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.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, GOODNESS part two

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 18

 GOODNESS – A FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD

PART TWO

 God’s goodness is expressed in the very first reference to God in Scripture.  In Genesis 1 we read of the creation done by God simply at the power of His words. 

 

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

 

Genesis 1:3-4.   This continued through creation and then, in verses 26-27, 31 we read: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. … 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.”

 

Have you ever worked hard to create something and then looked at it and saw the imperfections, the mistakes, the “oops” that no one else would see, and then say to yourself, “it’s nice” or “it’s fairly good” or “not bad for a first attempt”. 

 

That’s not what happened in Genesis 1 – God created the world and all there is in it and when the Triune God was done 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 it included mankind, created in His image, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  God is Good and we were created in His image. 

 

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!  In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

Psalm 31:19-20

 

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

2 Chronicles 16:9

 

  • God’s goodness is shown in His long-suffering, forbearance and slowness to anger that continues toward persons who have persisted in sinning.

 

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

Exodus 34:6

 

Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 

Psalm 78:38

 

Theologian J. I. Packer says that the supreme expression of God’s goodness is His amazing grace and inexpressible love that is evidenced by His saving sinners, who deserve only condemnation, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary

 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8.

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 2:8-10

 

  • God’s goodness includes His glorious kindness and generosity that touches all His creatures.

 

In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer calls Psalm 107 the classical exposition of God’s goodness.  The psalmist begins with the call to give thanks for God’s goodness. 

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.  Vs. 1-2

 

The psalmist then identifies four problems from which God has given aid to Israel. 

  1. God redeems those who are helpless from their enemies;
  2. God delivers from “darkness and the shadow of death” – Hallelujah –notably reference in the text is even made that this was brought about because of the people’s rebellion against God and yet he delivered anyway;
  3. God provided healing for diseases that He had brought upon the people to discipline the “fools” who disregarded him; and
  4. God protected those who traveled by sea when storms arose that would have sunk their ship but He intervened and stilled the storm.

 

Looking at the psalm, each of these situations and rescues concludes with the same refrain: 

“Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” 

 

Psalm 107 is not the only place where we are told to sing God’s praises for His goodness in creation and the history of His people. 

 

In Psalm 136 we find verses that sing of God’s goodness with each verse ending with the refrain “for His steadfast love endures forever.”   Verse 1 begins the psalm with “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” and the last verse commands that we “Give thanks to the God of Heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

 

So we know God is Good … and we know that we are not good apart from Jesus.  So, what are we to do?

 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:16: 

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

 

We are to do works that are good so that we give glory to God.  We reflect His glory and tell of His goodness when we magnify His great name before others.  That is our purpose in goodness before men. 

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

So, what good works do we do?  How do we let our light shine before men?  How do we give glory to God?

 

There are multitudes of ways that we can perform good works through the Holy Spirit provided through Jesus Christ to us.  Here, however, we will be looking at 1) generosity and 2) appreciation of excellence and beauty. 

 

  • Regarding Generosity —

 

Our doing good freely should be done liberally and bountifully.  We are not to be skimpy givers, but we are to be open-hearted and open-handed.  See 2 Corinthians 9:8, 11.   In verse 6, Paul reminds the Corinthians that if they sow sparingly, they will reap sparingly; and conversely, if they sow bountifully, they will reap bountifully. 

 

We will have a desire for the good will of others.   This is an imitation of the love and grace of God and of the love of Christ which desires the good of men.  See Luke 2:14.

 

We show our willingness to do good to other simply by doing it!  Where there is power to act, the act will always follow the will.  Scripture speaks of doing good as the evidence of love.    I John 3: 18-19.  

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  Hereby we know that we are of the truth.” 

 

We will seek opportunity to do good to the soul and body of others.  Our benevolence should be universal, constant, free, habitual and according to our opportunities and ability, as we follow the commands of God.  To freely do good to others is to do to them as we would have them do to us, that is the enactment of “the Golden Rule.”  To freely do good to others encourages us to remember how kind God and Christ have been to us and how much we have received from them, every moment of every day. 2 Corinthians 8:9.

 

  • Regarding appreciation of what is good, true and beautiful:

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul says “One thing that comes with the fruit of goodness is a new appreciation for what is good, true and beautiful.”

 

We have already spoken of God’s beautiful creation. In Exodus 28:2 God tells the people how to make Aaron’s garments:

 

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

 

Note that Aaron’s garments were to reflect God’s glory and beauty!  We know the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem were pinnacles of beauty and the directions for their building did not come from designers or architects but directly from God. 

 

Another example of the appreciation of beauty as coming from the Goodness of our Creator God is the work of the composer Johan Sebastian Bach. 

 

Bach composed his music as an apologetic for the existence of God.  Pointing to the order of creation and the beauty therein, Bach wanted his music to point to the existence of God when, during the period known as the Enlightenment, people were arguing that man was the be all and end all and there was no need for God anymore.  Although born in 1685 and living only until 1750, Bach’s witness for God is far from silent in our own day!

 

 Bach himself said:

 

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

 

Music was given to glorify God in heaven and to edify men and women on earth.  It wasn’t to make lots of money or to feed the musician’s ego or to be famous.  Music was about blessing the Lord and blessing others.

Listen to “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” as composed by J. S. Bach and as performed by the Brentwood Jazz Quartet.

 

 

But Bach’s music goes far beyond merely reflecting God’s orderly creation – it contains the message of the Gospel when used by the Holy Spirit. 

C. S. Lewis opined that the world does not need more Christian literature – it needs more Christians writing good literature or more Christians composing good works of music or of art. When we produce art that is good; art that reflects a biblical world view, its richness will endure through the ages.

 

Does your experience with the Fruit of the Spirit of Goodness give you a new appreciation for the good, true and beautiful?

 

God is Good

 

  • His goodness underlies his love, his redemptive acts and his securing of our eternal blessings.
  • His goodness is evidenced in creation, and in truth and all things beautiful.
  • May we give our best to the Lord and may we do good for Him, whether it be in acts of benevolence for others or in writing or composing … whatever we do, may it be to the Glory of God for He alone is Good and his Goodness extends to all generations.

 

Take some time this week to listen to some beautiful music or look at some beautiful scenery and let your Spirit soar as you glorify your God in meditation.  Do some good act of benevolence for someone anonymously and let the Spirit work His will in both the recipient and you, the giver. Daily, praise the Lord, for He is Good.

 

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.  

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, GOODNESS, part one

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 17

GOODNESS – A FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD

PART ONE

In his sermons compiled as The Glorious Feast of the Gospel by Richard Sibbes, an Elizabethan Era theologian, teacher and preacher, he makes the following statement: 

Here you may see that God doth veil heavenly things under earthly things, and condescends so low as to enter into the inward man by the outward man. For our apprehensions are so weak and narrow that we cannot be acquainted with spiritual things, but by the inward working of the Spirit of the Almighty.

 

Simply, we cannot understand spiritual things except for His imparting that ability to us.  This is precisely what we have been speaking about throughout this series. The Holy Spirit resides within us and it is He, and only He, who can teach us of the fruit of the Spirit as we allow Him to do so.   

What does Scripture say?

 

So, turning to Galatians 5, we read:

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.  

 

The Greek word used here is ἀγαθωσὐνη.  The transliteration is agathosyne. According to Strong’s Lexicon, it means “uprightness of heart, goodness, kindness.”

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that goodness is a relative term and that any definition must be based on a standard.  First, there is an external and an internal aspect of goodness.  Externally, a good deed is one that appears to conform to the demands of the law … but this is not the full definition of a good deed.  Rather, it also incorporates an element related to motivation.  Internally, a good deed is one that is motivated by a desire to please God in our vertical relationship with Him.  The concept of goodness as moral excellence is evidenced horizontally in our personal relationships by unwavering integrity and a generosity to others that is based on the recognition of how God has blessed us through Christ.  Further, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty, this being evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 

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 and not to be taken lightly, 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.” 

Mark 10:18.

 

Paul said in Romans 3:11-12: 

“None is righteous, no, not one;   no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

 

Given Jesus’ statement that only God is good, and given Paul’s assertion that no one is good on their own, it really is a futile gesture for us to look within ourselves for goodness.  Why?  Because of sin. Sin has robbed us of the good that God granted to us at creation. 

 

We know that Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And, if you are like me, you have learned that sin is “missing the mark,” rather like shooting an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short. 

 

However, John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that the Greek definition of the word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack”.  The concept focuses not so much on the missed target but on the fact that you were aiming at the wrong target.  In other words, Piper says that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.

 

In Romans 1:23, Paul confirms this concept when he says that people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.”  John Piper elaborates on Paul’s statement when he says: “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” to God.  We choose sugarcoated misery while at the same time we mock and dismiss as irrelevant the God upon whom our very existence depends. 

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

While believing that we ourselves are good may be arrogance of the highest order, it is by far not a new problem.  In Jeremiah 2:12-13 we read the Lord’s words saying that the people’s dismissal of God is appalling. 

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the L
ORD, for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

 

The people had needs that the Lord was ready to provide, but they did not want His help – they wanted to do it their own way without realizing that their way was incapable of satisfying.  

 

Unfortunately, the Old Testament people of Israel are not the only ones who miss the mark, who have traded a counterfeit for the only real, living God, and who sin in word, deed, and thought; it occurs today in 2016 just as it has in all the years since the fall.  We may not have idols of wood or precious metals that we have fashioned with our hands, but we sin in trading God for our bank account, or for our self-confidence, or for our family, or for Hollywood stars, or for our houses, or for our successes, or … well you fill in the blank. 

 

What does this have to do with the Fruit of the Spirit?  A great deal!  Rather than simply wiping everyone out in judgment and condemnation as would be His right, our living, creating and loving God is GOOD. 

 

GOD IS GOOD.  It is a fundamental characteristic of His being and it is the underlying aspect of virtually all that He does, although we do not usually think of it in that way.   He is the source of all goodness.  In other words, Goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is part of the character of God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

 

Theologian J. I. Packer says God’s “sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness”.  According to Packer, the supreme expression of God’s goodness is His amazing grace and inexpressible love that is evidenced by His saving sinners, who deserve only condemnation, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary

 

Next we week we will speak more of Goodness, its characteristics and how it is evident in our day to day life.  For now, bask in your relationship with our God who is Good and praise Him for his grace and inexpressible love extended to each of 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.