Goodness and Faith
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3).- Psalm 37:3
This week we have been studying those things that must characterize our lives if we are to be faithful to Peter’s admonition to stand firm in the faith by setting aside the vices of this fallen world (1 Peter 2:1). So far we have looked at the godly traits of joy, peace, patience, and kindness, and we have seen that our primary model for these traits is God Himself, revealed in Christ Jesus. Today we will study the fruits of goodness and faithfulness as listed both in Galatians 5:22 and today’s passage.
When we speak of goodness, we are speaking of both the external and the internal. A deed is a good deed if it both conforms externally to the law of God and is motivated by an inward desire to please God. Works done in obedience to Christ are good works.
The Bible is clear that fallen humanity is not able to do good in and of itself (see Rom. 3:10–11). Though we can see that non-believers perform civic virtues and other deeds that appear good to us, good works that are not done out of a love for God and for Christ are only splendid vices. Thus, only believers can do good, or perhaps better said, have the capacity to good. The remaining presence of sin in our lives continues to taint our motivations. However, the presence of the Spirit means that as we mature in the faith, our motivations will become more pure, and our capacity for godly goodness will grow.
Faith, or faithfulness, must also be evident in our lives. In order to understand what the apostle means when he lists faith as a fruit of the Spirit, we need to see that there is a distinction between “believing in God” and “believing God.” Anyone can say that God exists, but the truly faithful trust in Him alone (James 2:19).
If we trusted God perfectly we would not sin. Whenever we sin, we show that we do not really think that works of evil are all that bad, and thus we deny what the Lord said about sin and its consequences. When we avoid sin, we affirm God’s judgment of it and have thus truly trusted in His character and His Word. Though we will never be perfect in this life, the more we avoid sin, the more we exercise faith, and the more we trust in the Lord, the more we will flee from sin.
What motivates you to do good works? Are you serving your neighbor solely out of a desire to please the Lord, or are you doing so just because it makes you feel good? Perhaps you just enjoy the recognition that comes when others see you obeying the law of God? Take some time to ask yourself what drives you to do good deeds. In prayer ask God to purify your motivations and then be careful about doing things simply for the sake of earthly recognition.