Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good deeds aren’t just for Boy Scouts

When’s the last time you did a good deed? When you think of good deeds, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe this is stereotypical and wrong, but I always think of Boy Scouts. I’ve only known a few Boy Scouts, although the ones I known have made it to Eagle Scout, and they’ve all been very kind people who would go out of their way to do good things for others.

This month I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, which says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” In the last few days, I’ve really been focusing in on goodness because it seems to be, from what I can tell, the kind side of goodness, rather than the moral excellence part. Moral excellence certainly is involved, but the actual word used is more like benevolence instead of righteousness. And I didn’t know that.

It’s good to be benevolent. It’s good to do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, but with that kind of thinking, how long will you keep doing good deeds? What makes a good deed the right thing to do? What do good deeds look like? Are we talking about helping little old ladies with their groceries? Are we talking about tackling a purse snatcher? Are we talking about supporting a charity financially? Because if I’m just doing good deeds for the sake of doing them, I’m going to get tired of it. I know people who do good things for others because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s admirable. But in a broken world where good deeds are rarely rewarded, often unrecognized, and usually more trouble than they’re worth, I believe you need something better as a motivator than just: “It’s the right thing to do.”

If you don’t, you’re a better person than I am, because I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. And I don’t always do the right thing. I’m just going to be honest.

Aside from the fact that this kind of benevolence–this type of goodness–is a gift from the Holy Spirit, what motivates good deeds? Where should the desire to do good deeds come from?

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 2:14-26.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

This is a really long bit of scripture for today, but I think it’s relevant. I love the Book of James. It’s short, to the point, and doesn’t pull any punches. This passage is often used out of context to prove that our salvation is dependant on our actions. If you think that, read the whole thing again please, especially verse 23. Here, I’ll put it up again in case there’s any doubt:

James 2:23 – And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

It’s ironic too because this is basically a restatement of Genesis 15:6, which says, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Get the picture? It’s not our works that save us. Our works demonstrate that we have been saved. We’re not doing good things so that we can be righteous. We do good things because we have been made righteous. It’s outward expression of an inward change, like baptism. It doesn’t save you; it’s just evidence that you are saved.

And conversely, if you don’t show evidence that you have been saved, have you been? I’m not judging. I don’t know your heart. But it’s a good question to ask yourself, especially in a study of the Holy Spirit. If your life doesn’t display the Fruit of the Spirit, which is the evidence of God working in your life, maybe you ought to start asking some really personal questions about what you believe.

If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. So where is the evidence of your faith? I have to say, I’ve been blown away by what I’m hearing about people stepping up to help the victims of the tornado that tore Moore, Oklahoma apart on Monday. Maybe not all of them are Christ-followers, but I know many who are. And I am so honored to be able to call those people making such huge sacrifices my brothers and sisters.

What about you? How do you see good works? How do you view good deeds? Are they just something Boy Scouts do to earn a badge? Or are they just the right thing to do? Or are they an expression of what you believe? Think about it. Good works alone aren’t enough, just like quoting scripture isn’t enough. You’ve got to back it up. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to get it in your life.

And the true irony about doing good for other people is that even though you’re sacrificing to help someone else, you get a bigger blessing out of it than they ever will.

Advertisements
The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

Are you good enough?

Have you ever heard someone say they’re not good enough to be a Christian? I have. I’ve talked to people who just don’t think it’s possible for them to trust Christ because they aren’t good enough.

But the truth of the matter is that it’s not about being good enough. No one is good enough. No one is good.

Goodness isn’t something that comes from us. We don’t know how to be good. Goodness is something the Holy Spirit produces in our lives when we accept Christ. So many times that goodness people see in a Christian’s life isn’t them at all–it’s evidence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit because I want to be able to identify the qualities in my life that show that the Holy Spirit is working in me. And today we come to goodness.

According to the Amplified Version, the word in the verse actually means benevolence. I think that’s interesting because I would have thought it meant being good–as in being righteous or possessing moral integrity. But goodness has many faces.

Benevolence is a timely thing to be discussing right now, especially with the rash of severe weather that blasted across Kansas last night. Wichita got hit hard, which doesn’t usually happy. Usually the city will just get hail and high winds, and the tornadoes will take a break as soon as they hit the city limits. But there was a tornado at the airport last night. I haven’t heard details, but I know damage was done. And I know a lot of people don’t have power, and even more have significant storm damage.

It’s after storms like this that you see one of the things I love about the Midwest–people helping people without any thought of reward or recompense. They’ll help repair damage. They’ll help clean up yards. They’ll help put back roofs and windows and doors. They’ll be shoulders to cry on and hands to help build up again.

This is life in Kansas.

But it shouldn’t just be in Kansas. And it shouldn’t just be after a storm. This kind of goodness, the heart that yearns to help others even when there’s nothing in it for us, is the kind of goodness that God will produce in our lives if we let Him. We’re not born with the desire to sacrifice. We’re not born with the urge to help other people. We’re not born good.

God knows that. He doesn’t expect us to be good enough. He expects us to look to Him and trust Him, and He will count our faith in Him as being good enough. And the more we look to Him, the more we trust Him, the more we get to know Him, the more goodness will grow in our lives.

Do you find it hard to be good? Do you find it difficult to do good for others? That’s not unusual, necessarily. It just means your human. But the more you get to know God, and the more instep you are with the Holy Spirit, the more goodness you will do, and the less challenging it will be. It’s one of those habits you’ll build. And then one day, someone will tell you they can’t be a Christian because they’re not as good as you are.

And when that happens, don’t be shocked. Don’t be silent either. Make sure you communicate that any goodness in you comes from the Holy Spirit and not yourself. And see what they say to that, because deep down inside, I really believe that every human being wants to be good. They want to be that person who makes a difference to others.

I honestly believe that’s why superhero movies and comics and cartoons are so popular. We all dream of being good enough to be a hero to someone else. But the simple truth is that none of us are good enough on our own, and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit.

So ask Him to help you be good today. Not just good in a moral sense but in a compassionate sense. Ask Him to help you see the people who need help and to give you the strength and the courage to show them benevolence, whether it’s helping them clean up storm damage or just offering a smile on a long workday.

If you follow Christ, if you have the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible. It’s something He’s promised to do in your life. You just have to let Him work.

New apricots in the orchard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Choosing to live by the Spirit

I’m hoping that spring will be here soon. In other parts of the country (maybe the world), spring may have already settled in but not in Kansas. In Kansas, we’ve enjoyed a few days of summer and apparently today winter is coming back for a (hopefully) last hurrah. Spring is a wonderful time of year where life comes back to the world, a beautiful picture of what God does in our lives. Yes, the allergies are awful, but watching the world turn green and smelling the blossoming flowers and feeling the warm breezes is absolutely worth it. Spring reminds us that life doesn’t end when we think it does.

I have an orchard here at my little farm. It’s nothing spectacular, just a few apricot trees and pear trees that give new definition to the concept of organic. But in springtime, after the blossoms have fallen, the fruit starts to appear. And it’s a good reminder for me that trees that don’t look like they’re accomplishing anything are actually working–they’re producing something.

New apricots in the orchard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

New apricots in the orchard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:16-24.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? Some people take it too far, I think, and turn Spirit-filled living into some emotional experience. I’m not saying living by the Spirit is void of emotion; that’s not it at all. But I really think a hallmark of Spirit-filled living is balance. You aren’t ruled by emotion. You aren’t ruled by the law. You’re ruled by the Spirit.

You can be a follower of Christ and have the Spirit of God in you without being filled by Him. You can believe in Christ but not allow the Spirit to work. So how do you live by the Spirit? Well, first of all, you have to know what God wants, and that’s where Bible reading comes in. And then you have to communicate with God, and that’s where prayer comes in. And then you have listen. That’s the hard part for me. Sitting still and listening for God’s voice is difficult when I feel like I need to be rushing around doing ten things at once. But once you can get the point where you learn to recognize God’s voice and obey, you’ll start noticing a difference in your life. And others around you will start noticing too.

Today’s passage is pretty long but it’s one of the best set of verses about living by the Spirit. It’s a good measurement because if you’re living by the Spirit, your life is going to have certain qualities:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These nine qualities are often called the Fruit of the Spirit, and they are what the Holy Spirit will produce in our lives if we listen to God’s voice and obey.

So for the month of May, I want to study the Fruit of the Spirit. I want to know what they are, what they mean, and what they look like in our lives. I want to make sure I have them because I want to live a life that is Spirit-led. And the first step of accomplishing that is to be still and listen.

Just like verses 24 and 25 say above, as a follower of Christ, my sinful nature has been nailed to the cross. It has no power over me anymore, and through God’s power, I can resist. I don’t have to sin. I can choose not to sin through Christ’s strength. But just because sin has no power over me and heaven is my eternal destination doesn’t automatically mean that I am filled with the Spirit. I have the Spirit; He’s a part of my life. But that doesn’t mean I let Him lead. And that’s what I want.

It’s not required to live by the Spirit if you’re a Christ-follower but it’s the kind of life that God desires for us. It’s the kind of life that can make a difference in the world, and the beautiful thing is that we don’t have to do anything. God has already taken care of the truly hard part. We just have to listen and take God at His Word, and while that can be challenging sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal.

So make up your mind. You can be a Christian and cling to your hell insurance or you can choose to let the Spirit lead. The choice is yours, but I say if I’m going to live for Christ, I want to live all out.