The fruit listed here aren’t as distinct of categories as might imagine – Goodness and kindness (along with love and patience) overlap to some degree. God’s kindness and his goodness both include his benevolence, his love, his mercy, his patience, his generosity; and so, we could legitimately talk about goodness in those terms, but since we talked about many of those things when we looked at kindness last week, I want to this week look at goodness in it’s more general sense – that when the bible talks about God being good – it often means that God meets the standard of perfection or of what is ideal (of course that is not some standard above God, but that standard flows out of who God is because God defines goodness itself) – and often it has a moral aspect to it – very similar to God’s righteousness.
God’s goodness; our goodness.
- God is good.
- God does good – is good to us.
- And so, we ought to be good, and do good to others.
- God is good.
Goodness was a common term for virtue – signifies moral excellence and uprightness.
In OT, could be used as a synonym for kindness, but could also have the meaning “righteousness” or moral goodness.
In the NT, Paul uses the same word in Eph 5:8-9: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
So, this idea of goodness is summarized by the image of “light” – in scripture, light and darkness are moral imagery – good and evil, right and wrong; and the idea of goodness is paired with “righteousness and truth” – and it is paralleled by that which is “pleasing to the Lord,” and it is contrasted to the fruitless deeds of darkness.
So, goodness, then, in part, is moral uprightness.
God’s goodness includes his opposition to and separation from evil; that he is good means that he is morally pure and upright; in him is no evil – 1 John 1:15 – “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”.
There is nothing evil in God; there is nothing unappealing in God; there is nothing unattractive or un-praiseworthy in God – and, in fact, when we are tempted to think that something which God reveals about himself in scripture is unattractive, or un-praiseworthy, we ought to conclude that the problem is in us – not him – the problem is in our ability to appreciate what is truly good – because we ourselves, are not truly good; we are evil – but God is.
listen to James 1:13-17
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
God alone is good. God is pure and opposed to all evil – neither tempted nor tempter, because of his hatred of all evil: and, he is perfect in his goodness: no variation or change like a shifting shadow. God does not change – and the reason he doesn’t change – cannot change – is because he is perfect. If he changed for the better, that would mean that he previously lacked in goodness; if he changed for the worse, that would mean he ceased to be perfect in his goodness. But God does not change because he is eternally perfect in his goodness.
God is good – this is the refrain of the psalms – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”
God’s goodness is all that makes him God – his moral excellence; his perfections of righteousness, holiness, love mercy patience kindness; his goodness is connected to his praiseworthiness – because it is all of those perfections we see in God which results in admiration, delight, and appreciation.
Give thanks to the lord for he is good.
God is good – one theologian gives 4 elements of God’s goodness:
- he is the source of all good – from where all and any good originates and flows – goodness comes from no other source in all creation but God;
- he is essentially good – his very being defines goodness – in fact, instead of saying “God is good” as if God matches up to a standard of goodness beyond or outside of or higher than himself; is to say that “God is goodness itself” – his very person – his very nature defines goodness itself.
- He is immeasurably good – there is no limit to it – it is immeasurable, because it is infinite. “While a creature’s goodness is limited according to what has been given to it, there is no limit to the goodness of God. God is an ocean wide and deep without banks or bottom; the goodness of the creature is but a drop from the ocean.”
- he is eternally & unchangeably good – he never started to be good because he always was good; he will never cease to be good because he will be good forever; and so his goodness to his people will never end.
psalm 43:8 invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
God is good; God does good: he is benevolent to humanity, generally, and to his children, specifically. He is generously benevolent.
As I mentioned; under the general category of God’s goodness is his kindness, love, mercy, patience, faithfulness, and generosity. We talked about much of that under the category of God’s kindness last week. What I’d like to focus on this week is the goodness of God as our heavenly Father – that he gives good gifts to his children.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
God isn’t evil – God is good – and so he has no lack of wisdom to know what good gifts to give us and no lack of benevolence such that he would withhold what is to our ultimate good.
The problem isn’t that we ask for bread and get stones; but that we ask for stones and we think God’s gift of bread is a stone only because we lack the perspective that God alone has to determine what we truly need and what is truly to our ultimate, eternal, and spiritual good.
Of course, that doesn’t mean life always goes well or feels good – no, it means something infinitely more valuable than merely this earthly life going well – it means that God is working all things for our eternal spiritual good – he is withholding nothing that works to our ultimate good; he is giving nothing which contributes to our ultimate harm – he is giving us what we need most.
As Romans 8 tells us that if we are the children of God, then we can be assured and confident that God works all things for the good of those who love him. Even those things which are in/by themselves evil or tragic; they are used by God’s good hand to bring about a greater good.
God is good; God does good to his children. And so, we ought to be good and do good.
God is good; and, in our original state of creation – part of being created in God’s Image means that we were created good – when God looked at his original creation he declared “it was good”; even, “It was very good” – that included humanity!
In theological terms, humanity was created with “original righteousness” – that when God made us he bestowed us with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness – he didn’t create us fallen; he didn’t create us marred and crooked and broken as we are; in fact, he didn’t even create us neutral – neither good or evil, righteous or wicked; he created us upright; good; righteous; holy. Of course, we weren’t immutably so – we could choose good or evil – whereas in our glorified state, we will be immutably good – no longer able to sin but only able to choose what is good and righteous. And our first parents chose sin and humanity fell into the guilt and pollution of sin.
But think about that: how does this doctrine of creation/fall relate to the modern-day idea that being “born this way” is equivalent to being “made good by God this way”?
Because only for a short time in human history did “born this way” equate to “Made good by God this way”.
Those things are different; there is the deadly boundary of the fall into sin and the complete disordering and fracturing and breaking apart and disintegrating of creation that stands between how we were originally created (good, upright) and our current experience – fallen – though still retaining the image of God – that image now severely distorted – broken and marred – in every aspect of our being – emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual – whatever aspect of humanity we are born with, that is going to be in some way, to some degree, fallen – such that we can’t claim that being “born this way” means being “created good by God” this way – because we are fallen creatures, in need of redemption – in need of a redemption as deep and wide and extensive as sin has corrupted us – so deep and wide and extensive that he NT describes it as rebirth & recreation; New life; new creation.
The complete goodness which described our first parents was lost in the fall into sin; though we retain some of that goodness, it is now mixed with the pollution and corruption of sin – such that the way we are is no longer solely good, but fallen; but the gospel is all about our being remade by God’s Spirit into the image of Christ.
You know, there’s a lot of confusion out there about what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives – and one thing that I hope is obvious as we’re looking at the fruit of the Spirit is that the Holy Spirit’s purpose in your life is not to make you weird; is not to create in you some kind of undecipherable spirituality; it’s not to give you some kind of secret hidden knowledge that others lack; it’s simply to make you more like Christ – to make you holy, as God is holy – to restore in God’s people the original goodness which characterized their original created state.
People love HGTV. Especially, people love the renovation shows on HGTV. I’ve watched a few and it really is amazing to see them take an old, run-down, unmaintained, sometimes unsafe broken-down house; and to restore it’s original beauty; to remake it into something so new that it is nearly indistinguishable from it’s previous run-down condition.
Why do people love that? I wonder if one of the reasons people are drawn to that, is because deep down, all of us know that we are that broken-down house; and, deep down, all of us hope that we can be restored into something beautiful.
Well, the Gospel is that grand restoration project.
For some people, that hope is an impossible unattainable dream. But for Christians, that dream is a reality – so why would we not cooperate with the Spirit’s desire to renew us with every fiber of our being? Why would we not cry out to God; and seek to live in obedience to him and in submission to him – in order to see this come to greater fruition in our lives?
Strangely; unfortunately: it’s common to think about/talk about morality in a negative way –
either, we equate it with a “holier than thou” attitude – this is false morality divorced from humility that fails to remember that it is by God’s grace that he saves us and gives us his spirit – not because of our inherent superiority to others, and that apart from the sheer grace of God I am no better off no better than anyone else – in fact apart from grace I am just as sinful as anyone else I might be tempted to look down upon.
or, we think that any talk of morality is equivalent to as “moralism” – that attitude which thinks that our morality earns God’s love; rather than our transformed living is the response to God’s love freely given to us.
But, either way, whatever the reason for that negative attitude towards morality – it’s unfortunate that we have thereby neglected a major emphasis of the NT and the purpose of the gospel in our lives: 1 Peter 1:15
“as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (ESV)
Jesus: “you must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
Titus 2:14 tells us that the very purpose for our salvation, is to be conformed to the moral uprightness of God: “Jesus Christ gave himself for us – why? – to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
The goal /purpose of salvation – why Jesus died for you – is to make you good. to redeem you from wickedness and purify you.
Only in heaven will we reach that destination; until then, we never attain it, but we strive for it – needing much forgiveness along the way but never losing sight of that end goal.
God wants the fruit of goodness to mature and grow in us. He wants us to be morally upright; morally pure; he wants us to be good.
And, moral goodness in our lives, if lived out genuinely, humbly, and with conviction – will be a source of attraction to others.
Matthew 5:16, telling his disciples to be salt and light in the world:
“ In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Of course, because we live in an evil world, that won’t always be the case that our lives will be a source of attraction; there are times when that goodness evident in our lives will be repulsive to the world – and we will be reviled by that world for being and living in a way that is good and right and true.
Isaiah 5:20-21 20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
We live in that world; a fallen world with fallen people who have fallen consciences – such that we don’t always recognize good as good; or evil as evil – and that is dangerous.
I’m convinced, that there are some Christians who try to define morality and their definitions of what is good and right and true – based upon what the world around them will accept and applaud; and so they’re unwilling to hold to or live out what scripture says when what scripture says is unpopular to the world.
I’m convinced, that there are some Christians who try to define morality and their definitions of what is good and right and true – based upon what their own inclination suggests to them.
The world tells us that what feels good is good; or what feels right is right (radio): “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad” or “nothings that bad if it feels good”
God’s word tells us – proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
And so, how do we become people of goodness? We need our lives, our thoughts, or character, to be shaped by God’s Spirit through God’s word – we need God’s word to be filled with the fruit of goodness.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
God’s word is what shapes, and forms, goodness in us, such that we know what is good and right and true, and such that we live what is good and right and true.
Matthew 6:22 – the eye is the lamp of the body – our perspective on reality affects our entire life – and the way we get the right perspective is to fill our minds with the truth of God’s word.
Philippians 4:8 – “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
All those things describe goodness – and so Paul is encouraging us to fill our minds with the knowledge of God – his goodness and his truth – because what we fill our minds with shapes our outlook on all of life.
Did you ever think that what you fill your mind with affects how you live your life? shapes your inner character? guides your steps?
“What we feed on spiritually – what we put into our souls – will determine our spiritual growth.”
As God is good; so we should be good; as God does good, so we should do good.
And, it’s important to remember that there is no conflict between doing the good/right thing and the loving/kind thing – sometimes we separate those things.
Galatians 6:9 – “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.”
Doing good, is wearying. It sometimes perhaps feels fruitless. But we are told here to not become weary – to not give up – to persevere in doing good – to all people, especially to one another in the church.
And, because God has been good to us, we ought to do good to others.
And, we ought to be generous in that doing of good.
This word goodness can also have the sense of generosity. And isn’t it true that God has been generous to you? Isn’t that an understatement?
Parable – a landowner goes out looking for workers to hire; pays people who work just one hour the same as he pays those who work all day; and understandably, those who worked all day get upset about it: “these who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the world and the heat of the day.”
But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
there’s lots to say about this parable; but, clearly it’s meant to emphasize God’s generosity.
See, if you don’t view God as generous; then you will view yourself as deserving; and you will be bitter towards him when you feel that what you deserve exceeds what you’ve been given.
But there’s nothing more false than viewing the world that way – even those worked all day – they were given generous grace – because what were they doing before the landowner hired them and brought them under his employ?
Apparently, they were unemployed! They were standing around with no work! And, so even they were recipients of the generosity of God;
but, Jesus summarizes this parable with these words: “the last will be first, and the first will be last”. when reflecting on this parable – we should realize that we are those who worked all day – whose work was comparable to our reward; but we are those who worked only the last hour – and were given far more than we deserve based upon how long or how hard we worked.
Have you realized the infinite spiritual blessings – and many more – that you’ve been given in Christ – not because you worked for them, but because you were give them – because God was generous to you; and so, that ought to make us generous to others.