Morality seems to be a hot-button topic in any group.  Extreme views are given, arguments are had, and fingers are pointed.  Some believe that hiding from the world keeps us away from temptation.  Others believe that God is not terribly interested in our day-to-day lives, thinking that as long as the human mind can justify the action, then God must think it is okay as well.

What is moral behavior?  What is the point of it?  And who is right in all of it?  I submit to you that the answer to each of these questions is this: God.  Any time you try to justify yourself apart from God, you are in serious trouble—that applies to both the legalistic standpoint as well as the relativistic approach.

God is clear on what He expects of our behavior.

What is it?

We are saved.  We are forgiven.  So should we really be worried about our lapses?

Read Romans 6:15-23.  What stands out to you?

What does this passage say about sinning just because we are under the grace of God?

This passage of scripture tells us a truth we often find uncomfortable.  Whether it be because of our country’s history with slavery or not, we are uncomfortable with the notion that we are slaves to anything.  We like to think that we are the ones in control.  However, this passage is clear—we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.

According to this passage, what is the result of righteous living?

Read Ephesians 5:8-14.  What stands out to you?

According to this passage, what is the fruit of the Spirit?

What does it say about the relationship we are to have with unrighteous deeds?

Examining your own life, what deeds need to be exposed to the goodness and righteousness of the Spirit?  In exposing these deeds, we can then be honest about the struggle and gain help from God in our weakness.

Spend some time now exploring the depths of your heart.
Read Philippians 2:5-16.  What stands out to you?

In verses 5-8, what attitude did Jesus have in his life on earth?

According to verse 12-13, who does the work in you?

If He is the one doing the work, then exposing our darkness to Him is a humble act, admitting our weakness and letting the strength of God be made known in our lives.  The longer we arrogantly believe that we can handle it all on our own, the more lonely our existence will be.  If you want the power of God in your life, you must first come to the place of admitting that you need Him.

What stands in the way of you admitting this now?

What would you like in place of this in your life?

In verses 12-16, scripture has very specific commands for how we should live.  Write those commands.

“Do everything without complaining or grumbling” (vs. 12).  Reflecting on your own life, how often is this true?  James 1 tells of how the tongue is like a fire, setting a forest aflame with a single spark.  Our words are powerful.  Not only do they help to shape our attitude each day, words leave a distinct impression on those around us.

What impression do your words leave on those around you?  Do they tell of the greatness of God?  Or do they describe more the grumbling state of your heart?

Commit today to reframe your life reference—no more grumbling.  No more complaining.  Not only will you experience a more joyful life, you will actually leave a better impression on those around you.

Why is it important?

We know that scripture tells us to be righteous.  We can see it’s fruit in our lives, but still, there is that piece of us that questions if morality really matters.  Here is the issue that may make some eyebrows furrow: your faith is not all about you.

Yes, we discuss at length the benefits of faith.  Studies like this are written so you can examine your faith, your life, and continually push yourself to be more like Christ.  Yes, God imbeds benefits in faith.

But here is the kicker.  The spotlight of your faith is not on you.  In a time filled with “myspace” and “facebook” profiles—where it literally is all about us—we have a hard time grasping how we are just one little piece in a much bigger picture.

So you may not be terribly concerned with your partying ways—yes, you love Jesus, but what’s a good “buzz” every now and again?  People are watching you and judging whether faith makes a difference based on your actions.

You may not be concerned with your vicious tantrums—after all, if that person hadn’t annoyed you or done something you didn’t like, you wouldn’t have screamed at them.  Really?  How attractive is that to someone questioning God?  Why would they want to join a congregation when someone is screaming about Jesus at the top of their lungs?

Or maybe it is an attitude of doing the bare minimum—just sliding by has always worked before, why should you change now.  Really?  People are watching you.  They see you walk into work 5 minutes late every day, they see you take long lunches and leave a few minutes early.  They see you do just enough to get a project done, but not more than that to make it really good work.  And they are used to cleaning up your messes.  Yet taped to your computer screen are verses about Jesus—really?  They spend their time cleaning up your messes, covering all those minutes you are away, and you wonder why they also turn you down when you ask them to attend a function at your church.

They see you flirt with the waitress.  They see you hoard things for yourself.  They see your lack of generosity.  They see your grumpiness, and they see every time you roll your eyes.  They hear your gossip, your complaining, and your rude comments.

And yet, we wonder why people are not coming to the faith.

The spotlight of faith is upon you.  You claim that Jesus is the answer and yet you do so little to represent what He is all about.  Our churches are rife with in-fighting and an unwillingness to hold ourselves accountable for the wrong we do—yet we will turn our finger and point to the world, proclaiming loudly how evil they are.  Really?  Because you aren’t behaving much better than they are.

I know a man who owns a business.  And every single weekday, he goes out to lunch.  He started doing it when his business was small and money was tight.  His business is located in a very poor part of town.  His theory is that if he expects the people in that area to spend money at his place, why wouldn’t he be putting money into theirs?  Once a week, he takes his entire staff out to lunch.  None of them live in that area, yet as the man brings his business to the people he wants to serve, he gets to know them.  And his business is miraculously blessed.  Yet if you ask him what he believes, he will say, “I believe nothing.”  There are reasons for that unbelief—but what strikes me most is that this man, scorned by the church for believing “nothing”, is behaving in a far more Jesus-approved way than many Christians.

Ask a waiter or waitress what shift they hate most, and they will say Sunday afternoons—because that’s when the church people go out to lunch.  And church people tend to be high maintenance and low tippers.  Now, you can blame the waitstaff’s “greed” and you can justify your low-tipping ways, but the truth is this: if you go out to lunch, part of the expectation is that you tip, just like part of the expectation is that you will behave yourself and not throw food across the restaurant.  Yet, the one that actually costs us something is the one we refuse to do.  The one that actually makes a statement that we care about the people around us, that we see how hard a wait-staff job can be—that is the action we become stingy with.  If you cannot afford to tip, then you cannot afford to eat out.

The world is looking at Christians every day and wondering why we think we have the answers when it is clear by our behavior that we are no different than anyone else around us.  And in many ways, we are worse.

And as the excuses are raging in your head, the point is proven.  We demand so much grace and understanding for our own behaviors, and we rain so much judgement down on the behavior of others.

Just like every other area in our lives, we demand the best piece for ourselves and we leave the scraps for everyone else.

The importance of morality is that it sets us apart.

Read Genesis 17:1-14.  What does God promise to Abraham in this covenant?

What does God ask of Abraham as a sign of the covenant?

Read Joshua 5:1-9.  How well did God’s people do at holding up their end of the covenant while in the desert?

What happened as a result of Joshua following God’s command to circumcise the men?

In scripture, the event that immediate follows this second generation of circumcision is the angel appearing to Joshua and speaking to him about the “battle” of Jericho.  I put “battle” in quotes because if you know the story, you know that the people only walked around the city.  God did all the fighting.  It was not a battle by the people—it was God showing His majesty.

Interesting, how God shows His majesty AFTER the people show humility and obedience.  How often do you demand that God show Himself and then you might be humble to Him?

Back to circumcision—Circumcision was a sign, not only a physical reminder that the peole were set apart for God, but also an outward sign to the nations surrounding Israel that they were different.  Imagine the faces as word spread that those Hebrews did WHAT?!?!  All because their God asked them to?!? Really!?!  And then those same nations see the deliverance of the Lord time and time again.

They can see the lengths to which the Hebrews would go to show commitment to their God.  And they would see the mighty power of that God.  Maybe the significant, and in that time disfiguring, pain of circumcision is really quite small compared to all that God has done for His people.

Maybe the significant and disfiguring-to-your-pride sacrifice God is asking of you really is quite small compared to what He wants to bring about in the lives of those around you.  Maybe He is asking you to lay down your pride and apologize to that person you have decided to hate.  Maybe He is asking you to speak kindly to that person who seems to always speak harshly to you.  Maybe He is asking you just stop complaining already.

Maybe He is asking you to do what you say and actually believe that He is, and that He will deliver, provide, and protect.  Maybe He is waiting for you to stop arguing and start believing.

Read Deuteronomy 30:1-6.  What stands out to you?

What does God ask in this passage?

What does God promise?

What is standing in your way to humble yourself and follow Him?

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