What do we know about goodness?
God is distinctly good. Jesus asks and affirms, Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. What is Jesus saying about the source of goodness? There is a distinct, unique goodness about God. The goodness of God is total 100%; not a degree of goodness or the highest grade possible. It is the source of goodness. We regard God as uniquely good not only because of his character, but also because of ours ...
Goodness does not characterize our sinful condition. - We are discouraged when it comes to our sinful condition. Perhaps this is why we want to resist acknowledging it. The disciples are discouraged when Jesus tells them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Camels are big. And no the eye of needle isnt a small gate. That explanation comes from a 5th century commentary, not history. Jesus would say today that it is easier to shove a cow through a keyhole.) The point is that on own it is impossible to attain the distinct goodness of God. Romans 7:18-21, I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to dothis I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Yet, we have potential for good. We have some capacity for good and we cannot deny that since we were created in the image of the good God. Paul very truthfully and accurately described our sinful condition, but he also truthfully and accurately states that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10. We believe that enough that we let this word shape our identity (notice the banner). So how do we reconcile this conflict between our sinful nature and the calling of God to do good works? Is it fair of God to expect us to do good works when we are corrupted by the sinful nature? It is if we accept that ...
We depend on Gods Spirit to cultivate goodness.
Why is it difficult to cultivate goodness?
Our culture (that includes us) has tamed goodness. Strawberries seem so common and natural to us, but that hasnt always been the case. Before they were tamed, strawberries were considered quite the unusual and exotic fruit. 800 years ago, many Europeans considered the strawberry unfit for human consumption. It was a wild berry that grew in the woods and many considered that it grew among the serpents and toads and was thus contaminated. On a rare occasion an explorer or poet would describe the wonderful sweetness of the rare and dangerous strawberry. But in time, the strawberry was tamed and cultivated. In the 1700s a Swedish botanist ate nothing but strawberries for a year to prove they were indeed quite edible.
We have tamed goodness so that we dont think it is anything all that special. Tamed goodness is common and not too exotic. If you want to be a good person, then just dont do anything bad. Like the rich ruler, if we keep the commandments, which means not breaking the law, then we consider ourselves good people. We have exchanged goodness for mediocrity.
We have confused the goal of goodness. Goodness is so much a virtue as it is a quality of life. We want to live the good life and we want goof things out of life. In our culture goodness is often equated with 1) feeling good. Theres a lot of effort put into the goal of feeling good. Even in church people may critique worship or fellowship based on whether or not they feel good. Of course we can do better than this. And sometime we recognize a higher goal for goodness. We strive to 2) do good. We rightly recognize that there are good works that we ought to do. And this may lead us to organize programs so that more people will do more good works. And yet we are sometimes frustrated when all of our efforts to do good fall short or we find that people lose interest in doing good. Its at moments like these, if we are attentive, that we recognize that the goal of goodness is 3) being good. People who are striving to be good will do good. And people who are striving to be good do not get distracted trying to simply feel good. In fact, being good may make you feel good but sometimes being good does not feel good. But if we strive to cultivate goodness, then we know that being good is a higher goal than feeling good. Think of this: If I am feeling good, I am not necessarily becoming more like God, but the more a Strive to be good the more I become like God.
Ways of Cultivating Goodness
Confession of sin and weakness. This is difficult, but so very important. Until we name the sin that prevents us from cultivating goodness, we will never mature. Ignoring the sin and weakness in our life keeps us from growing in Gods Spirit. We have tamed goodness, but we have also tamed sin. We dismiss the poisonous nature of sin by saying things like Well everyone sins. True, but that is why it is so bad. We shouldnt dismiss sin, but name it. And naming it doesnt make it worse, it actually opens us up to healing from a source outside ourselves.
Attention to God's Word. That source from outside is Gods word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In preaching, reading, and study the word of God is more than just information. It is a truth from outside ourselves that has the power to transform. Preaching is worship because we attend to what God is saying to us. You and I. I hope that in the sermon you hear what God is saying to you so that you will respond. I dont preach to say what I want, my hope and prayer is that you will hear what God wants you to hear from his word. And that you will respond through confession and repentance. Why? So you can be good. So that you will be equipped for good works.
Imitation of mature disciples. We need role models. Paul was bold enough o tell the Corinthian disciples to imitate him because he was imitating Christ. When Pauls disciple, Titus was trying to build up the church on Crete he had his work cut out for him. Crete was a cesspool of morals. Paul advised Titus to build up mature leaders, men and women, who could model the goodness of the Christian life. Imitation is important to our life together. I call upon the older men and women of this church, the mature disciples, to model goodness and the other fruit of the spirit. Be willing to let younger disciples learn from you. Direct them to Christ through your life. Spend time with them. You say, But I am not perfect. Great! Show them how to confess their sins and attend to Gods word. I call upon younger disciples to ask the mature disciples to teach you. Tell them you need their wisdom and time. Invite them to become your mentors.
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