Thought: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Rom 8:14

The Promise of Goodness
Thursday 9th January, 2014

"O God make the bad people good and the good people nice"

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. What do you think of when you hear the word goodness, or the phrases a good sermon or a good job? It refers to something that meets a certain standard, someone's expectations. It fulfills the goal of the job. The sermon does what sermons are suppose to do- change lives. The meaning of goodness often depends on the context. A good book is different for different people and purposes. A good book for scholarly research is quite different from a good book for bedtime reading; and what is good recreation for one person may not be for the next.

What do you mean when you say you had a good experience? Each person may mean something different, but I believe there is one principle in commom, the idea that there was some kind of benefit to us. A good deed benefits someone in some way. It is an act of kindness.

And what is a good friend? Probably the common quality above all others is someone who is dependable, someone you can count on to be there for you at times of need. The relationship benefits you.

Finally, what is a good heart? It is sincere, honest, and moral. But who defines morality? For Christians, God is the One who defines moral goodness. He sets the standards, and it is His expectations that must be met. The Scriptures reveal an ultimate and absolute definition of goodness.

From our common usage of the idea of goodness, I see three aspects that all are derived from the first. Goodness, or the idea of being good, means that the thing fulfills its purpose or the expectations for it. In the ultimate context of God's expectations, goodness includes the second aspect of morality, and that is defined by God. The third aspect is that in most situations the purpose or expectation involves some form of benefit.

The first place in the Old Testament where something is called good is Genesis 1. As God spoke into existence each phase of creation, He saw that it was good. What does this mean? How could it have been bad or evil? I believe the point here involves expected function. God's creation did what He intended it to do. It accomplished its purpose. It met His expectations. And that is one of the basic ideas of the goodness the Spirit wants to manifest in our lives.

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about his present result, to preserve many people alive" (NASB). God had a purpose, which was to save many lives. God's good purpose in every situation is ultimately to save lives. Joseph suffered some very hurtful things, but they turned out to be of great benefit to him and for many others. They fulfilled the purpose of God, His redemptive purpose.

The sense of moral good versus evil is seen in Genesis 2 in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil here has the idea of rebellion against God. The character of God defines moral goodness. Exodus 33:19 shows this when in response to Moses' request to see God's glory the Lord says: "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD [Yahweh], in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." This says that all the Lord is represented by His name, is called His goodness, and is expressed in merciful, gracious love which offers forgiveness and salvation to all who will receive it. This association of goodness, forgiveness, and love is seen also in Psalm 86:5. Thus, there is an overlapping of goodness with other fruit of the Spirit such as kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and, of course, love. Goodness is a quality of God associated so closely with Him that people use it as a euphemism for Him when making an interjection, such as "Oh, goodness!"

Besides describing the character of God, goodness describes His acts on behalf of His people, the benefits of His salvation. At the end of Psalm 23 David confidently proclaims: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

Finally, Amos 5:4–15 is a powerful passage which parallels seeking the Lord with seeking good and doing good for others. Verse 6 says, "Seek the Lord that you may live," and verse 14, "Seek good, and not evil, that you may live" (NASB). The good in this context is the opposite of oppressing the poor and the needy. Verse 15 indicates it is hating evil and loving good by maintaining justice in the courts. Seeking good meant seeking to benefit rather than harm the needy, thus demonstrating the kind of saving, redemptive purpose God has.

Significant New Testament references must include the commendation of the servants in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:21(NIV), "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Good is associated with faithfulness, and it refers to conduct which goes even beyond expectations in taking care of the master's capital. These servants made an extra effort and even took a risk to bring their master gain and benefit, because of their commitment to him. Goodness involves going beyond the mere requirements.

Luke 8:15, talks about good ground and then speaks about a person with an honest and a good heart who hears the Word and responds to it. So here goodness involves the honesty of receiving God's Word repentantly, then responding in faith and obedience, and accomplishing His purpose for one's life.

One of the most famous and interesting passages is Luke 18:18,19. The rich young ruler calls Jesus good Teacher, or Master in some versions. "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good, except God alone" (NIV). We can talk about good people and good things in terms of human standards, and our expectations for them, but when it really comes down to it, who sets the ultimate standard and expectations for goodness except God? Jesus was challenging the young ruler to consider the truth that He was God come in the flesh, and that appreciating God's holiness and the gift of His Son would end the thinking that there is anything one can do to earn salvation. Third John 11 says that the one who does good is of God. True goodness can only flow out of a life right with God and yielded to Him.

An important example is Barnabas in Acts 11:24. He is called "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (NIV). He encouraged others, according to chapter 4, and was generous and honest. Later, in giving Paul a chance and then Mark a second chance, he showed great patience and unselfishness which reached out to benefit someone else. He demonstrated the connection between being filled with the Spirit and these qualities in one's life.

Romans 15:14 says the Christians in Rome were "full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another" (NIV). They were able to benefit and to help one another fulfill God's purpose in their lives. They were characterized by God's moral qualities.

Ephesians, chapters 4 and 5 give specific ways thatgoodness is to be expressed in our lives. Some of these are, beginning in 4:25, speaking truthfully, not sinning in our anger, not stealing but doing something good. We are not to do hurtful, harmful things but helpful, beneficial, useful things. Then, continuing in verse 29, we are to build up one another with our conversation. We must get rid of all malice and be kind, compassionate, forgiving, imitators of God and Christ, living lives of love. In this way we are in alignment with the Holy Spirit and avoid grieving Him.

Furthermore, verses 5–12 of chapter 5 remind us that God's goodness in His people avoids sexual immorality, impurity, greediness, all disobedience, and fruitless deeds of darkness. On the contrary, God's children live as children of light and seek to please the Lord, "for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth" (verse 9, NIV). Here Paul clearly parallels righteousness and truth with goodness. Finally he calls for us to be filled with the Spirit, worshipping God, blessing others, and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

This brings us to Paul's context in Galatians. He is clarifying the gospel message of our salvation by grace through faith. He shows that it means freedom from bondage, freedom from condemnation, and freedom from bondage to our old sinful nature. In 5:6 Paul says that what matters is faith working through love. This freedom is not to mean license, he says in 5:13, but serving one another in love. We are exhorted in 5:16-25 to walk in the Spirit, or live by the Spirit and bear good fruit. This is the opposite of fulfilling the works of the old sinful nature which are sexual immorality, hurting other people with strife, and wild, drunken, destructive behavior from alcohol.

Paul's list of the fruit of the Spirit, like his list of the works of the flesh, seems to have a lot of overlapping. Goodness following right after kindness seems to be closely associated with it. In fact, that same Greek word for kindness (chrestotes) used in Galatians 5:22 appears in Romans 11:22, translated goodness in the King James Version where it refers to the goodness and severity of God. I believe there are many ways in which all the fruit are interrelated. To understand goodness one must understand all the fruit.

A demonstration of God's kind of goodness is called for in Galatians 6 where Paul appeals for gently and humbly ministering to others who are stumbling. We are to carry each other's burdens and care enough to get involved with one another to prevent moral and spiritual ruin.

Finally, verses 7—10 read, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (NIV). We must keep sowing to the Spirit, which means we must keep seeking God and letting His qualities be developed in us and flow through us by the Spirit. When we do, we will benefit others; we will reach out beyond our own selfish needs and be self-giving, or generous as some translations refer to this fruit. God's goodness goes beyond what is legally right, goes the extra mile, and gives what is needed and what will benefit, build up, and bless others.

The fruit of the Spirit must continually be cultivated. We do not produce them once for all time. We need to sow to the Spirit continually so goodness will be expressed in our lives instead of the old selfish qualities. If I meditate on envy, jealousy, lusts, worries, or fears I am going to reap from them some very selfish evil fruit in my behavior and relationships. I may explode all over someone and cause great harm rather than good. But when I sow to the Spirit by meditating on God's qualities through the Word, I will bear good fruit of kind, generous, beneficial acts toward others. I will help others experience God's forgiving, restoring love in Christ through faith. I will also live a morally pure life according to God's holiness. Bearing goodness means God can depend on me to be honest, repent of my sins, and turn away from evil. We need to continually seek to express this goodness in our responses and actions toward others.

In conclusion, think of your favorite Julie mango. What do you expect it to be like when you bite into it? What are the qualities of a good mango? Now, think about what you are like when someone bites into you. Do they receive goodness from you? Remember, only God in you is good.

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his frontyard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.

A neighbor asked, "How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an elephant?

"The man answered, "I just chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant!"

If you have anything in your life right now that doesn't look like love, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have anything in your life that doesn't look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, for God's sake, and the for the other person's sake, and for your sake, get rid of it! Let God chip everything out of your life that doesn't look like tenderheartedness.

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe his goodness in delivering them, his mercy in pardoning them, and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of his goodness and of his truth, as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favours? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath he never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things," hath he never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters? Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave his mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David's harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth forever.

The thought processes of a child are very different from those of a mature person. A child thinks only of himself and his desires, his wants and needs making up the heart of his world and completely occupying his focus. Certainly for the sake of survival, every baby comes into this world as a narcissist, thinking only of its own needs. But with healthy growth of the mind comes a natural change in focus from inward to outward. The thought life of a mature believer must be well trained because the greatest battlefield for the Christian is the mind. Proverbs 23:7 "For as he thinks within himself, so he is" (NASB).

What we think about powerfully influences who and what we will become. Our actions, our attitudes and habits are born in the mind, an offspring of the thought life we entertain.

We can literally change our lives by changing how we think – but we cannot do it alone. God's standard and guideline for the thought life is very clear and demanding. In fact, it's downright impossible without God's power at work in our lives.

Philippians 4:8: "Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected" (NCV).

We choose what we watch and read, the conversations we have and the time we spend in the Word. If the mind is not filled with good, trust me, the enemy will fill it with bad. The human mind will always set itself on something. In this passage, Paul is challenging us to wisely choose that setting, taking charge of our thoughts by inviting the Holy Spirit to empower God's standard for the mind.

It is time for us to allow the Holy Spirit free reign in training our mind, harnessing our thoughts and measuring them by God's standard. If we don't make up our mind, our unmade mind will unmake us. In order to live right we must think right. How about you? Have you made up your mind?

Lord, I confess to You that my thoughts are not pure. I have allowed the world and outside influences to pollute the mind that should be set on You.

Pastor Dermoth Baptiste
President, St Vincent & the Grenadines Mission