Summary: This is the seventh sermon in the original Pentecost Series in May 2004. The Lord had me completely revise it as a totally new sermon in September of 2005.
The Fruit of the Spirit Is Goodness
I know many of you were taught to pray and perhaps even taught your own children to pray a famous bedtime prayer that has been around since the eighteenth century:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
My parents had me add a few lines to our version of this childhood bedtime prayer. The one that immediately followed went, “Help David to be a good boy.” Why did my parents and I feel the need to add this petition to my prayer? Because even at that young age, I was not by nature good, and neither were any of you. No parent or teacher every has to teach a child how to be bad. As Annie Oakley boldly sings in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, “That comes naturally!” We do have to take pain staking efforts to set the example and teach them how to be good.
Just exactly what do we mean by a good boy, good girl, good man, or good woman? “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Goodness,” but what is the character or nature of a good person? What exactly do we mean when we say that somebody or something is good?
Last week we took a detour in our series on “The Fruit of the Spirit” as we discovered that “God Is Good, All the Time.” We found that God, and God, alone is by nature good. The Bible continually reminds us that no human being since the Fall has been naturally good. Take for instance Psalm 14:3:
But every one has turned back;
All alike have become corrupt:
There is none that does good; no, not one.
--[Translation: “The Psalter,” COMMON WORSHIP:
SERVICES AND PRAYERS FOR THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, The
Archbishops’ Council, 2000.]
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Paul affirms the universality of sin in Romans 3:23, “. . .for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God”; and, according to I John 1:8, anyone who claims never to have sinned is nothing less than a liar: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
“God is good, all the time; but all of us are sinners.” How can we become good? If the “Fruit of the Spirit Is Goodness,” how can we produce that goodness? And if we can yield such fruit, what will it look like?
Humanly speaking when we say that someone or something is good, we mean that person or that thing pleases me, satisfies me, is healthful for me, or will bring me happiness. We live in a humanistic society which lives by the philosophy something is good if I like it or if most people like it. The human race is at the center of the universe in our humanistic world, and in such a society there is little if any room at all for God. So in such a society people set the standard for what is accepted as good.
It is not so for the Christian Disciple. God sets the standard of goodness for the Christian. By His standards as revealed in the Old and New Testaments goodness implies what is morally right, what is helpful and charitable. It is unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Goodness is a selfless spirit that is always mindful of the needs and interests of others. Goodness for the Christian means what is morally right as set forth in God’s Word; it has to do with right and wrong behavior and character. The good person is the one who is morally honorable and pleasing to God. The good disciple is enthusiastically seeks, follows, and does the Truth as revealed to us in the life, person, and ministry of Jesus Christ.
As we go back to our original text in Galatians Chapter Five, we remember that before Paul presents “The Fruit of the Spirit,” he warns us not to “gratify” the lust of the flesh. He then clearly states in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Goodness is the diametrically opposed to all such vices and evils. The good person by the grace of God overcomes such evil vices. The good person by the power of the Holy Spirit fulfills Deuteronomy 6:18, “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.” The good person is morally upright in character and in action.