The Fruit of Godly Goodness
Call to Worship: Goodness. It’s something we all long for, yet in our world it often feels like it is in short supply. Why is that? It’s not just that there are bad things in life or that there are bad people in the world. What’s far more challenging is the reality of dark powers that actively oppose goodness, working to undermine it’s impact by seeking to overpower God’s people and regain influence and control in the hearts of Christian people. I don’t have to tell you how real this struggle is. But God has brought you here today to share encouraging news and real power that gives good the upper hand in your heart. As we gather around his Word today, God’s Spirit will work his good in our hearts. We join in the opening hymn.
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Galatians 5:22 ~ Sunday, July 21, 2019
Good is one of those words we use a lot. “How was the movie?” “It was good.” “How are you today?” “I’m good.” “How did you do on the test?” “Pretty good.” When a person has messed up and is in the process of making up, you might hear them ask the one they’re apologizing to, “Are we good?” We use the word “good” a lot, for a lot of different things!
What comes to mind when someone talks of goodness, or someone says, “That was a good show,” or “They did a really good job”? When we talk like this, we’re speaking positively about how well something met a certain standard, someone’s expectations. It’s a way of saying that something fulfilled the goal of the job.
What about when it comes to a person. What makes someone one “good”? This is more than just an assessment of what they do. It’s a commentary on who they are. We say someone is good if they have positive qualities, character traits that are beneficial. As we talk about goodness as a fruit of the Spirit today, keep that definition in mind. As we look at the goodness as a fruit of the Spirit we will see that this is a characteristic God works in us as his people, a characteristic that causes us to say and do things that are beneficial by God’s standards.
To really understand what good means in connection with the fruit of the Spirit, we need to get a good grasp on what God means when he talks about goodness in the Bible. The most important thing to understand about biblical goodness is that God defines it. In saying that, I want you to understand that God is doing more than just talking about what goodness is. Here’s what I mean: God is eternal, which means he has always existed. That means He wasn’t made by someone else to live up to their standards. When Scripture calls God “good,” the bible is reminding us that he is the standard. This comes out in a conversation Jesus had one time with a rich young ruler. The rich young ruler wants to ask Jesus a question, and he addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” Jesus responds to the ruler’s address in an interesting way: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good, except God alone” (NIV). What is Jesus saying? He’s saying that when it comes to setting the standard of what is truly, ultimately good, this isn’t a matter of human opinion or flattery. The ultimate standard and expectation of goodness is God alone! If you want to know goodness, then the person to observe is God and his purity, holiness, forgiveness, and generosity.
So when God calls us as his children to be good and to do good, He’s calling us to be and conduct ourselves with the same kind of purity, holiness, forgiveness, and generosity that he does. God isn’t just asking us to do this. He says it is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s something he himself is working out in our lives as his own Spirit works in our hearts.
That’s also why Paul was concerned as he wrote to the Christians in Galatia. From things he was hearing and seeing about their lives, he was concerned because they were living in ways that were at odds with God’s goodness. For example: sex is a good gift of God for husband and wife under the protection of marriage. Believers in Jesus not only recognize the goodness of this, the Spirit of God in them moves them to want to live out their sexuality according to this good, godly standard. So you can understand why Paul was so concerned when he learned that among those who claimed to be Christian, that there were some who weren’t living in a good way when it came to sex. Some married people were sleeping with people who weren’t their spouses. Some unmarried people were having sex even though they didn’t have a spouse. People of the same gender were having sex with each other despite the fact that God had designed this gift specifically for the union of a man and a woman. Still others who knew God’s good standard when it comes to his gift of sex, despite what they knew, they didn’t show any concern for the spiritual condition of their fellow Christians whose lives weren’t reflecting God’s goodness in this area.
And it wasn’t just this one area of living that Paul had reasons to be concerned. Instead of striving to live according to God’s goodness, he saw people who claimed to have the Spirit of God yet they were living in ways that were exactly the opposite of God’s goodness: Losing control of their tongues and their behaviors from consuming too much alcohol. Claiming to love God yet living in ways that kept them from spending regular time with him, filling their lives with other things so they didn’t have time to worship him faithfully and frequently. Rather than loving others as God does, Paul was concerned to see the kind of hatred some who claimed to be Christian had toward other people. Rather than striving to help one another live in godly peace, some Christians were actually making life more difficult for each other by consistently stirring things up, tearing each other down in the way they talked about each other, treating each other as enemies or objects rather than friends and members of the family of God!
If I were to put a label on the things Paul mentions, I’d categorize them as examples of “anti-goodness.” Let me explain the reason for this term. By the Spirit’s power as Christians we always have the opportunity to pursue the high road, to do what is good even though it may not be easy, even though others may be treating us badly. Because the Spirit of God lives in us we always have the power and the ability to do what is good! So when we don’t, we’re actually choosing to give up the fight for what is good and give in to the power and control of “anti-goodness.” “Anti-goodness” is far more sinister than just bad behavior that makes life more difficult. It’s that “anti-goodness” flows out of a heart has placed itself under the influence of a power that is opposed to goodness. This is not good, not good at all.
How much more, though does this magnify just how great is the goodness of God! God’s goodness is on grand display through the nature, truth, and power of the gospel. The Gospel is this: God in his goodness sent his own Son to rescue us in whom anti-goodness is in full control by nature. By giving his perfectly good life on the cross, Jesus overpowers anti-goodness’ demonic power. And he proves it by coming back to life again three days later, demonstrating that he would not be held in anti-goodness’ prison of destruction and death.
Jesus did all of this, not for himself, but for you and me. When we voluntarily give ourselves over to the power and influence of anti-goodness, we’re giving in to death and destruction. It saps us of our desire for good and drains us of our strength to do good. We need Jesus to work out the Gospel’s life-giving dynamic in our own hearts. We need to die to the control of anti-goodness. We need goodness resurrected within us. This is exactly what Jesus does for us by sending his Spirit to live within us! By the Spirit’s power goodness overcomes anti-goodness. Not only is that the ultimate storyline of the Bible, but by the goodness of the Spirit’s presence in our hearts, this becomes the ultimate storyline of our lives! By the Spirit’s working, goodness overcomes anti-goodness in us!
And it doesn’t end with us. The goodness the Spirit of God works in us is a goodness He can also use to overcome anti-goodness in others too. That’s what happened in the life of Cathy through the goodness that Patricia showed her. Patricia was a wise woman. She knew that she often needed to look past someone’s poor behavior to their need, past the injury to the innocent intent, and past the pain to the restoration of the relationship. She knew that sometimes she had to be the initiator of good deeds.
Patricia had a coworker named Cathy who was one of those people who sought power. Cathy took every opportunity to berate others, and to take credit for any good ideas. Cathy never volunteered to help other coworkers, even when her work was caught up. In fact, Cathy often tried to giver some of her own work to other people. Most of the staff didn’t like or trust Cathy. Most of them gossiped about her, saying very unkind things when she wasn’t around.
But Patricia was different. She saw Cathy for what she was – an insecure person with faulty relational skills. Patricia decided to reach out to Cathy. So sometimes Patricia helped Cathy do her job. This made Cathy look good to their boss. When Patricia and Cathy were alone, Patricia made subtle suggestions for different ways Cathy could improve her efficiency. Patricia sometimes gave Cathy ideas that she could develop as her own. Once Patricia helped research a special project and did some of the staff for Cathy.
Patricia was pleased to see Cathy respond to her overtures and good deeds. Cathy began to relax around Patricia and even confessed that her fear of failure had caused her to behave so rudely. As a result of Patricia’s continued goodness, Cathy opened up to other people and made several friends in the office. Through the fruit of the Spirit of goodness in Patricia, God worked a heart change in Cathy.
How might God use the goodness he works in you to make a difference, to make an impact, to change the life, the heart of another? It’s exciting to consider! Even more exhilarating: continually producing this fruit in your heart and experiencing what the Spirit brings forth from you, and the good he works in others through the good he raises up through you! Let’s pray for the power of the Spirit so that we continually produce the fruit of goodness, working diligently to cultivate it in our daily lives, filling the world with goodness as the Spirit brings forth this fruit in abundance through us! Amen.