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Jack Graham - The Goodness of God

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    Jack Graham - The Goodness of God
TOPICS: LifeWorks, Goodness, God's Love

There was a group of students and scholars who were discussing, even debating the nature of God, and specifically Christianity. And the question on the table was: What separates Christianity from all the world religions? And in the midst of the discussion, and there was some debate, regarding what separates Christianity if anything. And in walked the great C. S. Lewis, a great man of God; came to faith in Christ later on in his life as an English professor at Oxford, and he was asked the same questions. "Doc, what is the one thing that separates Christianity from all the religions in the world"? He said, "That's an easy question: grace".

The goodness of God expressed in His gift to us, His grace. This is why we celebrate Jesus Christ who has given us the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal life. James reflects on this in verse 17 when he says: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he has brought us forth (that is, we have been born again) by the word of God, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures".

Don't let anyone lie to you; don't lie to yourself; don't allow Satan or the world to deceive you about God. God is good! And He is good all the time and all the time He is good. God is a Father, your Father in Jesus Christ, and you are His beloved child. He loves you with an everlasting love. He can't get over you! He's committed to you unreservedly and eternally. He is faithful and He is true. God is good! And He's good in who He is and He is good in all that He does! He is good inherently, personally; He is good morally, no flaw in God Himself; He is perfect; He is pure; He is holy; He is righteous. And He has given us these good gifts of His goodness in our lives.

You say, "Well, I'm not good". No, that's the point. God is good. You say, "I don't deserve this goodness". Absolutely not, but God is good! And He has chosen to set His heart, His affection upon you. The Scripture says here "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father". Good things don't come from below. Good things come from above. That'd be a good place for an Amen. Are you with me? Good things are from above. It's like the rain coming down. It's like a powerful cascade of His grace; grace like rain coming down. So we are not left to the cruel hand of fate, or the fortuitous conjunction of circumstance in our lives. We are in the grip of God our Father! And therefore, when James talks about trials, when we experience trials and we wonder if God is good then why this? If God is good how could this happen?

We know that God is good in spite of anything that goes on in our lives because we are in His grip. And even trials and sufferings redound to His glory because they're all either allowed or permitted by the hand of the providential God. There are no accidents with God, but by His hand we are blessed. There are three truths that James wants us to know. Because God is good there are three truths that are true. True truths! Number one, God does not change! Look again in James chapter 1, and verse 17: "Every good and perfect gift is a gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights", that's a reference to God the Creator. The Hebrews and the Hebrew scriptures often refer to God as the Creator of the lights, the sun, the moon, the stars, the God of all creation "with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change".

God is good because He is unchangeable. He cannot change! It is impossible for God to change! He can't get better; He can't get worse. He is altogether always good and always God! Theologians call this the (here's a big word for you) immutability of God. God is immutable! He is unchanging! Malachi chapter 3 and verse 6 says it this way, God speaking, "For I the Lord do not change, therefore you O children of Jacob (that is Israel) you're not consumed". It is because God does not change that we are secured and kept by His hand. Concerning Jesus, one of my favorite, Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever"! Everything in the world around us is changing. The world itself, I'm talking about the globe, the cosmos, it's all changing. Everything is revolving, everything is turning, everything is progressing.

Society and culture is in a rapid descent of change. Technology, transportation. Can you imagine the amount of change that a person, let's say, ninety years of age has seen in a lifetime? Just in the last century. It's incredible! Everything around is us changing. It's shifting. Culture is in a major shift at this point, and it's not good typically. We're changing. We're aging. I was looking at my hand the other day and I said, "Oh! That's my father's hand"! You look in the mirror and if you doubt you're changing, just stay there a little longer than necessary. Aging! It's a fact of life! But God doesn't age. Don't get the idea that "Oh, God's older now. Can't do what He used to do. Sleeps in a little later. Not as powerful as He used to be". No! Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever! He is unchangeable! God can do anything but fail! He does and He will!

So when James tells us that He, God our Father, is the Father of lights it's a reference to the sunshine. Sure as the world the sun's going to come up every day! You may not always see it behind some clouds but in the rotation of our cosmos there's never been a sunset without a sunrise. Never. The sun will come out tomorrow. (Somebody ought to write a song like that.) I'm tempted to sing it but I'll spare you. The sun is coming up. Tonight if you're in a good place look up at the stars in the heavens; the stars are in their courses, they are numbered by God and named by God. They're in their rightful place. The stars and the heavens declare God's glory and God's goodness. God is light. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world". He never changes. He never fails; He never gives up.

You say, "Wait a minute, Jack, life is very hard for me right now. Even seems unfair, right"? Seen those little decals and bumper stickers and even a clothing line, I think, that says, "Life is good". Well, there's a lot of good things in life, but there's a lot of bad things that happen in life. Right? Life can be hard, unfair, but God is good. If I could give you the best piece of counsel, pastoral, biblical counsel I could give you in the midst of the trial, a storm, a struggle, a test it would be this: God is good. Never, ever doubt the goodness of God in your life. Never! He doesn't change. He's a Father who doesn't change. I know some of you have had fathers, dads who broke promises, and they did change.

Dads, let me remind you that to love your family, to love your wife, to love your children, is the very best thing you can do for your children. Some fathers changed and broke their promises, but God never does. And in a world filled with so much change, when our heads are spinning, we can stand on the Rock, the One who never changes, who is steadfast and immovable. We can run to Him for refuge! Our strong and good Father! Everything in your life can be stable when everything else is spinning around. You've got vertigo going on in your life; it's spinning all around you! Stand on the Rock! Stand on the faithfulness of God! When you're tempted, when all hell seems to be breaking against your life, 1 Corinthians 10:13: "We've all been tempted in every way but (what?) God is faithful and will provide for you a way of escape", a way out if you will walk with Him. He'll walk you right out and right through every temptation. God is good. Great is Thy faithfulness.

Alright, number two, what you have God has given. He has given everything you have. I want you to remember what you have in Christ. Just a little bit. Think about it! And think, the entomology of the word think is very close to thank in our English language. When you think about it, you'll thank God. But I want you to thank God for what you have. "Every good and perfect gift," James says, "comes from above"! Start with salvation and eternal life. Begin with forgiveness of all of our sins. Thank God for His grace and His mercy which endures forever. How long has it been since you've thanked God for His Bible, for His Word of truth to each one of us? Every blessing poured out upon our lives, material, physical and spiritual: that gift of your family, the gift of your friends, the gift of your church, the gift of this fellowship, the gift of creation!

When you see a sunrise or you marvel at a sunset or you stand amazed at a majestic sea or a mammoth mountain, and you see the handiwork of God, you know that the goodness of God is expressed and poured out. God has given us good gifts, These are all gifts from God. One of the lies of Satan, or one of the lies we tell ourselves is "I did this! I earned this! I made this! I built this"! No, God gave this. Everything we have. When David, the great King of Israel was giving and receiving an offering for the building of the temple and he was asking the people to give generously. And you know how he motivated people to give? We pastors and leaders are always asking ourselves how can we properly motivate people to believe God's Word and to give generously? And you know how David did it?

In 1 Chronicles 29 in an incredible speech about the greatness and the goodness of God, he says, "For all things come from You and of Your own hand we have given You". He said, "After all, God, everything we have it comes from You, and You only"! And so when we give our tithes, when we give our offerings, we're only returning to the Lord what He has given to us. And you can't out-give God because as you know, when you give, God gives and gives again. He gives in order that you may give some more. He blesses in order that you may be a blessing. But it's all from Him! How dare we hold on to something that doesn't belong to us to begin with! It all belongs to God! And He is generous. James told us that earlier when we were asking for wisdom, ask of God who givens generously, He gives lavishly.

Jesus talked about this in one of His parables in Luke chapter 11. He said "If a son asks for bread from a father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, would he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asked for an egg will he offer a scorpion"? Jesus speaking hyperbole here. He says, "Can you imagine a caring, earthly father not giving good gifts to his children when they ask"? And we are erring and earthly fathers and mothers. But He is an unerring heavenly Father, and when we ask for His good gifts He gives them freely. Psalms 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord. He will give you the desires of your heart".

Everything you have comes from God. Think about it. Trust Him with all of these gifts, and thank Him for what He has done. Psalms 106:1, "Praise the Lord"! We ought not to be walking around like question marks, but like exclamation points! "Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever". The psalmist again and again says, "Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever". God is good! So remember those good things, and oh, by the way, expect good things from God! Expect God to give you everything in Jesus Christ that you need for your pleasure, for your life, for your satisfaction.

Remember, we taught you when it comes to temptation the reason that people yield or give in to temptation is because they're not finding their pleasure, their satisfaction in Jesus. Every desire that you have, God has a way of meeting your need, fulfilling your desires in His way. Sin is fulfilling a God given desire in a God forbidden way. But God delights to give good things to His children. Psalms 84:11, I quote it all the time, "The Lord our God is a sun and a shield; He gives grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly". Stop limiting God by saying things like, "Well, you know, I don't know if God can do that or wants to do that in my life. I have so much already. I don't need to ask for more". That runs counter-clockwise to the Word of God. God says, "Ask, seek, find"! God wants to pour out good things in your life! He wants to lavish you with His blessings and His favor upon your life.

One last thing: The greatest gift is Jesus. When the Scripture says, as James tells us here, that all these good things, every gift comes down from above, God Himself stepped out of eternity and in Christ came down from above. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that anyone who believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life". The greatest gift is Jesus! And all that He brings, because of His cross. If you ever doubt the goodness of God, look at the cross, remember the cross.

See Jesus on the cross, paying the penalty, the price for you sin. A price that we could never have paid ourselves, because "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". The greatest gift is Jesus! Eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, abundant life here and now! James says that we are born again, (verse 18) "of this living word of God, this word of truth and have become the first fruit of God's creation". You know what that means? The first fruits?

Go back in ancient Hebrew history, go back in your Bible and you'll remember, you'll see that the first fruits were the offerings that people brought from the land, whether fruits or vegetables or birds or livestock, lambs. And what was the command regarding the stuff you were supposed to bring as an offering? Was it to go find some lope-eared, broke back lamb who was going to die anyway, and bring it to God? No. Go get the best of the flock, go get the most precious one and bring it to me, the first fruits. When we tithe we don't give at the end of the month but the first of the month. In other words we give off the top, not off the bottom. Not the leftovers. Really? We're going to bring God our leftovers? It's always the principle of first things first.

Seek His kingdom first; bring the first fruits to Him. But here's the point. James said you are the first fruits of creation which means you're God's best. You're God's darling. You're the first, not the angels, not creation itself in all of its grandeur! But you, dear child of God! You belong to Him! He has given us the greatest gift. We have family. We have life. We are saved. That's who my God is! That's what separates Jesus and the Gospel and Christian faith from everything else in the world. God is good. He is holy. He is good. He is righteous. But God is good. No wonder we can consider it all joy when trials and suffering come our way. No wonder we can overcome and live in victory when temptations of all kinds come against us. No wonder we want to tell the world who our God is! That He is good and His mercy endures forever.
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