Fundamentals Of Meditation (Part 8. Why Is Virtue Important?)
Definition Of Virtue: War-Worthy
Although this article is part of a series of articles, it is a Complete study on its own. (Part 8 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
My Christian life began in 1978, when, in a small church meeting in the clubhouse of a housing development, I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The Lord has taken good care of me over these years even though there were some tough times, a great example of which is when my first marriage ended. I did not let it go easily and it tore my heart out losing my wife, my marriage, my family, my residence, all my friends (my friends were her friends) and on and on, it seemed. I went to get some help of course. It seemed the smart thing to do. Why I went to a psychologist my "ex" suggested, I'll never know. The dude assured me that he would understand me as a Christian man and claimed to be a Christian himself. I remember well his recommending meditation to me to ease the stress that had been piling up that whole first year without my family intact. He explained I should sit in a lotus position and empty my mind of all clutter. I should, (since I was a Christian, he said), focus on a single feeling for example love or a single word, for example Jesus. He said this would serve to calm and relax me, to inwardly help my focus and find balance in myself. He urged me to try it right then. I asked him with embarrassment if I needed to sit the way he described and he said "no." I closed my eyes and started thinking about love. That didn't work, because all it made me think of was how much love I'd lost. I tried chanting the word Jesus, over and over. It wasn't all that long (about the sixth or seventh Jesus) when I started laughing and informed him that I was either doing this all wrong or he didn't understand me at all. I did tell him that I was leaning toward the latter as the answer to that "either/or" question. I still laugh to this day, remembering the serious look on the man's face as if he expected me to step out of my stress like I was shedding a cocoon or stripping out of a girdle.
Reflecting on this experience and what the Lord has shown me in years since, gave birth to the hub Christian Meditation Vs. New Age Meditation. And this series of articles, of which this is seventh, is a direct result of that single article. We have covered in those six previous installments, things that are True, Honest, Just, Pure, Lovely, and our last was Of Good Report. The next in this series deals with the idea of Virtue.
If this is the first of this series that you've read (or maybe it has been a while since you have read that first article), a quick recap may be in order. This article is based on the verse of Scripture where the apostle Paul is exhorting the church in Philippi about how to gain greater blessings in their relationship with Jesus. Paul knew the enemy was looking for weaknesses and he was teaching this church to meditate on Scripture.
The process begins with thanking God always for all things and rejoicing in Him. Dial back your emotions and don't simply give yourself over to them. Do not worry because worry is lack of faith, instead, trust God and talk to Him. Give Him your every concern. Empty yourself before Him and confess any sin, knowing God will forgive the repentant. Then absorb and "soak in" the Scripture, deeply considering things worthy of study or things worthy of mimicking; things like truth and justice, etc. Listen right there, at the foot of the cross, wait for God to teach you the wisdom from the Book which you are reading and absorbing. And the results of doing this? a joy unspeakable and full of glory, an inner peace that passes all understanding, and a healthy outlook with mental stability. There is also a promise from God that this exercise and the spiritual condition that it fosters, will protect the mind like a fort protects the people within its walls.
"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice! Let your moderation [control of self] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious] for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep [military term, its root meaning a fortress; safety, sanctuary, refuge] your hearts and minds [stabilize thoughts, stabilize motivation] through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any , if there be any praise, think [meditate] on these things." (Philippians 4:4-8)
There are certain words and concepts that go out of fashion in the world. Some have been out of fashion for so long they are classified as archaic and useless. But the idea of virtue is not lost to people who read and cling to God's Word. To the world, though, It is thought that humanity was less developed when virtue was a goal for all in society. People will concede that virtue may have had its function in medieval times or perhaps in the Victorian era; but in this age of computers and technology, of high speed communication and business, there is no place for such an old-fashioned thing as virtue. In fact, the type of scene you see depicted in the picture above is what comes to mind, containing people with a narrowed type of lifestyle that prohibited them from thinking on any plain considered "normal" today. A popular assessment of that society would say that they were a warlike people that would spout love in one moment, and then be hacking to pieces those who disagreed with them in the next. If asked to define it, the word virtue would bring forth such words and ideas as: a pretense of holiness or purity, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, prudishness, a virgin idealist, a "goody-goody," or holding to something that entails being unrealistic about life. They would even say such a society that would embrace virtue would be out-of-touch with humanity and with human nature.
There are also traits that people refer to as virtues, but then clearly dismiss as nonessential to modern life. Some of those virtues that come to mind are: chastity, honesty, nobility, prudence, patience and so on. These things too, are pooh-poohed as going overboard. Balance is the new virtue as far as the world is concerned, and the "balance" most often tips toward the vices end of the scale.
Let's look at the Biblical idea of Virtue.
What Is A Virtuous Man or A Virtuous Woman?
Is This What Virtue Is?
Our society has moved from a mostly value-centered culture to one that contains a hodge-podge of personal beliefs growing farther and farther away from God. In our society, each person's beliefs remain with that individual and it is hard to say if there is any one trait or value that is universally prized in this culture above that of any other. The term virtue as used in Scripture was once a universally held concept, but now has lost its original meaning.
If we look at these Scriptures that speak of Jesus losing His virtue, we can see right away that the definition has changed.
"And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched His garment. For she said, "If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole." And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press, and said, "Who touched my clothes?" (Mark 5:25-30 KJV)
"And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him and healed them all." (Luke 6:17-19 KJV)
"And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed of any, came behind Him, and touched the border of His garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, "Who touched Me?" When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, "Master, the multitude throng Thee, and press Thee, and sayest Thou, 'Who touched Me?'" And Jesus said, 'Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive that virtue has gone out of Me.'" (Luke 9:43-46 KJV)
If virtue is understood to mean purity, then how did virtue leave the Son of God? Did the woman who was sick pull purity out of the Savior so that He was less pure than before? No, of course not. One clue is in the revision of the New King James Version that renders virtue in this passage as power. Jesus wasn't losing purity, He was using or issuing forth power.
So we now know that virtue is not connected in any sense to wussiness, weakness, or some sort of cloistered piety, rather, it has to do with strength and power, as displayed in the life of Jesus Christ. As is always the case, we need to seek out the original meaning to really get the whole impact of what the author is saying so that we may obey the directive to meditate on things that have virtue.
The word translated virtue is the Greek word arete (ar-et'-ay) which means "manly, excellence from within or excellence that is credited upon someone by others." This word is related to the word arsen (ar'-sane) which comes from the same root word and means "strong-man, weightlifter." This helps to give us the flavor of the meaning, but to get a sense of how virtue came out of Jesus, or to understand the common way the word was used back in the day, we need to look at that root word. That word is the Greek word airo (ah'-ee-ro) and means "to lift up, to bear up, carry away (as one would carry armor)."
Now we can see how virtue had gone forth from Jesus and healed the woman and the crowd. Virtue is something that is able to bear up and carry away, in Jesus' case, to heal. It contains the very power of God.
We must also remember that the early church was mostly made up of people whose language and origins were Jewish (Hebrew). Most were Hebrews from in and around Jerusalem and Judea and then from Samaria and out-land areas. Paul was a Pharisee and was trained in Rabbinic law and spoke Hebrew. How did the Hebrew language and thought influence this statement when Paul counseled the Philippians to meditate on virtue? The Hebrew equivalent of airo is nasa (naw-saw') and its meaning reveals the real import of the concept of which Paul was speaking. It means to lift, able to bear up, able to produce, able to defend and wage war. The literal translation is war-worthy.
A Man Of Virtue Is A Man Ready...
Men in American culture are confused, I believe, as to what defines a man. They want people to know that they know how to be strong, but too strong and it seems to them to be overbearing and machismo. They want people to know they have feelings while not being inhibited by them. Too many feelings and men worry that they will be seen as less then a man. No crying, it shows weakness, unless it is "on cue" to show that they have a sensitive side (and even then, it better be watery-looking eyes or just a drop sliding down, no "boo-hooing"). Too sensitive and they feel that they may come across as emotional, even feminine. With homosexuality being so open in our society those who are heterosexual want to make sure that people never put them into that category. If a man is too hard, he's macho, too soft he's effeminate; no wonder our children are confused and susceptible to the world's programming.
Using the standards above, I am a weak, blubbering, man about whom people scratch their heads and wonder what happens in my private time. Good thing I don't use the standards above, huh? I define a man as the Bible defines him and I strive to be a man of virtue. By definition, the man of virtue is able to wage spiritual warfare. We can find a list of traits to describe such a man in the qualities required for a leader of the church.
"...if a man is blameless [having no consistent bad testimony that can be used against the cause of Christ], the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation [riot] or insubordination [unruly]. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed [a man that lets the Lord's will be his will] not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded [serious when it comes to serving God], just, holy, self-controlled [having control of self], holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." (Titus 1:6-9)
"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate [vigilant], sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable [cares for the poor], able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle [patient], not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued [liars or deceivers], not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience." 1 (1 Timothy 3:1-9)
Such are the traits of a virtuous man, a man who is equipped to battle the forces of evil that will be opposing him at every turn, a man whose wife enjoys living with him and serving God with him.
Now let us consider something the Bible calls precious and more valuable than rubies- a virtuous woman.
A Woman Of Virtue Is A Woman Ready...
As a man looking out into the world of women, I also see much confusion in them regarding a definition of what it means to be a woman. History has given much reason for this, but that is no excuse to replace evil with evil. Women have been oppressed, treated as slaves by their husbands, treated like children with very little (if any) value at all, belittled, mocked, used all for the pleasure and promoting of men. All that is evil.
The world's answer for that is just as evil.
Women now question whether they should be wives, mothers, or even equal partners in a marriage. If they do become a wife or mother, they are redefining what that means, not considering what the Bible says is to be the model. They have taken words, concepts, and ideals that were part of the society from Scripture and instead of working to bring the Bible standard to that society, they are struggling to dominate and subjugate men. They have influenced media to redefine what a man is and thus to aid in that struggle. How many TV commercials and situation comedies have a very weak man thinking he is "ruling" his home and he is actually the comedy relief, nothing but a buffoon. Mom knows all, dad knows nothing. Dad is useless except for the most rudimentary things, and even then chances are he will screw that up. While mom is smart, inventive, resourceful, heroic and making a mockery of every man in her circle of life, dad is sitting on the couch drinking, farting, and scratching himself rudely.
Both ends of the spectrum are wrong and evil as far as Scripture is concerned.
Now don't think that Christians have been much better in the majority of situations, because they have not. Christian men have used the word submission, and driven it like a stake through the heart of their wives. Christian women have rejected the Bible's definition of submission, and rebelled at the very turn, even though the Bible does not encourage men to subjugate anyone, least of all God's gift of a woman to share their lives as a precious marriage partner.
So who is the woman of virtue?
The Bible's definition of a woman that is esteemed as war-worthy is surprisingly similar to what women themselves say they want, before their struggle turns to destroy men. It is written in Proverbs 31 and has been a clarion call to women and godly men for centuries. Christian men have read this and sighed, holding this woman in esteem. Christian women have longed to fit this description of a war-worthy woman that's respected and valued.
"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain [he trusts her instead of distrusting her, but by the same token, she is trustworthy]. She does him good and not evil all he days of her life. She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands [killing the myth that a Christian woman should never work outside of the home]. She is like the merchant ships and brings her food from afar. She rises while is is yet night, and provides food for her household [which kills the myth that only the man is the "bread-winner"], and a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it and from her profits she plants a vineyard [which means this woman has business sense, hires help, and is allowed to keep the profits]. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms [she cares about her health]. She perceives that her merchandise is good and her lamp does not go out by night [she operates within a budget and has money sense]. She stretches out her hand to the distaff and her hand holds the spindle [she finds enterprising ways to survive and if needed learns how to make clothing]. She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches her hands out to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for all her household is clothed with scarlet [she has wisdom to know quality and makes sure that the family is properly attired]. She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple [she dresses well and fashionably]. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land [this is the woman behind the man but not beneath him]. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies sashes for the merchants [essentially this woman owns a private company that supplies retail stores with merchandise]. Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come [she knows Jesus as her Savior and her future is secure]. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness [does not allow herself to be lazy]. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her [notice the man does praise her, but also notice that she is praiseworthy]
Her husband says to her: "Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all."
Then God speaks this description through the author King Lemuel: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:10-31)
Paul gives this list to the woman who is virtuous: "Likewise, their wives must be reverent [godly, yielding to God], not slanderers, temperate [masterfully in control of self, war-worthy], faithful in all things." (1 Timothy 3:11)
What We Can Do To Be A Person Of Virtue...Put on the whole armor of god
We have examined the definition of virtue. We have cleared up the misconceptions about its meaning. We have more clearly defined a man of virtue and a woman of virtue. What we need now to do, is to speak of how these people became individuals whose minds and hearts are truly war-worthy.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Do you notice that the things listed here are very much like the things we are to meditate upon, and that are contained in the practice of Christian meditation? You have six pieces of armor needed that are said to be essential to being war-worthy: truth that you wear as a belt, righteousness that you wear as a breastplate, willingness to share Jesus that you wear as shoes, faith that you hold like a shield, salvation that you wear as a helmet. Then the attitudes you need to use them are supplication and brokenness before the Lord, and perseverance in their use.
The armor of God is used in battle. Christians are so apt to say that trials come one at a time and God gets us through; that there are mountaintops and there are valleys. But the proper setting for us is to be picturing ourselves is in an active battlefield, with you engaging the enemy.
You move forward as the General has ordered you and are constantly at the ready, shield up for protection, sword in position to defend. You have your shoes on and are walking. (If you have no purpose, no job to do, you take off your shoes and sit down, put your feet up and drink a nice cool soft drink.) However, in this reality check, the shoes are on and we are on the move.
The Objective: To find people that the enemy is holding hostage and to free them.
The enemy is seeking to keep its own and to kill you so as not to deal with any more hostages lost. As you move into the enemy's territory, you hear cries of pain from children and their parents that can't help them. You hear fear and terror as the prisoners are despairing and crying out for help. You have a righteous mission. As you learn to focus your eyes, you see that the enemy chooses for a stronghold, a misty and desolate place. Things are clouded as with a fog and it is easy to miss things that are right in front of your eyes. The General is right by your side and you trust Him and His war savvy. He Himself watched you and helped you put on your helmet of salvation that protects your mind from attack because you are a child of the King. You match each step of the General and allow Him to lead you into the hostile fray. There! the mist clears and you see someone that is being tortured by evil all around- you strike with the sword of the Spirit and cut them to the heart so that it is laid bare to God's message that tells them how to be free with a brand new life in Christ. They are afraid because the enemy has held them for so long, so you struggle with them, and reason with them, telling them that with Jesus they will be safe. All of a sudden, the words that you are given to tell them make sense to them. You see them as they are running into the arms of the Lord that loves them and you weep for joy, knowing the enemy holds one less soul. But the enemy won't take this lying down- he fires a missile because he saw that you had lowered your shield for a second. It strikes you- but you are protected by your breastplate, the righteous salvation that holds your security and you cry out. The General is right there, checking you for wounds, reassuring you that you are okay. But that arrow messed up your concentration for a minute, so the General, your partner in battle instructs you to tighten your belt of truth around your waist, because it secures the loose ends of your battle gear. You are reminded that you are the child of the King and that you are invincible because God walks with you. You are secured in that truth, so you do as ordered and tighten in the bands of truth about your waist and raise your shield and proceed...
This is the life we lead as saved Christian men and women. We wear and use the armor, and when we do, we have virtue.
Paul said to meditate on these things: Meditate on the God of Virtue, contemplate the battlefield, the armor, the soldiers, the objective. Meditate on the people you know that need Jesus and the think about the people you know that are good soldiers, men and women you look up to as inspiration and role models. There is incredible strength in this, God bless.
He Knows His Time Is Short...
As is my custom, I call out to any who may have felt themselves on the outside looking in. It may be that you feel that way because you are not one that wears armor or knows anything about the terms we used in the article above. You may realize that life is a battle, but don't have any idea how to fight, other than just to do the best you can to survive. I wish to inform you that, though many people think so, your best is not good enough. This battle is tough and even if you survive the battle to live a good long time you still have to grow old and die someday. Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven when you die? Did you know that it is possible to know for sure.
1 John 5:13 says: "These things have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
To be sure you are going to heaven you must know that God is and you must believe in Him. You say I do believe that God exists and I do believe in Him. That's good! Now there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. First is, that we all sin and come short of the glory of God. We can't go to heaven on our own because we fall short of heaven. But God loved us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He paid for the sin that we can not pay for by just being good. Jesus paid for our sin by dying on a cross in the worst possible way and paid for the sin we should pay for. Now it is possible to ask Jesus to save us and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.
If you believe that God sent Jesus to die for your sins and then was buried but he rose again on the third day, then you can call out to Him to save you. Now praying certain words will not magically save you but a heartfelt, honest turning to God will be honored by Him and He will make you His child. Pray this:
Lord Jesus, I know in my heart that I am a sinner and I will not make it to heaven because of my sin. But I ask you to forgive me of my sin and save me. I am willing to turn from my way of living and live the way you show me. I am totally trusting you with my life. I pray this in Jesus' holy name, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, it is time to read and find out all about that armor. God bless.
You Are In A Spiritual Battle - Go And Display Virtue
Other hubs in series: