The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness: God's Character and Man's Potential

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness

God's Character and Man's Potential

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Are you suffering an internal spiritual war? If so, that's a good sign. It's a sign that you are pursuing goodness, which causes the badness of human nature to fight back.

Yes, according to the Bible, badness comes naturally (Romans 8:7). Goodness does not. But God has a wondrous plan to radically transform our character!

Though our natural inclination is to defy God in sin, He has determined to help us overcome that nature to live a life of righteousness and goodness. This is possible only through a relationship with Him. As the apostle John explained, "He who does good [as a way of life] is of God, but he who does evil [as a way of life] has not seen God [i.e., has not come to really know Him]" (3 John 1:11).

John also explained that those who truly are of God have God living in them through the Holy Spirit: "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:13).

Paul explained to believers that God's perfect, loving character is "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5, New Revised Standard Version).

We can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through faith, repentance, water baptism and the laying on of hands by God's servants (Acts 2:38; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:14-17).

Once God's Spirit is at work within us, it produces the wonderful fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). These virtues blend together to reflect the overall character of God!

Goodness: part of God's nature

In the Bible, the "goodness" of God often refers to His gracious generosity in providing abundantly for mankind's needs and benefits (Psalms 23:6; Psalms 65:11). It can also refer to God's generous mercy and patience that allow more time for sinners to repent (Romans 2:4).

But God's goodness is much more than those things. It is the very essence of God's nature— His righteousness and holiness. In Ephesians 5:9, we see that His goodness is closely associated with righteousness and truth.

To the extent that we have God's goodness, we have godliness or God-likeness.

The Bible gives us God's complete "instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). We should cherish it and read it far more than any other book or resource! Only through it can we learn to be like God.

God summarizes His standards of goodness in the Ten Commandments. Psalm 119:172 tells us that "all Your commandments are [or define] righteousness." God intends that they be our guideposts for life.

Let us now focus on how biblical goodness describes what one does and what one is.

We must be doing good

Jesus wants His disciples to "bear much fruit" (John 15:8). Being fruitful requires action—knowing the right thing to do and then doing it. As James wrote, "Be doers of the word" (James 1:22). Simply abstaining from evil and doing nothing is not good enough.

Jesus "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). We should too! "Through love, serve one another," we are told (Galatians 5:13). Jesus' parable of the sheep and goats shows that God knows how much we love Him by how much we are showing self-sacrificing love for other people (Matthew 25:31-46).

Good works include obeying God's laws. God gives His Holy Spirit "to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). That doesn't mean salvation can be earned by obedience. We are saved by God's grace, which "is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). However, we are being "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:10).

He who loves God will gladly demonstrate that love for God by keeping His commandments (1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6)!

It takes courage to obey God, because it often brings persecution: "But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently," God will greatly bless you (1 Peter 2:20; compare Matthew 5:10).

Christ said to do good to everyone, even our enemies! "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you" (Luke 6:27-28).

Later He said, "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same" (Luke 6:32-33).

Doing good to someone who does good to you, Jesus points out, is not pure goodness. It is rather two people exchanging favors, which can be at least partly selfish. God's standard is the very highest!

Here is an inspiring passage to remember: "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith [fellow believers]" (Galatians 6:9-10).

Our heart should match our actions

God is just as concerned about our heart as He is our actions. James wrote to the early Christians, "Cleanse your hands [actions], you sinners; and purify your hearts [attitudes], you double-minded [straddling the fence between God and the world]" (James 4:8).

Double-mindedness can mean duplicity and hypocrisy. Jesus hated hypocrisy, which is a false front and being more concerned about looking good to others than in getting rid of the evil within us (Matthew 23:25-28). Remember, we never fool God.

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9).

To keep a clean mind, guard it carefully! Don't look at or listen to anything immoral or anything that compromises your conscience. Even little sins are spiritual poison that contaminate, infect and spread like cancer (James 1:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:17; Galatians 5:9). One sin leads to another.

Pure hearts require right motives. Paul said that if he did good works without love, "it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). Doing good deeds to impress others will bring no reward from God (Matthew 6:1-4). But when the motive is to "glorify your Father in heaven" instead of yourself, doing good works that are seen by others is part of being "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Our spiritual warfare

Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:1-2) because he had been shocked and grieved to hear how many church members had become deceived and led astray by spiritual enemies. One enemy then and now is "this present evil age"—the wicked influences in the culture around us (Galatians 1:3-5). It calls "evil good, and good, evil" (Isaiah 5:20).

The evil is great because "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one," Satan the devil (1 John 5:19). That's why we need the spiritual defenses Paul referred to as "the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Spiritual enemies also include false teachers (Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 3:1). We must be extremely cautious about whom we listen to.

Usually, however, our biggest enemy is ourselves. Paul often warned about "the flesh," meaning the selfish, destructive and downward pull of our human nature.

For example, he stated: "The acts [tendencies and temptations] of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God " (Galatians 5:19-21, New International Version).

Pretty nasty looking list, isn't it? There is only one force that can defeat human nature—the power of God's Spirit and the fruit it produces (Galatians 5:22-23).

Although the key to success is the power of God's Spirit, we have our part to do. Paul said, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, see also Galatians 5:25). While you have access to God's Spirit, stay with it, use it, walk, go forward! Walking with God includes, of course, regular talk with God in prayer.

In Galatians 5:17, Paul describes the spiritual warfare that erupts whenever a person is trying to follow the lead of God's Spirit: "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (NIV). To further understand this, you can read about Paul's personal struggles in Romans 7.

Take note of the ultimate goal of this spiritual war: "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

It will be a positive sign when you begin to experience this inner warfare. It will mean you are trying to come out of sin, somewhat like Moses and the Israelites trying to leave Egypt . Remember how Pharaoh stubbornly tried his best to oppose them, to keep them enslaved? Well, that was a type of how Satan, the world and your human nature will try to defeat you. Don't let them!

In Paul's letter to the church at Rome, he wrote, "Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness" (Romans 15:14). May you likewise pursue spiritual growth so that one day it will be said of you: You are full of goodness.

People speak of a life of comfort and affluence as "the good life." But living a life close to God with all the great benefits He offers is the truly good life! Allow God to cultivate in you the good fruit of goodness. And that will lead to the gift of eternal life! That's as good as it gets!