Savoring the Goodness of God

“Why do you call me good?” It is a compelling question; it’s what Jesus asked the rich young ruler who had addressed Him as, “good teacher.” Surely the eager seeker valued goodness, for he had embraced it, lived it, and now sought it still more. “Do not commit adultery.” Check. “Do not murder.” Check. “Do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother.” Check, check, and check. “But what must I do…?” he implored. Such a good boy! (And rich, no less!)

Jesus’ response began at “first things, first,” as getting to the real heart of a matter was His pattern (and, in fact, still is). “Why do you call me good?” He asked, adding, “No one is good except God alone.” The moment was fleeting—it came and went in the course of a mere breath—but the eternal truth spoken in one divine exhale echoes throughout time, for Jesus pointed all humankind to true goodness, a goodness so great that our own, by comparison, is like a candle flame that flickers briefly and brightly to our eyes, yet casts a slight shadow in the presence of a more brilliant and eternal glow.

We appreciate goodness when we see it lived out around us in acts of compassion, dependability, generosity, and all of its many forms. They shine as calm in a chaotic world, as hope in an unfair world, as care in a selfish world. Yet the highest accolade we can offer to those who often do good in action is that their actions point to the God who always is good by nature. Hasn’t He shown himself to be the Good Shepherd, not leaving us to our wanderings, but rather pursuing us in them? When we still insist on our wandering, don’t we find Him to be the one who watches over us, even as we bear the consequences of our rebellion against Him? Isn’t He the one who calls us to raise our sites above the worldly fray that pits neighbor against neighbor and to look to Him who would unite us all within Himself? Who else but God could place in our heart a compassion for those we once held in unforgiveness, so that we offer in humility the same grace that gently but surely humbled us? And who else speaks a word so powerfully that it heals our soul with a balm that our minds could never concoct?

We appreciate, admire, and applaud the goodness that springs forth from humanity, for it genuinely warms us, but the goodness of God wells up inside us and spills over into praise and worship of Him who is goodness itself. Jesus is this God who has come in the flesh and returned again to the heavens. And this question He asked during His brief span on earth burns in us still today, “Why do you call me good?” So, today, prioritize some time to stop, consider, and answer this for yourself: Why do I call God good? Think of the ways you have experienced His goodness. As you do, like King David, let thanks and praise pour forth from your heart to God’s, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

Click here to read today’s Scripture, Psalm 100.
Click here to read the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30.

Strength To Stand

There was a time and place when, if you were born a Hatfield or a McCoy, you were born into a battle. Conflict was inevitable. It wasn’t a matter of what you chose, but of who you were. We who are born into Christ join Him in battle, as well. His fight is not against countries, clans, or individuals, but against Satan and his underling spiritual forces of darkness. This “evil one” hates God and will use any means possible to deceive, tempt, accuse, and destroy God’s people forever. We know this by experience, don’t we?

With eternal consequences at stake, spiritual warfare demands spiritual strength. The problem is, on our own, we have none. “The spirit is willing,” Jesus warned, “but the flesh is weak.”1 Knowing this, the apostle Paul provided basic instructions for spiritual conflict, a regimen every bit as effective for us today as when he wrote them in his letter to the Ephesian church:

We guard our minds with salvation as though it were a helmet,
And who is our salvation but Christ?2

We fortify our hearts with righteousness as though it were a breastplate,
And who is our righteousness but Christ?3

We secure ourselves in truth as though it were a belt,
And who is truth itself but Christ?4

We equip our feet with the good news of peace,
And who is our peace but Christ?5

We trust the Word of God as though it were a sword, piercing to the truth of a matter,
And who is the Word of God but Christ?6

We stand behind faith as though it were a shield against all fear,
And in whom do we place our faith but Christ?

The armor we put on for strength is Christ! Nothing can overcome Him, for He is above “all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given.” No wonder our enemy flees when we resist him! He looks at us and sees the all-powerful One who covers us from head to toe.

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Lord Jesus be all of these things in me, and strengthen me to stand against all the forces of evil today. Amen.

1 Matthew 26:41 (NASB
2 Acts 4:12
3 1 Corinthians 1:30
4 John 14:6
5 Ephesians 2:14
6 John 1:14

Click here to read today’s Scripture in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Click here to order your copy of Christ in Me by Paul Nordman.

Phone-A-Friend

“I’d like to phone a friend, Regis.” Do you remember when “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” was a new, national phenomenon? “Phone-a-friend” was one of three “lifelines” a contestant could use when stumped or uncertain as to the answer to a question. (“Ask the audience” was the most reliable source of help it seemed, and “50:50” was the third option.)

Knowing his betrayal and crucifixion lay immediately before him, Jesus urged His disciples to throw out a lifeline: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” he told them, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). I’m guessing Jesus was praying the same thing for Himself, for Luke tells us, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43). Jesus prayed, and God provided—answered prayer. And aren’t we glad! Just think of the eternal ripple effects of Jesus’ fortification against temptation that history-hinging night. His sacrificial submission to the Father—“yet not my will, but yours be done”—means life to all who will receive the true life found only in Him.

Praying for strength against temptation is something we do, but probably not as often as we should. I’m not sure why, because it’s not all that difficult. It can be as simple as a sincere, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What counts is not how flowery our petitions, but how trustworthy God’s promises and how reliable His power. Promises like, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Or power, as in, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

How easy it is to fall into temptation, yet how important not to. So, we “watch and pray”—we “phone a Friend”—for He is our lifeline. A million times over, He is our lifeline. Aren’t we glad!

Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil, today. Provide me a way to stand firm, resisting the evil one until he leaves. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Luke 22:39-46.]