- Renée Coventry
Goodness: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 7
"Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God," so answered Jesus when addressed by the rich, young ruler. In light of this, I find it remarkable that goodness is listed with the fruits of the Spirit: uprightness of heart & life, virtue, and beneficence. This verse essentially declares that it is impossible to live a truly moral life if one lives outside of Christ, unempowered by the Holy Spirit, because it speaks to so much more than our actions.
Doing the right thing without the right attitude or motive: we've all done it. God, however, always does the right thing for the right reason at the right time for the benefit of humanity. The Apostle Paul explained the frustration we all experience when we attempt to mimic such a thing in the flesh.
"For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:19-23)
Indeed, who will deliver us all from ourselves? In our home we laughingly call this passage the "do-do verses" because it is laughable to think that we can rescue ourselves of our self-righteousness. No matter how "good" it appears outwardly, we understand that "we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Is. 64:6). No amount of "willing" on our part can cleanse us of our moral deficiencies. As Paul penned, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) NOTHING GOOD DWELLS; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (Rom. 7:18). Without the atoning blood of Jesus, goodness is forever beyond our reach. We deserve nothing but hell. However, there is HOPE! The Apostle Paul continues his discourse with thanksgiving.
"I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 7:24-8:6)
Notice that righteous requirement is fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit. Our responsibility before the Lord is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into Christ's image: to submit. Otherwise, I am only claiming the title "Christian" while still walking in a way that will bring about death. So the test of the fruit of goodness in my life is where my mind is set. What am I seeking and setting my heart upon? The prophet, Jeremiah, stated, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." Is my life siding with my flesh, giving into it more than submitting to the Holy Spirit and siding with His work in my life? The Lord, through Jeremiah, says He will test it all: our minds, our ways, and present to us the fruit of our actions.
The Spirit's presence in our lives means that not only can my actions change, but the motivation of my heart can change and my mind transformed. Later in Romans, Paul encourages us to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2). There's that metamorphosis I spoke on in my post on love. You may find such a transformation uncomfortable and limiting, but you will emerge free with the ability to fly!
Jesus stated before the cross that only God is good. However, in His sacrifice, we are invited to participate in that goodness by the work of His Holy Spirit, and our transformation is proof to the world that God's will is good, acceptable, and perfect. It is an honor to be chosen as the subject of such change! What a privilege to walk, knowing that when conviction comes, repentance is mine and that all condemnation must flee as I am living proof of the transformational power of the Spirit to work the same goodness that belongs to God alone in me!