Focused Fruits Part 6: For Goodness Sake

espresso-appleBe good. What parents have not used those words with their kids? Maybe it’s just me, but goodness today seems to be a quality for nerdy characters on Disney programming and not for the cool kids. I just asked my nine-year-old what he hears when I say “Be good” to him. He very quickly responded with “play nice and don’t do anything bad”. He and the writer to the Galatians were of one mind apparently.

“Goodness” is a strictly biblical term not often found in Greek secular writings of the time. “Goodness” was a church-y term. Goodness was a quality that mirrored God. Goodness described one’s uprightness, excellence, virtue, and moral excellence; one’s GOD-ness.

The fastest way to make an American Christian uncomfortable is to tell them something is expected of them for the sake of eternity. It seems to be in our national DNA to rebel and prove our own rugged individualism. We don’t need anyone. We’ll pull ourselves out of the dirt by our own bootstraps, thank you. And when it comes to telling us what to do, you’d better steer clear. We’ll wallow in our dirt because we can. We do it our way from our burgers to our Frank Sinatra ballads.

If you haven’t noticed, this rampant desire to follow our own leading infects our morality especially when it comes to the biblical boundaries of sexual conduct. Most of the non-Christians in my life have zero interest in what the bible says about morality, but I promise you they are watching the lives of the Christian’s around them. If there is no difference between the Christians and the world, then there is no witness for Jesus. Your goodness, Christian, matters.

Unfortunately, it is easy to point out the immorality of others especially when it’s something we don’t struggle with or understand. There is a lot of finger pointing in Christendom to the gender confused and our homosexual brethren. Yes, I said brethren. Women find it easy to condemn men who are unfaithful to their wives. Men poke fun at transgenders. We all are very comfortable pointing at the other sinners in the room.

I don’t want to point fingers today, but I do encourage you to take a good hard look in the mirror.

Pornography is stealing our innocence. And before you start looking at the sin of others, consider your media in-take. Many women cry foul at the comments of a sexist and misogynist politician, but did they read Fifty Shades of Grey or watch Magic Mike? Both count as immoral, and I can’t see God celebrating, whether spoken or acted upon, the sexual objectification of his people. Pornography is sexual exploitation. Sexually graphic language is exploiting God’s precious creation whether in a locker-room or between the pages of novel. It is sin, and it changes the wiring of our brains and how we see others. Ask a therapist and any pedophile in prison today.

The church has placed itself high on a throne called moral policing. We point fingers. We kick people out. We decide which immorality is acceptable and which is not. We panic and become politically crazed when gay marriage is acceptable to our country, yet we push our countless divorces, porn-addicted members, GOP nominees, and pedophile pastors under the carpet. I hear little confession. I hear a lot of condemnation of others and denial of guilt. The sin of immorality does not show favoritism. It is in our churches just as it is on our streets and in Washington.

How we behave matters. The world wants to see what we do with our temptations, with our wrongs. Do we keep swimming in it and pretend like the apostle Paul’s standard of living doesn’t matter? Do we keep sinning so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1)? Do we abuse grace and simply sin because God promises to forgive? No. The answer is no. Remaining in a life of sin is not living within the will of God. Be dependent of His grace, but respond to that grace by avoiding sin.

Sin is on the list of words to be removed from the Webster’s dictionary. When that day comes and the world tries to erase the fact of sin from the memory of mankind, it will not rid sin’s existence from this broken world. Sin is. Evil is. Our goodness is demonstrated in the avoidance of sin whether the world believes that is relevant or not. God is the judge not the people pulling together dictionaries.

God desires holiness. Period. He wants us all to admit that we are forever flawed. Then, He expects that we strive for holiness. He hopes that we remember His grace and forgiveness and that we share our failings to encourage those who’ve fallen. He wants genuine conversions and transformation, not weekend meetings. He desires that we remember that “Go and sin NO more” are words direct from our Savior’s mouth. That, my friends, is goodness.

Being good is not being perfect. Being good is recognizing you are not. Being good is walking out of movies, refusing to read books, making a loud stand against pornography, and admitting your struggle with all of it for the sake of the goodness of others. If you don’t strive toward goodness, no one else will either. If you pretend sin doesn’t exist in your life, you are a liar and the truth is not in you (1 John 1:8-10). We have enough struggles of our own to busy ourselves with the sins of others.

Take a breath. Grab another cup of coffee.

1. Examine your life. Is there something in your life that is keeping you from working toward goodness? Do you need to confess that sin? Cut the temptation out of your life as much as possible. Bring God into that struggle and ask Him for help. Talk to a Christian friend with wise council who will point you to scripture and point you to Jesus. You can’t be perfect, friend, but you can choose to walk away from the destructive powers of this world. Start walking.

Read this:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”Romans 12:1-2 MSG

2. Is there a story about your life that you can tell to help a fellow believer or even a non-believer? Can you share God’s redeeming love with someone who is in the trenches fighting off sin? Encourage people around you especially young Christians and young people. They need to know that sexual sin is a battle. They need to know they are not alone on the battlefield.

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” –Romans 12:9-10 MSG

I believe we are in a battle. I believe that change is hard. I do not believe change is impossible. God’s redeeming love and patience is here for you every day. Each day is new. Praise God!

in love,