Knowing What Is Good

We cannot do good if we do not know good.

Waiting for God’s Goodness (2)

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do 
it, to him it is sin. James 4.17

The problem with goodness
We would be naïve not to acknowledge that we live in a day when the Christian worldview does not provide the guiding framework for thinking about life. Or goodness.

Ours is a secular age, and the norms that guide how people think about what is and is not good revolve around such things as self-interest, material boon, social media (or, what my friends think), and mere sensuality. Goodness has become so personalized and secularized that it can be difficult to achieve consensus on any overarching criteria to guide us in seeking the common good.

The danger to Christians is that we look around to see what the culture considers to be good, and then we bend our own views to match what others think. If the culture believes it’s a good thing to change our sexual mores and our views of marriage, then we might be tempted to think the Church should go with the flow. If it seems that our unbelieving friends and co-workers find the “God of the Old Testament” to be unappealing, then we might be tempted to set that part of Scripture aside, and focus only on Jesus and the New Testament. If we see that our culture thinks entertainment is the highest form of happiness, then we might be tempted to make our worship and congregational life conform to such an expectation. If our culture thinks that what’s truly good is that which provides maximum happiness or satisfaction for any individual, then we might be tempted to steer clear of prescribing any unchanging norms of right, wrong, and evil and good.

But if we give in to the temper of the times, and let the world and its culture pipe the tune of goodness, we will not succeed in bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. Rather, by taking our cues from our unbelieving, secular age, we will forfeitthe goodness of God and add to the confusionabout goodness that is currently raging at epidemic proportions in our nation.

The problem with goodness is that the goodness of God is presently being sublimatedto the narcissism and materialism of the age, and to the extent that we as Christians are complicit in this, we need to repent and return to the Lord and His Word.

Do we even know?
The question arises as to whether Christians even know what the goodness of God is. We have seen that God is good, and that in Himself He manifests the kind of unity, holiness, harmony, creativity, order, and love that can guide us in thinking about and pursuing that which is truly good.

But if we as Christians are not growing in the knowledgeof God, and if we are not actively seeking to understand goodness as God embodies and defines it, then we will be left with our vague notions of goodness to sail against the storm of secular values and opinions, tossed about and carried about by all kinds of doctrines which can keep us from truly knowing what is good (Eph. 4.14).

The way to begin in bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living is to make sure we truly know God, and that we are daily increasing in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life (Jn. 17.3; 2 Pet. 3.18). 

Knowing God is a deeply personal and transforming relationship. We know God when, drawn to Him through Jesus Christ, we faithfully engage all the means by which God reveals Himself, beginning with His Word, waiting on the Spirit of God to bring us ever more deeply into His presence, goodness, and glory. We want to encounter God in His glory, see Him in His goodness, and increase in fear and love of God as the true measure of knowing Him.

The people of ancient Israel insisted they knew God, but theirs was a merely formal knowledge, comprised of traditions and rituals devoid of any meaningful relationship with God as Father and Lord (cf. Hos. 4.1-6). In rejecting true knowledge of God, Israel rejected what was truly good, and sought the goodness which other nations commended or preferred to that which God revealed in Himself and His Law (Hos. 8.1-3).

The Church today will not be able to bring God’s goodness into relationships, culture, society, law, and all other aspects of life as long as knowing God first of all is not our first priority. If we know God, we will know true goodness. And knowing God, as He reveals Himself and His goodness in His Word, we will be better able to discern His goodness through all the other means by which He reveals it, and to do His goodness in all things.

Know and do
As we grow in the knowledge of God and His goodness, we will begin to function as agents of transformation in our culture. Like light, illuminating the darkness; like salt, preserving what is good against all forms of corruption and decay; and like leaven, penetrating to all parts of society and culture, transforming that which is unpalatable to that which is wholesome and good – like these agents of transformation, we who know God and His goodness can, by doing what is good, provide a serious counter-balance and remedy for the malaise of goodness currently besetting our world.

We must thus give ourselves anew to knowing God and to learning His goodness as He reveals it in Himself and through all the means of revelation by which He speaks to us every day. We must work hard to know God, beginning in His Word and searching Him out in all aspects of His creation. For the only hope our sad world has of breaking free from the death-grip of corrupt views of goodness is as those who knowwhat is truly good, doand declarethat goodness in every aspect of their lives.

For reflection
1.  How do people today define “good”?

2.  Meditate on Hosea 4.1-6 and Hosea 8.1-3. Did Israel “know” the Lord? Explain. How should this warn Christians today?

3.  Whatever we know to be good, we must do, or our knowledge of the good will be only evil. Explain.

Next steps – Preparation: Begin a journal or notebook on the goodness of God. From your daily times in His Word and prayer, and from your observations throughout the day, begin to jot down as many things as you discover that demonstrate the goodness of God. The more you know what is good, the better prepared you will be to do it.

T. M. Moore

Heaven is where Jesus is, seated in glory. We can know Him there, and build up our heavenly treasure through meditation, prayer, and imitating what we see in heaven. Our book, To Know Him, can lead you in making those deposits in your heavenly treasure that will find you increasing in the knowledge of Jesus day by day. Order a copy today by clicking here, and we’ll send you a second copy to share with a friend.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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