ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – GOODNESS

Another one of God’s intrinsic attributes is His goodness. We read about it in the opening verses of the Bible where we read of creation done by God simply at the power of His words.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.”

Genesis 1:3-4. 

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

This continued throughout creation and then, in verses 26, 31 we read: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

When the Triune God was done with the creative work on the sixth day, He looked at His completed creation and said not only that each of the component parts were good, He declared that “it was VERY GOOD” and that statement included mankind, created in His image, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  God is good, and we were created in His image. 

A short look at the newspaper tells us that we are not good, however.  Sin entered the world and contaminated that which God had created.  But sin did not change the character or nature of God.  He is still Good.

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, and He does not strive after following some standard for goodness that is outside of Himself.  God IS good.  J.I. Packer says that God’s sovereign redemptive love is just one facet of God’s goodness. Goodness underlies virtually all that He does.  [J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 46]

He is the Source of all goodness.  In other words, goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Goodness is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” 

Galatians 5:22

Due to sin, we have no inherent goodness within ourselves.  But, the believer has the fruit of goodness due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is part of the Triune God-head and thus the Spirit has the same nature as the Father and the Son.  Since goodness is intrinsic to the Father’s nature, it is also part of the Holy Spirit’s nature, so that it is a fruit that will grow within the believer as we give more and more of ourselves to the Lord.

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that when God’s goodness is evidenced in our lives as a fruit of the Spirit, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty because it is evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 We have already spoken of God’s joy in His beautiful creation. A further example of God delighting in beauty can be found in Exodus 28:2 where God tells the people how to make Aaron’s garments for use in worship:

 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty”.

Even though they were in the wilderness, God did not want the priest to be clothed with normal garments.  Exodus 28 details what was to be made, including what materials were to be used.  A very partial listing includes: blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen; two large onyx stones engraved and set in gold filigree; chains of pure gold; twelve gems for the breastplate – sardius, topaz, cabruncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper – each one being put in gold filigree settings.  And there is much more!  Clearly, Aaron’s garments reflected God’s glory and beauty!

Another example God’s goodness is appreciation for music.  Music was an integral part of worship in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 15:28, 2 Chronicles 7:6.  David talks of making music and singing to the Lord in many of the Psalms.   Psalm 101:1, Psalm 92:1.

More recently, Johan Sebastian Bach [1685-1750] composed his music to give glory to God.  Bach wanted his music to point to the existence of God when, during the “Enlightenment”, people were arguing that man was the be all and end all and that God was unnecessary.   Bach himself said:

“Music’s only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” 

Listen to “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” as composed by Johan S. Bach and performed by the Choir of Sommerville College, Oxford. 

God’s goodness is just one of the intrinsic aspects of His nature, it is one of God’s attributes.  Goodness is truly the foundation for all that He has done for us. We should praise Him continually for the mercy, grace, and salvation that has been extended to us through Christ our Lord, all because of His goodness.

ADVENTURES IN TILLAMOOK COUNTY

On one of our trips out West, we drove up the Oregon coast and found that there is much to see and do in Tillamook County.  For example, you can take a tour and taste incredibly delicious cheese at the Tillamook Cheese factory. 

Oregon 2009 456 (C)
Tillamook Cheese factory – tour and taste testing of marvelous cheeses awaits.  Be sure you are hungry — enjoy!

A marvelous sampling of their cheeses prompts purchases of the goodies, as well as investigation into the stores at home where we can acquire the cheese without traveling across the country!  In fact, I would love to enjoy God’s creation right now by having some Tillamook cheese! 

A real treat awaits the traveler because the Oregon coastline itself provides beautiful images of the ocean with the waves breaking upon rocky shoreline.

Oregon lighthouse 2009 422
Oregon coastline shows waves pummeling the shore.

Another place to visit in Tillamook County is the Cape Meares State Park which boasts the Cape Meares Lighthouse.  A wide asphalt trail goes from the parking area, through the forest, into the clearing with the lighthouse directly ahead.

USED Oregon 2009 417 Cape Meares Lighthouse Ore
A stroll through the woods, down the paved trail, heads straight to the lighthouse at the coast. 

The lighthouse is 38 feet tall, not exactly stellar height for a lighthouse.  In fact, it is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon.  But, it sits at the coastline on the top of a cliff making its effective height 223 feet above sea level.  So despite its own short stature, when the light was operating, it could be seen for 21 miles.

USED Cape Meares Lighthouse short - not height but placement Oregon 2009 424
The lighthouse exhibits all her 38 feet in stature!

Beside from being an interesting place to visit, what does Tillamook County, Oregon have to do with me?  Or with you?

I think it provides us with an illustration and/or lesson for our life and our Christian walk, especially when we focus on Ephesians 2:8-10.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV

The lighthouse was built for a purpose – it was to warn mariners that they were approaching the shoreline and it was dangerous to come too close.  It was to provide navigational assistance, and it saved lives as a result of its light shining far out over the water.  

USED Lighthouse lamp Oregon 2009 419 (C)
Its purpose was to provide light to the mariner in a time when GPS did not exist.

Notably, it did all this while being only 38 feet tall.   Its effective height did not come from itself, rather it came from the terrain on which it was placed – the cliff was high and from that vantage point, the little lighthouse could be seen for 21 miles. 

Paul says that we have been saved through grace by faith alone.  We had nothing to do with securing our salvation from sin; Jesus Christ did that atoning work on the cross for us.  And, we did nothing to deserve the atonement that He provided.  It was a gift of grace – not based on our work, our reputation, our finances, our stature in the community, our anything. 

The reason for this gift is stated in verse 10 – we were created by God in Christ for good works that God had prepared for us to do long before we were born.  

God is sovereign.  He is in control of our world and all that is in it.  His will, His purpose, will be accomplished and mankind cannot thwart it.  In Concise Theology, J. I. Packer says:

“The assertion of God’s absolute sovereignty in creation, providence, and grace is basic to biblical belief and biblical praise.”  [Sovereignty, God Reigns at page 33.]

One of the best descriptions of God’s sovereignty came from a pagan king after a lesson God provided to him. 

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?“”

Daniel 4:34-35 ESV

The little lighthouse had a job to do and it was able to do it because of strength that was not its own – it was based upon the strength of the mountain on which it was built.  We were created by God and saved from our sin by Jesus Christ so that we could do the work that God preordained for us to do all for His glory and His purposes through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 ESV 

We have no strength in our own self to do anything of eternal, lasting value for God.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in the world. 

Am I serving His purpose, the good work that God had preordained for me to do?  Am I working for the Lord through my own power and for my own reputation or am I relying on Him and the Holy Spirit to work through me for the glory of God? Am I refusing to shine because I am only of modest stature, or am I willing to shine my brightest for my Lord and let the Holy Spirit magnify the light so that it shines where He wants it to go?

Father, I give You honor and glory for Your sovereign love and mercy, grace and power that was shown by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  I pray that You would give power to these words and that they would accomplish that which You desire, through Christ Jesus I pray. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 19, FAITHFULNESS part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 19

FAITHFULNESS – BELIEVING GOD AND TRUSTING GOD AND HIS WORD

PART ONE

 

Faith is a fundamental part of our human existence.  It is not a stretch to say that our life, as we know it, would not exist without it.  We breathe air that we cannot see (unless you live in LA or Atlanta and the smog is bad); we eat food that comes from hundreds of miles away and is touched and handled by multiple people we don’t know; we get on airplanes and, unless we have relatives in the airline industry, we don’t even know the names of the people to whom we entrust our lives!

 

We have seen, however, times in recent history where people who were supposed to be dealing faithfully over our matters were less than honest.  The Ponzi schemes of a few years ago are but one example.  Consider the hundreds of people who were hurt when they took a pain reliever and got cyanide instead.  Perhaps closer to home, think of the woman who trusts her husband and learns of infidelity, emotional abandonment and unfaithfulness.

 

In short, we expect the people in whom we place our trust to be faithful.   Faith without faithfulness equals disaster.

What does Scripture say?

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

 Galatians 5:22-23.    We now turn our eyes toward faith and faithfulness.

 

According to Dr. R. C. Sproul, the basic meaning of the biblical word “faith” is trust.  We can believe that God exists, we can even believe that God created the universe, but that is not the same as having faith.

 

Faith is not just believing in God, it is believing God – it is trusting God and His Word.

 

This is difficult for us to do because of our sin that reflects an unwillingness to believe or trust God.  Sin has an appeal to us because we think that if we commit the sin we will be happier than if we don’t commit the sin. So, what we are really saying is that we don’t believe what God says about sin or about our source of true happiness.

 

John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.  “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.  This is the great insult.”

 

God knows that sin may be pleasurable, but He also knows it cannot bring happiness.  The apple in the Garden of Eden may have been good, but it soon soured when the weeds came and hard labor was upon both Adam and Eve, circumstances that were unimaginable to them prior to their fall.  Sin can only bring destruction to the human race, collectively and personally.  Sin is a curse on humanity … and that cannot be good by any definition!

 

In contrast, according to Dr. Sproul, when faith becomes fruitful, we have an increased capacity to believe God and that has a direct impact on our struggle with sin.  We can stand when Satan throws his arrows at us, when he tempts us to sin, because we believe our God and His Word.  We have faith in God and that faith is sufficient to carry us through.

 

So, what about faithfulness as an attribute of God and as something which the Holy Spirit wants to instill in us as God’s children?

 

J. I. Packer says in his book Concise Theology,

 

God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness.  Humans lie and break their words; God does neither.  Indeed, we know God is Truth.  God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.”

 

See Hebrews 6:17-18 where we read:

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

 

In Numbers 23:19 we have a combination of truth and faithfulness – he will not lie and he will not deviate from his stated plan:

 

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

 

In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

After reading Lamentations 3:22-23, Thomas Obediah Chisholm was inspired to write a poem entitled “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  The providence of God was at work in the distribution of this hymn when Chisholm sent the words of his poem to his friend William Runyan, who wrote the music.  Runyan was a friend of Dr. Will Houghton who happened to be the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

 

The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” became a favorite of Dr. Houghton who invited George Beverly Shea to sing hymns on the Moody Bible Institute’s radio station.  Shea was an unknown vocalist but he took the opportunity to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in his musical lineup, especially because Dr. Houghton liked it so much.

 

Billy Graham was a student at Wheaton College, also in the Chicagoland area, and he heard George Beverly Shea (and this hymn) on the radio program.  Graham invited Shea to become part of the Crusade ministry and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was included in the Crusade’s repertoire.  [See Lextionary.org, Hymn Story, copyright 2007 as written by Richard Niell Donovan].

 

How does the fruit of the Spirit of faithfulness apply to your life?  Read Lamentations 3 and let the wonder of these verses fill your heart and mind as you contemplate how great God’s faithfulness to us is, moment by moment, day by day.  For your encouragement, here is “Great is Thy Faithfulness” from the album of the same name as sung by Robert Kochis.

 

Now, may each of us reflect God’s faithfulness to us as we interact with those around us.  

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.