Greater: Goodness

This week’s meditation video.

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at journey.  And it’s my pleasure to speak with you today about God and what he’s like.  And how we can join him in his plans to take over the world!  Good stuff.  Did you know that it’s God’s desire to take over the world!  Well, to rescue us from a kingdom of darkness and transplant us into the Kingdom of Jesus, where we get to live life with a confidence we never knew before.  Confident that the Lord is our Shepherd, and that whatever valley we walk through He promises to never leave our side.

This morning we are continuing our study that we are calling the Greater life.  And simply put, we believe the Greater life is available to all who ask God to govern their lives and give him permission to change us from the inside out.  The lesser life is the life we live by default, a life where the selfish nature is making the call for us.

The deal is that when we come to the place where we think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with the governance of our life, then the result is that we have unfettered access to God the Father.  We can walk boldly into his presence, and the closer we get to him the more he rubs off on us.  And we start talking like him and walking like him, and acting like him. The Bible calls these attributes the Fruit of the Spirit – Love joy peace, patience, kindness and today’s topic – goodness.

And I’ll start with a story.  About ten years ago I traveled with a friend who was going to do some leadership training sessions in Beijing – and Ian invited me to go and participate in the training with him.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime.  One evening we were with a group of Chinese students and we are eating at this restaurant and one of the students who speaks good English leans over and says, In China we have a saying.  That in heaven we will eat Dragon meat.  But for now, the next best thing, is donkey meat!  Have you ever had donkey meat, Phil?

And I said, in my country we also have a saying.  I said, I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.   I ain’t eating no donkey meat.  Soon however there was a platter of donkey meat and these Chinese students were really enjoying it.  And so – of course, I decided to try it.  And you know what?  If I’m lying I’m dying.  It was disgusting.  But I suppose we all have different palates – next time it’s on sale at Hyvee – give it a try.

The reason I bring this up is because of a famous verse in the book of Psalms, chapter 34- that says – Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
The writer of the Psalm is King David, and David is giving us an invitation – hey – have you ever tried God?  He is delicious.  Taste and see that he is good.

Now some of you might be thinking – There’s a saying in my country – there’s a sucker born every minute.”  Because you are a skeptic.  And you say that because you can’t imagine that God is good – because everywhere you look you see cruelty in this world.  Maybe you’ve tasted some of that cruelty firsthand and so you can’t reconcile the bad things in your life with a good God.

That is a legitimate obstacle to faith, and though I’ll touch on it, I’ll probably not be able to address it to the extent you might want to here about.  I just want to acknowledge that sometimes the cruelty of this world causes pain that settles deep into a soul – it obscures God from us and isn’t easily talked away.

One of the reasons that the Psalms are so powerful is that it gives voice to our emotions.  It helps an injured soul to worship, and worship helps an injures soul to heal.

This morning,  all I want to do is tell you that we understand why that would be an obstacle to trusting God.   It’s one thing to say God is good, but at the experiential level I suppose we should examine, has he been good to me?

My plan for the morning is to show you that yes indeed,  1.  God is good.  2.  That the world is cruel.  3.  God’s Good response to the cruelty in this kind of world.

First, the bible clearly tells us that God is good.   This is a fundamental truth – if not THE fundamental truth about the nature of God.  He is good.

Psalm 107:1 says Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Not only is goodness an attribute of God – goodness is the sum total of all of God’s attributes.  The last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned that it’s important to listen to how God describes himself.  And we used Exodus 34:6  “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth;

Well, one chapter before this Moses has this wonderful “come to Jesus” moment with God.   Have you ever heard that term, “Come to Jesus” moment?  It means you just get real with God.  You just get honest.  And in chapter 33 we read about Moses and he’s just frustrated trying to lead these Israelites, and he’s full of questions and doubts, and he just says, Listen God are you with me or not?  I need to know!  Show yourself to me!

And this is how God responds.  Stand here in the crevasse of this rock – I will make all my goodness pass before you…

God summarizes all of his attributes, his character, all of what makes him Him.  And he uses one word – Goodness.

It’s because God is good, that he is kind.  Because he is good, he is compassionate and sympathetic and tenderhearted.  It’s because he is good that he is forgiving and gracious toward us.

Goodness informs our understanding of all the other attributes.

The fact that God is all powerful?  Should terrify us!  But instead it’s a comfort.  Why?  Because he is good.

He knows everything about us.  Check out this verse from Hebrews 4:13  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

This verse should terrify us!

Ever have a dream and something is chasing you in the dream and you just cant get away from it?  It’s terrifying!  But this isn’t a nightmare it’s a dream come true.  The one who is chasing us is GOOD!  He is the hound of heaven and he’s on our trail but he comes to us in all of his goodness not to harm us but to save us, to draw us to himself.

He knows everything about us and still died for us.

God is good.  And his goodness qualifies all of his other attributes.  And once we start paying attention to the word we start seeing the word Good show up all over the bible.  Look at Jesus – listen to all the times he talks about good.

He says he will turn us into the kinds of people who produce good fruit. Who do good deeds for the world to see.  That we can become the kind of people who are good people, producing good things from a good heart. (Math 12:35)  And of course, Jesus favorite use of the word good comes when it is joined with the word news.

Jesus didn’t come just to bring us news.  He came to deliver good news. (Matt 4:23) You might have heard the term Gospel.  Gospel means Good news.  And Jesus, time and time again, stands up in front of people and says – let me tell you about God, about what He is like, about what he is doing on your behalf.  And trust me – it’s good news.

What is the good news Jesus came to deliver?

Well, we have to go back again to Genesis.  When God created the world, what word did he use after each portion?  He creates the earth – and steps back and say -it’s good.  He makes the plants and trees – steps back and says – it’s good!

He creates the stars and moon and sun and says – that’s good stuff right there!

Fish, animals – good!

Then he makes mankind and what does God say about us?  These guys – are very good.

See from the beginning we were different than the rest of creation.  From the start we held a special place with God.  He created us to be able to join into the relationship God was already enjoying within the trinity.  The Father loving the son.  The Son loving the Father – together they loved another.  And God creates man – not because he was bored or lonely, but because he wanted to extend to others the joy, the peace, the goodness of loving and being loved.

Well, what happened?  2.  This world is cruel. How did it get that way?

Well, God HAD to provide us an option.  Love can never be coerced.  Love is always a choice.  And so God says – listen – everything is yours – but I want you to trust me enough to not eat the fruit of that tree.   If you taste and see for yourself that this fruit is bad it will lead to death beyond measure.   If you do you will die, I promise I’m telling you the truth.   Don’t taste and see.

And we know what happens – and from that moment the world is cursed.  Nature is cursed.  Even the animals are against us.  Why?  I heard one commentator say it’s because they know we are at odds with their creator.

So – here’s where we get back to the issue of the cruelty of the world.  God is Good.  But this world we live in?  It’s marked by cruelty.  Where is the source of this cruelty?  Does it belong to God?   Let’s be fair here.

How much of the cruelty in this world belongs to God?  And how much is generated by – the thistles and thorns of a life governed by the selfish nature?

Look at the list we find in Galatians 5 – this is the lesser life, agree?  A life governed by the selfish nature?  You can read it for yourself –

Sex, drugs, violence, greed, all powered by selfish people who are operating as if they are the true God of the universe.  They will decide what is right and wrong and it may or may not include you at al, other than a person to be used and manipulated.

So the world is broken.  And we are responsible for much of it.  But does it mean that God doesn’t love us if we endure hardship in this world?  No – even then God is good.

It’s one of the defining character traits of God is his ability to make something good out of something difficult.  The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis – and you can read it in Genesis 37 and onward.  it’s the story of bad things happening to an innocent man and it culminates with the declaration – in fact it’s the culmination of the entire book of Genesis – don’t miss this.

The culmination of the story of Joseph and the book of Genesis?  Genesis 50:20, 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. 

Psalm 34 – the psalm we started with that says Taste and see that the Lord is good?  It was written by David.  And you might be tempted to think he wrote that after he killed Goliath!  Of after he became King.  Or after a victory of some kind against a foe!

But no – it was actually written immediately after one of the lowest points in David’s life – you can read it in 1 Samuel 21 – we don’t have time today – but suffice it to say it was one of the lowest most embarrassing points in David’s life – and he writes, taste and see – the Lord is good.

In what sense is God good to us?  How does God display his goodness in this kind of world?  Three ways.  And then the question is – How will God respond with goodness in this kind of world?  Three things.

First – in spite of this world being like this, God is still good to us by displaying common goodness to the world.  Jesus taught, and it’s recorded for us in Matthew 5:45 that our heavenly Father “gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

There is a general grace from God – a prevenient goodness – that is displayed for mankind to be able to see that there is a God.  You don’t really think that your alarm on your phone woke you up this morning, do you?  How many of us right now – if you took at your phone out and looked at your photos on your phone – how many would see a sunset?  A full moon?  Something that struck your soul as good.  Memorable.  Catchable.

You are capturing is God’s general goodness to mankind.  And that alone should be enough for us to be able to say – taste and see that the Lord is good.

But that’s not all that God has done. The cross is God’s specific display of his goodness to humanity.   God has done something specific to show his goodness.  Specifically – God set into motion a plan to redeem us – to enable us to make a move – out of the kingdom of darkness -the kingdom ruined by our selfish nature – and into a different kind of kingdom altogether.

the Kingdom of Jesus.   God’s goodness is most evident in the life and sacrificial death of Jesus.  See – when Adam and Eve sinned the penalty was death.  The Bible says the wages of our sin is death.  It’s what we deserve!

Sometimes when things are tough we might want to look up at heaven and say, “Give me what I deserve!”  Uh, best not to pray that you might get what you want and it’s dust for you.  It’s pixilation for you and me.  That’s all we deserve.

But God wanted a greater life for us, so he himself became a man and the perfect one -the only man without sin, died a sinner’s death as a substitute for us.  So that now – we can receive forgiveness of sins – a renewed relationship with God where we get to walk with him again – as Adam and Eve- he walks by our side as a friend.

The good news – that Jesus came to bring us?  He has made it possible for us to escape the kingdom of darkness and stumble our way into a Kingdom where we need not fend for ourselves.  A Kingdom where he tends to our needs.  Where he becomes our good shepherd – and even though there will be times we will have to walk through dark valleys – of many shapes and sizes – we need not fear them.  Why?  Because Thou are with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

How is one transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of heaven?  We each get the individual choice of changing the choice Adam and Eve made.  See their choice was to NOT trust God.  Their choice was to go it alone.

And now – we are each given the option – see sometimes people say – Adam and Eve ruined everything!  If I ever see them I’ll give them such a slap!  Well here’s the deal.  You have an option too.  You are sitting in Adam and Eve’s place.  The choice is the same.  Do I believe God enough to trust him with my life?

When Jesus takes bread at the last supper – on the night before he was brayed – and he breaks the bread – he says – this bread represents my body – broken for you.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

By the way we are going to celebrate communion later.  I’ll finish this talk in a moment and we have about a five minute video – and then Neil and the worship team will come back for two more songs.  And during those two songs – the communion table will be available for anyone who wishes to participate.  Kids – you can listen to your parents – if they don’t feel you are old enough to do this – maybe they want to make sure you understand what it symbolizes  -just obey your parents.

Jesus himself – is the greatest goodness ever shown to man.  That He would die for us, his friend.  It’s God’s specific revelation of his goodness to this kind of world.

Lastly, let’s remember that it doesn’t end there.  What happens to us when we trust Him with our very lives?  He begins a work of his goodness in our lives.  Transforming us unto different kinds of humans – living a greater life- governed not by the selfish nature, but by the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 1:6  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

And out of the overflow of this changed heart?  We become part of the goodness of God – the way we live our lives.  3.  You and I.  Followers of Jesus.  The Church – we become God’s universal goodness to this world.  We become a source of goodness.  He rubs off on us.

The way we display love and patience and kindness – our very essence – becomes a sign of God’s goodness in this kind of broken world.

You become a tangible expression of the goodness of God in other people’s lives.  People might not take pictures of you and put them on your phone – that would be creepy – but you know what they do?  They thank God that you are a part of their life.

People can count on you.  You are a person of integrity and goodness.  Overflowing from God into you and out of you into this cruel kind of world.

It’s all possible because of the goodness of God.  Taste and see that He is good.  And he makes all things work together now for good – for those who love him.  Taste and see that the Lord of good.

This week’s meditation video.

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