Crossroads Church
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Crossroads Church
People on mission with God
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175 County Road 78, Middletown NY 10940
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Digging Deeper

DIGGING DEEPER ON GOODNESS


Posted: 5/26/2013

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Opening Illustration:

James Merritt says:  “I still remember my wife Teresa coming home one time from the grocery store with this horrified look on her face.  I asked her what was wrong.  She said that she and our oldest son, James (who was about five years old at the time), had been standing at the checkout behind a man who had put a six-pack of beer on the counter.  James innocently asked Teresa what it was.  My wife smiled and simply said, “Beer.”  Without warning and loud enough for this man (and half the store) to hear, James pointed to him and said, “Beer?  He must be a really bad man!”

For Goodness’ Sake:

The meaning of the two words “kindness” and “goodness” are so similar that in other parts of Scripture and in the Greek Old Testament they are used as synonyms.  So why did Paul, the author of Galatians, list the fruit of kindness and goodness separately when they have essentially the same meaning?  It’s important that we keep in mind that we are studying the fruit of the Spirit—not the fruits of the Spirit.  Christlike character is of one piece, and one trait will blend into another as we have previously discussed.

To understand why Paul included goodness separate from kindness it is helpful to know the cultural context in which this letter (Galatians) was written.  There was a group of Jews (called Judaizers) who were teaching the Galatian believers that faith plus works resulted in salvation.  Some Christians were falling prey to this false teaching.  The result was that they were becoming selfish.  After all, since they thought they had to please God by their own works, their personal concerns began to take precedence over any claim someone else had on their time.  This selfishness led to all sorts of other evil.

Perhaps Paul listed these two traits separately to emphasize that goodness and kindness go together.  There is an inward and outward element to goodness.  If a person is good, he will be kind to others… and if a person is kind, it must come from his goodness.  This truth is clearly seen in Galatians 6:22.

The Greek word for kindness is chrestotes, which means: moral goodness, integrity

The Greek word for goodness is agathosyne, which means: uprightness of heart and life, kindness

These definitions show us how intertwined these traits are.  In a Christian culture where the Church’s focus was on making oneself good and acceptable to God, hence the focus was self-centered; Paul lists goodness in addition to kindness to remind the Church that true goodness means being others-focused (kind).

To Discuss:

  • Do you see any similarities between the Christian culture in Paul’s day and now?  If so, what?
  • Discuss the definitions of goodness and kindness, and how they relate to one another in a believer’s life.

God - The Foundation of All Goodness:

Before we can even begin to understand the fruit of goodness in a believer’s life, we must know the foundation of what is good.  That foundation is God.  Contrary to popular thinking, goodness cannot exist or be known apart from God.  If any meaningful standard determines whether or not something is good, it must be a universal standard; otherwise, goodness is relative…a matter of opinion.

For example, Hitler thought the annihilation of the Jewish race was a good thing. Suicide bombers think the killing of innocent humans is a good thing. How can such thinking be countered with a simple, “That is not good?”  What is to keep a Hitler or a bomb-toting extremist from saying, “That’s just your opinion?”

Only One who is universally good can determine a universal standard of goodness, and that One is only God.

Read the Scripture:

A certain ruler asked Him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good except God alone.”
(Luke 18:18)

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from You there is no good thing.”
(Psalm 16:2)

I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
(John 10:11)

Each of these passages teaches that God is the foundation for all goodness.  God is the only One who is completely faultless.  His character is without blemish.  He is pure and righteous, thus He sets the standard of what is good.  And the standard He has set is unattainable apart from Him.

To Discuss:

  • How do most people measure what is good?
  • What is the problem with this standard?
  • Why did Jesus question the man who called Him “good teacher” in Luke 18:18?
  • Do you think that most Christians really believe what Psalm 16:2 says?  Why or why not?
  • How would our lives and our world be different if God’s people lived like we believed this verse?
  • Why is Jesus the Good Shepherd according to John 10:11?
  • What does this teach us about goodness?

Oh My Goodness!

Most people would admit that they want to be a good person and to live a good life.  This statement, however, raises a question:  What is goodness and what is a good life?  Goodness is a spiritual matter.  Goodness is not feeling good, looking good, or having goods; it is being good (inward) and doing good (outward).  The fruit of goodness motivates a person to do what is best for others regardless of the cost. (Just like the Good Shepherd).  So why is this a spiritual matter?  Because goodness cannot be manufactured on the outside; it emerges from what a person is on the inside.

So where does goodness begin, and how can we cultivate it in our daily decisions and actions?  Goodness is not about what we know or what we do; it is a matter of who we are, which is then reflected in what we do.  Now, upon first glance, this probably sounds like great news to most people.

But remember, what is our standard of good? God is our standard… and His standard is perfection.  Most of us think we are “good people” because we are comparing ourselves to one another.  Other people are not the standard by which goodness is measured.  God is that standard; and when any life is held up to His standard, we all fall short.

This brings us back to why goodness is a spiritual matter.  We cannot behave our way to goodness.  We will always fall short.  Why?  Because there is only one God.  However, there is Good News!  God can transform us into good people, from the inside out.  By His grace, through faith, we can have new life.  He places His Spirit within us, giving us a new heart that can bear the fruit of goodness.

Read the Scripture:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  (Rom. 3:10-12)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.  (Ezekiel 36:27-28)

These passages show us that no one can be good unless God intervenes.  Without Him our hearts are hopelessly beyond cure.  But because of His grace and for His glory, He changes the hearts of those who believe in Christ.

To Discuss:

  • What does Romans 3:10-12 tell us about man’s goodness?
  • What does it mean that the heart is deceitful and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9)?
  • How does God deal with man’s heart according to the passage in Ezekiel?
  • So, based on these passages, what is a “good person”?
  • How does this definition compare with our cultural definition of a “good person”?
  • So, the next time you are sharing the Gospel with someone who says he would go to heaven because he is a good person, how will you respond biblically?

Being Tasty:

So now that we have established that no one can be good apart from a personal relationship with God, let’s get practical.  How do we cultivate goodness in our lives as a Christian?  Ephesians 4:24 says that when Christ saves us, He makes us a new creation.  This new man is, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Just as mankind was originally created in the image of God (Genesis 1-2), once again God uses Himself as the model for our new character.  Since God is good, we can be good.  Goodness is part of the Holy Spirit’s fruit in every believer’s life.  However, the fruit of goodness is not automatic.  It requires faith and obedience.

Inward Goodness:

The fruit of goodness will be borne in our lives in two ways.  The first is inward; and it is being of good character, or faultless.  A great example of this inward goodness is seen in the life of Daniel.

Read the Scripture:

Daniel had so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so.  They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.  Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”  So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever!  The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the kings should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.”  So King Darius put the decree in writing.  (Daniel 6:3-9)

To Discuss:

  • How do these verses describe Daniel’s character?
  • What did the administrators have to do in order to find fault with Daniel?
  • What does this tell you about Daniel’s reputation among all people?

Daniel’s life reflected the goodness and holiness of God.  He was different from other people.  Upon close inspection, no fault could be found.  His life was bearing the fruit of goodness.

Read the Scripture:

I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. (Jeremiah 17:10)

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

To Discuss:

  • According to these passages, what does inward goodness have to do with our actions?

Outward Goodness:

Goodness is also outgoing.  Doing good to others is as much a characteristic of God as faultlessness is a characteristic of God.  He is both all of the time…and He has called His Church to be and do both.  It isn’t only the Church’s presence that should make this world a better place to live in, it is also our resources, effort, time and abilities dedicated to showing others the goodness of our God.

Inward and outward goodness cannot be separated in a believer’s life.  We can’t choose one or the other… it is both.  Because we are being transformed on the inside into the goodness of God, our actions will reflect the condition of our hearts.

Read the Scripture:

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 

(Matthew 5:16)

But love your enemies, do good to them & lend to them w/o expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great & you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful & wicked.  (Luke 6:35)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10)

To Discuss:

  • What is the purpose of good deeds according to Matthew 5:16?
  • Based on Luke 6:35, who are we to do good to?  What will be the result?
  • How does Ephesians 2:10 describe believers and the purpose of salvation?
  • Do you notice anything interesting about these “good deeds”?

Teaching Note

  • Ephesians 2:10 says that God has prepared good works in advance for us to do.  The phrase “for us to do” in the original translation is, “that we should walk in them.”  What this phrase means is to make use of opportunities.  God has prepared beforehand opportunities for us to do good deeds.  It is not a coincidence that we live in the neighborhood we do, or work with the people we do, or meet the new people we do each day.  God gives us daily opportunities to impact people for His glory.

Living It Out:

This week set aside time to focus on the two elements of goodness… inward and outward.  Here are some suggestions:

Being Good:

  • Spend time in God’s Word.
  • Work on storing God’s Word in your heart by memorizing a verse.
  • Talk to God each day.
  • Meet with a trusted fellow believer and share your struggles and pray together.
  • Have a family worship time (involve your children!).

Doing Good:

  • Invite a neighbor over for dinner.
  • Take goodies to your neighbors and ask how you can pray for them .
  • Go to the church’s website and look for a place where you can serve… and then sign up.
  • Write a personal note to (or call) someone you know is struggling and ask how you can help.
  • Share the Gospel with someone this week!

Scripture to Memorize:

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds & praise your Father in heaven.  (Matt. 5:16)