Encouragement From The Word


“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

A spiritual problem

It’s hard to avoid the reality, when one watches the news, that there are political problems in the world.  Of course, our neighbour to the south, the United States, is getting a lot of press about these things lately, with hearings going on around the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice.

But one tweet I read yesterday reminded me that the problems are not political. They’re spiritual.

The root of all problems in our world today are spiritual.  If people followed the way of Jesus, made clear for us in Scripture, those problems would cease to exist.

We all know that’s difficult; after all, the apostle Paul told the church in Rome that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3.23, NLT).  But we can’t let the reality of human sinfulness become a crutch that makes us shrug our shoulders and leaves us saying that this is just how we are.  God invites us to be better than that, to be sanctified.

To be sanctified literally means to become holy.  It’s not the same as being sanctimonious, which is being holier than thou.  It’s not about being better than others, or giving the impression of being better than others.  Sanctification is a process, one that we submit ourselves to when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus’ work in drawing us closer to God through the blood of his cross.

It’s a process that is lifelong, and God invites us to journey with him toward the likeness of his Son.  Only when we commit ourselves to this journey, this process, will we be formed spiritually, and find that the spiritual problems (which get many other names) will wane.

While you’re at it, will you pray with me, that the Lord will draw people committed to being more like Jesus into political office?  “The System”, such as it is, has discouraged many Christ-followers from serving in municipal, provincial and federal politics.  But that realm needs God’s people as much as any other…maybe more.

Encouragement From The Word

The reality of a fallen world, and God’s solution

Two of the most disturbing stories to hit the news in recent times involve severed body parts that have been found in or near bodies of water in the greater Toronto area and Niagara.  Parts of the body of a Scarborough woman were found in Mississauga and Agincourt.  Her torso has yet to be found, but her ex-boyfriend has been charged in her death.  More body parts were found in the Niagara River earlier this week, but police say the parts don’t belong to the same deceased person.

Is someone playing ‘copycat’ after the story of Luka Magnotta hit the press earlier this year? He is the man who allegedly killed a man and sent his body parts through the mail to various places in the country.

We call it sick and disturbing, and it is.  There is no pleasant way to describe such crimes against humanity.  What is it that makes someone do this?  I mean, there is a great degree of intentionality involved in cutting up bodies and spreading the parts out over a wide geographical area.  It’s no accident when this kind of thing happens.

It amazes me how, in the midst of such disquieting stories, people can still believe that humanity is intrinsically good, or that there is no such thing as personal evil.  Even some who follow Jesus will make claims like this, but they are unfounded both in theory and in practice.

The Psalmist wrote, “But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.  No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 14.3, NLT).  The apostle Paul wrote, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3.23, NLT).  Clearly, the Bible’s picture of a post-Eden human race is not altogether rosy.

If the reality is that humanity is not basically good, but fallen, what should be our response as followers of Jesus?  We should, first, recognize and acknowledge the reality that we live in a sinful world among sinful people (one another included).  Let’s not pretend, or wear rose-coloured glasses, when it comes to the state of our world.

Second, we should pray and work in partnership with God, who longs for the redemption of the world that he made and loves.  Jesus came so that those who follow him will know citizenship in God’s kingdom, and through that relationship, will orient their lives in service to God and God’s world with a goal of making the world reflect the glorious kingdom of God.  “On earth as it is in heaven” is how Jesus’ model prayer puts it.

God is changing the world, one life at a time – and he wants us to help.  Let’s live as those who long to give a taste of God’s kingdom – our future – to those whose best hope at heaven is otherwise a world scattered with severed body parts, and lost souls.  Tell your story.