Monday, September 05, 2005

Sermon Summary 9-3

The theme of good vs. evil is in the heart of all human beings; we see it in songs, novels, movies--all human stories. I believe the reason for this is that the theme of good vs. evil is being played out in the spiritual lives of all human beings. We know we should be good, but evil is so difficult to defeat, even in our own hearts.

The Bible says that God has an exclusive claim on goodness (Mark 10:18), in other words anything that is good comes from God. Therefore, if we want to know what is good we need to learn what He says is good. Any other definition of good would ultimately be self-referencing and thus meaningless.

God has spelled out what goodness is by giving us His commandments, because without them we would be in danger of making God in our image--defining Him by what we think is good. The negative commands tell us what goodness isn't (e.g. "You shall not murder." Ex. 20:13), and the positive commands tell us what goodness is (e.g. "Establish justice in the court!" Amos 5:24). Jesus said that both types of commands are important for us to obey if we want to be good (Matt. 5:17-19).

But He also said that even if we keep the rules as well as the best rule experts, it isn't enough for us to be good (Matt. 5:20). In order to be good we need the results of the Holy Spirit's work in our hearts (Gal. 5:22), and the best way to facilitate this is to look up to God and try to be like Jesus (Eph 5:1,2). Goodness is a quality that only God can give us.

Goodness cannot tolerate evil; it expresses love through correction (Eph 5:7,13). This is what Jesus was doing when He chased the money changers from the temple (Mark 11:15-17). Notice that Jesus was hardest on those who claimed to be religious but worked for evil.

Goodness is expressed and developed in community. Paul described the church in Rome as "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another" (Rom 15:14). These are the characteristics of a good community, a community I'd like to be a part of. At first the admonish part doesn't sound so good, but the reason they are full of goodness is they help each other fight the battle against evil. Only those who really love us will graciously tell us when we're wrong, and we cannot express love in its fullest unless we are able and willing to do the same.

The painting of Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple is by the rennaissance painter El Greco.


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