For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
We saw last time that FAITH is the starting point. Without faith, none of what follows really matters. But what happens after you believe?
It’s kind of like a person walking into the gym for the first time. If you’ve never been in a weight room before it can be overwhelming – all the machines and weights and fit people who are there all the time. You may not know what to do at all or how to use the dumbbells. If you don’t have someone to help guide you through, then you could end up frustrated or even injured.
That’s a good picture of discipleship. You may have come to faith. You may have been baptized. You may be on fire and ready to go. But…what now?
Peter tells us to add to our faith goodness. Let’s start with that.
The Greeks actually held goodness to be among the highest characteristic a man could achieve. In fact, the word itself could also be translated as “virtue” or “moral excellence.” Goodness was “the sum of all desirable character qualities.”
But the concept of goodness in Scripture goes all the way back to Creation. In Genesis 1 and 2 God created the heavens and the earth. After each day of creation, God saw what he had made and declared “it is good.” Upon completing his creation with mankind, God said “it is very good.” Goodness, as used in Scripture, is the idea of being as one is intended to be, or fulfilling God’s purpose for one’s existence.
God created mankind to be his Image-bearers, to rule and govern and care for the rest of creation. When we reflect God’s nature then we are “good” because God himself is by nature “Good.” In fact there is a story in the gospels about a man who comes to Jesus. He addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” Who hasn’t used flattery before? But Jesus turns it around on him and asks, “Why do you call me ‘good’? There is no one good but God alone.”
Goodness is an inherent character trait of God. But is goodness something we can aspire to? Yes; however, it’s going to take some work.
How many times were you told that growing up? “Be good!” “Ok, mom!”
But how many times have you been told that as an adult?
Most of us are just concerned with not being bad. We don’t have time to worry about being good. Being good takes extra effort. We just want to do enough to get by. But is that what God wants for us?
Paul makes an interesting point in Romans 5 that we often skip over. He says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die” (Romans 5:7). The way Paul uses these words “righteous” and “good” is really interesting. Apparently, righteous, as Paul uses it here, describes those of us who are “law abiding citizens.” We may not do anything outstanding, but we also aren’t murderers or arsonists. We may be “righteous,” but that just means we do just enough of what’s required – nothing more, nothing less. A “good” person, on the other hand, is someone who goes above and beyond. They are the kind of people who make everyone around them better. They are the kind of people who are worth maybe dying for.
Goodness is closely tied to both attitude and action. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” A good person will do good things. This is so easy to turn into just another check-list of “Dos” and “Do-Nots.” But that is not what this is about.
One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament is Micah 6:6-8. Check out verses 6 and 7:
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
It reminds me of a guy who came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”
We want to know what good things God wants from us. We want a check list, procedures, policies, rulebooks. We may say we don’t, but we really do. That’s why so many Christian groups have developed their own written or unwritten codes and bi-laws.
But I love the way Micah answers that question. What do I have to do to make God happy?
He has shown you, O mortal, 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.
Do you see the combination of attitudes and actions? Be good and do good. Act (do) justly (be), love (do) mercy (be), and walk (do) humbly (be) with your God. Actions reflect our attitudes, and attitudes drive us to act.
FOR GOODNESS SAKE
Let me put it in the simplest terms I know.
You FAITH should make you a better person, not more of a jerk.
I’ll be completely honest – some of the biggest jerks I’ve ever met have been some of the most “devout” Christians. There are people who almost use their faith as an excuse to treat people badly.
To quote the old school Bibles, “Men and brethren, this ought not be!” Christians should be the best tippers at the restaurant. Christians should be the most charitable. Christians should be the most concerned with eradicating poverty and disease. Christians should be the first to help anyone in need. Christians should be the ones standing with open arms to welcome the outcast in an embrace of love.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
We are not saved because of the good things we do. But we do good things because we have been saved! Too many of us get that confused. Either we think we have to earn our way to heaven by doing enough good, or we “get saved” and then coast through life not lifting a finger to help anyone else.
GO DO GOOD
Jesus told his followers:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Let us not be tempted to do our good deeds in front of others simply for the sake of being seen by them. But I think it’s also helpful to be inspired by those who are shining a light in the darkness. Seeing others doing good inspires me to want to do good, too. So here are some organizations I follow on social media for a daily dose of good-doing.
And then there are the men and women in our own congregation who do an immeasurable amount of good in the community through the Bread of Life Food Pantry, Foster Care Support Group, AA & NA Meetings, School Supplies and Coat Giveaways, and more!
I can’t help but think about this clip from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Boy Meets World.
What character flaws or sins have you been brushing off? Address them this week. You’ve said you’re going to change “someday.” Let that “someday” be today.
Partner with a friend or two and plan a way to serve others this week. There are TONS of ways to help out. Do some good this week.