On Goodness

R.J. Lago | November 5, 2019

Few movies are more satisfying than the Batman Dark Night series. Christopher Nolan produced a complex and dark natured Batman on the screen, which had never been accomplished prior, and nothing has been achieved since. Nolan’s Batman series is a superhero masterpiece.

The opening scene to the first movie, Batman Begins, set the stage for what would follow in the series. A young Bruce Wayne falls down a well and fractures his arm. While he lies in wait for help, something stirs out of the empty cave before him. Then a sudden rush of thousands of bats surrounds him, a terrifying event that would leave a lasting mark on the character. Bruce’s father’s words following this horrifying event are a foreshadowing for the character. One of the lasting lines for the series: “Bruce, why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

If you don’t have chills, it’s my poor writing. The power in these words is what makes the series amazing. Still, if the words carry value for facing the difficulties of life, are they valid for the Christian life? If you and I are honest, we often live our lives this way. Or at the very least, we expect this from others in society. But, does God expect this mindset from His children?

No, He does not. The gospel (meaning good news), would have no power if this was true. The idea that you have to pick yourself up is not good news. A proper mindset would instead go like this, “Christian, why do we fall? So we can learn how good God is to pick us back up.” Unfortunately, this is more difficult to believe. That God’s goodness is this, well, good.

Goodness defined

The idea of goodness is all over the Scriptures. It is an essential piece of the Christian life, but usually, there is a boringness surrounding the word. You don’t consider breathing all the time because it’s dull. Obsessively studying something with no depth is not worth your time. God’s goodness is incomprehensibly deep, so, let’s examine Him for a moment.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul describes what the battle over our souls resembles. The flesh is our sinful nature as human beings. All humanity is born into sin and falls short of the glory of God. The Spirit is the work of God to transform our lives. The Spirit connects all that Jesus does in redemption to the believer. This movement is sanctification. Sanctification is the idea of saints becoming more saintly (or holy like Jesus our savior).

The greek word for goodness is ἀγαθωσύνη (agathosyne). The word is seldom used in the way that Paul uses it here in Galatians. When the Spirit is sanctifying the believer, the goodness of Christ is going to be evident in their lives. In the words of Tom Schreiner, “Those who have the Spirit of God are strengthened to live lives of moral beauty, and their decency shines forth in a world blighted by evil.” There is a disconnect to think that we can accomplish this on our own. 

God’s goodness exemplified

God’s goodness is the source of all good (Mark 10:18). All you know to be excellent is from God (Micah 6:8). Extend this to the revelation that God has created all things, and sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3;11:3). In the billions of ways to expound this reality, let’s discuss one major feature of God’s goodness.  

Consider the goodness that God has produced in your life. Yes, your life. Think about the course of your life. Especially the hardest of difficulties you have faced. Many of these problems, in hindsight, have turned out for your good and God’s glory. Your plans to do one thing have changed, usually without your control. The miraculous part of this goodness is that the changes end up being better than the first choice. 

The more mysterious aspect of God’s goodness is when afflictions generate new affections for Him. I can look back at my own life and see the thousands of ways that God used someone, a trial, or an event to guide me into a more profound love for Him. Sometimes, you and I may never know what God is doing. We may even at times doubt the outcome of a circumstance as being positive. Yet, God has revealed Himself to be the most glorious good (Nahum 1:7–8). Like a wise father telling a small child what is best, God knows what we need. Sometimes discipline is necessary, but that does not ruin the goodness of the father (Hebrews 12:5–15). Christians can trust in the goodness of our father (Psalm 40; 27:13–14).  

Goodness in the Christian life. 

So, we have seen God’s goodness exemplified. The next step is seeing God’s virtue reflected in the Christian (3 John 11). Consider two ways:

Christian, does your life reflect God’s goodness?

After reading briefly on our God’s goodness, is this reflected in your life? Let me answer that for both us, no not perfectly. Honestly, when trials come, I quickly doubt the good that God could be doing. I usually try to pick myself up, instead of trusting God’s goodness to be true. My attitude follows my reaction. I get depressed, angry, and I am sure that is true of your life as well. 

Even so, as Christians, we are reflecting God’s goodness (Ephesians 5:10). One of the first ways to reflect the goodness of God is by our outlook on life. As the Spirit continues to mature each believer, the Christian will view the world in different ways. Instead of seeking what the world can offer, the Christian is sharing the good of Christ to the world. 

The Christian should view the world as a temporary home. This life is not meant to completely please the believer (Romans 12:2). The gain of the world is not intended to satisfy eternally. The perspective of the Christian is to seek the goodness of God not of the world (1 John 2:15–17). 

With this mindset, Christian attitudes are radically different from the world. If a frustrating situation arises, Christians can rely on the goodness of God. Instead of losing hope, Christians have the promise of eternal life (Romans 15:13). We should not see difficult people or circumstances as the end of all things good. God creates and sustains all things, and He can be trusted. The goodness of God is greater than the pain of the world. Thus, our lives should reflect this truth.

Christian, are you fighting for goodness?

John Owen says in his classic The Mortification Of Sin, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” But why? Why is it necessary, considering God’s goodness, to be destroying sin in your life? When you have a proper view of sin, that becomes clear.

Sin is the abandonment of God for the lie that there is something better to experience (Romans 1:25). This lie could be a relationship, money, pleasures, or anything that valued above the Lord. Sin hinders the goodness of God in your life. 

Christians must be killing sin in their lives as often as it presents itself (Romans 6:12). The best way to do this is through confession and repentance. 

Christians are to confess their sins (1 John 1:9). Confession is not easy, but it is simple. The force of confession is that you are viewing your sin the same way that God sees your sin (Psalm 38:18). With this in mind, confession is clear. Confess your sin to the Lord and those your sin harms (Jas 5:16). The first person you should confess sin towards is always the Lord since sin is a breaking of God’s law. After confessing to the Lord, if there are others hurt by your sin, confession to them is necessary. Confession takes sin to the light so that the work of repentance can take place (Proverbs 28:13).

Repentance is the next step in killing sin (Acts 3:19). Repentance means changing one’s direction. Reversing your attitude and thought on sin to be in line with God’s law. When a Christian sees their sin for what it is, a rebellion against God, grieving takes place. Godly grieving does not come from embarrassment. No, godly grieving is realizing the error of your ways. This leads to confessing and changing your direction. As Paul describes in the second letter to the Corinthians a grief that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8–11). 

Confession and repentance are necessary to understand the goodness of God. Without these tools, we cannot get our eyes off the evil of our hearts. Without these disciplines, we cannot fix our eyes on the goodness of God (Acts 8:22).

Goodness in full form

The goodness of God is tangible. You experience His goodness in delicious food, deep friendships, and the ability to read an article like this one. Still, despite all these natural graces, God’s goodness has been manifested before. The full form of God’s goodness was held in the arms of a young mother. This goodness is Christ Jesus. He healed the sick, cared for the widow, ate with sinners, and proclaimed the goodness of His Father’s Kingdom.

Despite all this goodness, God’s goodness was felt most at the cross and in the grave. Jesus was slain so that the penalty for our evil could be transferred to himself. Christ was raised from the dead so that the victory of Christ could be shared with His followers. 

Now, Christians are to make known the goodness of their God (2 Th 1:11–12).