This morning I was studying 2 Timothy 3:5: “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” This led me to do a word study on a number of Greek and English words like εὐσέβεια (eusebeia), godliness, piety, and virtue.
I have read Benjamin Franklin’s list of virtues before, but had not read of how he came to form them and the method he used to rate how he was doing and his concept of developing them.
I thought it would be of some interest to the readers of this blog, so I am going to post them here.
1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
You may want to read Franklin’s chapter on Moral Perfection from his autobiography, where he discusses how he daily rated himself in these virtues, and his method of developing them.
My point in posting Franklin’s list of virtues is to show an example of a man that was not a professing Christian, but was concerned about being virtuous.
Of course, without being born again and receiving a new heart, human effort to living virtuous will fail. All mankind is born with a disposition to fall into sin due to Adam’s disobedience. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” (Rom 5:19).
Mankind without Christ is stuck in Romans 7, at the very best. “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:19).
A person may even be religious and “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom 7:22) but those that are in “captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23) will have at the best an “O wretched man that I am” (Rom 7:24) experience.
The way of freedom from the “law of sin” is through the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”, which through salvation will make you “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2).
To us that are saved there has been “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (1Pet 1:3). With these “exceeding great and precious promises” we were able to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust” (1Pet 1:4).
But we are not to stop there. We are commanded to give “all diligence, add to your faith” (2Pet 1:5) the following fruit of the Spirit. Virtue, goodness, moral excellence, knowledge, temperance, self-control, patience, endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, godliness, piety, brotherly kindness, brotherly affection, and agape love (2Pet 1:5-7 AMP, ASV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, YLT).
The adding of the fruit of the Spirit to our life is not optional. If we “lack these things”, these above fruits, Peter’s judgment by the Spirit is that we are “blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2Pet 1:9).
We also have the wonderful promise that if we have “diligence to make your calling and election sure” by “doing these things” — adding these fruits to our experience – we have the glorious promise that we “shall never fall” (2Pet 1:11) into sin.
We are all at a different place in our Christian experience in “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2Cor 7:1). We each have different strengths and weaknesses that come with our different dispositions. Yes, we are all free from committing willful sin (1Joh 3:6), but we have weaknesses where we need much mercy, grace, and help (Heb 4:16).
I believe God looks at how we have, by His grace, improved in each of the above fruits of the Spirit since we have been saved. If you have a natural disposition to be over-talkative, God will look at how you have by his grace improved in this area. I say this to encourage those that have many lacks and are just starting to develop the fruit of the Spirit.
In closing, I encourage you to take the following steps.
1. List the fruit of the Spirit — Find all the scriptures in the New Testament that list the different fruits of the Spirit and make a list.
2. Look at different translations — Get a few different translations of the Bible and review these scriptures and add the different words that are used in each translation (this is what I did for the above 2Pet 1:5-7 scripture).
3. Prayerfully consider the list — Pray concerning each of the fruits of the Spirit and ask God to show you the areas in your life where you need to be changed and log these.
4. Make changes — Seek God to show you the top 5 areas in your life where you need to be changed and take them one by one and work on them.