Goodness 2020


Ten years ago this Sunday, I delivered my first message to this church. It was this message, entitled “Goodness”. At that time, I was a deacon in another church 55 miles away and you were searching for a new preacher. I was willing to fill in on a week’s notice, and I did that until Al said, “Plan on coming every week until we say differently.” I had no idea I would still be “filling in” ten years later.
Although the situation is different today, this message is still relevant for our lives. I revised the written sermon very little in order to enjoy its original application, but I will make several additional comments to help us apply the message to our life today.
Mark 10:17-18 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.
Understand this: Goodness is a characteristic of God—not man. Of course, the man was correct in calling Jesus good, but he did not know Jesus was God in the flesh.
While we say someone is good, that person, if he is walking with God, will disagree with us. Because, when you are walking with God, you are aware of your sinfulness and God’s holiness. The closer we get to God, the more sinful we see ourselves and the more humble and repentant we become.
When we are not close to God, we compare ourselves to each other and decide, “I am a good person, and better than some. I have faults, but at least I don’t do what they do.”
As a Christian, our confession should be like Paul’s in Romans 7:18, “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.”
However,we recognize that Paul did possess goodness, in spite of his sinful nature. We can possess goodness, too, if we, like Paul, are filled with God, the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Before they received the Holy Spirit, the apostles, who walked with Jesus, were fearful, powerless, incapable of being good, or being anything like Jesus. And so are we, until we receive the Holy Spirit, who gives us grace to become good and Christ-like. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, many changes will take place. We will have a conviction of our sin with a desire to die to our fleshly nature and to obey Jesus.
Galatians 5:16-25 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
In Christ, we live, move, and have our being. We do not walk according to our flesh (or sinful nature). We crucify our sinful nature daily. That is what those who belong to Christ Jesus do. Those who live according to their sinful nature are not Christ-like (nor are they a Christian) and they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
We are not born good. We must be born again of the Spirit of God so we can become good. There is only one kind of human nature, and that is the sinful nature we all have. Human beings know human beings too well to mistake where genuine goodness comes from. And there is only one genuine goodness, the goodness of Jesus Christ.
God does not come in and patch up our good works, He puts in the Spirit that was characteristic of Jesus. Then we exhibit Divine characteristics in our life, not good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly.
The Holy Spirit does not patch up our natural virtues; He re-makes the whole of our being until we find that every virtue we possess is His alone. It is His patience, His love, His tenderness, His gentleness, and His goodness that are exhibited through us—never ours.
When people see the fruit of the Spirit, they see Jesus in us. It is not the manifestation of noble human traits that they see, but a real likeness to Jesus. The expression of Christian character is not doing “good” (many unbelievers do “good”). When a person is born again of the Holy Spirit, their actions have the inspiration of God behind them, with no selfish motive.
The mystery of a Christian is that the supernatural (i.e. goodness) is made natural in him by the grace of God, and the experience of this grace works out in the practical details of life. Daily, we must give Jesus our life and our desires so He can manifest His Life and goodness in us. Then Jesus is lifted up and other people will be drawn to Him.
2 Peter 1:3-11 His divine power [Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
[These are gained through the effort of dying to self, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit, walking with God, praying unceasingly, listening to the Holy Spirit and obeying His leading; spending less time with the TV, internet, and other worldly influences.]
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God has given us the Holy Spirit so that we have His grace and power to be like Jesus. However, we must desire this change in our lives and eagerly pursue this progressive development every day by dying to self and sin and walking by the Holy Spirit. Then we will gradually become good—like Christ.
(You are seeking a new under-shepherd, a preacher, for this church. What qualifications are you seeking? Jesus gives you the guidance you need.)
Matthew 7:15-20 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Plants are classified by the fruit they produce. A tree is called an oak because it produces an acorn. Likewise, Christians can be identified by the fruit they produce. Only a Christian has the grace to produce the fruit of Christ, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
In your search for a preacher, [or replacing an elder] look for the fruit of the Holy Spirit; goodness is one of those characteristics. Look for the fruit of the Holy Spirit only, not speaking ability, not entertainment skills, not degrees of education, not professional success, not age nor family size, etc. Only a man who is walking with Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, can lead you to become more like Jesus and build the Church, the Bride of Christ.
When a leader dies or leaves, there is a tendency to panic, that things will fall apart if we don’t do something quickly. To relieve our anxiety, we are tempted (like Israelites when Moses didn’t appear for 40 days) to build a “golden calf”, the product of fear and lack of trust in God. But God is in control and He will lead. You must trust Him and wait for Him to bring you His under-shepherd.
After all, this is His church, not yours. His Church is not a democracy. It was a democracy that built the golden calf. The majority wanted Aaron to do something quickly. No, Christ’s church is a theocracy—only God gets to decide.
That is why you must pray—to align yourselves with God’s will and to fight against the demonic spirits of fear, anxiety, grumbling, complaining, back-biting, selfish-ambition, desire to take control, apathy, lack of love for one another, dissentions, and gossip that desire to infiltrate this congregation and destroy it.
Your prayers are of utmost importance. Don’t fail to do your part in praying. Nothing else is needed more. Pray against the enemy in Jesus’ Name and pray that the Elders will clearly hear God and recognize the fruit of the Holy Spirit and God’s anointing on the preacher God has chosen for you.
While you are praying and waiting, there is no need to fear, because of the following promises in God’s Word:
Romans 15:13-14 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, you have knowledge, goodness, and competence to instruct one another. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to persevere and love one another. The Holy Spirit is what makes a church great.
Do not fail to appreciate what you have. You have each other. Each person is precious and valuable. Each person is gifted and necessary in the Body of Christ. As each person shares those gifts to build up the Body of Christ, you encourage one another and meet the needs of each member of the body.
Without a preacher, you are being stretched, doing things you have not done before. This will cause you to grow in faith. Now is a great time to love one another and show yourselves to be the disciples of Jesus. Now is the time for you to visit the sick, seek the lost, and become the servants of God. By doing so, you will be a tremendous witness to the power of God in this community even without a full-time minister. Again, the presence of the Holy Spirit in you is what makes an effective church.
Paul walked with God. Now is the time for you to walk with God, to be filled with His Spirit, and doing good works with His power which He has called you to do.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Maybe you are here today and have never begun a walk with God. Now is the time to begin. You begin by confessing Jesus as LORD with a willingness to repent. Repent from being your own god, from walking your own way, and turn to Jesus, your God, and walk in obedience with Him. If you have faith in Jesus as the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross, publicly profess that faith. Then you can be baptized to put to death the old life and begin that new life in the Spirit.
Maybe you walked with God at one time and recognize that you have strayed and forgotten that you were cleansed from past sins. You find yourself committing sin again and desire to repent and walk with God again. Now is the time to confess to God, receive His forgiveness, and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit again.
The Holy Spirit has been speaking to you, telling you what you need to do. Obey Him. You cannot walk with God any other way except by hearing His Spirit and doing what He says to you.