What is virtue and how is it formed in our lives, our children, and our society? Virtue is often defined as moral excellence or moral character placed in service of others. Virtue is not only understood as the character ingredients of a well-lived life, but the glue that held communities together and caused them to thrive. The Greeks, notably Plato and Aristotle, created much of our virtue vocabulary. But we must not miss that in His most famous sermon, Jesus embraced a virtue ethic pointing to the right heart condition that is required for living the truly good life. As an apprentice of Jesus, it is not surprising the Apostle Peter emphasized the importance of virtue formation as a vital component of spiritual formation and gospel-centered living. In his second epistle, Peter writes, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.”  Peter wants us to grasp a vital truth. While gospel grace is opposed to meritorious earning, it is not opposed to the disciplined effort required for virtue formation. Virtue is not a product of birth. It is not a function of personality. It is not a gift bestowed on a privileged few. Virtue formation is learnable, a habit of the heart developed over time in a life of graceful discipline.

Jesus invites us to a life of yoked apprenticeship where we learn from Jesus how to live our lives like He would if He were us. A vital aspect of this apprenticeship is increasing virtue formation.  The New Testament writers make a strong case that the local church is called and empowered to be a virtuous community. But are we becoming a more virtuous people?

Vices & Virtues is an eight-week message series where we will be exploring what virtue is and how it is formed in our lives. We will examine the broader landscape of Scripture, considering how to escape the allure of vices and how to grow in the divine vibrancy of virtue.

LISTEN to the series beginning April 30.



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  1. Ken Eichman

    A great read about a specific virtue, humility, is Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership by John Dickson, professor of history at the University of Sydney, Australia. One of the topics he explores is how humility came to be a universally accepted virtue in Western culture when it was clearly not viewed as a virtue by the Greco-Roman world. His conclusion–because of the cross of Christ.

    Looking forward to this series,
    Ken Eichman

    • Tom Nelson

      Ken. Thanks for the comment and reading suggestion. All the best. Tom


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