Full of goodness
Full of goodness. Rom. 15:14
A person who claims to be a Christian and yet who is without goodness is like the person described in Jude 12-13: “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late summer, twice dead, uprooted.” They have all the appearances of being made of the right stuff – but they are clouds that give no rain, and trees that give no fruit. They are useless and dead. In the same way, a professing Christian who is not cultivating character is worthless and useless. In fact, it’s worse than that – they are dangerous, like hidden reefs that will sink ships and lead to the loss of life and cargo.
What are we to aim at? Notice how the apostle puts it: “full of goodness.” It does not, of course, imply perfection, but spiritual maturity. This is what we are aiming at. Maturity is so important, and it is to our great disadvantage when we fail to reach for it. I mean, look at all the problems that go along with immaturity, with people who remain like spiritual babies, by looking at the problems in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 3:1). I know there were a lot of reasons behind the problems of that church but the fact that they were still like “infants in Christ” was surely a big part of the problem. Even with all their gifts and knowledge, they failed to improve upon it – and look at the results!
Spiritual maturity means that we will be growing in all the graces, not just one or two. It means balance and you don’t get that by majoring in one or two spiritual disciplines. It means that we will be striving to grow in humility, faith, love, patience, and so on. There will be both breadth and depth. We need both if we are going to be mature.
Mature Christians are the best witnesses for Christ. There is an attractiveness to mature Christianity, like the flower in full bloom. On the other hand, there is a great unattractiveness in immature Christians. It is like the man in a movie I saw once who only exercised one of his arms – one looked like it belonged to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other looked like, well, one of my arms! It was, frankly, hard for me to look at. And it was the imbalance that made it look so awful. In the same way, when you have a believer who has a lot of Biblical knowledge and yet who is impatient with folks – this is unbecoming and will inevitably turn people away from the Lord and his truth. Or when someone is devoted to a consistent devotional life and yet does not pursue humility – it will lead to an arrogant and Pharisaical attitude that will inevitably turn people off of the truth.
But the effect upon ourselves is a good reason in itself to become this kind of person. For the mature Christian is the Christian who is full of the fruits of the Spirit, things like joy and peace and long-suffering and gentleness and goodness and faithfulness and meekness. And it will lead to a fruitful and satisfied life in the service of the Lord.
It should be said that the Lord Jesus is the goal of goodness. We want to be like the Lord, not in order to gain his favor, but because out of sheer grace and mercy he has made us his own. We love him because he first loved us and it makes us want to be like him. It is what it means to be a Christian – to be like Christ. It is God’s plan for us (Rom. 8:29).