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The Goodness of God

Growing up I was taught to pray this prayer at mealtime.

God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food; by his hand we must be fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.

Few Americans pray for daily bread any longer. They presume upon it. They think themselves self-sufficient. There is no “by his hand we must be fed” in their worldview. Moreover, they do not thank God for being the source of all blessings including daily sustenance. “Amen” means “it is so.” Vast numbers of Americans think and live like it isn’t so. Yet, God is good to them. That means he is exceedingly kind, generous, and benevolent “to the ungrateful and wicked “(Lk 6:35). This is called common grace. It is bestowed on all humanity contrary to what humanity deserves. He is also great. By great, I mean he is infinite in all his attributes. Nothing compares to him, even remotely! He is all-powerful, everywhere present, all-knowing and incomprehensibly wise. He is the sovereign LORD over the universe which he created from nothing by divine fiat. He commanded and it came into existence. He also sustains the heavens and earth by the word of his power. Every day is the work of his hands. Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. There are 195 nations in the world. They are less than nothing compared to Lord God.

Isaiah 40:15a, 17 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales … All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. God is good and God is great in the created order but that is exceeded by his goodness and greatness in salvation. On Good Friday, we remember the greatness and goodness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God incarnate. That is infinite greatness. Jesus is our Savior. That is infinite goodness. This is evident in the best known verse of the Bible.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Goodness is Scripture also refers to the holiness of God. When we say God is good, we can mean he is holy or he is benevolent. It is determined by the context. The same is true of men and women. We may say a person was “good to me.” Or we may use “good” to describes a person with good character. In the absolute sense, however, no one is good except God. A rich young ruler approached Jesus thinking him a mere man and calling him “Good Teacher.” He was reproved because no man is good. Jesus was not denying his sinlessness or perfect righteousness. He was responding to ruler’s self-righteous mindset that man is good by nature or attainment. He thought he could earn eternal life by obeying the commandments of God. Luke 18:18-19 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [19] And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. Only God is holy. Man is sinful. Paul the apostle made this clear to the church in Rome. Romans 3:11-12 As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; [11] no one understands; no one seeks for God. [12] All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” These are universal negatives. There are no exceptions.

If you must work your way into heaven then Good Friday isn’t good. In fact, it is totally unnecessary! Christianity teaches that men and women are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Our works contribute nothing to our salvation. Paul the apostle put it this way in his letter to the churches in the region of Galatia (i.e. modern Turkey). He says the same thing three time in the same verse! No man can justify himself as righteous before God by his obedience to God’s law. Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles [16] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. I was once sharing the message of salvation by grace, not works, with my neighbor. He came to see his hopeless state and cried out, “I am screwed!” though those were not his exact words. He had been trusting his own goodness was sufficient to get him into God’s holy heaven. In fact, he used a profane word, a vulgar word, to describe his woe. It was a moment of agony. His profane cry was the anguish of a convicted sinner. Unless a man realizes his hopeless state and sees himself clearly as a sinner under divine wrath with no access to heaven, Christ will mean nothing to him. Jesus remains a religious figure. Not a Savior. Listen to Paul in his letter to the church in Rome. Roman 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Here, Paul uses the plural pronoun “us.” God’s love and salvation is collectively celebrated by his people. But God’s love is also profoundly personal. Listen to these autobiographical words of Paul. The love of Jesus, the Son of God, is particular! Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. This is the great reality of Paul’s life. It is profound and powerful. He knew Jesus loved him because he knew Jesus gave himself up in death on the cross for him. I love the objective truth of God revealed in Scripture. Without it we would be lost. But this objective truth must become subjective reality. I’ve seen many esteemed leaders preach “sound doctrine” for a living only to deny Christ in how they live and relate to others! Moreover, a cerebral knowledge of Christ will not get us through pandemics or an economic collapse. “Be anxious about nothing” only works if you know God the Father through Jesus his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. In our day, so many have fallen from the faith. They have not fallen from Jesus. They never knew him, really and truly. At the heart of Christianity is Christ crucified and risen from the dead. If that is the foundation of your life, you will persevere by grace through all the storms of life. Why? Because your personal relationship with Jesus is the foundation upon which you have built your life – not church people, good preaching, church meetings, or erudite Bible knowledge. God is great, God is good is not a phrase. It is a reality. We see it in the world around us but we see it most clearly in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus became a man, lived a perfect life, died for our sins in our place, defeated death and the devil, and returned to heaven where he reigns as Lord and King. Why? So you could earn your way into heaven. No! Because he loves you and gave himself up for you. Turn to him. Believe on him. Worship him. May Good Friday be good to you every day of the week as the only basis of your acceptance by God, forgiveness from God, and justification before God.



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