Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Goodness - Galatians 5:22

I like to play a game.  It's a game that tells me a lot about the person who plays it.  I like to ask this question:  If you found $500 on the side of the road, the police said you could keep it and you couldn't use it to pay bills or give it away, what would you do with it?  What would you buy?  Then I raise the amount to something like $100,000 and then to unlimited funds.  It tells me a lot about a person to know what they would buy.  It tells me what they think is good to have, what it would take, in their mind to live the good life.

We all want to live the good life, but what does that mean?  Some people are more concerned about looking good.  Some people want to feel good.  Some want to eat good or even ride good.  This word good is overused.  And not only overused, in the examples I have given it has no spiritual value.

But, the good that the Bible is talking about has a moral characteristic. You see, the fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Now, what is goodness? Adrian Rogers has a wonderful sermon on this topic and he says, that goodness, as the Bible is talking about, is a state of being.  And, therefore, because you are good, it is doing good. Now, I want to give you a verse of Scripture to put in your margin. And, it is Micah 6 and verse 8. If you want, in one verse, a definition of goodness, here it is.  Here is what goodness is. Just put it in the margin, and listen to me. Don’t try to look it up now, because the sermon will be over, and some of you will not have found Micah yet. Some don’t even know Micah’s in the Bible. You will get to Heaven, and you'll meet Micah, and he’ll say, “Did you read my book?” And, you’ll say, “Oh, you wrote a book?” Micah chapter 6, verse 8, He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Now, having said that, real goodness—the good life—has a moral quality to it. It is to be good,

and, therefore, to do good. And, because it is the fruit of the Spirit, our message is organized around

three simple thoughts.

I. The Reasons for Goodness

II. The Problems with Goodness

III. The Pathway to Goodness

First of all, I want us to think about the reasons for goodness. Why should we be good? I mean, if you look around you, it doesn’t seem, sometimes, like we should. We all see people or know people who are not living Christian lives and yet they seem to be doing so well, people who seem to have everything they need and never give God a second thought. 

You are not the first one to be discouraged about this situation.  In Psalm 73, Asaph says, "2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills. 12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

So why should we be good?  It doesn't make sense!  I want to tell you why you ought to be good. And, I want to give you three major reasons for

being good.

A. The Inward Reason

you will never have inward peace and tranquility until you have inward— intrinsic—goodness. You know yourself. You may deceive others. You may deceive me, and I may deceive you. But, we can’t really deceive ourselves. We know what we are. We can’t run away from ourselves. If you run away—if you leave town—you have to go with you. You just take you everywhere you go.

Adrian Rogers quotes this poem:

 I have to live with myself and so

I want to be fit for myself to know.

I want to be able as days go by,

always to look myself straight in the eye;

I don’t want to stand with the setting sun

and hate myself for the things I have done. (Edgar A. Guest)

Now, this being able to look yourself in the eye is what the Bible calls a good conscience. Take your Bibles, and turn with me to Acts chapter 23, for a moment. I want you to see what happened in the life of the Apostle Paul. Now, Paul is held, and taken into court. Now, he’s not guilty of doing anything, except preaching the gospel of Jesus. But, it’s a very serious matter, and they are accusing him of all kinds of things. And, there’s a possibility, of course, that he may not only be put

in prison, but his life may be taken from him. And, I want you to see what the Apostle Paul does here. Let’s look in Acts 23, and notice this, in verse 1. Now, here he is before the tribunal; here he is before the court.

Now, look at it—Acts 23 verse 1: Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." Now, the

Apostle Paul says, “I have a good conscience.” That is, “When I look into my heart, I have a good conscience.” Well, what is a good conscience? Well, just go on, now, to Acts 24, and look at verse 16. Here’s what his good conscience was. He said this: So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. . Bill Gothard said this: “A good conscience is that inner freedom of spirit and assurance, knowing that you have a transparency toward everyone, that no one is able to point a finger at you, and accuse you of wrongs toward him that you’ve not made right.” Isn’t that wonderful? Do you know what a good conscience is? A good conscience is this: knowing that, if you knew me as I know me, you would still respect me. You know, I have to ask myself this question: If people knew me as God knows me, would they come hear me preach? I mean, do you have that transparency? The transparency to be able to meet anyone, and have no one be able to point a finger of accusation against you, because you have a conscience devoid of offence toward God and toward man. Friend, what a liberty there is there! You see, the Apostle Paul is in trouble. I mean, he’s in real trouble. But, the thing that has enabled him to stand there without flinching is that he doesn’t have to run through his life, and  say, “I wonder if what I did wrong has me right here today.” You see, there’s something about a clear conscience that just liberates you in time of trouble. It just removes fear. You have a bad conscience that causes that fear that we have toward God—a bad conscience. And, when God came walking in the garden, after Adam and Eve sinned, what did they do? They ran, and hid themselves from the Lord, in the midst of the garden. Now, why did Adam hide himself? He hid himself, because he had a defiled conscience. He didn’t have a clear conscience. He wasn’t right with God. And so, Adam and Eve hid themselves. And, rather than having fellowship with God, rather than singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” they’re hiding from the

Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you know why some people don’t want to come to church? Oh, there are people who just feel uncomfortable about coming to church. Do you know why some people don’t read the Bible? Do you know why some people don’t pray? They have a conscience that has an offence toward God. And, their conscience, you see, the conscience is that inner judge that God has put in you that accuses you, or excuses you. It cannot make you do right, but it shows you what is right, or what is wrong. And, when your conscience is right, you have that tremendous freedom. After David had sinned, and done the terrible thing that he had done by committing adultery, he

said there, in Psalm 53, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Can you imagine what it would be like for David to live that way? Can you imagine what it would be like, knowing that he’d sinned, and now, the thing that he’s done—the deed that he’s done—reverberates through his consciousness? Everybody that he sees, he wonders, “Do they know? Do they know?” Two men are whispering. He wonders, “Are they talking about me?” A letter comes. He says, “I wonder is this the affidavit that proves that I’m guilty?” If they had telephones in that day, every time the telephone rang, he’djump. You see? But, a good conscience will do something for you, friend, that a sleeping pill will not do. And, when you get into trouble and difficulty, as the Apostle Paul did, you can say, “Look, I have lived with a good conscience.”

B. The Outward Reason

There’s the inward reason. That’s one reason. But, let me give you another reason that you ought to be good. Not only the inward reason, but oh, there is the outward reason. Not only are you looking in, but others are looking on. Our lives influence others. The Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 13—he says, So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.(1 Corinthians 8:13). Now, what

Paul meant by that is this: He said, “I don’t want to do anything that will cause anybody else to stumble, or anybody else to fail.” I’ve been hearing and reading, today, about all these terrible things that are happening—some who are prominent evangelists, some who are on television, and all of these things—and it breaks

my heart. It literally breaks my heart. It just causes me to weep. It causes me anguish on the inside. I’d rather die five minutes before I would disgrace the cause of Jesus. And, I think how many people are caused to fall and stumble. When a giant oak falls in the in the woods, not only does that oak fall, but it just pulls down all kinds of saplings, and other trees with it, when it falls. And, what a tragedy this is! How terrible it is for these to do this!

Others are looking on. Why be good? None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  You’re the best Christian, and you’re the worst Christian, that somebody knows. You’re the only Bible that somebody is reading. Oh, I’ll tell you the Hell of Hell to me would be to know, not only did I go to Hell, but that I took others with me.

C. The Upward Reason

Why be good? Because, dear friend, there’s the inward reason, there’s the outward reason, and there is the upward reason. There is a God in glory. And, that God is looking down. What a joy to know that you have a conscience that’s void of offence toward God!There are times when I get backslidden. There are times when I get cold. There are times when the things that I do for the Lord Jesus Christ seem to take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I find myself studying more than praying. And, I find myself counseling with others more than talking with God. And, I find myself caring about the buildings, and the budgets, and all of these things, more than the blessed Savior. And, I know that my heart has gotten cold. And, I just have to get alone, and get with myself, and get down on my face before God, and give to God every blessed thing—give to God my health, give to God my family, give to God my reputation, give to God anything—and say, “Dear God, if there’s something that I haven’t surrendered, I want you to show it to me,” and sign a blank piece of paper, and say, “It’s yours, Lord; fill it in. Whatever it is, O God, I give it all to You.”  And, what a time that is to know, to be able to say, “There is nothing between my soul and

the Savior”! And, that, my friend, is a good reason for being good. There is that inward reason, and there is that outward reason. And, there is that upward reason, as we are what God wants us to be. I was thinking last night about a man in the New Testament whose name was Barnabas. And, this is what it said about Barnabas—oh, I think it is a tremendous thing—it said: “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:24). Now, hey folks, when I die, I’d like to be worthy to have that put on my tombstone. That would be enough for me: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit.” Friend, it’s more important to be good than it is to be great. As a matter of fact, if you’re not good, then you’re not great. I don’t care what you’ve done, or how much money you have. You see, he was a good man. “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit.” Why be good? Inward look, outward look, and upward look: all of them tell us that we need to be good.

II. The Problems with Goodness: We are Not Good

But, oh, there’s a problem about this matter of goodness. Let’s move to the second point that deals, not only with the purpose of goodness, but the problems with goodness. Now, the problem is this: very frankly, folks, we’re not good.

A. The Bible Teaches It

Let me give you a verse of Scripture. All of us self-righteous people, just tune in, now, and listen. Romans chapter 3, verse 12, says, there is no one who does good,
not even one(Romans 3:12). Hmm? Not one.

Well, you say, “I gave to the Red Cross.  I tithe, I go to church, I helped a little old lady across the street. I did this, and did that.” God says, “Your righteousness

is as filthy rags in my sight” (Isaiah 64:6). “In my flesh,” the Apostle Paul said, “is no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

How do we know this is true? Well, number one: the Bible teaches it—Romans chapter 3, verse 12.

B. History Proves It

Number two: history proves it. Just read the newspapers. Look around you.

C. Personal Experience Teaches It

Any of you have any children? All right, that ought to be enough to teach you there’s none good, no not one. Any of you have to teach your children to lie? No. They just lie by nature. A little child can lie before it can talk. It’ll make you think it needs changing, you come in there, and the little rascal’s lying. He just wants to be held. Before he can verbalize, and before he can talk, he can lie. The Bible says that. The Bible says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born” (Psalm 58:3). That’s what the Bible says. Experience proves to us—human nature. You don’t have to teach little children to be selfish; you have to teach them not to be selfish. You don’t have to teach them to be hurtful; you have to say, “Don’t hurt, don’t bite, don’t do this, don’t do that.” It’s just bound up. The Bible says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). You see, the Bible teaches it, history teaches it, and personal experience teaches it.

Let me show you a verse of Scripture. This one, I want you to turn to—Jeremiah chapter 13, look in verse 23. Many of us have decided we’re going to be good, haven’t we? All right now, look what the Bible says here, in Jeremiah chapter 13 and verse 23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then…”—that means, if an Ethiopian can change his skin, and a leopard can change his spots—”then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). Friend, you could no more will to be good, and be good, than you could will to change the color of your skin, or a leopard could will to change the spots on his back. It takes something, there’s a principle within us. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). And, we know that we know that there’s a problem of wickedness and sin in our lives.

III. The Pathway to Goodness

Now, let’s move to the most important part of this message. I’ve talked to you about the purpose of

goodness, and I’ve talked to you about problems with goodness. Let me talk to you about the pathway to goodness.  Turn with me, please, this time, to Romans chapter 7. This time, just keep your Bible’s open, as we get

into Romans chapter 7. Now, look here, in Romans chapter 7. The Apostle Paul says this, in verse 18: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). When he says, your flesh, he doesn’t mean, your skin, bones, hide, and hair. He’s not talking about that. Your flesh is that old nature that you have, that Adamic nature that the Bible calls the flesh. He, the Apostle Paul, says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:”and

continue to read in verse 18—”for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). The Apostle Paul says, “Hey, I want to do good; but how to do it, I don’t know.” Verse 19 says, “For the good that I would I do not” (Romans 7:19). Have you ever been that way? Said, “I’m going to do this, and really make a New Year’s resolution”? How many of you have kept all your New Year’s resolutions? Never mind, don’t even raise your hands. All right, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). Now, continue to read: “Now if Ido that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I delight in the law” (Romans 7:19). Now, the word law here

means, “a principle”: “that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). Now, look up here, and let me ask you a question. Do you identify with that? Oh, you hypocrite, nod your head. Do you identify with that? I want to do good, and I desire to do good. I’m going to say I’ll never do that. Do what you want to do. You don’t know how. You just find a principle—a law—“that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Well, friend, I want to say to you that this 7th chapter of the Book of Romans is a tremendous chapter. This chapter shows you how the fruit of the Spirit will work in your life, and become that goodness that gives you that transparency, that conscience that is void of offence toward God, and

toward man.

Do you know how to be good? The Bible says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God gives the desire and the dynamic, but you must abide in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness.May I say one more time—listen to me—the best thing that could be said about you, when they put it on your tombstone, is this: “He was a good man—she was a good lady—full of the Holy Spirit.” And, if you’re not full of the Holy Spirit, you won’t be full of goodness.

Now, you’ve tried and tried and tried to be good. Haven’t you? All right now, let me tell you what to do this morning. Are you listening? Quit trying and start trusting. The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. You don’t produce this fruit. You bear it. He produces it, as you abide in Jesus.

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