Monday, December 23, 2013

The Gift of Goodness

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:4-10 (NLT)

The true and living God (Yahweh) is eternally good, and He is abounding with loving-kindness, faithfulness, and forgiveness (Exodus 34:6-7; Ephesians 2:7). God is so rich in mercy, and He loves us so much (Ephesians 2:4; John 3:16). He wants goodness for our lives, not hurt (Jeremiah 29:11). Through His abundant love, God freely gives us grace, salvation, and forgiveness through faith and acceptance in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (Ephesians 2:5, 8-9).  These gifts from God are not from our works but free gifts from God received by belief through Jesus’ Name (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9).  “All who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ Name” (Acts 10:43, NCV).

God graciously sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to earth as a human Baby as a gift to the world because He loves us so much (Luke 1:32-35; John 3:16). Simply by genuinely believing and trusting in Jesus Christ’s life and ministry as an act of God for human sins, we receive God’s gracious gifts (Acts 10:43). Through faith (belief) in Jesus Christ, God graciously gives us an abundance of gifts:  eternal salvation, heart joy, peace with God, and righteousness in God’s sight (Romans 5:1-2). Even more, God gives us His Holy Spirit and His Holy Scriptures (the Bible) to fill our hearts with His love, protection, and goodness (Romans 5:5; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). All of these wonderful gifts from God is NOT a reward for the good things we have done, but so we can be become more like Jesus Christ and continue to Jesus Christ’s good works in the world (Ephesians 2:9-10). Specifically, God gives us all His special blessings, including His Holy Spirit as His special Presences, to do good and help others in the world (Acts 10:38; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:10). “You know about Jesus from Nazareth, that God gave Him the Holy Spirit and power. You know how Jesus went everywhere doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38, NCV).

So, what is good in God’s eyes? Micah 6:8 tells us what God regards as good. “The Lord has told you, human, what is good; He has told you what He wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God” (Micah 6:8, NCV). From our hearts, God wants everyone to do what is right, love others with compassion, and walk humbly with Him as the only true and living God of their lives (see also Romans 12:9-10, 21 Deuteronomy 10:12-13). The Holy Scriptures are clear that we are NOT to mistreat, hurt, and harass others. Instead, God wants everyone to do what is good, merciful, and honest towards others (Exodus 20:1-17). Worship is essentially wholehearted love, faith, and obedience to God and love and goodness to others (e.g., see Genesis 15:6; Genesis 17:1, 9; Hosea 6:6; Proverbs 1:7; Matthew 22:34-40). True spirituality and worship is doing good, seeking justice, living the truth, getting rid of oppression, being fair to others, protecting the orphans, and helping the poor (widows and the needy) (see Exodus 22:21-24; Exodus 23:2-12; Deuteronomy 15:4-11; Deuteronomy 24:12-15; Nehemiah 5:1-13; Psalm 140:12; Jeremiah 22:16; Amos 5:7-24; Daniel 4:27; James 1:27). These actions are symbols of God’s own good character (Psalm 146:9; Matthew 11:5). God is the source of all love and goodness (Genesis 1; Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 12:28; Psalm 136; 1 John 4:16).

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:7-10 (NLT)

The opposite of good is sin. There have been many definitions given for sin. Sin essentially means “selfish individual needs” or a “me first” mindset. The “i” in sin focuses on selfish and personal needs, while ignoring God and others. Sin desires a person to place oneself in the center of one’s life and ahead of God and the needs of others (see Luke 4:1-13). Sadly, sin only brings sadness, depression, and death (Romans 8:13). Every action – whether good or bad – has results. If we live to please ourselves, we will reap a crop of sorrow and pain (Galatians 6:7-8).

The Holy Scriptures are very clear that God must be the center and focus of our lives and hearts FIRST (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-31) and then we are commanded by God to be good and love others (e.g., see Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). The greatest gifts we can give to God and to others are to love and do good in the world, particularly those in need. The Holy Scriptures challenges us to love one another, keep on doing good, and to trust God for the results (Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 3:17; James 2:8, 14-26). If we do not give up doing God’s goodness in the world, God will causes everything to work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

God wants us to always be ready to lend a helping hand to others, being kindhearted and courteous (Titus 3:1-2). Everyone who has put their trust in God must concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone (Titus 3:8) and keep on loving each other (Hebrews 13:1). God’s goodness and love will produce kindness to outsiders (Hebrews 13:2), sympathy for those who are in prison and those mistreated (Hebrews 13:3), and gladness with life (Hebrews 13:5).

This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. Titus 3:8 (NLT)

So, let us all make a promise that this coming year and the years thereafter to focus on loving God with all our whole hearts, souls, minds and strengths and being good by genuinely loving one another. The core of Christian living is hating what is evil, holding on to what is good, and loving each other like brothers and sisters (Romans 12:9-10; see also John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:18). So, clothe yourself with good acts (Revelation 19:8) and make a commitment to live in goodness (Revelation 2:1-3:22). As we live this good and true life of loving God and loving others, God gives us many blessings to enjoy (Galatians 5:22-23) through His Holy Spirit.  

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message Bible)

Your love must be real. Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart. Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. Share with God’s people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes. Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad. Live in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are. If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do your best to live in peace with everyone. My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with His anger. It is written: “I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,” says the Lord. But you should do this: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head.” Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (NCV)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
The Message Bible. Colorado Springs, CO:  NavPress, 2002. 

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