What Shall we Say to God’s Goodness

Romans 8:31 (NKJV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

One of the most important truths we must learn from the Word of God is that God is good. This seems obvious I know. However, most Christians do not live in this truth. The influence of life, religion and culture tell us that God is good but only to a degree. God is good but there are many reasons he cannot be good to me. God is good but my situation is beyond his goodness. God is good but his goodness does not apply to what I am facing.

God equated his goodness with his glory in Exodus 33. God’s goodness is not just an attitude that he carries. It is a dynamic force that consumes evil. If we learn to walk in the reality of the goodness of God, we will walk in victory.

Hebrews 11:6 reveals an aspect of God’s goodness. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Religious thinking does not believe this. Religious thinking believes that he is a punisher. Religion tells us that if we do anything that is wrong God is waiting to punish us. Religion provides us with ways to appease God so that we can avoid the punishment. Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.

There is punishment for sin. To eliminate that fact is to eliminate half of the gospel. Even for those of us who are born again, sin has consequences. This is true not because it negates salvation but because it opens the door to the affect of death in our daily living. If I sin, I step into the devils domain. Bad things will happen to me. God is not punishing me. I have done something that has set an effect in motion.

All this being true, God is by nature a rewarder not a punisher. Reward is the manifestation of his goodness. It is possible to walk in the goodness of God. Paul is someone who did just that. He did not always have things easy. There were times when he suffered. However, the goodness of God was always at work bringing him to where he needed to be to accomplish the will of God.

If we want to live in God’s goodness, we must abandon ourselves to his will. His goodness does not always look the way we want it to. His goodness is not just about bringing blessings to us. It will do that. I believe he will heal us, prosper us and make us successful in that to which he has called us. I also believe that he wants us to be effective in his Kingdom more than the other things I have mentioned. It is not that we have to choose. We simply have to match his priorities and we will have both.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Yesterday we read in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for our good. I do not believe this verse is saying that every bad thing that happens to us is the will of God. I believe it is saying that even in the bad things that come, the goodness of God is at work bringing about the best for us. Today I want to take it a step farther.

Paul asks a question in today’s verse. “What shall we say to these things?” What things is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the things we already read in chapter 8. We also should add verses 29 and 30. In them he reveals that we are predestined to changed into the image of Jesus. That is God’s will for us.

What are we going to say to the fact that the Holy Spirit is helping our infirmities by praying for us? What are we going to say to the fact that God is moving us into his will? What are we going to say to the fact that he knows us now, he knew us before we were created and he knows our destiny?

For that matter, what are we going to say about verses 32-34? God did not withhold the sacrifice of Jesus from us so what will he withhold? The answer is nothing. What are we going to say to the fact that Jesus is the one who died for us and the devil has no right to condemn us? What are we going to say to the fact that no one can bring a change against us that God has not already dealt with. My sin is my father’s business not the devil’s.

We read what Paul says to these things. He says, “If God is for me who can be against me?” I want to say it another way. If the goodness of God is at work in all the things mentioned here, how can I fail? God’s goodness saved me from sin and God’s goodness will work to bring about the best in my life. Not only is God for me but his goodness is working for me.

Verses 35-37 could be confusing.

Romans 8:35-37 (NKJV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When I look at Paul’s list, I am not sure I see the goodness of God. I do not see how tribulation and distress are good things. How can the goodness of God be at work in nakedness, peril or sword? It makes no sense. He quotes a scripture. Maybe that will clear things up. It does not. Psalm 44 speaks of being killed all day long. To my mind that is not good!

Verse 37 is the key. In all these bad things, Paul sees himself as more than a conqueror. He believes that he will come out on top somehow. This may not happen the way he might like it to. This may not happen in ways that are easy. It will happen. Why is Paul so convinced that he will win in the end?

Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV) 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We can glean many things from this verse. I want to highlight one of them as we close today. Paul knows that when bad things happen it does not mean God has stopped loving him. If God has not stopped loving him, than God’s goodness is still at work and will produce victory in the end. That is how Paul evaluates life. He does not evaluate God’s goodness according to what is happening around him. He sees what is happening around him through the prism of God’s goodness.

When I see life that way, I know that God is going to bring good things to me. Nothing that happens can shake that faith. God is going to bless me and bring me to my destiny. Nothing can stop that from happening. I may have to endure some things along the way. I may go through some detours because of the devil and my own weakness. If I trust in God, I will end up “more than a conqueror” because his goodness will never fail me.

Change what you say about life. Begin to speak according to the goodness of God. Begin to declare that nothing can separate you from his goodness. When troubles come, remind yourself and the devil that “God is for me and neither the devil nor anything else can succeed against me. I am and will be more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus, through his love for me and through his goodness at work in my life.

God’s Goodness Works all Things for Good

Romans 8:26-28 (NKJV) 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

(We are traveling once again this time in sunny Puerto Rico. We want to thank Ruben and Paula Gonzalez and their great church, Time of God Christian Center, for hosting us again this year. We have been coming for some 17 years and every year it is a blessing to be with friends and the body of Christ here. We will have our annual leader’s conference at the church in Juncos April 1-2 and 4th. We expect good things.

To friends, family and our church in Greene, NY, I would say we are sorry that we are in the sun and warm temperature while you are still cold and even seeing more snow, but I must admit I am happy to be WARM. Please fix the weather before I get home!)

We are looking closely at the goodness of God as a force in the world and in the individual lives of believers. We have seen in the life of Moses, that God equated his glory with his goodness. When the goodness of God is flowing in and through us, the glory of God will also manifest in our lives. His goodness will produce the miraculous.

We read in Hebrews 11:6 that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. God is by nature a rewarder and this is a manifestation of his goodness. Religion tends to focus on God as a punisher. It gives its practitioners rituals and sacrifices to keep God from punishing. Christianity is by nature relationship and not religion. Any relationship contains parameters. They are not designed to keep out punishment but to release reward. God wants to reward us. That is his goodness at work. Goodness is his nature.

Today I want to begin looking at one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Romans 8 is full of important things. In the end of the chapter, we read about Paul’s relationship with God and God’s goodness. I have already made this statement but I want to make it again. Most people evaluate the goodness of God based on their life experience. This may not be a conscious thing but it does happen nonetheless.

What we need to do is begin to evaluate life based on the goodness of God. That is the faith view. In other words, we need to look at life understanding that God’s goodness is at work even when we cannot see it at work. We need to believe that God’s goodness is going to bring about results that will produce the highest good for us in the end. If we look at things that are happening and decide God’s goodness is not at work for us, we will stop believing and hinder what God wants to do for us.

Paul had things in the right order. Paul understood the goodness and grace of God in a way that no other writer in the bible did. Paul had been a persecutor of the church. He was there and approving of the death of Stephen. He arrested Christians, which may have led to many more deaths among the faithful. He made it his primary business to stop this “Christian heresy” thinking that he was serving God in the process.

When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus made it clear to him that he was not just persecuting the Christians. Jesus said to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me.” Jesus told Paul that his sin was directly against him. Then he forgave Paul’s sin. That is the goodness of God.

Through all of Paul’s writing, we see this understanding of the goodness of God at work. Paul understood grace because he understood he had been forgiven for a great deal. He knew that nothing but the goodness of God could do that.

As we look at Roman’s 8, we must see it in the light of God’s goodness. This verse has been interpreted in many ways. I believe it is a revelation of how the goodness of God. In verses 26 and 27, Paul is speaking of the goodness of God at work in the ministry of the Holy Spirit for us. We do not always know how to pray. The Holy Spirit helps our weakness by praying for us. As he prays for us, the plan and purpose of God is put into effect on our behalf. All of this is the goodness of God.

Verse 28 is a statement of how the goodness of God works behind the scenes to bring about good things for us. Paul knows that all things are going to work together for good as long as he loves, and by extension trusts God, and walks in God’s purpose for his life.

Some would say that God causes the bad things that happen because they are what we need. I believe that it is more accurate to understand that the process described in verses 26 and 27 is releasing the goodness of god to take things that the devil means for evil and turn them for good.

When Paul was on the way to Rome as a prisoner, he, his guards and other prisoners were passengers on a ship. They set out from a safe harbor at a dangerous time of year. Paul told the Romans that God had informed him they should not sail but wait for the spring. It was not God’s will that they sail. If it were, God would not have told Paul to tell them to stay put. In the end, they ignored Paul’s advice.

The result of their disobedience was a terrible shipwreck. I believe that was the devil’s attempt to kill Paul before he could get to Rome. However, the devil did not account for the goodness of God. Paul continued to trust God. As Paul prayed in faith God assured him that although there would be a shipwreck and the cargo would be lost, there would be no loss of life. Paul’s faith in the goodness of God saved them all.

We see that God used Paul on the island where they ended up bringing healing and salvation to the people there. It was not God’s will for Paul to be in the shipwreck. He tried to warn the ship through Paul. When they ignored the warning, God’s goodness not only saved the people on board but it took a bad situation and used it bring the Gospel to an island.

I believe that we need to have this same faith in the goodness of God. You may be facing some things that look very bad. They may be attacks of the devil or they may be the result of mistakes we have made. They may be things that we simply need to walk through to get to where God needs us to be. The answer is the same. Trust in the goodness of God.

All things will work out for our good, as we trust in his goodness. It may not work out the way you or I want it to work out. Nevertheless, in the end we will be able to look back and see that the goodness of God was preserving us and producing the blessing of God.

Life happens and we cannot judge whether the goodness of God is at work by every bad things we see. If we do what Paul did and understand that no matter what may be happening, the goodness of God is at work to bring us to a good end, we will be able to deal with the temporary issues. If we determine that God’s goodness has deserted us because some bad thing is happening, we will allow the bad thing to overtake us.

Believe in the goodness of God. The final chapter has not been written until his goodness has had its way. We need to trust that in the end his goodness will see us through to victory!

Faith in the Goodness of God

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Last week we saw that God could not reveal his goodness to Moses until the Ten Commandments were restored to Israel. Moses had broken the stone tablets upon which the commandments were written in response to Israel’s sin. God told Moses in the beginning of Exodus 34 to cut new tablets so that God could once again write the commandments. It was in chapter 34 that God fulfilled the promise to show Moses his glory made to him in chapter 33.

In Romans 2:4 Paul tells us that God’s goodness leads us to repentance. 1 John 1:8-10 tells us that when we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we repent, the goodness of God can once again flow freely in our lives producing blessing and prosperity. If we do not repent, sin will continue to allow death’s influence to hinder the manifestation of the goodness of God.

We must walk in repentance to keep the goodness of God flowing. I want to look at another thing we must do to accomplish this. We must believe in the goodness of God. I know that seems obvious but I have been in ministry nearly 37 years and I can tell you that most of us do not believe in the goodness of God as a driving force in our lives. We believe in it as a theory or as a theological truth, but not as a present reality.

There are many reasons this is true. Past experience or the influence of parents can produce a mindset in us that tends to expect the worst out of life. Certainly, abuse can cause us to think we are not worthy of good things. Whatever causes us to feel that good things are not working for us the solution is the same. We must choose to believe in the goodness of God as a force at work behind the scenes of life.

Most of us evaluate the goodness of God based on our life experience. We may do so consciously or subconsciously but we do. If we are going to walk successfully in the goodness of God, we must begin to evaluate life experience based on the presumption that the goodness of God is at work. This would change our whole way of responding to the challenges of life.

Later this week we will see this at work in the life of Paul. First, let us ask the question, “How do I change that perspective.” The answer is faith in the goodness of God. Romans 10:17 tells us how to build faith for anything the bible teaches.

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The implication here is not just that the Word of God went into your ears. The implication is that there is an acceptance and understanding of what is heard. The more we meditate on any promise in the Word, the more we build faith to receive that promise. The promise of the action of the goodness of God in my life is no different. I must find the goodness of God in the bible and meditate on it until I know in my heart that God’s goodness is at work in every area of my own life.

The bible is full of the goodness of the Lord. We can look at God’s dealings with Old Testament characters and see his goodness at work. We can hear David declare God’s goodness in the Psalms. One of the best places to see the goodness of God at work is in the ministry of Jesus. We see him healing sick people, casting out demons from the oppressed and preaching good news to all. Look at his words in the beginning of his ministry.

Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV) 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

This is what Jesus said he came to do and when you read the story of his life you will find that this is what he did. He was the goodness of God incarnate.

I want to take a moment to look at one of my favorite scriptures in light of the goodness of God. It is the verse quoted above. In my bible, I have this verse underlines in this way. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I believe many people subconsciously believe that God is more a punisher than a rewarder. That is what religion teaches and it is what many people have learned to believe due to the life they have led. Nevertheless, this is not the truth.

God is predisposed to be a rewarder. God’s desire for his children is to reward them. This truth is even evident in the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (NKJV) 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

It is God’s sincere desire that we choose life and blessing. He wants to bless you right now. It is never his desire to see bad things happen to you. Hebrews 11:6 is clear that if we are going to come to him in faith we must believe that he is going to reward us. Rewards are never bad. They are always good. When I come to God, I must do so with the understanding that he is not going to give me anything or do anything to me that is not good.

How does this relate to faith in the goodness of God? This scripture assures us of his goodness. As I meditate on this verse, I cannot help but build faith that the goodness of God is at work in my life. He is a rewarder. He is rewarding my diligence in seeking him. As I seek him, his will and his ways, the goodness of God is going before me working in me and in my circumstances to produce good things.

That is not to say that everything that happens will be what I want. That is not to say that everything the goodness of God produces will be things I initially like. It is true that everything God does will produce good things in my life sooner or later.

I want you to take some time today to think about this verse. God is a rewarder. God is working to bring reward into your life today. That reward will be the highest good possible for your life. When you look around and see things that cannot be described as good, know that God’s goodness is at working changing those things. His goodness is at work in the bad thing to bring about a higher good for you than you could imagine yourself.

The goodness of God is a driving force in the life of a believer. Goodness is like light. Darkness cannot dispel light. No matter how dark the darkness becomes, just a little light will drive it back. Evil cannot dispel goodness. No matter what evil is at work, the goodness of God can dispel and destroy the evil.

We must believe in the power of his goodness. It is at work in your life and circumstances right now!

The Goodness of God and Repentance

Romans 2:4 (NKJV) 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

We have been looking at the goodness of God. In Exodus 33, Moses asked God to show him his glory. God said, “I will show you my goodness.” There is a direct correlation between the goodness of God and the glory of God. This week we have been discussing how to walk or live under the constant influence of the goodness of God. In Exodus 34, we found that before God could show Moses his goodness, the Ten Commandments, which Moses had thrown down and broken in pieces, had to be restored. To walk in his goodness we must walk in his ways.

Today I want to look at another scripture in Romans. We know that we are not under the Law of Moses. Salvation is a gift given freely and earned by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can do nothing to deserve it nor can we do anything to earn it. However, the wages of sin is death. I do not believe he is only talking about the death of eternal separation from God when we are outside of salvation. I believe Paul is also talking about the door that opens in the life of a believer when he or she allows sin to remain.

God desires good things for his children. His goodness is our inheritance. I desire good things for my children. When they were young, I delighted in giving them good gifts. However, I also gave them discipline and even punishment when they needed it. I did not do this because I was withholding my goodness. I was actually acting out of the same desire to give them good things. There are things that my children had to learn in order to continue to partake of goodness in adult life.

God is a better father than I am and he desires that his children learn to partake of his goodness throughout life. Sin will block the goodness of God. Our father teaches us not to sin. He tells us what we must not do. He lets us know that those things do not please him, but his real purpose is that we would stay away from the things that open the door to the evil of the devil and close the door to the goodness of God.

Any Christian who is honest will acknowledge that he still commits sin at times. 1 John 1:8 makes it very clear that God understands this.

1 John 1:8 (NKJV) 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

To me, there is no question that he is talking to Christians since he says, “If we say.” Christians sin. The wages or result of sin is death. Death is the power of the devil in the earth. When we sin, we open the door to the influence of the power of the devil. To say this is not so, is dishonest to ourselves and to God.

What is the solution to this problem? How can I stop sin and thereby keep the influence of the devil out of my life. Today’s verse tells us that God, in his goodness, has provided a way. This verse does not say the goodness of God simply excuses sin. That would not be just and God is always just. It does not say that the goodness of God negates the influence of the devil that sin brings to us. It says that his goodness leads us to repentance.

Often when we hear the word repentance, we think of God’s anger. We tend to associate repentance with God’s displeasure. I will not say that God is pleased when we sin. He is not. However, repentance is not a product of his displeasure. It is a product of his goodness toward us.

We must look at the rest of 1 John 1 in order to understand this.

1 John 1:9-10 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Repentance is the process of acknowledging that we are wrong and taking steps to turn from what is wrong to what is right. No one can do that for someone else. We can only repent for ourselves. When we acknowledge that we are wrong, we confess the sin to God. He is our savior. He is our Lord and our Father. All sin is ultimately against him. With the confession is the understanding that we are asking God to forgive us of that sin.

This verse says that he does that. It also says something that is very important. He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is that state of being not right with God. Salvation made us right with God from God’s point of view. The sins we all commit in the course of life do not take that right standing with God from us. Jesus paid for those sins as well as the past sins. However, sin opens the door to the devil’s influence and brings a sense of separation to us.

When we repent, God is both faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us of the affects of sin. He is faithful because he is fulfilling his Word to us concerning eternal salvation. He is just because Jesus paid the price for the sin. He has every right to both forgive us and cleanse us.

The forgiveness causes a removal of the sense of separation that comes to man when he sins. The cleansing of unrighteousness takes away the devil’s ability to bring death into our circumstances because of sin. The affect is instantaneous. There may be times when our sin sets in motion certain consequences that cannot be changed. However, once we are forgiven and cleansed further consequences can be avoided. Death has no more say in the situation.

None of this can happen unless we repent. Why would that be true? It is so because God does not take away our free will when we are born again. Jesus died to preserve our free will. He will not make us behave correctly. He will not make us avoid sin. If we want to sin we can. Death is still in the earth and sin still gives death influence in our lives. That is not God getting mad at us and withholding his blessing. That is an effect produced by a cause.

God expects us to grow up in him. To fulfill our destiny and become channels of the goodness of God, we must become mature believers. When my children were very small I strictly controlled their choices. The older they got the less control I had over their decisions in life. They are all grown now. They make their own choices and they must deal with the consequences. The Christian life is no different. God expects mature children to make good choices. When they do not make the right ones according God’s standards and principles, there are consequences he does not control.

Since it is inevitable that we are going to make bad choices, God provides a way for us to negate them. He provides a power that can free us from the future consequences of those choices if not the past ones. His goodness leads us to repentance.

Living in the Goodness of God 2

Romans 11:22 (NKJV) 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Yesterday we began answering the question, “How can we live in God’s goodness?” The first thing we must say in answer to the question is simply this. We must believe in his goodness. We must believe that everything God does in our lives is good even if it may not appear so on the surface. James 1:17 is a wonderful promise along these lines.

James 1:17 (NKJV) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

When I approach things with the assurance that the God I serve is always good, it gives me a different perspective on life. I can say with Paul that nothing can separate me from the love, and therefore the goodness, of god. (Romans 8:37-39)

In looking at Moses encounter with God, we find in chapter 34 that something had to happen before God actually showed Moses his glory. Moses had to cut a new set of tablets so that God could re-write the Ten Commandments that Moses had broken in response to Israel’s sin. Before God could show Moses his glory and his goodness, the commandments had to be in place.

As we read the rest of Exodus 34, we see that God promises Moses he will do powerful signs and wonders for Israel. He also gives them some directives. Most notably, he directs them to keep themselves separate from the people of Canaan and from their Gods. He promises Moses he will drive them out, but while he is driving them out, Israel must maintain their holiness.

What does this mean to us? Does God require that we earn his goodness? Is this just for Israel under the Old Testament or do we have to maintain a Godly lifestyle in order to live constantly under the benefits of God’s goodness?

As we read today’s verse, we see a statement from Paul’s mouth about the goodness of God. This chapter is speaking of the fact that God grafted the gentile church into the covenant with Israel. This chapter is about the truth that God brought the church into relationship with himself apart from the law. We are in Christ by grace not by acts of obedience. Israel maintained their relationship by keeping the law not by grace.

This was necessary for Israel because Jesus had not yet come. He had not died for the transgression of Adam. The results of the fall had not yet been put upon him and he was not yet raised for the justification of man. To some Israelites, this did not seem fair. In this chapter, he is telling the church that it was not fair. It was grace. Grace is not fair but it is just.

His point in this verse, however, is rather interesting. Paul portrays what has happened between the church and Israel as two sides of the same coin. He uses the word severity to describe his actions toward Israel. The Greek word here means decisiveness or rigor. His actions toward Israel were decisive. Sin produced separation from God. For many years, he had pushed the judgment for Israel’s many sins to the future. Once Jesus came, that judgment came decisively and they were cut off.

Paul also notes that the other side of the coin was that decisive judgment released God’s goodness. That goodness was not just to the gentiles but to all who would believe upon Jesus. Israel’s special dispensation ended in decisive judgment. To the outward eye, this seemed severe but God’s severity was only so he could release his goodness.

It is the latter half of this text that will give those who preach that grace eliminates consequences for disobedience some problems. Paul says that the goodness God gave to those who receive Jesus continues as long as we walk in his goodness. If we do not walk in his goodness, we can be cut off as well.

I believe that if we take all the teachings of Paul as a whole we cannot conclude that we are completely cut off from salvation. If every act of disobedience caused us to lose our salvation, most of us would need to be saved every day. As we read this chapter, I think we cannot escape the fact that this is a warning to those in the church who were making grace an excuse to sin. Paul tells us that if we do not continue to walk in the goodness of God we can and will suffer the same fate as Israel.

What happened to Israel? Did they stop being God’s people? It is clear that Paul did not think so. What happened to Israel is that the things they were trusting in for salvation became ineffective. The method of salvation was replaced with the cross and they were just as much entitled to that as anyone else. If they did not choose to accept the cross, the protection and blessing of their covenant was no longer affective. They had to accept and walk in the goodness that God had provided in Jesus or they were cut off from the covenant just like the gentiles

I believe we need to understand that to partake of the goodness with which God desires to bless us, we must also continue to walk the principles that release the goodness of God. As I said yesterday, our behavior does not earn us righteousness or salvation. Our behavior keeps us under the influence of the goodness of God.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) Romans 6 is telling us that we must not yield our members, neither or bodies nor our souls, as servants of sin. When we do, we give death influence in our lives. This does not mean we will go to hell. It does mean that we may experience hell on earth. It also means that we are not pleasing to the Father who gave his Son for us. This should mean something to us.

How do we continue in the goodness of God? We must obey the Word of God. Paul’s writings alone are full of things we must do. Let us look at one passage.

Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV) 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

This scripture uses the word “conduct.” The term “put off” is something we must do for ourselves. I believe that if we choose to do this by faith, the Holy Spirit will help us. The bible does not say he will do it for us. I must put off certain conduct that flows from the deceitful lusts of the old man. I am not the old man any longer. Any honest Christian must admit that some of the conduct and habits of the old man remain. It is up to me to put them off.

Then I will be able to put on the new man. All of this is tied to another kind of conduct I must put on. I must be renewed in the spirit of my mind. How do I do that? Romans 12:2 says we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is the same word used in Ephesians 4:23. How do we do that? Joshua 1:8 says we must meditate in the Word of God day and night.

I will continue in the goodness of God as I learn to put off the old man and put on the new man. I will continue in the goodness of God as I am transformed by the renewing of my mind in the Word of God. If I continue in this way, I will partake of all that the goodness and glory of God have for my life.

Living in the Goodness of God

Exodus 34:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And the LORD said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. 2 So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. 3 And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”

For the last few weeks, we have been looking at the encounter between God and Moses in Exodus chapter 33. In the course of their interaction, God tells Moses that he has found favor with the Lord. Moses response is to ask to see God’s glory. It is worth repeating that Moses had seen manifestations of the glory of God that none of us has seen. Yet he understood that there was something he had not seen. He knew that the source was something deeper than plagues and pillars of fire. He knew that the outward manifestations of glory came from an inward life. He wanted to see God as he really was.

God granted Moses’ wish. God told him he would show him all of his glory that he could see and still live. I believe he was also showing Moses the most important aspect of his glory. God said, “I will show you my goodness.” The goodness of God is one of the basic elements of his nature. I think that the revelation of the goodness of God is fundamental to showing forth the manifestations of the glory of God we want to see in the earth.

It is my desire to live in God’s goodness. There are two dimensions of this. One is to live in the blessing his goodness brings into my life. We looked at Matthew 7:11 last week. Jesus says that if natural fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, certainly the perfect Father, God, will give good gifts to us. God is by nature a father. All we know and feel about parenthood comes from him. I would do anything to bring blessing to my children. I believe God’s goodness brings healing, prosperity, peace and joy to his children.

On the other hand, I bring other good gifts to my children so that they can be happy and successful in life. I bring discipline and correction when needed. I teach them how to be good citizens and good people. I teach them the value of work and of self-control. All of these things are also manifestations of my goodness to them. They are sometimes hard to learn and harder to live. However, these “good gifts” enable them to fulfill their destiny through a productive life. If I provide them with toys, gifts and money but do not provide them with the other things, I am not a good father.

God is a good father in every way. He desires to give good things to his children. It is never his will for us to be sick in body, soul or spirit. Never! It is always his will to heal us in all areas of life. If you are a parent, is that not how you feel?

At the same time, he desires that we become channels of his goodness not just recipients of his goodness. Therefore, he not only brings healing and blessing but he also requires that we walk in faith and integrity. He requires a standard of behavior that he knows will enable us to walk in the blessing he wants to give to and through us.

There is some confusion today about grace, righteousness and behavior. Salvation is free. There is no question about that. We can do nothing to earn it. We can do nothing to deserve it. It is a gift. We do not have to confess past sins to obtain it. We do not have to do penance. We do not have to change our behavior in order to partake of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. We must believe it and receive it; nothing more.

Keeping our analogy of parenting in place, birth is a free gift. The baby has nothing to do with it. The baby is conceived by an act of the body and will of the parents. The baby does not go through the pain and work of birth. The mother does the work. The father contributed the life that caused conception. The baby does not earn life nor does he deserve life based on anything he or she has done. Life is a product of the love of the parents and the love of God.

A newborn has nothing to contribute. Babys have no responsibilities in life. The parents provide everything they need. As they grow, more and more is required of them. These requirements have nothing to do with earning life. Life was and is a gift. They have everything to do with how happy, healthy and productive they will be in life. What is cute in a toddler is unacceptable in a pre-teen human. What we can excuse in a teenager can be devastating in an adult. It is the job of parents to show goodness to their children in training as well as in emotional support and provision.

Salvation is free. Walking in salvation requires that we grow up in him in all things. (Ephesians 4:14-15) This means we need to learn the proper behavior for those in the Kingdom of God. Children in my house have to behave after a standard. This has nothing to do with their identity as my children. That comes by birth. It has to do with pleasing me and more important with what it takes them to be productive.

We must understand that the goodness of God does not mean we do not have to behave according to righteousness. There are certain qualities that define the lifestyle of any family. The qualities that define the family of God are things like his goodness and his love. They are also things like holiness, character and integrity. Righteousness is not earned but given to us by Jesus in salvation. That does not mean we are not required to walk right with God.

Walking right before him does not earn us sonship it releases the power of his goodness in and through us as sons. Walking in ways that go against the standards of behavior in the family of God will “close the supernatural gates” and keep us for experiencing the “good life.” My love for my children is not determined by their behavior but their love for me is indicated by their behavior. My love for him reflected in certain behavior opens the channel of his goodness in my life.

In today’s scripture, we see that God instructs Moses to cut two tablets of stone so that God can once again write the Ten Commandments upon them. God had given Moses the standards of behavior for the family once. Moses had broken the stone tablets in frustration over Israel’s behavior. Before God can actually show Moses his goodness, his glory, the commandments had to be back in place. It would not be fair for God to show Moses his goodness without the revelation on how to walk in that goodness.

Some would say that this was for Israel not the church. The tablets were for Israel. The written laws were for Israel. The principles are for all who would be part of God’s family. Jeremiah 31:31-34 makes it very clear that God had something better than the written law in mind.

He was not going to do away with the standards of behavior for his children. Any parent who does not teach their children how to behave is a bad parent. He said he would give them a better way to walk in these standards. He would write them on their heart so that once their sins were forgiven, they would be able to walk in a way that the goodness of God would be free to bless them and everyone they would meet.

This is the new and better covenant the Lord revealed to us in Hebrews. (Hebrews 7:22 and 8:6) Just as Jesus said not one “jot or tittle” of the law would pass away, the New Covenant does not do away with right living. It simply makes it possible to life right from the inside out by faith in Jesus. The necessity of “family behavior” remains if we want to live in his goodness.

The Nature of the Goodness of God

Psalm 145:9 (NKJV) 9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.

We have been looking at the importance of understanding the goodness of God. When Moses asked God to show him his glory, the Lord responded by saying he would show Moses his goodness. When we look at the condition of the world and of the church, we know we need to see God move in a mighty way. We need the glory of God. When we think of the glory of God we usually think of the kinds of things Moses saw as he delivered Israel from Egypt. However, Moses knew that those things were outward representations of something far deeper.

If we are ever going to see the outward manifestation of the glory of God, we need to understand that those outward things come from God’s nature. Just as Moses needed to understand more about God so do we. What God seemed to think Moses needed was to understand his goodness? I believe we must have a deeper revelation of the goodness of God if we are ever going to see the outward manifestations of God’s glory that we so desire.

We have looked at a number of things this week. Yesterday we looked at 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the fact that we can have the same revelation that Moses did. In Moses case, the revelation of the goodness of God caused a physical transformation. His face glowed. He covered his face so that Israel would not see that this manifestation was fading. In our case, the bible says that we will not have a physical transformation that fades but an inward transformation until we become channels of the Glory itself. What Moses could only reflect, we become in Christ.

We found from James 1 that every good gift comes from God in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. There is no possibility that God is going to be anything but good. (James 1:17) The King James Version uses the word “variableness” to describe God’s consistent goodness.

When looking at something that needs to be done, scientists and others will look at the variables. What things could change that would affect the outcome of what we want to do. Weather can be a variable for instance. Where the goodness of God in our lives is concerned, God is not a variable. Neither he nor his goodness will ever change.

I want to look at a few scriptures today that describe God’s goodness. What are the limits of his goodness? What does his goodness mean to us? We will start with today’s scripture. The Lord is good to all. He is not good to some. His tender mercies are over all his works.

God is even good to the sinner. He gave them Jesus to die for their sins. He sends us to them so they can hear the Gospel. (Romans 5:6-8) Since he is even good to sinners, we can be sure he will be good to his children.

Romans 5:9 (NKJV) 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

There are those who think that God’s goodness does not extend to them. Maybe they have done something for which they feel guilty. Maybe they have failed God. Maybe something in their life has convinced them that they are not worthy of God’s goodness. This verse tells us that the Lord is good to all. You and I must be part of “all.”

Psalm 33:5 (NKJV) 5 He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

Here we see that the earth is full of God’s goodness. There is nowhere we can go to escape his goodness. Possibly more important, where ever you are right now his goodness is with you. The world seems to be a very evil place today. Nevertheless, every inch of this world is touched by the goodness of God. If we will trust him and believe in that goodness, we will find it for ourselves and for those around us.

Psalm 52:1 (NKJV) 1 To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’ Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.

How long will the goodness of God last? Are there times when his goodness runs out. Are there any gaps in the goodness of the Lord? In this verse, we see that his goodness operates continually. There are no outages when it comes to the goodness of the Lord. When we are asleep, his goodness is still working for us. When we are distracted or working, his goodness is still on the job. Even when we are not where we should be when it comes to the Lord, his goodness is working in the background to get us back to where we need to be.

Nahum 1:7 (NKJV) 7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.

I like this verse. Not only is God’s goodness there for us when things are going well but it is a stronghold when things are not going so well. When things around us look bad, we need to remind ourselves that God is good. We need to meditate on the fact that God’s goodness is there to protect us. That is what a stronghold does. Even though things may be looking bad today, I know his goodness will cause me to triumph in the end. There is nothing the devil can do to stop me from overcoming.

My father used to have a saying before his was saved. He would refer to some person that he worked with as a guy who could “fall in manure and come up smelling like a rose!” (He used a little courser word than manure!) What he meant was that no matter how bad things looked for that person it always worked out well for them in the end.

The stronghold of God’s goodness will protect us from being destroyed in the trial. In the end, we will “come out smelling like a rose!”

Finally, I want to look at the words of Jesus.

Matthew 7:11 (NKJV) 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

A good father wants only good things for his children. Sometimes good things are not the things we think we need. A father knows how to discern the difference. In this verse, Jesus shows the goodness of God by assuring us that God is a much better father than any of us. He will always give us good things and only good things.

Whatever God is doing in your life it is exactly what you need to get you to where you need to go. I am not talking about the things the devil is doing or the things we bring about with our own flesh. They are always bad. However, in the midst of the bad things that may be happening, God is working some good gift.

What the devil means for evil, God will turn to good. The mistakes we make that open the door for evil will be transformed by the goodness of God into a gift that will bring life to us. This will happen when we stand by faith in the stronghold of God’s goodness and boldly declare, “The Lord is good and his mercy endures forever! (1 Chron. 16:34)

From Goodness to Goodness

2 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NKJV) 7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

We have been studying Moses’ encounter with the Lord in Exodus 33 and 34. Moses made a request of the Lord in chapter 33 in response to the Lord’s favor. Moses asks God to show him his glory. Moses saw miracles that others ever will. Nevertheless, he understood that there was something underneath the demonstrations of God’s power. The miracles were glorious but Moses wanted to see the source “glory” for those miracles. God defines this for Moses. He tells him, “I will show you my goodness.”

I have been intrigued by this for quite some time. There is something about the goodness of God that is so fundamental that without understanding it we will never see the power of God. Understanding goodness is fundamental to understanding God. When Moses received a revelation of God’s goodness, it changed him. I believe that if we receive this revelation, it will change us as well.

We read in the first of today’s verses that when God showed Moses his goodness, Moses’ face actually began to shine with the glory of God. We can read of the actual event in Exodus 34. The revelation of God’s goodness was so powerful that it caused a physical transformation in Moses.

I know that Moses spent time in God’s presence during this encounter. However, Moses had spent time in his presence before. Moses spent 40 days in the presence of God when the Lord first gave him the Ten Commandments but there was no mention that his face shone.

In Exodus 34 God replaces the stone tablet Moses had broken. The commandments were the same. Moses did not spend 40 days in the presence of God this second time. What was so different in this second encounter with God that it caused a physical transformation? Moses saw the Glory of God. Moses saw the goodness of God. It was the revelation of God’s goodness that caused Moses face to shine. Look at what God said to Moses in the Amplified Bible.

Exodus 34:6-7 (AMP) 6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

God speaks of his mercy, forgiveness, goodness and truth. He reveals to Moses that he will keep showing mercy to thousands. I know that these verses also point out that God does not forgive the guilty. We must understand that to punish the guilty is also a manifestation of the goodness of God. Judgment on the guilty frees God to do good for the innocent.

The thing that is different to Moses is the emphasis on the goodness of God’s nature. That is the aspect of his glory that is most important for Moses to understand. That is what caused Moses face to shine.

In the second of today’s verses, we see that the same revelation that caused a physical change in Moses is available to us in Christ. However, there is a difference in what happens to us and what happened to Moses. We read in the verses between the two we are looking at today that the change in Moses was temporary. It was outward. The change that we will experience is inward and lasting.

God showed Moses as much of his glory as was possible under the Old Covenant. God told Moses, “You cannot see my face; for no man shall see my face and live.” (Ex. 33:20) This was true in the Old Testament. However, we see that in Christ things have changed. We “behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.”

What do we look at in a mirror? We primarily look at our own face. James 1 compares the Word of God to a mirror. As we look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word, we can behold the fullness of the Glory of God. Moses had to be protected from that fullness. Paul tells us that when we not only can but also must look into the Glory. When we do, we will not experience and outward change that fades but we will be transformed inwardly into the image of the glory we see.

This is a powerful revelation that I think we miss. Most of us believe that if someone’s face were to glow as Moses’ face glowed that would be the height of a demonstration of God’s glory. We are so outward focused that we do not understand what Moses did. The outward is simply a reflection of the inward. The outward is real. The inward is more real. What Paul tells us is that we can have what Moses could not. We can have an inward transformation. We can become what Moses could only reflect.

Moses wore a veil over his face so that the people would not see that the glory reflected in his face was fading. Outward manifestations fade. We may have had wonderful experiences with God that do change us. However, with the passing of time the effect of the experience fades. We remember it. It may be very important to us, but it fades. Paul wants us to see that what Christ has done in us does not need to be veiled because it does not fade.

The revelation that we receive transforms us. It does not just change us outwardly. It changes us completely into the same “glory” that we behold. What is the glory that we must behold? I suggest that we need a revelation of the same glory that Moses did. Paul did not choose this example from Moses’ life by chance. What God revealed to Moses was his goodness. I believe that the more we understand God’s goodness the more we are transformed into the people God wants us to be.

Since it is God himself that equated his goodness with his glory, I think it is fair to substitute the word goodness for the word glory in this verse. Let us read it again.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the goodness of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from goodness to goodness, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Think about that for a moment. I am still thinking about it. What does it mean? I am not sure I fully understand it myself but I know that I must fill my heart with thoughts of God’s goodness. I must meditate on the truth that everything God does is motivated by goodness. I like what the bible says in James 1.

James 1:17 (NKJV) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. The world has nothing I need. In God, there is no variation from this truth. It says there is no shadow of turning. He is not even thinking about changing. God is good. Everything he does is good. Everything he does in my life is good. When I see that, truly see that, I will be transformed in my lifestyle, my expectations and my behavior into the same force for goodness that God himself is. God is good! He is good all the time!

We Need a Revelation of the Goodness of God

Exodus 33:20-22 (NKJV) 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.

Recently we looked at Exodus 33 and Moses’ encounter with the Lord. Israel were so rebellious and so full of unbelief that The Lord told Moses he would send them into Canaan but his presence could not go with them or it would destroy them. Moses intercedes for Israel once again and once again, his faith enables God to do what Israel’s unbelief made impossible. In response, Moses asked to see God’s glory.

We have already stated this, but I think it bears repeating. Moses had seen what most of us are looking for when we think of God’s glory. He had seen signs and wonders beyond imagination. Yet he still asked to see God’s glory. I think we could learn something from this. We interpret God’s glory by the outward. That is part of what his glory is. However, Moses understood that God’s real glory was something deeper. That is what Moses wanted to see.

How do you interpret the glory of God? How do I interpret it? Both are irrelevant. We need to know how God himself defines his glory. He tells Moses, “I will show you my Goodness.” God’s goodness and his glory is the same thing. If we want to see his glory, we need a revelation of his goodness.

What does it take to receive a revelation of the goodness of God? Today’s scripture gives us at least one key. God tells Moses that to see God’s glory, his goodness; he must be in a particular place. He must be standing on the rock. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul calls Christ a rock. I believe this is a type of salvation. We cannot know God’s goodness unless we know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the father.” (John 14:8) Take the time to walk with Jesus in the Gospels. You will see the goodness of God in operation. You will see him heal the sick. You will see him forgive sinners. You will see him cast out devils. You will also see him confront the evil of the Pharisees. All of this is the goodness of God in operation.

You will never see Jesus doing anything evil to anyone. Even when he confronted the Pharisees and drove the moneychangers from the temple, this was a manifestation of goodness. Evil keeps man from God and from attaining all that God wants for him. Jesus drove out evil so good could prevail.

As we continue to follow him, we see him deal lovingly and gently with those who need him. We see him go out of the way to minister to the Samaritan woman. We see him forgive the woman caught in adultery. We see him heal a lame man on the Sabbath. When he did that, the Pharisees accused him of doing something bad because he did it on a holy day. He let them know that they were confused about what was good.

Matthew 12:9-12 (NKJV) 9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–that they might accuse Him. 11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Jesus had to tell the Pharisees that it was good to heal a sick man even though it was against the letter of the Law. The Pharisees understood religion but they did not know the goodness of God. We need to understand that it is possible to know doctrine or religious tradition but if we do not understand the goodness of God, we do not know him.

When are born again we become “new creatures in Christ.” Many things happen to us in this process but one of them is that the glory or goodness of God is revealed in our hearts. We must be born again or we will never understand his goodness.

The Lord also tells Moses that he will put him a “cleft in the rock and cover him with his hand.” Moses had to stand on the rock first. We must first be born again. However, there was something deeper that God had to do with Moses before he could understand his glory. He had to “hide him in the rock and cover him with his hand.” This reminds me of something Paul wrote to the Colossians.

Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV) 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

To understand the goodness of God it is not enough to be born again. That is the door but many Christians come to Jesus and never understand the goodness of God. They struggle thinking that God cannot really love them because of their past. They never feel they are worthy of the blessing of God. Consequently, they never walk in the fullness of salvation.

We see here that there are some things we need to do not to be saved but because we are saved. They would do no good if we were not standing on the Rock. However, once we are born again, there are things we must do to understand the true nature of what has happened to us. This includes understanding the depth and reality of the goodness of God. Paul tells us.

We must seek those things that are above. We live in the natural world. We cannot ignore that fact. We cannot live in the world without dealing with the world. We seek food and shelter. We seek pleasure and the fullness of relationships. Paul is not saying that we should just ignore the natural world. He is saying that we must also seek to know and to walk in the world above. That is the world of the spirit.

How do we do that? The New King James says we must set our minds on these things. I believe that is part of it. How do we set our minds on things above? We start by setting our minds in the Word of God. God has written down his thoughts and his attitudes. As we read his Word, we feed our spirit. It is in his Word that we will learn of his infinite goodness.

It is not enough to read the Word. We must keep it in our minds. We must meditate in the Word of God. God told Joshua to do this “day and night.” The result would be that he would have “good success.” (Joshua 1:8) I cannot help but notice the word good in that verse.

The King James Version says we should set our “affections on things above.” This is a little different picture. While we must set our minds on the Word of God and the things of God, we must also set our affections on higher things. The term affections speak of that about which we like to think.

We may have affection for a person, a place or a thing. When we do, we think about it. We dwell on it. We want to be with it or with them. Where is our affection? Is it primarily set on earthly things? If so, I think we will find it difficult know the goodness of God. We must cultivate affection for the things above through the study of the Word, prayer and worship. If we do, we will find that the goodness of God will become more evident both in our understanding and in our daily experience with God.

Unity Through Fellowship!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NKJV) 1 A song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing– Life forevermore.

We just finished our conference and it was a wonderful time. Last week I shared the principles that Dr. B.J. Pruitt founded his conference upon over 40 years ago. God said “Make a place for the ministry to come together with no obligation or qualification.” It is our desire to carry on that legacy here in Greene. I also gave you some tentative dates for next year. We decided not to make the change I was considering, so next year the conference will be February 24-26, 2016.

Today’s scripture speaks of the importance of unity to the heart of God. The bible tells us one can put a thousand to flight but two can put ten thousand to flight. That means the effect of unity is that it multiplies the power and effectiveness of God’s people by a factor of 10. The devil knows this truth and that is why he has worked so hard to keep the church divided along doctrinal, experiential and cultural lines.

In these verses are a number of things I believe unity can bring about. The picture of the anointing oil is very graphic. If there is anything we need today, it is the anointing of God. We have all kinds of tools at our disposal. Everything from technology and communication to a whole range of media we can use to preach the gospel. However, without the anointing none of them will be effective in creating true disciples. Unity multiplies the anointing. Disunity diminishes it.

Verse 3 tells us that unity is like dew. Dew comes from the sky and soaks everything. Nothing is immune. Unity causes the blessing of God to come into the world. It is not something for the church alone. The blessing that flows from unity is called “life forevermore.” This reminds me of the words of Jesus himself.

John 13:35 (NKJV) 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

How can the people of the world know the love of Jesus when we do not show that love to each other. The problem is how to cultivate true unity. We have always needed the knowledge but today we need it more than ever.

We face a secular world that is intent on eliminating the church from any place of influence in its affairs. Romans 1:28 says, “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” I believe this is the attitude of today’s militant secular world.

In the religions realm, radical Islam believes it is their duty and destiny to destroy all religions other than their own. They believe they are completely justified in killing anyone who opposes their radical view. The only other religion that also believes it is their duty to spread their faith to the world is Christianity. We have a great commission to go into “all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” This puts us in direct opposition to both the secularists and the Islamists. Although we do not believe in killing those who disagree, we have a duty to attempt to lead them into the knowledge of Christ.

I have been in the ministry for more than 37 years. I have seen many attempts at unity. Usually they take one of two approaches. Either we try to join with those who believe exactly as we do, which inevitably produces more division. The other approach is to try to put aside our disagreements and get together anyway. This usually results in pressure for all to compromise and this is impossible for those with deeply held beliefs. The effort fails and once again, the thing that is affirmed is our differences. I am not sure we can afford this any longer.

How can we ever see real unity? Paul gives us some keys in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:2-3 (NKJV) 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. church? I believe Paul gives us a key in Ephesians 4.

Anyone who is truly born again knows that there is only one way to salvation and that is to believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are many who claim to be Christians who do not have a vital faith in these things. Although they are “cultural Christians”, they may not be experiential Christians. If they are not, true unity is not possible.

Paul is speaking to those who have been born into the family of God. They are already one in Spirit by nature of that birth. What we must seek to do is maintain that unity as a functioning force by cultivating the bonds of peace. He tells us how to do that. We cannot do it through compromise. We cannot do it by ignoring all those who have been born again but do not quite see everything just as we do. We must do it by lowliness, gentleness and longsuffering. We must do it by learning to love one another.

When we choose to gather around a particular doctrine or ministry stream, we celebrate the strength of what we believe. There is nothing wrong with that. There is a time for that and we should not be ashamed of what we believe. However, that limits our unity to those with whom we agree.

If we try to say we do not really have differences, we are beeing deceptive. We cannot build unity outside of truth. When we say we will love each other despite our differences, we must once again focus on them. As I said earlier, this also leads to compromise. How can we have unity that will empower the body of Christ over compromise? I believe this simple idea that the Lord led us into is a possible answer.

When we come together, we cannot compromise. Certain lines cannot be crossed. We must all believe in the divinity of Christ and the power of the Word of God. We must believe that there is no other name given to people by which we can be saved. (Acts 4:12)

What we can do is chose to fellowship with each other. As leaders, we face common challenges no matter what stream or doctrinal stance we hold to. We can talk with one another about our lives and challenges. We can share about our families. We can pray for each other and agree for God’s blessing upon each other. We can laugh together and weep together. We can discover that those who hold a different point of view are still people who love God and do their best to serve him.

We can do this without asking what opinion we hold on the controversial topics of the day. We can do it without asking about or bragging about the size of our churches and ministries. We can simply connect on a human level. When that happens, we will find that there are some family members we like and some not “so much.” We will find that we are all people and that every person is worthy of love, forbearance and longsuffering.

Just as we must know God to really follow him, we must know each other to have real unity. Doctrines and such can be sorted out later. That is what out Unity Through Fellowship conference is about. We would love to have you join us. However, you do not have to come to any place to allow this to work. Find someone who is open to fellowship and get together with them. Do not ask about what they believe ask about who they are. Hear their story and soon enough you will find they are part of the same family as you. Unity will be a natural result.