Sermon – Pentecost 7 – “The Fruit of the Spirit – Goodness” – Galatians 5:19-23 – 7/11/10

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“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,’ and now this morning we focus our attention on ‘goodness.’

To get an idea of what this “goodness” that the Spirit is out to produce in us is, you have to go all the back to the beginning. In the beginning, when God made the world and everything in it, after each day’s work, God saw what He made and “It was good.” When He was all finished with His work of creation, “God saw all that He had made and it was VERY GOOD.” Every piece and part was GOOD and all of the pieces and parts worked together exactly like they were supposed, including the man and the woman. It was all exactly what God had in mind. Everything conformed exactly to God’s will.

And really, what else would you expect from God? After all, God is GOOD. Over and over again the Scriptures repeat the glad refrain, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good…” (Psalm 107:1). There is no evil in Him. So of course, all that He does is GOOD. All that is GOOD comes from God and is according to His GOOD will.

The corollary is just as true. All that is not good, all that is evil, does not come from God. Diseases, murders, injustice, these things are not good and therefore they do not come from God. But God’s goodness is greater than all of that is not good. His goodness overcomes it. God is able to work all things for GOOD to those who love Him.

Other than the man and woman, the most interesting and controversial thing that God created was that tree that was in the middle of the Garden of Eden, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God’s instruction to Adam was, “leave it alone. Do not eat its fruit!” Why? Because Adam was to look to God alone for goodness, not to some tree. He was to trust that God is GOOD and that all that comes from Him is GOOD, especially His Word. To eat of the tree of ‘good and evil’ was to look elsewhere than to God for good – which in and of itself is evil.

As we know, Adam and Eve chose to seek goodness apart from God. They thought that it would be good to do what was contrary to God’s Word. This was the original sin. Sadly, we know first hand just how flawed their knowledge of good turned out to be. In their quest for goodness apart from God what they got was evil.

But “the fruit of the Spirit is ‘goodness.'” What is this ‘goodness’ that the Spirit seeks to create and grow in us? It is the goodness that conforms to God’s goodness, which means that it conforms to God’s Word and His will.

It means that in the decisions we are faced with making, we give God’s Word the final say in what we decide. It means that we let God’s Word shape and control the way that we think through various issues and problems and opportunities and how we will respond to them. The “goodness” that the Spirit is out to work in us is the sincere desire to conform our lives to the will of God, because trust and believe that His will is good.

So, as we have seen though out this series on the fruit of the Spirit, the Spirit’s work in us begins with conversion. The Spirit must convert our hearts and minds from seeking to do what is good according to me, to seeking to do what is good according to God. Today, we no longer look to the fruit that hangs from trees for the knowledge of what is good, but that’s only because controversial trees have been replaced by TV’s and computers and radios and peers that tell us what is good.

Today the devil dresses in other disguises than a serpent. But his message is the same. “If it looks good, then it must be good. Just do it.” “Whose to say what is ‘good?’ Everyone has to decide that for themselves. What’s good for you may not be good for me.” “What’s good is what works. If it works for you then it’s good for you.” And we, just like Adam and Eve, find it ‘pleasing to the eye and GOOD.’ And we eat it up.

But the Holy Spirit speaks another Word. “You shall have no other gods.” “You shall fear, love and trust in God above all things.” Through His Word, the Holy Spirit works in us a desire to resist the temptation to eat the fruit that hangs from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and a desire to eat of that fruit that hangs from the tree of the cross.

There is of course a fancy, theological word for what we’re talking about here. It is the word, ‘repentance.’ ‘Conversion’ leads to ‘repentance’ – that changed heart and mind that desires to be conformed to the goodness of God in all things.

If we think that this is easy work, then we underestimate the deep deformity of our fallen nature. And we also underestimate the magnitude of what the Holy Spirit accomplishes in us. Repentance and conversion is always hard and painful. St. Peter writes about the suffering that we very often experience whenever we try to be good and do good according to God’s Word. The suffering that he talks about refers not only to that which others cause us, but also by the pain and suffering that comes from within us as we struggle to resist our old, sinful nature and strive to live by faith in Christ. “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 2:20)

Of course, as the Spirit carries out His work of conversion and repentance in us, He is also carrying out His work of creating something altogether new in us, which is the faith and trust that God and God alone is truly good and that we should look to Him for real and true goodness.

One day, a rich young man approached Jesus with this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered this fellow in a most profound way. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus wanted the man to see that the goodness that he was searching for is found only in God. And God was standing right in front of him. Jesus is God.

Jesus stands before all of humanity as the embodiment, the exact imprint of the goodness of God. But Jesus also stands before the Father in heaven as the embodiment, the exact imprint of the good man in whom there is no evil.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus takes the place of the 1st Adam in the Garden of Eden. Tempted to look elsewhere than to God and to do what was good for him and according to his will, the 1st Adam acted contrary to God’s will. Now, the 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ, under infinitely greater temptation than the 1st Adam, prays in bloody sweat, “not my will but thine be done.”

And so the work of the Holy Spirit is to increase and grow Jesus in us. He is good and the source of all of the goodness of God and only through faith and trust in Him are we counted as ‘good’ before God and able to do what is good according to God’s Word.

St. Paul tells the Christians in Rome that they’re far from perfect. They’ve made some mistakes along the way and gotten some things wrong. Yet, Paul writes, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness.” What he means by that is that he is confident that in all that the congregation in Rome does, the decisions they make, the way they handle the opportunities that come along, they strive to live by faith in Christ and do what is according to God’s Word and will.

The Christians in Thessalonica resolved to DO GOOD. That is, to conform their thoughts and decisions and choices and actions to God’s Word alone. St. Paul writes to them saying, “We always pray that God may make you worthy of His calling AND MAY FULFILL EVERY RESOLVE FOR GOOD and every work of faith by his power.” (2Thess.1:11).

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