Bible Study or Sunday School Lesson 1

The Life Of A Disciple In The World

The Virtues & Fruits of the Spirit

Session 1: The Promise of a Moral Life

Core Teaching: Virtues are a gift from God.  Virtues are God’s power of grace working in and through us.

Session Goals: To introduce the concept of Christian Virtues.           

Supplies: Bibles, Whiteboard/Newsprint, Markers, Masking Tape, a copy of the Student Leader Help Sheet for each discussion/small group leader

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:10 NRSV

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

(Write on the Board and encourage Youth to memorize this week.)

Scripture:

Romans 5:6-10 NRSV

2 Corinthians 9:8-10 NRSV

Romans 2:13-16 NRSV

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NRSV

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Class Session

Opening Prayer- Student

Announcements, Attendance, and Offering- Teacher

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Introduction to the Lesson- Teacher

For the last several weeks, we have been studying the Seven Deadly Sins as the Christian Church has defined them for centuries.  Now we will begin to look at how the historic Church of Jesus Christ has emphasized the positive side of what we can do, not just what we need to avoid.

There are 3 groups of virtues that cover the basics of what growing Christians do to live a moral life.  These are not just good ideas, but they are good practices.

The Cardinal Virtues: These were adopted by the Christian Church from classical philosophy.  Great Christian Moral Theologians were able to discern in these a foundation for the moral life (i.e. Christian Ethics) for the common Christian still practiced today.  There are 4:

  1. 1. Prudence (Wisdom)
  2. 2. Fortitude (Courage)
  3. 3. Justice
  4. 4. Temperance

The Theological Virtues: These were the unique contribution of the Moral Theologians adding in what they thought was missing from the Cardinal Virtues.  There are 3 and you might notice in total this makes 7, a sacred number in Scripture AND an equal counterweight to 7 Deadly Sins:

  1. 1. Faith
  2. 2. Hope
  3. 3. Love

The Fruits of the Spirit: This group (Galatians 5:22-23), though a little different than the first 7, are considered by-products of living a virtuous life.  They are the result of living a life close to God.  They are the evidence of the power of God’s goodness in each of us.  These are gifts of the Spirit working in and through us and not our own doing.  You may notice that one of them is ALSO a Theological Virtue:

  1. 1. Love
  2. 2. Joy
  3. 3. Peace
  4. 4. Patience
  5. 5. Kindness
  6. 6. Generosity (Goodness)
  7. 7. Faithfulness
  8. 8. Gentleness
  9. 9. Self-Control

Living a Virtuous Life as a Christian should NOT been seen as a list of rules, but rather as a way that leads to true happiness, abundant life, and a blessed sense of God’s constant presence.  While happiness may be a rare find in today’s culture, for the person living the Christian Life on Purpose, it can become a daily reward.

“Happiness is so unnatural a state that the only way we know how to achieve it in the sophisticated secular West is by means of such unnatural stimulants as drugs and alcohol.  The epidemic use of drugs and drink in the twentieth century, often seen as a sign of our liberation and freedom from old taboos and our incessant quest for the ultimate ‘high,’ is really only a sign of our profoundly unsatisfying sense of the status quo, our distrust of things as they are and of ourselves as we are, and our notion that happiness is the illicit alternative to reality.”

Peter J. Gomes, The Good Life, Harper, 2002, p.196.

 

The word virtue comes from the Greek word arête which means “power.”  God does not just give us a list of virtues to live.  God also gives us the power of the virtues to live a life of Goodness, the moral life.  These virtues are considered evidence of God’s love, God’s grace working on us before we even know it, transforming us, and helping us to grow more Christ-like.

While virtues are a source of power, they are also Habits.  They develop through repetition and exercise.  Through them we are able to strengthen our characters and move to become the good selves God created us to be.  With God’s help, we are able to so order our lives, that we can become responsible, whole persons reflecting the Love of our Creator God.  These habits are BEST nurtured in community.  Christianity is not a religion of rugged individualism, it is a social religion, one lived in community with other Christians learning to grow virtuous habits so that we may strengthen one another in love.

 

Small Group Discussions- Student Leaders

 

Key Questions (These should be answered during the discussion below)

  1. What is Virtue?
  2. What does it mean to be good?
  3. Why is it hard to be good?
  4. How does Grace help us?
  5. What does it mean to be Righteous?
  6. Why is humbleness important?
  7. How can your community of faith help you grow in the Virtuous Life?

 

Big Issue

What does it mean to be “good?”  What does it mean to live a good life?  Are we created good?  Why do we want to be good?  Why do we avoid being good?

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Paul (Romans 7:18-19 NRSV)

Maybe our struggle is not new.  Saint Paul struggled.  We struggle.  We are both attracted to and repelled by goodness.  It is just too hard to be good we think.  Or we sabotage our own efforts to “be all we can be” through sloppy living and bad habits.  We don’t completely like being “bad” but sometimes we don’t mind it TOO much.  Vice can look very attractive, yet as we learned studying the 7 Deadly Sins, it never satisfies.

Being able to recognize the conflict within us is the first step.  God does not call us to linger in guilt and shame.  God helps us move beyond our feelings of powerlessness.  We must remember we belong to God, the same God who created each one of us, as a good and whole self.  While Sin has kept us from fully reflecting the image of God in which we were created, God does not leave us on our own.  God gives us freedom of choice and the power to live a virtuous life (the Good life).

We are always free to choose to be the good self God created us to be….or to become captivated by the evil that surrounds us all.

 

Faith Link

Grace Sets Us free- Read Romans 5:6-10 to the group.

  • Is this Scripture passage familiar to you?
  • Any particular phrase that jumps out at you right away?

q  It is important to remember that God gives us hope as we seek to deal with the struggle to be good.  The foundation of our hope is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why?  Because in it God overcame Sin and Death, conquering the power of Evil in the world.

q  The message of Scripture is clear: Evil is a conquered foe!  Our hope is based not just on hearing the Good News, but in actually experiencing the Good News and living it in our own lives.

  • Do you believe that in any situation God’s Grace is more powerful than any temptation?  Why?  or Why not?
  • Have you experienced God’s Grace in your life?  Give an example.

q  As Wesleyans, Grace is a foundational lens through which we view (and live) the Christian life.  Sin is powerful, but we focus on Grace which is more powerful.  Grace comes from God.  We have 3 ways of thinking about Grace:

  1. Prevenient Grace- the Grace that comes before we even realize that God is loving us
  2. Justifying Grace- the Grace that allows us to “turn around” and face God (often the starting point of a conversion experience)
  3. Sanctifying Grace- the Grace that helps us grow more perfect in love
  • Can you think of a time (looking back) when God was at work in your life and you didn’t realize it?  Will you share it?
  • Has there been a time when you have accepted God’s love into your life?
  • How do you experience God’s power to grow in your faith?
  • How easy is it to claim the power of God’s Grace in your daily life?

 

Virtues are Gifts- Read 2 Corinthians 9:8-10 to the group.

  • How easy is it to be in “right-relationship” (i.e. righteousness) with God?
  • How easy is it to be in “right-relationship” with others?

q  The virtues (prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, faith, hope, love) are also expressions of sanctifying grace.  They are indications of God’s goodness in our lives.  They are God’s Power to help and guide us.  By giving us this power, God has given us a way in which we can deal with the conflict between good and bad.

q  The virtues are NOT just moral skills to master; they are a source of power in developing our character.  As we seek to grow in grace, we DO NOT have to rely on ourselves.  We DO rely on God’s grace to guide and strengthen us.

  • Thinking about this Scripture in relationship to the Virtues, what connections do you see?
  • What would it mean to “always have enough of everything” in your life with God?
  • What would it mean to abundantly share everything you have?

Virtues Are Not Just for the Saints- Read Romans 2:13-16 to the group.

  • What do you think this Scripture is saying?
  • Today in our context, who would the “Gentiles” of the world be?

HINT: Those outside the Church.

q  One of the delusions of Sin is thinking that we alone stand on high moral ground.  Our Sin makes us unwilling to believe that there may be a possibility that we are wrong morally.  Our Sin keeps us from admitting that people who disagree with us may have come to their conclusions through thoughtful, prayerful deliberations.  Our Sin does not let us ask “What if we are wrong?”

  • What does the scripture say makes someone in right-relationship (righteous) with God?
  • Do you agree?  Why?  or Why not?

q  True moral character is not a matter of belonging to a particular group or holding a particular viewpoint.  God provides ALL people with the gracious power of the virtues.  God offers Grace to all.

  • How comfortable are you with the idea that God offers grace to all?

q  To take the virtues seriously in our own lives, we MUST take them seriously in the lives of others.  Even in the lives of people with whom we disagree or who appear different from us but who are also seeking moral seriousness in their lives.

  • What do you do when you encounter someone who thinks differently than you do?

 

Life Application

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  • Are you familiar with this passage?

q  This is an important passage in Hebrew Scripture know as the “Shema.”  Many actually wear these words or have them on the doors of their homes.

q  The moral life is worth pursuing because it moves us closer to our created purpose: love of God and love of neighbor- “goodness.”

  • How could living the moral life through the virtues be like wearing these words everyday?
  • Where does one begin to live the life of Christian Virtue?

HINT: One must WANT to be good.

HINT: We must also start wherever we are.

  • Can you receive God’s forgiveness in your life?
  • Do you believe God accepts you wherever you are in your journey?

q  The transformation of our moral lives does not happen alone.  This passage emphasizes the power of community to teach, the power of community to strengthen and unite.  The power to share a virtuous life with others.  Virtue can and should be taught to all.

q  Because we are social beings, virtue can only be a lived reality in the community of faith.  We are shaped by our communities of faith.  We are nurtured by communities of faith.  Our communities of faith give us reinforcement and guidance.

  • How can your community of faith help you to “wear” God’s gift of the virtues?

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Joys and Concerns- Teacher: Write these on a piece of butcher paper.

 

Closing Prayer- Students: Close thanking God for grace, virtue, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

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Copyright 2005 Charles W. Harrison


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