Growing into Goodness
“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:68)
It is the trap of every theistic religion or belief system in the world other than Christianity that, somehow. we can do something to earn God’s favor. We cannot! The Bible is very clear on that matter. When we are dead in sins, there is nothing good living in us.
Nor do we need to become models of good behavior and then add Christ. We enter into a relationship with Jesus first, acknowledging our helplessness to be good at all. We come humbly and even desperately, knowing we can do nothing to make ourselves better.
A desire to be truly good, moral, upright people is born within us the moment we become disciples of Jesus. If we don’t have that desire, we need revisit our initial commitment to ensure that we are truly following Him.
What do you think of when you think of a good person? Usually things like integrity, generosity, honesty, trustworthiness, come to mind. Those are the kinds of characteristics that Paul meant when he wrote about the goodness that would come about in us as the Holy Spirit works in our lives (Galatians 5:22). In centuries past, we might have used the word virtuous to describe a good man or woman.
Commentators have described biblical goodness as “moral energy”. God gives us the energy we need to do the morally good and right thing, even when it’s hard. And when we live a life of moral excellence that honors God, we are showing the world we are following a higher authority than that of the culture around us. In fact, we are listening to the voice within us who calls us to live for Him, to be “royal” and “regal” in our moral and ethical decisions. After all, we are children of the King!
How might our lives look if we are growing in goodness? It means
telling the truth when it seems that a little white lie wouldn’t hurt.
resisting the temptation to cheat on a test when the grade is vitally important to passing the course.
sharing some of our well-guarded cash with a friend who is in the middle of a financial struggle.
taking responsibility for the snafu at work even though we could get by with letting someone else get blamed.
having the baby even if it seems that having an abortion would make life easier for everyone involved.
turning your back on the enticing relationship with a co-worker who is tempting you to be unfaithful to your spouse.
You get the idea. Moral excellence, virtue, goodness. Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, just as Jesus did.
There is a clear warning sign that we are being drawn away from growing in goodness: It is when we tend to compare ourselves to other people. We might find ourselves saying (or thinking) things like these:
“I may not be perfect, but I’m not as bad as . . ..”
“I do tell little white lies occasionally, but you can’t believe a word my brother-in-law says – and he claims to be a Christian, too”.
“Sure, I cheat on my taxes, but doesn’t everybody?”
There is only one standard – God’s. None of us meets it, but as Christians, we will be showing greater and greater goodness as we grow up spiritually.
If, as followers of Christ, we are not demonstrating basic characteristics that even the world defines as good and moral, we will most certainly not be able to move forward in building a love relationship with Jesus. Goodness, a/k/a moral living or good character, is part of the very foundation of our lives. It is the minimum expected of a Christian.
If examination of our lives and our thoughts reveals we are caught in a moral or ethical struggle, our only recourse it to turn to God and to commit ourselves to following His way no matter what. When we do that, He gives divine power to enable us to make the next right moral decision, then the next, and the next until we find we are becoming people characterized by goodness.
“A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day.”– C. S. Lewis