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When’s the last time you saw something that made you think or say, “Wow…that was good”? As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” Todd Wagner teaches us about goodness and how it should mark us as we diligently seek it out.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Good morning, friends. How are we doing? We're in the This Is the Life series. We're talking about what a life marked by wisdom looks like. The attribute we're talking about today is one that I think I need to be reminded of more than any other that exists in the character and nature of God that, because God is the fullness of wisdom, should be present in those who seek more of him. Today we're talking about goodness and the goodness of God.
Most of us don't struggle with the idea that God exists, but we do struggle with the idea that God is good, so we have to constantly remind ourselves more and more all the time of who he is. In fact, there's a statement that was made by a gentleman when trying to comfort his people about 100 years ago. He just said, "I want to confess. If God would give me all of his omnipotence or all his power in 24 hours, you would not believe how many changes I would make."
Have you ever felt like that? If God just gave you license to do whatever it is he could do, you'd make a ton of changes? That's just normal and natural for us to think that way, but I would come back around that and say what this gentleman said, which is, "But if God gave me all of his wisdom, I wouldn't change a thing."
There's a verse in the Scripture that says, "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are God's thoughts higher than my thoughts, and his ways are not my ways." That's good, because we serve a good, good Father. We serve a God who is defined by goodness. When he wants to show you his glory, he shows you his goodness. Today, we're going to see if we seek more of him, more of that will be evident in us.
If I took you back to a particular date in history, November 6, 2010, you might not think of it as a significant day. You wouldn't have marked it in any way that is especially unique, and that's probably all right and good. You certainly shouldn't just because of what I'm about to tell you, but November 6, 2010, was a day that a little movie called A Family Thanksgiving was released. It was a movie about an unmarried lawyer and a genie who would eventually bring changes to the entire situation.
It was the beginning of what we now commonly call the Hallmark movie series. There have since been 232 of those particular movies made, and if you've seen one, you've seen them all. This is crazy. I want to show you this. Look at this picture. Do you think they have a formula they're kind of sticking with? Those are all different Hallmark movies.
Just last week, we started Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas, which is, I think, showing all 232 of them over this period of time. If you drop in on the Wagner household where there are a number of young ladies, they have a tendency to turn these things on and watch them, and no matter what movie it is, I can walk in about three-quarters of the way through and be completely caught up in 30 seconds.
These movies are not known for their great acting or their great film editing. They're not known for their great scripting, but there is a reason they're beloved. Do you know that the Hallmark movies are consistently the highest-rated shows on cable television for any program that's not news or sports? It's the number-one watched thing on cable television besides news and sports. Why is that?
I think it's because of what happens in a Hallmark movie. It's what a group of friends I know call Hallmark town. Hallmark town is a place where families love one another. They take in strangers, and they're kind. It's kind of serendipitous and a little bit of what we all long for to be real in our lives that have a lot of chaos. We wish there was some genie that could show up and would resolve the whole story.
In the Hallmark movies, when a boy meets a girl, he doesn't immediately try to get her in the sack or run to have a sexual relationship with her. In fact, sometimes it's like they don't even think about that. There's a wholesomeness to it that I think appeals to our nature. You might say goodness. Now, the movies themselves we might mock and say aren't good, but some of the ideas that are in there, especially this time of year, we long for. The Countdown to Christmas.
Can I just say this? There's going to be resolving of this story. Some of you don't like the script you're living in. Some of you guys don't necessarily like the storyline you're a part of. There's not a genie, but there is a God, and this whole thing is going to resolve. If you understand history through the lens of God's divine direction, you might want to change the next 24 hours if you had all the power, but if you had all the wisdom, you would see his goodness in it.
We're going to talk about goodness and how it is an attribute of God and how because we're wisdom-seekers it ought to be more consistently true of us. A verse we've quoted almost every time we've been talking about this idea of the life of wisdom, or This Is the Life, the life filled with these characteristics that are beautiful and good, is Proverbs 1:7. It says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Fear there (again, we've said it a bunch) is not this idea that we're scared of God but that we're so respectful of him, we see so much of his beauty and goodness and rightness that we're scared, we're horrified at the thought that we wouldn't have more of God in our lives. It's fools who despise wisdom and instruction, because this book which gives us wisdom and instruction is a revelation from God which tells us more of his character and his ways, and the more we know of God's character and ways, the more we learn of his good and, therefore, the more we should love him.
I've said it here a bunch. When we don't want to know more of God, I doubt if we really know him at all. So today, I want to remind you the goodness of God, and I want to remind you that as you seek more of him, more of that goodness ought to be emanating from your life. We don't believe we have faith in God and so that changes God to do what we want that we think is good. No. We have a faith that what God does is good, so we trust him.
Even in a world that sometimes is defined by the kinds of horrors we have experienced… As a body this week, we buried two infants who are part of our Watermark family. We've heard about heartache that happens in homes and diagnoses that aren't good, and we know there have been layoffs in our community and our family. We're like, "Come on, God. What's going on?" We need to be reminded of the goodness of God.
It's one of the things I do consistently. I want to take you to Psalm 34. As I look at Psalm 34 and we talk about how those Scriptures are what give us wisdom and instruction… It's one of those psalms, as there are many places in Scripture that remind us of the character and nature of God, and I would tell you that every single sin I commit, and I think every single sin any of us commits, is always tied to our lack of understanding of the goodness of God.
When we don't understand that God is good, we lean on our own understanding and what we think is good, and when we lean on our own understanding and don't in all our ways acknowledge him, it's less than God. When you get less than God, it's not great. In fact, Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a book God Is Not Great, is a guy who…
I've been in a room where discussions have been happening with him about evidences for God being great and God being good, and he has seen rational defenses of a faith that gives us hope in the midst of a world that is not the world we all want. Hitchens, though, says, "No. Listen, guys. I acknowledge that your discussions about who God is are congruent and clear and make sense, but I reject the God of the Bible as a possibility, and because I reject the God of the Bible as a possibility, I say God is not great."
I agree with Hitchens. If the Bible's God, if God who is revealed in the Scriptures is not God, then God is not good and God is not great, because only God as he's revealed in the Scripture is good. In fact, he's great and he's glorious and you should want more of him. Psalm 34:1 is the psalmist's way of saying, "This world is crazy, so I sometimes forget that he's good, and I have to remind myself."
He says in Psalm 34, "I will bless the Lord at all times…" Bless means "I will speak well of." "I'm going to speak well of God, because when I start to tell myself that God is not good, his Word is not true, and disobeying him is not that big of a deal, I'm going to go a lot of different directions that aren't going to be good for me."
"So my mouth shall continually praise you; my soul will boast in my God," the psalmist says. "The humble, the people who don't tell God who he is but listen to God and watch how God unfolds himself in history, will rejoice." Psalm 34:3 says, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." It's why we come together and sing songs about the goodness of God: so we would have our hearts strengthened so we wouldn't leave him.
The psalmist now speaks in first person. He says, "I sought the Lord** , and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." He speaks corporately in verse 5."[The body]looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried…" Back to the individual."…and the **** Lord **** heard him and saved him out of all his troubles." Verse 7 is true."The angel of the **** Lord **** encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them."** What kind of God wouldn't do that?
Then verse 8: "O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" That's why you see in Proverbs these verses. Proverbs 11:27: "He who diligently seeks good seeks favor…" If you seek God, you seek good; if you seek good, you seek God, but he who seeks evil? You're going to get evil. You're going to get less than good, less than great, less than God. Anything less than God and good is not true goodness.
Proverbs 12:2: "A good man will obtain favor from the Lord** , but He will condemn a man who devises evil."** What is a good man? A good man is a man who seeks the goodness of God. I'm going to tell you a little bit later we're never good enough for God to accept us, but the good God makes provision for us so we can have relationship with him and experience his good.
The prophet Jeremiah begs with people. He says in Jeremiah 6:16, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it…" That's what God wants us to do: to walk in it. The psalmist in Psalm 84 says, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside." He goes on to say, "I would rather spend one day at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell a thousand days in the middle of the tents of the wicked."
Why? Because God is a sun and a shield. He gives light and life. He gives protection. He gives grace and glory. He gives you what you don't deserve, and he restores what sin has lost. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. How blessed is the man who trusts in this God, who fears him and doesn't want to lose any intimacy with him.
Psalm 16:11 says, "You will make known to me the path of life…" The good life. This is the life, the path God calls me on. "…in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." That's a good God if that's true. Why wouldn't we want more of him? Here's how we get more of him. Watch this. Proverbs 2 begs us to dive in with him. Proverbs 2:1-20:
"My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."
In verse 7, it goes on to say, "He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones." Then look at verse 9. "Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course." Goodness will mark your life, but it doesn't come just because you try to be good; it comes when you seek more of God.
If you want to be good, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all the goodness will be added to you. God longs for us to be marked by the thing which most identifies him. In fact, if you kept reading down through Proverbs, chapter 2, and making your way through it, it says in verses 10-12, "For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse [perverted, destructive] things…"
It'll keep you from the mouth of the adulteress. Adulteress isn't just a woman who seduces you into her bed; it's the liar who whispers sweet promises that lead to death, that if you embrace those lies, it will not go well with you. So verse 20 says if you'll just listen to wisdom, you will walk in the way of goodness. You'll walk with good men. Men who walk with God walk with goodness. It's what God wants us to understand.
When Moses was trying to be God's man and deliver the people out of oppression and bondage and slavery to the goodness and the promise God called them to, he said, "God, I want to know more of who you are, because if I'm going to lead people, I need to know more of who you are." God, in response to Moses in Exodus 33:18 where he says, "Show me more of your glory," says this: "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you…"
Do you hear that? When Moses asked for God's glory to be revealed, he showed him his goodness, because God's glory is in his goodness. We serve a good Father, and it's why you want to sit at his feet and listen to him and learn from him. He will admonish us. He does discipline and reprove those who are his, but it's because he cares for us.
It's so interesting how when you're a child you don't think your parents have your best interests in mind. I think of numerous stories in the life of my relationship with my kids. I think about my son Cooper when he was around 8. I watched him, and he was walking in a way that an 8-year-old is not supposed to walk. I go, "Coop, what's going on?" He said, "Nothing, Dad. Nothing." I go, "No, no. Something isn't right. You weren't created to walk with a limp."
So I took his shoe and his sock off and looked, and there wasn't just a little splinter; there was like a broken-off toothpick-sized splinter that was dark and in his foot. I go, "Oh man, we have to deal with that." He's like, "No, we're not going to deal with that. We're going to deal with that by putting the sock back on and the shoe back on, and we're going to limp. That's how we're going to go through life. I don't really care if it gets infected. I don't care if it gets gangrenous. Cut it off at the knee. We're not dealing with the splinter."
A good father goes, "No. We're going to deal with that." After reasoning didn't work, I basically grabbed him. I said, "Sweetie…" I got my wife. I said, "We're going to deal with this." I could just see him like, "Oh no." I remember physically lying on top of him and pinning him down. If there was a CPS person within a thousand yards, they were not doing their job, because there was a death scream that was emanating from our house.
I remember having all my weight on him and grabbing his foot. I go, "Okay, babe. Are you going to dig into that thing or are you going to grab the foot?" I can remember him lying there going, "You are so mean!" He kept screaming, and every now and then, one of the other siblings would walk in and look inside the torture chamber, like, "Should we run now for the neighbors before we're next in there?"
But with just a little bit of work, a good father was there, and we took a little needle and tweezers and got that thing out, and he just thanked us. The sock went on. The shoe went back on. He's running without a limp. I'm just like that. I think I've shared with you before… The Jesus Film, which is the most watched movie in history that has been translated into more languages than any other movie in history… It's often shown in cultures that don't know the Jesus story.
They talk about Jesus, but then they show them the historical narrative of who Jesus was…this child born into disadvantage and poverty and oppression who doesn't hate, though he was sought after and a wicked despot tried to destroy him. But no, he learns to love. In fact, he uses his resources and his life to bring blessing and healing to others. He speaks truth to that power. He sets captives free. He reverses the effects of the fall, everything that these people who are watching this, who live in the midst of oppression and darkness and poverty…
They're watching this, and they're hearing that this isn't just some movie; this is history and a narrative that played out before them. They see not long into this story that all of a sudden, one of his friends betrays him, and they see that in the midst of the betrayal, he's now taken captive. They see him taken captive and beaten, and then they see an insecure ruler sentence him to death because he wants to appease the people.
When they watch Jesus beaten and bloodied and battered, sentenced to death, and he starts to carry that cross, there have been numerous times in the showing of The Jesus Film where people attack the screen. They throw rocks at the screen. They see that the movie is still being projected, and then they'll try to shut down the projector, because they want to stop history, because there's no way we could let this story go to a cross.
What they don't know is that cross in that story was not the end of the story, that it's going to resolve. There is a resurrection, and that cross, which looked like the most evil thing they could imagine in history, was part of the goodness of God, showing his love for them and restoring to them the peace that had been lost because of their sin.
How many of us are like that? We just start to throw rocks at the screen, and we try to stop the movie because we don't like this particular scene, but we forget that the director is good. It's not just some serendipitous, poorly written novel; these are the very workings of God in our lives and in history, and there's a cross in the middle of it to remind us that he's good and we should walk with him.
Romans 12 talks about us understanding who God is and how we should respond. It says in Romans 12:1, "Therefore…" which is like, "Therefore, in light of the cross…" That's what Romans 1-11 is all about. "In light of who God is and what he has done, that he has demonstrated his kindness toward you in that while you were still sinners, Christ died for you; therefore, I urge you to present your bodies, today, as living and holy sacrifices. The life which you now live in the flesh you should live by faith in the Son of God, who loves you and delivered himself up for you."
This God you should serve. You should make your spiritual service of worship your life. It's the only right way to respond to a God who has given his Son for you. Then it says, "Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." You're mentally ill when you don't love more of God.
Let your mind be corrected. Be transformed by the story of the goodness of God, and then, it says, you will prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Listen. I quoted this verse. I memorized this verse. For a long time, I didn't understand that it wasn't saying, "Hey, prove that you're good and prove that you're acceptable and prove that you're perfect to this Holy God who died for you." That's not what it's saying.
What it's saying is when you walk with God and your mind is no longer deceived but is filled with wisdom and you see the love and the goodness of God, so you follow him and he informs your steps and you lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him, your life will prove out that that life is the better way. It's the acceptable life to the human condition. It's the good life to the human condition. It's the perfect way to live in this world. You grieve, but not as those who have no hope. That's Romans 12:2. It's the good life.
People ought to look at our lives, as Christians, and go, "I don't like your doctrine. I don't like this thing called sin. I don't like this idea that I'm accountable to a Creator, but I cannot argue with your goodness. Your families are different. The way you work through conflict is different. The way you date is different. The way you love the oppressed and the poor is different. It's good. I don't much like Christian doctrine, but I tell you what. Our community could use more Christians."
In fact, in Psalm 128, there is a whole description of this. Psalm 128 says, "How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways," and it starts talking about, "This is the good life." Down at the very end of that psalm it says, "Indeed, may you see your children's children," which is like, "We would love to see more of you longer in the land. May you see the prosperity of your way of living, because it's the good way."
Psalm 128 is saying that's the way a family should be ordered, the family that looks to and trusts in God. What kind of God do we trust in? When Moses finally got what he asked for and God said, "I'm going to show you my glory, which is my goodness," and he passed by, this is what happened. Exodus 34:6-7: " [Here I come, Moses.] The Lord , the **** Lord **** God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…"
God is going to make it right. There's going to be a resolution. Do you guys know this? The Countdown to Christmas that is the Hallmark movies until it ends with the fullness of goodness coming is kind of what we are. We are God's "hallmark." The word hallmark comes from what's called the Goldsmiths' building, or the Goldsmiths' livery in London, England. It's the longest operating building that we know of in the West. It has been around since like 1333.
The Goldsmiths' livery, the Goldsmiths' building, was a place where they were forming the best, purest gold, and the greatest art and craftsmanship and beauty and workmanship would come out of the Goldsmiths' Hall. So when the owners of the livery and all of the businesses that were in there would say, "Yes, that's pure enough gold and that's beautiful enough work," it would have a stamp put on it, a Goldsmiths' Hall mark.
Everybody knew where it came from, because that Hall's mark was on it, and they knew it was the best work and the most beauty that could be on earth at this time. That was the idea. That's where hallmark comes from, and that's what God says we should be. We should be the hallmark of God until that day that God resolves this world and beauty is everywhere.
Do you know that heaven is not a place we're going to? Biblically, there is no heaven being built out there in the nether regions right now that one day God will draw us up to. This earth is heaven. God's plan is that this will be a new heavens and a new earth. He'll resolve this thing. There's going to be an extreme earth makeover. Do you all know this? This is your Bible. On this earth, things will be as they should be. There won't just be a deposit, a shadow of the coming kingdom of God; there will be the very presence of God here on earth.
Let me just say this to you. Where the kingdom of God is, there is goodness, and where the Christian is, there should be more of the kingdom of God. This is a point for us this morning. Where the kingdom of God is, where heaven is, there is goodness. On earth one day, God is going to take away all of the effects of sin and all of the effects of the fall, and he's going to deal with all of the tenants who are not operating in the way they should.
He's even going to make people who right now are a shadow of their citizenship in heaven… He's going to finish the good work which he has begun in us, but his plan is for, right now, us to be an expression of God's love and goodness on an earth that is not yet resolved. If you're not good, you're not Christian, or at least you're a non-fruit-bearing Christian.
Heaven is going to be the goodness of God reestablished on earth. It's going to be better than Eden, because Eden was just a picture of what it was like in the presence of God, filled with perfection and men who loved and enjoyed God, but the new heavens and the new earth, right here, all around us… It's all going to be remade, and it won't be just a place where there are people who know God by faith; all of us are going to know God fully.
He's going to completely have dealt with sin, removed sin from us, and sinners from the face of the earth, and God will dwell with us on the earth that we're on forever. That's the future. That's your Bible. Revelation talks about this in Revelation 21:3-5. " [On that day and in that place] , the tabernacle of God[will be]among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…"
Think about this. That's the countdown. We're in the countdown to Revelation 21. That's the countdown to the second Christmas. The countdown to the first Christmas was when God came and tabernacled in the person of Jesus and showed that he was the way, the truth, and the life, that he was the goodness of God. He says, "To see me is to see God. I'm going to show you the love of God, that he's going to deal with your sin so you can be reconciled to him."
Then he says, "I'm going to go and be with the Father. I'm going to prepare a place for you." That's not heaven. The place is a place where you can find peace and forgiveness so you can be restored to God so some of heaven can be made known on earth until God resolves the story. He said, "I'm going to leave you here, and the works which you've seen me do, which is to love and to bring hope and healing and comfort…you're going to do these same works. In fact, even greater works than these will you do, because there are going to be more of you who are related to God by grace through faith, so more of God's goodness will be known on the earth."
Christians are the hallmark that are anticipation of what's coming in the countdown to Christmas. I'll just say this really quickly. We're not perfect. There are blemishes even in the life of a Christian, but here's one of the things Christians do that is a mark of God. We're humble people, so sometimes there are things we do which aren't good, so we just go, "Can I stop right here and say that wasn't God's work and God's workmanship in my life? It wasn't his beauty you just experienced. I want to confess." This is one of the things Christians do.
They go, "That wasn't beautiful. That wasn't from the throne of heaven. That moment right there wasn't God at work in my life; that was Todd at work in my life. It was wrong. It was hateful. It was motivated by my flesh and by my anger. I ask your forgiveness, and I repent, and I make amends." You're not a hypocrite because you sin; you're a hypocrite when you sin and go, "That's not sin. It's okay when I do it. It's good, because I'm a Christian." No. What's good when you're a Christian is when you act in a way that's non-good, you go…
The word confess means to agree. I agree with God that wasn't good. It's beautiful. You humble yourself, you forsake, you seek forgiveness, and you restore. Where the kingdom of God is there is goodness, and where the Christian is there should be more of the kingdom of God. I love that quote by Oscar Wilde. You may not know who he is, but he was Hollywood's first madman, and long before Hollywood. He was in England and thinking the whole theater scene around there.
Oscar Wilde was a guy whose life you don't want to emulate, but he said a lot of really winsome things, almost Mark Twain-ish. One of the things he said that I love is, "Some people bring happiness wherever they go; other people, whenever they go." Do you know people like that? You will next Sunday after you've been with your family for three days. They leave, and you're so happy.
What God says is when you show up at Thanksgiving tables, there ought to be a hallmark of goodness, and people should be glad that a Christian was there. There's kindness. There's selflessness. There's service. There's thanksgiving. There's subjection to one another in love. You speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and there is just a goodness. It's a countdown to the fullness of what God intends as we give thanksgiving continually on earth in heaven and we enjoy him.
Augustine said if we live good lives, the times are also good. As we are, such are the times. Christian, we are a stamp of God's goodness on earth. I'm going to give you something here. I want to take a little bit of time teaching this point. Goodness is four things. Goodness is a person, goodness is a gift, goodness is a fruit, and goodness is the goal of the faithful. Let me walk you through these.
Goodness is a person. One of my favorite little interchanges in all of the Scriptures is when Jesus meets this rich young ruler. The rich young ruler walks up to him. Jesus was getting ready to go on a journey, and here comes this guy. He's going to be very civil, and he's going to be very polite. He's going to walk up and say, "Good rabbi," or "Good teacher, how might I have eternal life?" which is a question that both is humble in its approach and certainly noble in its quest.
You would think Jesus is about to respond by saying, "Man, you're on your knees. You're calling me good," and the word he used for good was intrinsically good, holistically good, completely good. "And you're calling me teacher." He's saying, "Perfect teacher, how would I have eternal life?"
Jesus says something really interesting. He says, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except God alone. There's nobody holistically and intrinsically good except God alone. You just came up to me. You want to know how to have eternal life, and you called me good. Why do you call me good? God alone is good, which means you're not good."
What Jesus is really saying, in effect… He never denies that he's good. He just says, "Do you know who you're talking to? Because if you know that I'm good, you know that you're less than that. You're non-good. So you would look to me to give you what you could never get and I would only give to you if I was good."
The way Jesus teaches this is by saying, "You know the commandments. How good are you? You know 'Don't murder. Don't commit adultery. Don't steal. Don't bear false witness. Honor your mother and father.'" He ticks off the last five of the Ten Commandments, and the guy says, "Teacher, I've kept all of these things from my youth."
This guy wasn't around, obviously, when Jesus walked them through the Sermon on the Mount, where he said, "If you look at a brother with disdain or hatred, then you've murdered. If you look at a woman with lust in your heart, then you're an adulterer," and so on and so on and so on. Jesus saw this guy who had the appearance of good, though he wasn't really good, but the guy didn't know he wasn't really good, so he thought he was doing everything he needed to do to be connected with the good God.
So what Jesus is going to do here is show him, "You might be keeping the superficial elements of the law, but in your heart you love something more than God, which is the first commandment you should not break." To expose to this guy that he has idolatry and loves something more than God (which is to say he loves something more than good), he says, "I'll tell you what you need to do: go sell everything.
You just acknowledged that I am the intrinsically perfect and beautiful and glorious one. So go sell all of your possessions and give to the poor, and you'll have treasure in heaven. Come follow me. Come be with me, the Good One, the one who is the author and perfecter of life, and you'll have eternal life."
The guy looked at him and was sad and was grieving, because he had much property that he loved and was attached to and that was his god, and he didn't want to leave his god, because he thought that god was his good, so he didn't want the God who was good. Do you see what Jesus did there? Goodness is a person. It's God.
Jesus is saying, "You're not like me, so because you're not like me, you can't have what only I, the eternally sufficient one, can give. The way you're going to get it is by not just bowing ceremoniously, not by just singing songs, 'Holy, holy, holy; you're a good, good, good Father,' but by knowing that I'm holy and that you're not. Here's what I'm going to do for you. I'm going to go to your cross, and I'm going to show you my kindness and my love."
I love this about God. When you think about the "slow to anger" God… In Eden, God cursed the ground. When Adam and Eve left God and worshiped themselves or worshiped something less than God, God cursed the ground, saying, "You don't want me to tend your garden? You don't want me to be the one who creates for you your reality? Then your reality is going to be what your reality is, and your reality is going to be defined by hard grounds, hard relationships and thorns." God cursed the ground with thorns because of our sin.
On the cross, Jesus wore our crown of thorns on his head, which means the glory of God is the goodness of him taking our curse and wearing it on his head because he loves us. What kind of God would wear our curse so he could give lovingkindness to thousands and still judge the wicked? The answer: an unspeakably good Father and God.
You don't throw rocks at that screen. You don't try to stop that movie. You worship him and the direction of his divine glory in the midst of history, and then you participate with him to be all the good that you can so that others might see your good works and go, "Where are you from? Where is this craftsmanship of humanity, this hallmark of human nature? Where does it come from?" And we say, "The goldsmiths' shop of heaven's redemptive work."
Goodness is a person. Goodness is a gift. Isaiah 43 says this. A long time ago, I heard a guy say this statement. I wish I would have said it. He was describing what he found in Isaiah 43, and the statement is this: Satan knows your name. He knows my name is Todd, but he calls me by my sin. "You're a lust bucket. You're prideful. You're arrogant. You're inconsistent. You're a person who says one thing and does another."
Satan reminds me… He's an accuser, and he always labels me by my sin. God knows my sin, but he calls me by my name. He says, "Todd, are you weary and heavy-laden? Come." Isaiah 43: "But now, thus says the Lord , your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;[I've redeemed you in your sin; I know all about it;]I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters [of judgment] , I will be with you; and through the rivers [of temptation and life] , they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.'" "Why? Because I'm your God and I'm good. I'm the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. You're mine. I don't call you by your sin; I call you by your name. Come to me, and I will give you rest." Man, what a good God.
Goodness is a person, goodness is a gift, and goodness is a fruit. In Galatians, chapter 5, verses 22 and following, it says, "But the fruit of the Spirit…" That's singular. There are not nine different fruits. There's an infinite number of things that are the fullness of the beauty of God and his way, and when the Spirit of God is present, all of these things are present.
The way you know you're filled with the Spirit is what you're doing right there is love, biblical love. Not just "Do whatever you want" love but biblical love that doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices always with the truth; that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; the love that never fails, even though it does, at times, bring about appropriate consequences to remove the limp.
When God is present, love is present. Joy is present. Peace is present. Patience. Don't pray for patience. I'm not going to scold you if you go, "God, please let me be more patient," but here's a more biblical prayer: "God, let me now not lean on my own understanding, but let the love of Christ, let the Spirit, the lovingkindness of God, be evident in me."
Be angry and don't sin. There should be in you a moral indignation toward what's not right, but you're never controlled by anger. You're always controlled by the Spirit, and there's a sense of patience even in the midst of this kindness. When people watch you be just and kind, they go, "That is just good. It's just good." It's what a faithful man does. There's a gentleness and a self-control.
"…against such things there is no law." In other words, we don't say, "Hey, listen. You can only be patient here 12 hours a day. After that, we don't put up with 12 hours and one minute of patience. We don't want that much 'kingdom of God-ness' here. We're going to legislate against it." No. We don't limit the amount of love.
Now, we pervert love and destroy love and distort love. One of the things that's true in our culture is we call evil good and good evil, but people who are filled with the Spirit don't. It's part of the goodness of God that you speak truth, people. I love this statement by Richard Sibbes. He was a pastor hundreds of years ago, and he basically said, "There is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us." What a good God.
The fruit of God should be in our lives. As it says later in Galatians, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." It's a fruit of God. When you're not being good, you're not being Christian, or at least you're being a non-fruit-bearing one. You're grieving the Spirit and quenching the Spirit.
Goodness is a person. It's Jesus. It's God. It's a gift. He gives us his goodness. It's imputed upon us. He calls us by name, and he gives us the goodness of Christ. He makes him who's rich to become poor on our behalf, that we now become the righteousness of God in him, the Scripture says, and then it's a fruit of our relationship with him. If there's goodness in me, it's Jesus.
It's our goal. That's the last thing. It's the goal of the faithful to be more of that. Proverbs 11:23: "The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is [to perish] ." We've said this already. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, for goodness, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We should make it our goal to be more of the hallmark of God. That happens as we depend more on him.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, it says, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works [in goodness] , to be generous and ready to share…" That's what we do. We remind each other that that's what we're doing.It's how we take hold, it says at the very end of this. We store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, and we take hold of that which is life indeed, in verse 19.
So, it's a person, it's a gift, it's a fruit, and it's our goal, that we might excel still more in letting more of the Spirit of God be present in us. It's true. When Christ is present, the light of goodness will eventually overwhelm and replace the darkness of sin. When Christ is in us, the presence of light and his goodness overwhelms and replaces the darkness of sin. There's a renewal that should happen within us and more glory of who Jesus wants us to be. It's being restored. He gives grace, and then he restores glory. That's what God does.
Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. This is my friend Mark Carter. Mark went into juvie when he was 9 years old, but look at the smile on this kid. When he was 9 years old, he got in the juvenile system, and he was in and out of that until he was not in the juvie system anymore; he was in the big system. He spent more than half of his life in jail. He got out when he was 48 years old, and he swore to himself at some point, "I'm not going to spend the rest of my life behind bars," so God set him free from the captivity to his flesh and sin.
When he was 15, he got shot in the jaw and the stomach. He was stealing a stereo. To this day, he has major effects from that gunshot wound and a major protrusion in his abdomen that we're trying to figure out how to help him deal with. I'll tell you why we're loving on Mark: because Mark doesn't ever complain. You never hear him complain about a single solitary thing, even though he has thyroid issues, he has diabetes, he has effects from his own sin that he carries with him. He spent half his life in jail.
He lives right now down at Bonton Farms. He farms down there a little bit during the day, and at night he takes care of a property we have been given the privilege to steward together. Mark, who used to be a drug-dealing prison baller, is now member number one of Watermark in South Dallas. He's member number one, and he's employed by us, and he's security at Pearl C. Anderson High School down there in South Dallas.
What is Pearl C. Anderson? Well, let me just show you a little video. Pearl C. Anderson is a piece of property that a friend of ours, a member of our body, became aware of that has been a mothballed school that Dallas Independent School District has had for seven years that went to a public auction that we bid on, and God just so had it that we were the only bidder, so for $211,000, we bought nine acres of land and 200,000 square feet of usable space.
We have been working in South Dallas for the last decade-plus. We have members who have started a ministry down there to kids who wash out of DISD and need to get their high school education, so we're giving it to them. We have a member who started a ministry called 2ndSaturday, which is members of our body spend the second Saturday of every month down there serving in that community. We started 2S Industries, which is a company by men like Mark and others who have been incarcerated, helping restore them and giving them employment.
2S Industries is actually the group we're using to remediate and start to clean up that school, which you can see needs some cleaning. We had planned to tell you about that facility this weekend. This particular week, a couple of news media outlets felt like they wanted to try to make a story out of something, so they pushed the information out there a little bit earlier, but we're so humbled that in a place we've already been at work we can go to work deeper still.
We always believe that more of Jesus' church will displace more of the darkness, and I'm going to tell you something: there's plenty of darkness that needs to be displaced. This particular part of Dallas has a 90 percent single parent home rate. Of the kids who are down there, 90 percent are on free school lunches. There's a 17 percent unemployment rate. It's the highest incarceration rate of any zip code in the Dallas area.
The average median income of South Dallas is at or below the very level of poverty. There's a 40 percent poverty rate in that part of the city, and it needs more of Jesus' church. We're so grateful for people who have already been working there in South Dallas. The light of Christ has already been there, but it sounds like they could use some help, just like we could use some help right here in North Dallas. May more of Jesus' church show up here.
Gang, we're going to get a chance to steward our resources, our time, our talents, make new neighbors, grow his church with people in that community and be a part of that community and more of the goodness that God wants in South Dallas. I don't know if you heard or not, but this particular week, we were just named the best place to work in Dallas. For seven years in a row we were number two, so I spoke to the business community. I said, "I need to ask your forgiveness, because if we were who God wants us to be, we would have been the best place to work for the last eight years, not just this year."
I don't really care about being the best place to work as much as I care about this being the best city to live. That's why we're going to go to work to make another place in our town a little bit better to live. I think North Dallas and South Dallas, where we've already been, and East Dallas and Frisco and Plano are a little bit better because you're there…Jesus' church, not Watermark. Watermark is an expression of the kingdom of God, and we're going to take it, and we're going to share it.
That gets me to the last thing I want to say. I just want to say "thank you" to you, because God's goodness is his glory and our good works cause more glory to be given to him. This is Matthew 5:16: "Let others see your good works, and they will glorify your Father in heaven." I want to tell you, I see your good works. I see what you're up to. I see what you're doing.
This week, I need to ask my staff's forgiveness, because I had asked my whole staff if they would make some observations about the things they've seen in the last several weeks and just shoot me some stories of the goodness that's happening in our body. They sent me back pages, literally…single-spaced right here, just cut and pasted together…of things they watch you do that make them want more of the God who is so good, because the hallmark of God's kindness is made evident through you.
I have to ask their forgiveness, because I'm not going to read them all, now that I've collected them and had my heart strengthened. I'm going to read one, just as an example, that I got the week before from my friend Ashley Gonzales, who's a member of our Fort Worth Campus. She and her husband Jared shot me an email, and this is what the email says.
I want to tell you, there are so many stories like this in here of things you're doing. I just want to say, keep being God's hallmark. Thank you, church, for inspiring me, faithful ones, living the life of glory and selflessness and being rich in good works.
Ashley wrote me and said, "Hi from Fort Worth. My name is Ashley. Jared and I have been attending Watermark Fort Worth and members for a couple of the past three years. I want to let you know that we're grateful to this body because it has helped us change the course of our lives. About two years ago, Todd, you taught a message called What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes.
We went home after church, and my Jesus-loving husband immediately looked into our guest bedroom and said, 'Well, we have an extra room we're not using.' I quickly rejected the idea. I liked my peaceful newlywed life. 'Well, we have an extra room, but we've only been married for three months, and I'm not ready to give up our honeymoon.' Well, long story short, the Lord quickly changed my heart, and we went through the process to become foster parents.
A year ago, Todd, we became foster parents. I told God that I was going to do it, but only if he gave me just one kid, and that kid had to be a baby. So we set up a nursery, we bought some infant clothes, and we waited. Four days before Christmas, I got a call. They said, 'We have three toddlers, 1 and 2 and 4, who are siblings, and they need a home immediately.' I said, 'I told you I would take one.'
They said, 'We have three children, a 1- and a 2- and a 4-year-old, and they need a home.' Three hours later, four days before Christmas, the young two showed up, and then a month later we took their older sister, and we have fallen in love with them." She sent me this picture. She just said, "It looks like, potentially, the tragedy of permanent termination of parental rights may come, and we're making plans to make this their forever home."
Ashley is pregnant with a biological child due in March. So, just a year-plus after they get married, because they're full of the goodness of God, they're going to be parents of potentially four children. Don't you just watch that and go, "Man!" Church, I want to tell you. I've said this before. Right now, there are more children who are waiting to be placed in homes, children who are at crisis, that our world that doesn't even know what evil always is says, "This is so evil we can't let them there…"
There are kids waiting for good homes, and right now, there are more kids waiting than homes waiting to receive them. That's the message Ashley and Jared heard, and they opened up their home. Our goal and our prayer has been that there would be more homes waiting than there are children because we're increasingly ministering in communities and our community and in our lives where kids are in homes already that prosper.
I hope that when CPS finds a child with a need they find a church with a heart that's ready, and I hope when CPS takes children from people that they go, "Hey, these people don't want your children for good. If you want your children back, you need to get to Watermark, because they teach family restitution classes as required by the court, and they're going to help you get your life back in line and help you recover from your addictions and help you learn to be reparented yourself, because they want your home to be a place of blessing for your children. If you want your kids back, go get discipled by these people." That's the goodness of God.
I see so many stories, not just in the foster care and adoption services system, but I watch the way you're mentoring. I watch the way you're sharing, caring for each other in the midst of hardship, and it is good. When people see it, they're going to want to learn more of our God, because we're his hallmark. So keep it up, church. Keep it up.
Father, I thank you for the goodness that is in this place and for the love of Christ that is in this place. Would you help us, Father, to make it our goal to be more faithful so that we would bear more of your fruit so that the gift of your goodness, which is an expression of your personage, is renowned on this earth? I thank you for this body, and there are so many faithful people who are here who are about kingdom work.
Lord, we know where your kingdom is there is goodness and where your church is there should be more of the kingdom of God, so bring it to us, Lord. You've told us where we'll find it if we diligently seek for it as silver and hunt for it as a treasure. It is the way of wisdom. It is the way of Jesus, so help us to seek you, that we may be more of him. In Christ's name, amen.