J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Full of Goodness Part 1 from Romans 15

I’m not a huge fan of the philosophical or theological positions of Henry David Thoreau, but I think he was correct when he wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” Thoreau was emphasizing that many people work hard, give up, are lazy, or play not because they are driven or distracted.   The motives of many come from a place of desperate loneliness.   He said that ultimately, people will chose seclusion once they find true intimacy and real connection either improbable or impossible.

Now you would think that a true Gospel believing, Christ proclaiming, forgiveness embracing church would not have quietly desperate or lonely folks.  Oh, people might show up that way, but after hearing the sweet words of pardon declared from the scriptures and embraced in the Lord ’s Supper and celebrated in the singing and discussed in the community, you would assume no one is lonely or desperate any more.  But I’m afraid that’s just not true.  Lots of folks in churches are still desperately alone; even folks in this church.  The question is, “What can we do about it?”

To bridge the gap between desperation and joy, and despair and hope requires faith.  I’m not talking about an aimless wish that someone would actively pursue you kind of hope.  I’m talking about believing the promises of God as they concern the beautiful body of Christ His church.

Paul at the end of Romans wants to make sure that every believer seeks the peace and purity of every believer especially in places in which they disagree.  In doing so, Paul says that we will accept one another just as Christ accepted us which means that within the context of the local church, one can find relationships, acceptance, and genuine friendships.   In fact it means, that if we live these verses out, we will be the most unique of communities on the face of the planet.  And here is the thing.  Lean in so you don’t miss.  This week, Paul is going to tell us just how to do just that.  So with that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question.

Big Picture Question:  How do the individuals members of the church work to make the larger church the community God wants it to be?

15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

What a tremendous compliment Paul gives the Romans in verse 14.  He says 3 things about them.  Paul is satisfied that they are:  full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to instruct one another.  Well I guess we have our answer to our big picture question but let’s take some time to understand it and apply it.  Being full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to instruct one another is the simplest way to describe a radical Godliness that is rarely seen these days.  It is not what often passes for godliness.

This is not an outward godliness that flaunts itself in judgment over everyone and anything in which a person feels superior.  It’s not the inward voice that says, “Uhh, look at those people.”  Being full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to instruct one another means that sin is met with the truth, patience, and compassion.

This is not a silent godliness that thinks that God is okay with obeying privately while always being too cowardly to actually speak the name of Jesus to someone who needs to hear it.  If you have claim to know Jesus Christ and His incredible forgiveness yet easily remain silent about the beauties of your Savior, then you might wonder whether you know Jesus or not.  A relationship with Jesus as He describes is one of life to death, a new creation, being born brand new.

This type of godliness is also not the blogging theologian or the closet theologian who doesn’t actually know anybody or doesn’t actually have a real friendship outside his own home.  All their relationships are guarded by a 17 inch laptop screen.    I’m glad if you can defend your theological positions against Trinitarian error and heresy, but God never intended for you or anyone else to polish off all those arguments without actually having to look someone in the face.  A lonely theologian glorifies self, not God.  Those things fall short of true, radical Godliness.

So what does this radical, full of goodness, filled with knowledge and able to instruct one another Godliness look like?  Well, scripture defines goodness as not just the mere outward doing of good and the resisting of evil.  In God’s economy, you can’t have one without the other.  Jesus made it very clear that in His sermon on the mount that you can resist having an affair all day long but if you lust after another man or woman in your heart then you have committed adultery.  You can resist smashing your co-workers face in when he or she makes you angry but if you are inwardly angry, it is the same as killing  him.  So an essential element of being full of goodness is living out the life of obedience both inwardly and outwardly within a biblical understanding.  If you notice both of the examples above, this radical Godliness also has to be lived out in community.  Each one of those examples is about interactions with other people.

Practically, we will not know what being full of goodness is unless we pursue understanding God’s goodness.  One of the clear places that we get a picture of God’s goodness is in Exodus 33 when Moses asked God for an assurance of God’s presence as Moses led the people.  Now I think many of you can understand Moses here.  Haven’t you ever begun some task and wondered, “God, are you going to help me?  Will you be with me if I do this?”  You know before a test, before getting married, before having a really difficult conversation, before trying to get out of debt, before mustering up the strength to leave your house…in those times, we wonder, God will you be with me?  Moses asked and this was how God responded.

Exodus 33:17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Notice God’s intimacy here with Moses.  It’s like God is saying, “Don’t worry.  There is no need for you to be lonely.  I love you.  I’m for you.  I know your name Moses.  You are an individual to me.  Out of all the people on this earth, I know you intimately, and you have found favor with me.  Now, folks, some of us right now could really use a dose of that kind of encouragement from God.  Drink it in.  So Moses responds in verse 18.

18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

I love Moses’ bold faith.  It’s like, “Oh, okay then.  Let me see your glory.”  It’s like when a child softens a parent with a simple request and when the parent says yes, They go big.  It’s like a child saying, “Hey mom and dad, are we going to have fun during Spring break?”  The parent says, “Of course we will.”  So the child says, “Great, can we go to the Great Wolf Lodge for a week?”  Moses asking to see God’s glory is like that.  Knowing that God is with him, he goes big.  God responds in verse 19.

19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Now, not a single person understands exactly what Moses was going to see or did see here.  But in some way, God’s person of goodness, His presence of goodness is going to pass before Moses.  Think about that.  In this world there are acts and words and thoughts that God calls good.  On our best days by faith, you might say or do something good.  But God’s goodness is a pure untainted radiating…..goodness.  That’s the only way to say it:  God’s goodness is goodness.

I have to say God’s goodness is His goodness because we have yet to bathe in that presence yet.  We will ultimately before God one day but not yet.  We know the goodness of God through Jesus but we don’t yet experience it free from a sinful world in God’s presence.  And notice what is at the root of God’s goodness – His sovereign right to demonstrate grace and mercy to whomever He chooses.  His goodness fuels His mercy and grace to some like Moses and His judgment on others.  His goodness fuels His righteous character making Him God, Lord, and judge.

Folks, I’m so desperate for this picture of goodness right now.  I grow so tired of the sin in this world and I grow even more tired of the remaining sin in my heart and mind.   Do you have weariness for sin and desire for the goodness of God?  Has your own sin finally brought you to the point where you just want God’s goodness?  Has compassion brought you to the point where you leave petty judgment and you just want others to bathe in God’s goodness?  I hope we all get there.

Well, God’s goodness is always inseparably connected with His Holiness.  Holiness is this righteous set apartness and goodness is the expression of the Holiness.  God holy because He is good, and He is good because He is holy.  So, God says to Moses

20 “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God’s goodness and His holiness are so great, that all Moses could see was in some way the back of God and even that was so powerful that Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock with God’s hand covering Moses.  If God did not do this, then Moses would have been destroyed.  Side note – how do we ever get self-righteous?  I mean my goodness has never made anyone shield their eyes and yours ain’t never got to the point either.  Self-righteousness is so ridiculous.

Part 2 will post tomorrow.


March 29, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Full of Goodness Part 2 from Romans 15 Part One of this post appear here. […]

    Pingback by Full of Goodness Part 2 from Romans 15 « J. Gordon Duncan | March 30, 2010 | Reply

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