ESGAL14 Fruit of the Spirit Part 8 Goodness
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
This week we are looking at the fruit of goodness.
Kindness and goodness are a pair – you need both together and so they belong together.
Kindness may be found naturally among some people but, and this is where the distinction between kindness and goodness is found, no one is naturally good.
We have a rich young ruler come to Jesus and implore Him as found in:
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The upshot of this is that we can never be called good because only God is good.
Here is an excellent illustration of God’s goodness found in one of the famous books of fiction:
In The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Sherlock Holmes is found studying a rose. Watson, his faithful friend, narrates: “He walked past the couch to an open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show an interest in natural objects.
“ ‘There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,’ said he, leaning with his back against the shutters.… ‘Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.’ ”
God gives us so many extras.
We have the famous Psalm 23 saying:
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
That is God. People on the other hand...
I hear the argument made that all people can do good…and to a point that is true but in the eyes of God the good that we do is not pure but tainted by sin. So a Buddhist or an Atheist, for example, can do good, even lay down his life for another – which is love and is good – but the eyes of God sees our nature, sees our motives, see that even the greatest of sacrifices cannot come up to God’s standards. Even our good deeds are to God are blots on paper or as it says in:
6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
Those filthy rags are literally a filthy garment.
We live in an age that thinks that humans are basically good in essence; that morals are relative; that we are all better than each other. I don’t know how we all can be better than each other! With whom are we comparing ourselves? What we do is feed the flesh, we have a right to do whatever we want and then new laws are passed to allow our depravity.
When people are asked on the street most think that they are good enough. However, the law of God is perfect; however, the standards of God are much higher than even the best person in the world.
It’s like at Swansea Arsenal game last week where Abraham’s goal was ruled off-side. I’m guessing his discussion with the referee went something like this: oh come on! there are 59,000 people here who know that that was a goal! And the referee replies: Maybe so, but my opinion is the only one that counts. No goal!
Christians are also pressed by the weight of numbers who are against the moral law of God. But the Christian knows that in the end, only one opinion counts: that of the Referee of all human affairs. We are ultimately answerable to God and it is Him alone we offend whilst doing the things that are right in our own eyes. We are not even able to keep one of God’s commandments.
However when one is born of God we are a new creation and have been given the Holy Spirit to indwell us who guarantees our salvation. Now that we have a new nature it is in a battle with the old, for not one of us is sinless even after becoming Christians, but we can, now, do good deeds with pure motives in the sight of God. Now we, who are His, have God’s divine nature in us through the Holy Spirit so that we can manifest true goodness.
But the starting point for us is that no one is good, no, not even one. But God is perfectly holy, righteous and just. It follows, then, that God, and God alone is the source of goodness. The only way we can be good is because of the price that was paid:
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
What a transformation has taken place - we were wearing a filthy garment, the filthy garment of our good deeds, which in the sight of God were dead works but now we are wearing a robe of righteousness and garments of salvation, not of our good works but of His.
So, let us define what goodness is. It is Uprightness. It is moral excellence as well as goodness. It is pleasing to God and beneficial to others. It is the engagement in doing good deeds. It is the person who has the quality of being good (ἀγαθός). And we should put in an antonym here: evil. Evil is the opposite of good.
You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah
And those who do evil Scripture says:
Ecclesiastes 9:18b — 18 But one sinner destroys much good.
But those who are born with the Spirit of God are those who are good in God’s sight and doing good. And so we become fruitful for God:
Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
It is clear that goodness should be more and more evident in our lives for Paul had confidence that the Christians he wrote to were good:
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
Peter, a man who was very self-aware of his sinful condition wrote a great deal about goodness. It is one of his key words in his first letter. He equated knowledge and goodness as being tied together; as we grow in our knowledge of God, of who He is and what He has done it effects a change in us towards goodness.
We must do our good works where they can be seen. OK – but doesn’t this conflict with what Jesus said about doing things in secret? Well, it would appear so…but the difference is found in our motives. If our motive is so that we get praise from others then we must learn to do our good works away from the eyes of others. But if our motive is the glory of God and we are pointing to Him as the one who is doing the work through us then the good works that we do in Him cannot be hidden anyway.
It seems amazing to me that most of the fruit of the Spirit has as its corresponding catalyst suffering for these fruit to be formed in us. Joy, as we saw, seems to be out of suffering. And it seems it is the lot of one who wants to do good in Christ that suffering is the result. And as a result of suffering doing good is the result. Making a very circular argument. Do good you suffer. You suffer so you’ll do good. And on and on. And this is unavoidable if we are born of God:
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
Because of His Spirit we are made good. In our being we are now good. And our actions prove it. And the result of our actions seems to be false accusations or misunderstanding that lead to suffering. Of course, we have to be careful that those accusations are not actually true. For if they are true then we have every right to suffer!
And how can we demonstrate these good deeds? Well, there is an excellent passage for an example. We’ll look at it properly in due course, God willing, but it will suffice just to read it for now:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
So, not only do we do good deeds to others we are in effect serving Jesus in the process.
Another very crucial passage in all this is found in:
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Instead of giving back to people what they deserve we remember that we were shown mercy and instead we do good to those who despise us. This again reveals the extent of suffering that goes before and after good deeds. We see how the rest of the fruit of the Spirit comes into play here with love, with kindness, with patience and all done in the Spirit of joy.
And how can we forget some of the other verses that ought to be well-known to us:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We have to be open to the way the Lord leads us. It may be that God has put things in front of us to do. The one who sees what needs doing is usually the one who should be doing it. God has prepared good works for us to. It is in our interest and for the Kingdom of God that we do it. It is in our interest because we gain a reward from God our Father simply by doing what He gives us to do and for the Kingdom of God because God is honoured and the Kingdom advances against the devil.
Good deeds are developed by applying the principles of God’s Word to our relationships with the people around us seeking only to do the things that are in their best interest, rather than in our own best interest.
4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
Because of the work of God in the believer we are becoming more like His Son every day…if we allow Him.
Only the Holy Spirit can be holy through us. Only by the Holy Spirit can we be good. So, let the Holy Spirit do His work through us.
We heard in the sermon that the mind of Christ was not to look out for your own interests but the interests of others. This was the mind of Christ. This is how Jesus behaved as an example to all of us. And this table today is all the proof we need. But let us hear more from that passage in:
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He became nothing, He did not consider himself. This is the Lord of glory, our creator, for without Him nothing was made that is made. All honour and praise belong to Him yet He put His glory by, put it to one side to come and live among us as a man. And then, on top of all that He condescended further to die and not just any death but to torture. On my desk at home I have a wooden cross. it is beautiful to behold: This is it. I have it to remind me of what Jesus did for me. But in a way it is too beautiful, too smooth, too sanitised. The real cross would have been gnarled with splinters, with embedded blood, with the Lord of lords and the King of kings nailed into it. Naked, tormented, suffering. For us. What incredible love!
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
The cross I have at home does not have a depiction of Jesus on it. That’s because the work He did has been finished. It is now an empty cross and an empty grave. Jesus has now ascended into Heaven receiving all the glory due to His name. And one day He will come back and every tongue will declared that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus our wonderful Saviour!
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.