Sun. a.m. AGCC 7/16/2000
"GOODNESS IS LOVE'S CHARACTER"
TEXT: Gal. 5:22 Gen. 1 (selected verses) Prov. 11:23-25 Matt. 19:16-22
INTRO:The idea of being "spirit-filled" is that we are no longer "fleshly filled!" While our natural character is selfish or self directed our new nature in Christ should be other directed and giving. Christians MUST be different from the world!
The fruit of the Spirit produces in us the characteristic of "goodness" - but this must not be understood in the sense of natural "goodness" -- it is rather supernatural "goodness."
People can do "good things" for many reasons other than truly spiritual ones:
a. they may do good things in the hopes that it will buy them favors later.
b. they may do good things to manipulate others
c. they may do good things to enhance their own image
d. they may do good things to gain tax credits or other personal benefits
The "goodness" that is love's character as a quality of the fruit of the Holy Spirit however does not do "good things" for any other reason than that it is now their nature to do good because they are motivated by God's unselfish love rather than self love.
What the world does not understand is that often some of the people who have done much good in this world are NOT motivated by a desire to get credit as much as they are motivated by God's presence in their life.
ILLUS:Fortune magazine (1/13/97) reports that the nation's top twenty-five philanthropists gave away more than $1.5 billion in 1996. Of the top twenty-five philanthropists, only four inherited fortunes. Most attributed their generosity in part to religious backgrounds. And most were donors even before they became wealthy. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God's love produces a "goodness" in our life that is driven by God's Spirit in and through us. This "goodness" is an outflowing of God's love in our life toward others whether they deserve it or not.
I. UNDERSTANDING "GOOD" Gen. 1 (selected verses) Prov. 11:23-25
A. Source Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31
1. It is interesting that in creation God ended each day with the same statement, "And God saw that it was good."
a. This was not a brag on His abilities, it was simply a reflection of His character!
b. Creation reflected the very character of God - "IT WAS GOOD"
c. In fact, when He was completely finished He said, "IT WAS VERY GOOD" Gen. 1:31
2. God's statement thus indicated that creation bore the stamp of His character and was not His bragging about His job.
a. This was true with regard to the creation of Adam and Eve also
they bore the character of God in that they were both GOOD.
b. God intended for men and women to bear His character of "goodness" -- sin took this away, but the filling of his Spirit restores it in the believer.
3. It may appear to the world that there is little difference between their idea of a good man or woman and a good godly man or woman
the real difference however will be noted at the end of one's life when we stand before God.
a. To unbelievers who think that things are good NOW they will discover later that their own goodness will not suffice for entrance into heaven later.
b. We cannot be fooled by the present apparent goodness of the unsaved, it is false sense of goodness without lasting eternal merits
no one is saved by their own works.
ILLUS: The evil person is like the man who jumped from the 50th floor without a parachute. When he passed the 30th, someone shouted, "How's it going?" And the jumper answered, "So far so good." -- Father Henry Fehren in U.S. Catholic (April 1985). Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 12.
4. We cannot afford to be satisfied with "goodness" that is devoid of God's character, it simply will not endure if it is not supernatural in nature.
B. Spiritual Prov. 11:23-25
1. The writer of Proverbs 11:23-25 indicates a strong connection between "righteousness" and being "good."
a. "The desire of the righteous ends only in good." 11:23a
b. The writer clearly is showing that the righteous person desires can only end in good because it is spiritual in nature and not natural!
2. True "goodness" is not natural
the kind of "goodness" that has no thought of self in mind can only be expressed by those who have a spiritual nature as opposed to a fallen nature.
a. The fallen man may APPEAR to be good but such goodness will have attached to it the goal of gaining something for self out of that goodness.
b. The new nature IS good to simply reflect God's character, not to gain selfish ends.
3. Acts of goodness by the spiritual man or woman will not take into account personal gain by such acts, it will simply be acts that are driven by the desire to be God's agents of mercy and grace and to reflect God's very character.
ILLUS:In "From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya" (Academie, 1983), Ruth Tucker writes about Dr. Eleanor Chestnut. After arriving in China in 1893 under the American Presbyterian missions board, Dr. Chestnut built a hospital, using her own money to buy bricks and mortar. The need for her services was so great, she performed surgery in her bathroom until the building was completed.
One operation involved the amputation of a common laborer's leg. Complications arose, and skin grafts were needed. A few days later, another doctor asked Chestnut why she was limping. "Oh, it's nothing," was her terse reply.
Finally, a nurse revealed that the skin graft for the patient, a coolie, came from Dr. Chestnut's own leg, taken with only local anesthetic.
During the Boxer Rebellion of 1905, Dr. Chestnut and four other missionaries were killed by a mob that stormed the hospital. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.
a. Jesus didn't act good to gain anything for Himself.
b. The greatest acts of goodness come from the character of God in us.
4. This kind of goodness is not driven by self-discipline as much as it is driven by God's character being expressed through us. It is not a work of the flesh but an expression of the Spirit.
II. UNMISTAKABLE GOODNESS Matt. 19:16-22
A. Superficial 19:16-20
1. A religious well to do young man comes to Jesus and asks a very interesting question, "What GOOD THING must I do to get eternal life?"
a. Like many Jews of his day there was this idea that one could be righteous by a single good act that would then guarantee salvation.
b. The idea was to do ONE GOOD THING to satisfy God and remove the guilty conscious.
c. "Goodness" cannot be found in a single act, it is found in a relationship with Christ and becomes love's character in us through Christ.
2. Too often fallen man wants some quick superficial way to find salvation, and then they can go back to living as they choose.
a. Though this rich young man lived a pretty good life
after all he was able to say he kept MOST of the commandments
he still realized that he was missing some GOOD THING to be saved!
b. It might be interesting to note that Jesus quoted all the commandments concerning man's relationship to man EXCEPT one!
(1. Jesus quotes 5 of the 6 commandments in regards to man's relationship to man (19:18-19)
but Jesus leaves off one, "thou shalt not covet."
(2. No wonder the man was able to say "all these I have kept" -- if Jesus had included the 6th commandment of the 2nd tablet with "thou shalt not covet" this man would not have been able to answer this way
this was a test by Jesus to see if the man would himself come clean about the commandments.
c. The very fact that the man did not admit the absence of the final commandment shows that he was not really serious about finding the real "GOOD THING" he needed for salvation.
3. The one "good thing" the man was missing was not a single act, it was the characteristic of "goodness" which would have allowed him to give his wealth to help others
the response to the 6th commandment of man to man relationship - "thou shalt not covet"
a. While the young man had kept 5 of these 6 commandments there was still the missing one!
b. He even realizes that he is still lacking though he had kept these 5 commandments Jesus mentioned.
4. Perhaps he was hoping for a single easy act that he could do to satisfy his desire for eternal life
some superficial way to make the grade!
a. this is the way of the world, do a few "good" deeds and hope that this will make you qualify for heaven some day.
b. Man is so mislead as to think that a few good deeds is enough
so often we miss the bigger picture!
ILLUS:Remember the three whales trapped under the ice in Alaska? All kinds of money was raised. The media covered the story in minute detail. Implements and equipment were flown in from around the world. People volunteered to help rescue the three whales. I've nothing against whales, but what bothered me was this: at the very same time the whales were demanding so much attention and so much help, there were tens of thousands of people starving to death in the Horn of Africa, and no one could get anybody interested. You can be sentimental about whales, but being sentimental about starving Africans doesn't help. It's conviction that's needed. -- Stuart Briscoe, "The Love That Compels," Preaching Today, Tape No. 126.
5. Notice also that Jesus previously asked him: "Why do you ask me about what is good?
There is only One who is good
a. Jesus is pointing out what I have already said,"goodness" is God's character and to ask about doing some "good thing" means having a relationship with God first!
b. Jesus clearly connects the idea of doing a "good thing" with the person of God
again emphasizing that true goodness springs from the character of God and not from the character of man.
c. In this sense Jesus asks the man to keep the commandments for they represented the heart of one who desired a relationship with God.
d. The rich young man's problem however was that he wanted a single act to guarantee his salvation rather than a true relationship with God which would have had expectations on his life such as ministry to the poor.
6. Such a superficial desire to do good will not cut it with God, God expects something much deeper
and offers a true "goodness" that will go much deeper!
B. Surrender 19:21-22
1. When Jesus says to him "If you want to be perfect
" He does not mean without fault but mature
the Greek word teleios (teleios) means "mature".
a. What Jesus is saying is simply "if you really want to show you are mature about all this
b. Like many young men of his day he wanted to do a single act to show what a "GOOD" guy he was
but no single act shows someone's character, it is the day to day expressions that demonstrate our real maturity and character.
2. Jesus was calling him to surrender his whole life to goodness, not just do a one time act
he had asked what "good thing" he needed to do to inherit eternal life and Jesus is telling him
surrender to God so that God's character of goodness will begin to flow out of your life for the rest of your life and not just in a single act.
3. The young man perceived this as a negative expectation however: "When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."
a. It is sometimes hard to surrender to God's ways
for at the moment they don't always seem that "perfect"
but in the end they will prove themselves in our lives if we trust Him!
ILLUS:In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the principle of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, had been harboring Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.
The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read in their tattered Bible from 1 Thessalonians the reminder to rejoice in all things.
Betsy said, "Corrie, we've got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas."
Corrie replied, "No way am I going to thank God for fleas." But Betsy was persuasive, and they did thank God even for the fleas.
During the months that followed, they found that their barracks was left relatively free, and they could do Bible study, talk openly, and even pray in the barracks. It was their only place of refuge. Several months later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those blasted fleas. -- John Yates, "An Attitude of Gratitude," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
b. The character of God's "goodness" in us will enable us to trust Him throughout life even when the moment hardly seems fair
God CAN NOT BE ANYTHING BUT GOOD!
it is His character!!!!
c. And when His Spirit lives in us, it becomes our character too - this is why the fruit of the Spirit is characterized by "goodness" as one of its qualities.
4. The full fruit of the Spirit will not show through if we don't surrender to the Spirit of God
and this was the young man's problem, he would not surrender!
a. The question for you and me is: "Have we surrendered?"
b. Are you hoping a single good act here and there will be sufficient for salvation? It will not be! This is why no one is saved by works!
c. We must embrace God completely to experience love's character of goodness in our lives.
d. How much of God's goodness shines through your life today?
CONCLUSION: The Spirit filled Christian's character is goodness! Goodness is the essence of seeking God for others, it is not a focus on self. Goodness is not a single act, it is a development of character to benefit others. Good acts spring from good character in the same way good fruit can only come from good trees. You cannot be spiritual without also being good, nor good without being spiritual.