Friday, April 25, 2008

Theology Five - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Theology Proper - The Goodness of God

Not only does creation make known God’s eternal nature, His divinity and omnipotence, as perused in the last post, but also in sustaining creation, God reveals yet another of His attributes. In Acts 14:17 we learn that “…He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” This Paul said, not to godly men and women, but in reference to past generations of unbelieving Gentiles. Even though their hearts were turned far away from God, He satisfied them with food and even gladness. How good He is.

Everything about God and everything that springs forth from Him is good. Anything in our world that is truly good comes from His hand. James 1:17 states the origin of goodness and speaks also of God’s immutability, indicating that His goodness will never change in any way: “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.” This does not mean that He will never judge the wicked. In fact, if a judge in a human court of law refused to inflict punishment on a cold-blooded killer, we would declare his ruling “unfair” and not good. So it is with God. His judgments are always right and good.

“He is originally good and good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; and not only good, but He is goodness itself. The creature’s good is a superadded quality. In God goodness is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God, there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally good and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is. As there can be no addition made to Him, so neither can there be any subtraction from Him.” (Manton, Thomas from A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1957], p.57.)

When difficulties come, we question God's goodness
When facing trials we tend to question God’s goodness. “How can God be good? He has control to bring this trial to an end, but it continues? Why?” Job, when confronted with the incredible heartache of the loss of all ten of his children, his servants and livestock, said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity.” (Job 2:10) How was it that Job did not question God’s inherent goodness?

How can God be good if He allows trials for His children?
If we question God’s goodness, it may be because we do not have a deep enough understanding of it, or we have too high an opinion of ourselves. Job was willing to accept adversity from God’s hand because He was secure in his knowledge that God is good, even when our circumstances are not. Job knew several things about God’s goodness: 1) that God is always and only kindly disposed toward those He loves; 2) that His purpose is always and only for the good for those He loves; 3) and that at times He allows tribulations to bring about those good purposes. God’s goodness is at the heart of Romans 8:28, “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.”

Even His lesser gifts, like our senses, display God's goodness
God’s goodness extends to and affects every part of our being. He has given us physical life and it is good. The simple delights He created within our physical make-up and in our world demonstrate His goodness. We enjoy the varied and satisfying flavors of the food we eat not only because God created the flavors, but also because He gave us the sense of taste to experience those flavors.
Our eyesight is yet another good gift. But God did not have to create beauty in nature for us to gaze happily upon. Roses did not have to be lovely in appearance and sweetly perfumed. God could rightfully have left us with only the thorns. After all, that is what we earned at the fall. He is incomprehensibly good to be so good as to not withhold these blessings for such ill-deserving creatures. Such benevolent gifts we may consider occasionally, but rarely do we give thanks, and most often we take them for granted.

Do we appreciate the music that God composes and puts within the breast of the nightingale or mocking bird? Such sweet songs from heaven, but we have our sound systems cranked up so loud that we can not hear them, or our complaining keeps their refrain from entering our ears.

Here, at my house, in the midst of asphalt, concrete, houses, autos, and noisy children there is a resident mocking bird. I am amazed when I hear him sing his repertoire of songs. In listening to him, rarely, if ever, do I hear the same melody twice. He has the good and God-given ability to imitate any other bird species (or even noise) that he hears but has no song of his own. It is my understanding that the mockingbird is capable of remembering hundreds of bird songs and singing any of them at will.

The highest of God's good gifts given
Why does he do this? Because God is good. It is one of the many myriads of delights He has pleasured us within our world. But these are the lesser gifts, for when He created mankind, God gave him the highest and most joyous of gifts – the ability to commune with his Maker. In my writing about God – discovering and noting His attributes on paper, and now in your reading of these – this is perhaps the greatest proof of His goodness. He lets us know Him. It is His highest and most ardent desire that men and women would know Him.

The highest of God's good gifts lost
But our knowledge of God was marred at the Garden; man’s communion with Him was lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed their only command. Even then, however, God’s goodness was seen: “The goodness of God is seen in that when man transgressed the law of His Creator a dispensation of unmixed wrath did not at once commence. Well might God have deprived His fallen creatures of every blessing, every comfort, every pleasure. Instead, He ushered in a regime of a mixed nature, of mercy and judgment. notwithstanding all the evils which attend our fallen state, the balance of good greatly preponderates. With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain.” (Pink, A.W. The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House,1957), p. 58-59.)

Immanuel restores God's highest good to us
But God, in His greatest display of goodness toward men and women, indifferent, defiant and ill-deserving as we were, (yet expecting, even demanding His blessings), provided a way for us to commune with Him once again. Immanuel, God with us came into the world, born of a woman to redeem us and return to us that greatest good that was relinquished by man in the Garden. Utmost, infinite goodness was displayed on the cross because reconciliation was secured for you and I. Adam's condemned race was changed for all time, never again to languish, helplessly separated from its Creator. What provision! What mercy! What unfathomable goodness!

Before the cross, Jesus told a rich young man that there is only One who is good (Matthew 19:17). He was referring to His Father and also to Himself, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…” (Col. 2:9). In Christ we discover all the inherent goodness of God. And that “One” who is good sacrificed Himself on the cross, securing my salvation so that I might experience His goodness. He took on all my sin, all my corruption. As a result, I can now know His goodness and even be considered as one who is good (righteous) in God’s eyes because I am “in” the Son of His love. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

His goodness should change us
How can we, now that we know of His inexpressible goodness toward us, ever live for ourselves again? Should not this change everything about us for His glory? May we be willing and ready to demonstrate our gratitude as we continue to partake of His infinite goodness, mercy and love.

With that in mind, it is time to shift gears again and peer into yet another theological study – soteriology – the doctrines of salvation but specifically, our union with Christ. This in the next Theology - Necessary Soul Food for the Good Woman post.

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