Recap of sermon by Phil Camden, former Senior Pastor of Church 180 in Newcastle, Australia – “Living The Good Life”
Society says that doing good is simply not doing bad. The problem with that line of thinking, especially for Christians, is that we can get so focused on abstaining from all things bad, that we miss the call to do all things good. The consequences would then be that Christians become tainted with all the “don’ts” versus all the “do’s.” People begin to say things like, “Christians don’t have a life, they don’t do this, they don’t do that, and they would never do that!” And that’s okay, I guess, since there are certain things that we shouldn’t do anyway, but wouldn’t it be better for Christians to be known for all the good things that we do?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Paul says that we should not do harm to one another (or pay back wrong for wrong), and that we “must strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” While it’s true that he is giving us a command to not do something, he is also giving us a non-passive command to actively follow God’s call to do good. Doing good should therefore be the hallmark of every Christian.
The question still remains though, since different groups and cultures interpret the meaning of “doing good” in different ways: “What does doing good look like from a Christian perspective?” One way to answer that is to consider some of the theories of past philosophers, which by the way, are still widely accepted:
- Good is the experience of pleasure and the eradication of pain – in other words, anything that causes pain is bad, and the best solution therefore is to get rid of the pain. But Jesus taught that in order to experience real goodness, there must at times, be pain. He encourages us to try and endure the hard times, rather than flee from them.
- Good is the acquisition of knowledge and the eradication of ignorance – the gnostics especially, believed that if you were full of knowledge, you were good. This philosophy suggests however that we should assume that our educators are always right about what is good. It also assumes that if we’re taught what is good, then we’ll do what is good. You just need to observe the interactions of parents and young kids to know that that is not always true.
- Good is the greatest benefit for the greatest number; the majority rules – this has to be false too, otherwise we would not have seen wars in which minority groups have been persecuted, all because the majority groups have been led to believe that they are superior.
- Good is having goods – it’s true; some actually believe that the wealthy must be wealthy because they have been blessed for their goodness. Jesus said however that we should not “serve up” to people just because they possess wealth or carry a title. Neither of those things are absolute indicators that a person is good; God looks at the heart of a person, not at what he or she owns. We too, must learn to see with the eyes of God, and not judge with the eyes of man.
- Man on his own can choose what is good for himself – this is a prevalent belief, encouraged by self-help and psychology books that teach that we are all born good, but with the potential to be negatively influenced by bad experiences. The Bible says however, “No, you were not born good, you were born with sin in your hearts! Sin that pervades the very core of your beings.” Paul the apostle, addresses our sinful natures, and says, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out……the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…….Who will rescue me……..Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:18-25). We cannot, on our own, do good; the sin that we were born with will always influence our decisions, no matter hard we try.
To demonstrate the power of innate sin, Pastor Camden described a radio interview in which he heard the announcer speaking to Dick Smith, owner of Dick Smith Electronics. The interview took place just after Smith had sold his company, and the announcer was praising him for donating $2 million to the Salvation Army. Smith replied with the following, “You may think it is a generous gesture, but truthfully, I did it so that I could feel good about the rest of the millions in my bank account.” How is that for honesty? Pastor Camden’s point, was that no matter how good we want to be, sin is always at the root of our actions.
So that leaves us with a dilemma: If man is not born good, but is responsible to choose to do good, and if he has no power to be good, yet he must be good, then what’s the solution? The only solution is God.
Jesus explains; “No one is good,” He says, “except God the Father.” On one occasion, as He was leaving a group of children who had gathered around Him, a man ran up to Him, fell before Him, and said, “Good Teacher – what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone.” Jesus was not denying His divinity; He was implying that if the man called Him good, then the man obviously recognized that there was something about Him that was Godly, since all goodness comes from God.
So, if God is the only one who is truly good, then the only way we can acquire some of His goodness, is to be connected to Him. And the only way to be connected to Him is by becoming born-again Christians, baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit and marked with His seal; we then become a part of the temple of the living God, able to do good because God’s spirit and nature now lives within us.