Friday, May 12, 2006

It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.

I spoke this morning in chapel at a local Christian school. They were doing the "Fruit of the Spirit" and asked that I speak on GOODNESS.

Since I had previously preached through Gal 5:22-23 over nine weeks, I figured I'd just dust off my sermon on GOODNESS and tweak it a bit for my preschool-8th grade audience.

Well, there was a fair amount that had to be cut, and not just to get it down to 15 minutes; content had to be altered as well. In particular, my Nietzsche quotes were dropped.

So, I thought I'd share them with my beloved blogosphere buddies.

The gist of my talk was that God is most pleased with us when He sees Himself in us. In other words, God is most glorified when He is most seen in us, via the Fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23; ESV)

God's people glorify God with godliness, as His Spirit reveals His character in and through us, as opposed to the works of the flesh.

So, what does goodness entail? Who or what determines whether or not something is good?

My thesis is that the good is not to be determined by society or the individual, but by God as revealed through His revelation of Himself.

Some see good as determined by outcome. "The end justifies the means." In Beyond Good & Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche aptly states that for much of human history, "the value or disvalue of an action was derived from its consequences" (section 32). For many, this is still the case. Did I do the right thing? Only time will tell. Hindsight is 20-20. Thus, there's not a great deal of confidence in the act while in the process.

Some see good as determined by society. Whatever the community deems good is, but as the community changes, so can that which is good. The USofA is experiencing this. As the culture changes, so does that which is considered good behavior. As the country becomes less Christianized, it will venture further into a culture that prioritizes being tolerant over being right, for being right now means being tolerant. Being right is what the society deems right, not what God dictates as good.

Some see good as determined by the individual. The notion that truth (and subsequent dictation of right & wrong, good & bad) can be monopolized by the Bible was that which was most abhorrent to Nietzsche (1844-1900), the (grand) father of postmodernism's relativism when it comes to truth.

In Beyond Good & Evil, Nietzsche makes the superlative claim that, "Christianity has been the most calamitous kind of arrogance yet" (section 62). For Nietzsche one's truth is one's own, "no one else is easily entitled to it" (section 43). One's own truth should not be "supposed to be a truth for everyman" (section 43). In fact, it is "immoral to say: 'what is right for one if fair for the other'" (section 221).

What's true (or right or good) for me is determined by me and for me. It need not apply to you, nor should you think yours applies to me. In fact, if you try to push your morality on me, I will fight against your intolerance with bristled fur.

This is different than the previous notion of society's dictation of morality, for those embracing such an individualism will be heard saying things like, "The government can't/should not legislate morality." However, that's exactly what government does, has done, and should do. It protects us for thieves and murderer and so on with its laws. That is morality.

I said all that to say this ... that which is good is determined and revealed by God. Not only does God have every right to determine what is good for His creatures, which He created, but He also reveals what goodness is by His actions, which reveal His character.

When Moses asked to see God's glory, God told him that He would cause all His "goodness" to pass in front of Moses as He proclaimed His name, His character.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where folks will tend to question God's goodness or His sovereign control over the universe. In other words, if something "bad" happens to me, I figure either (a) God is not good since He allowed it to happen or might have even brought it Himself or (b) God did not prevent it because He could not.

We may know Romans 8:28, that God works all things for good for His own, but if we don't see how it's good, we're left in a state of confusion.

I hear men praying everywhere for more faith, but when I listen to them carefully, and get to the real heart of their prayer, very often it is not more faith at all that they are wanting, but a change from faith to sight. Faith says not, "I see that it is good for me, so God must have sent it, " but," God sent it, and so it must be good for me." Faith, walking in the dark with God, only prays for Him to clasp its hand more closely. - Phillips Brooks
If you love God and are called according to His purpose and it's in your life, God will use it for your good, for your growth in grace. God is good. Whatever He does is good. His people are to reflect His character. His people are to be good.

Part of being good is demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit, but also hating what is evil. In fact, we are to overcome evil with good. For example, when bad is done to us, we don't respond in kind, but with good. As children of light we overcome evil, having nothing to do with it, but rather exposing it. That's what it means to do good.

If we are not faithful to prevent it, evil will triumph.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
When the good people do not stand up against the bad, they cease to truly be good.
It may be that the greatest tragedy in this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the appalling silence of the so-called good people. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
I can assure you that there are many opportunities to oppose evil in our society, pick one (or some) and get after it.
John Wesley's Rule:
Do all the good you can, By all the means you can
In all the ways you can, In all the places you can
At all the times you can, To all the peoples you can,
As long as you ever can.
Don't entertain delusions of grandeur that we'll redeem the culture, but rather recognize our mission to infiltrate it for Christ.

We do good in a world hostile to our faith, for the sake of the glory of God. When we demonstrate goodness, God is seen in us. He is glorified and pleased when He sees Himself in us. Also, God is praised by others as they see Him working in and through us. Our goodness testifies to the only One who is truly good.
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:16)
When we see the glory of God revealed in the goodness of His people it reminds us of all that once was good, and could be good again.


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