“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
What is “goodness”?
That question is becoming harder and harder to answer as time goes on, as it sadly becomes more difficult to point to examples in our world. “Goodness” encompasses many things; it describes a wholesome quality, a purity of character, a rightness of spirit – all the things we regard as “virtuous” and still more.
Goodness comes from God. Think Genesis 1; everything that God creates is “very good” – indeed, perfect. Of course, this inherent goodness is lost when the crowning jewel of God’s creation, man, rebels and falls into sin. The world is cursed; the land becomes unwholesome, life becomes difficult and painful, and mankind loses his purity, becoming obstinately opposed to God’s good and gracious will.
Any goodness found in this world comes from God: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). Every real and wholesome pleasure, every genuine work of beauty, every noble and decent thing; they all bear the divine fingerprint despite the Devil’s temptation to pervert and misuse these gifts.
In the same way, any goodness in mankind comes from God as well: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). God’s goodness is so great and powerful that it shines through our own sinful exterior. The Holy Spirit reshapes the believing heart to be more like God in goodness and virtue, serving and glorifying God through word and deed: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).
Goodness is a battlefield within our own hearts as we struggle against the sinful nature of the “Old Adam.” Through prayer and the Word of God, the Holy Spirit strengthens us in faith and equips us with godly virtue and character. Goodness then becomes a powerful weapon as our wholesome words and deeds help us put to death our sinful desires and combat the darkness of the world around us. It is a weapon of the Spirit – a hammer of light – with which He batters our will to conform more to God’s and shatters the lies and corruption of this wicked world. As the Good News of Jesus’ forgiving death and resurrection changes us, so too does God use our renewed spirits to bring that Gospel truth to a world cursed by sin, that through Him all may be made new and perfect once more.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, through the redeeming death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, I have been made righteous and pure in Your sight. Grant that through Your Spirit I may daily put to death the wicked desires of my rebellious heart and walk more closely with You, that all who see Your goodness in me will be drawn to the cross of Your Son. Amen.