Encouragement From The Word

Goodness

“Goodness.”  It’s a strange term in our culture, isn’t it?  It has so many uses.

Sometimes, it’s a substitute swear word:  “Oh, my goodness.”

Sometimes, it’s an exclamation:  “Goodness, me!”

Sometimes, it’s a character trait.

For a lot of people, “goodness” is what characterizes everybody:  “He’s such a good person”, or “We all have inherent goodness.”

And there is some truth to that:  all human beings are made in God’s image, and there is a certain goodness that comes with that.  The challenge with that is that our inherent goodness is badly stained by sin.

I once heard the late renowned theologian and apologist, R.C. Sproul, offer what I thought was the best answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” 

His response?  “There are no good people.”

Not very encouraging, eh?  But he was right.

The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Rome in the first century, said, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3.23, NLT).

In other words, the goodness in us is tainted by the reality of our sin, our inability to measure up to God’s perfect standard.

Thankfully, God also gave a solution to our problem:  Jesus.  As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).

This means that when we place our faith in Jesus, receiving his death and resurrection as being for us, personally, we receive the righteousness of Jesus by faith.  So when God looks on people of faith, he sees only the righteousness – the goodness – of Jesus.

That’s why we can bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit – a fruit that includes goodness.  It’s not something that comes from within us; it’s something that is borne through us by God the Holy Spirit, who lives in all followers of Jesus.

And for that, on this Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, we can be thankful.

Encouragement From The Word

The judge steps down

My wife and I have taken to enjoying the half-hour reality show called Border Security.  It chronicles the stories of people who have been “hauled into secondary” at either an airport or at the Canada-US land border, to be examined more carefully by the border protection agents of either country.  The show is a good reminder to be honest about everything, because these guards are smart people:  they are trained to be able to discern if you’re telling the truth or not.

There was one episode recently where a traveller was returning to the US from Thailand, and had not declared a banana in her luggage.  When the banana was discovered, she was assessed a fine for failing to declare that she had any quantity at all of fruits or vegetables.  Angrily, she paid the fine and was released.  Similar story lines get repeated, with different characters involved: tell the truth or pay the price.  Since telling the truth doesn’t make for particularly compelling television, we get to watch the ones who pay the price most often.

The great 20th century preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, told a story, surrounded by an enrapt group of students with whom he was speaking about the Christian faith.  It was about a judge, whose son came before him, accused of reckless driving.  The charge was easily proven, and the judge fined the young man the highest fine permitted by law.

Then the judge adjourned the court, stepped down from the bench, and paid his son’s fine.

One of the students interjected and said, “But God cannot get down off the bench.”

Barnhouse replied, “You have given me one of the best illustrations of the incarnation that I will ever have.  For Jesus Christ was no more or less than God, come down off the bench to pay the fine which he had imposed upon us.”

Jesus paid your fine.  How will you respond?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).