We live in the middle of an epic battle of “Good vs. Evil.” Even secular culture acknowledges this struggle. While the world does not call us to be “evil,” the world definitely tries to sell us a cheap imitation of “goodness” and invites us to conform to a nominal Christianity that is really no Christianity at all. However, God calls us to be filled with the Spirit and to live in goodness. God calls us to be good and to do good in His Name and His Glory. This can only come when we are planted deep in Christ and growing in our relationship with Him. The great news is – good wins! In the end, God triumphs over evil, and those who are in Christ will experience His goodness forever!
Are People Born Good?
Before we think too much about what goodness is, we need to understand the difference between “goodness” and “kindness.” The late theologian and Bible scholar, John Stott, notably pointed out that the nine characteristics of the fruit of the spirit can be placed in groups of three:
- Love, joy, and peace involve our attitude toward God.
- Patience, kindness, and goodness involve our attitude toward others.
- Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control involve our attitude toward ourselves.
While they’re both fruit of the Spirit, one might say that kindness is outward while goodness is inward. Now, you might be upset to hear that someone thinks you aren’t kind, or that you’re not very patient. But if someone thought that you’re just not good, wouldn’t that feel particularly personal?
Goodness is a trait that truly feels inherent to who we are — not just what we do. It feels like a description of who, at our essence, we are. It’s a mark of which side we’re on, and which direction our intentions and actions are taking us.
But it’s hard to assess whether we’re good without knowing how we all start out in this life. Are we born good, or are we born in sin? Well, we know from the events in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were created without the knowledge of good and evil. But once they ate from the forbidden fruit, everything changed. This was the fall of humanity. Ever since then, we’ve all been born into a sinful nature.
So, while some of us may be “more good” than others, none of us are perfect. Compared to God, no one is good. Paul makes this clear in Romans 3:10-12.
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
How Can We Become Good?
So, knowing that we’re born in sin, what hope do we have to grow in goodness? Our good news, as usual, comes from the Gospel. By the grace of God, we are saved through the death of Jesus. Because of Him, we are justified. We are forgiven of our sins, and set free to pursue Christlikeness. We don’t do good works in order to be saved; we are powered by grace to do good works because we’ve been saved.
We may not be born good, but we are born loved. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us that, as we have encountered the love of Jesus, we were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. Instead, Paul writes that we are to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
It is through our relationship with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, that we are able to step out of our sinful nature and walk instead with the Spirit. There are practical steps we can take to move forward from our old ways and seek goodness.
One incredibly important step to take is to be wary of what we are watching, listening to, and reading. We should not underestimate the power of the content we consume to impact our perception of the world around us, as well as our perception of spiritual matters.
Do your favorite songs and television shows encourage you toward goodness? Or do they glorify violent acts, the works of the flesh, and an unhealthy fascination with evil and darkness? We should always be considering how the things we take into our minds will mold our minds over time. We need to spend more time focusing on things which support and build our faiths and our love of what is good.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8
A second important step is to live in step with the Holy Spirit. When we are doing something sinful, we should listen for the conviction of the Holy Spirit in us, guiding us back on track. He will guide us, comfort us, and convict us throughout our lives, and the most important thing we can do is listen and act in obedience to Him. Rather than primarily relying on our own reason or knowledge, we should live in obedience to His presence.