Updated: Aug 16, 2019
[4 Ground Rules for Goodness]
Definition: Goodness (GRK) Agathosune - Personal quality of inner goodness, Spiritual or moral excellence, given by God.
What makes someone a good person?
This question is one that prompts our souls to look inward and define the way we perceive our purpose and purity. For many, goodness is defined by the practice of a set of moral values. This form of the gospel of goodness rests solely on one's own ability to follow the moral law. Some attend church, connecting with others through charity and community service, while others focus on family and feeding the needy. But do these outward actions truly reflect one's inward goodness?
I Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
This story of scripture is one that has changed my heart. For so long, I worked for my worth and felt pressured to produce a level of perfectionism, all the while God was wanting one thing, My heart.
You see, if I was good in and of myself, I would not need Jesus.
If I could somehow gain my goodness through work and will power, I would not think to consider Christianity.
If I was able to exceed the expectations of society, my social circles, and even complete strangers, there would be no need for God’s grace.
It is here in the reality of what God values I come to the end of me. I cannot create a clean heart, a perfected soul, and moral motivations. Something is missing, its not innately in me.
If there is one thing I have learned about my heart, it is that without Jesus, it is so very far from good.
The love that I feel,
The joy I express,
The peace I have found,
The patience I seek to practice,
Are forever dependent on the goodness that God works within me.
Philippians 2:13 reminds us that, "it is God who works in you to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose."
I believe that this gift of goodness is the key to grasping the very heart of God.
Friend, if there is one thing we can agree on it is that we all have "not so good days". With all the greatest intentions, I am easily put out of place when my day is disrupted by unexpected challenges or careless conflicts. Although often masked beneath a smile and a soft reply, my heart’s internal battle wages on. I know what is right, good, honorable, so why does my heart at times defend my pride, my pain, or my desire for pleasure?
This is what counselors might call cognitive dissonance, which defines the discomfort one experiences in light of two or more contradicting beliefs, values, or ideas. This internal battle of the heart is encapsulated in our minds, our wills, and our souls. Jeremiah refers to this battle when he says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17)
We can work so hard for the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, yet without the goodness of God at work in our hearts, we are simply spreading white frosting on a burnt cake.
It is with this picture, I am challenged to find my soul’s source of sweetness in nothing but my Savior!
Psalm 119: 9 explores a question related to pursuing pureness and its following verses allow us to explore the position of our hearts and the several ground rules for growing the goodness that only God offers.
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.” V.9
Here in this first verse, David poses the question we all are asking, How do we gain goodness? Deep down, heart open, blameless and pure kind of good. David follows this question with a simple answer: By entrusting our souls to God. David expounds on this foundation of flourishing in the following 7 verses, focusing on 4 ground rules for growing goodness that are accessible to us through God’s good grace!
1. Give God Your Whole Heart
“With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!” v.10
This analogy implies that goodness is found in one’s wholehearted pursuit of God himself. David willingly exchanged his will and way of doing life to seek after God.
David had come to a place where He acknowledged his limited ability to lead his own life. In Psalm 51:10 he prays,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Oh, how I have tried to create a pure heart through the perfectionism of pride, unwilling to give up the parts of my heart that needed the most attention and affection. Much like the rich young ruler, I feel we often are reluctant to give up everything we have to fully follow Christ.
Are you in a similar place? Maybe you know God and even serve Him yet seldom seek Him fully for your soul’s sake. Friend, I have learned that the Lord is not asking for our service or smiles, He is seeking to fill our thirsty souls. Let us daily seek to surrender our sin, our struggles, our shame, our self-sufficiency and pursue our Savior of grace.
2. Memorize God’s Message
“I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.”v.11
What we put into our minds, our hearts and our souls eventually comes out in our actions, our words, and our way of life. David knew this too and utilized truth as the till for His heart’s soil.
Romans 12:1-2 reminds of this important step in sanctifying our spirit saying,
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
You see, our desires determine our direction. As we daily spend time in the Word, renewing our minds in the Gospel, our motivations are molded by its message.
Jesus explains this concept in Luke 6:43-45 saying,
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit... A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
What kind of fruit are you producing? I am often reminded by the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8 to think upon whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, excellence, and worthy of praise..
Let us replace the worthless words of the world and be transformed by God's
message of grace and forgiveness.
3. Worship God with Words
“Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” v.12-14
Have you ever been so excited about something that you wanted to tell anyone who would listen to you? Me too, and I somehow picture David this way as he spoke these words in the verses above.
Do we worship like David did or do we confine our praise to Sunday morning services and Wednesday night small groups?
Worshiping with our words is what Paul defines as the boldness to proclaim the gospel. He says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,..”
Peter also writes about words of worship saying,
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,... (1 Peter 3:15)
I want to worship in this way! Sharing the sweetness of my Savior and singing of His sacrifice that saved my soul!
4. Focus on the Father
“I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.” v.15-16
Have you ever thought about your thoughts? This is what counselors call Metacognition. It is simply the act of bringing awareness to one’s thought process. By bringing our attention to the themes of our thinking, we can learn how to redirect our thoughts and focus our minds more fully.
I will be the first to admit that spiritual practices such as meditative prayer and silence are still challenging for me at times. I am learning that I must daily determine to ground my intentions in giving God my full attention.
I love David’s prayer in Psalm 139: 23-24 which says,
"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
May this be our prayer as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith!
Friend, I don’t know where you find yourself on your journey to growing goodness, but if there is one thing I do know, we all need Jesus each and every new day. I am praying that we continue to take hold of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in our lives and learn to walk wholeheartedly into the goodness God offers us!