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Can Anyone Achieve Goodness?

A Fruit of the Spirit Bible Study

Can Anyone Achieve Goodness?

August 3, 2020 Save Article


Some people think the good life is feeling good, some think it’s looking good, some think it’s accumulating goods—all the goods you can. Or it’s having enough money and power to do whatever you want. But something’s lacking. “Good” is a moral calculation. You can’t achieve “goodness” without God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find. (Romans 7:18)

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)


What is goodness? Real goodness grows out of a moral decision. It is to be good, and therefore to do good. The Bible describes the life of Jesus this way: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good…" (Acts 10:38).

Micah 6:8 captures the definition of goodness in a single verse: "He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit that flows from us as we yield our lives to Jesus Christ.


The Purpose of Goodness

Why should we be good? When we look around, we see those who get ahead and prosper—at least outwardly—are anything but good. They compromise values and morals. Businessmen have told me, “I’d like to run my business the right way, but the big bucks are made by the guys who don't.” Following godly principles cramps their style. The most-admired celebrities and politicians are those who take a stand opposing God’s Word.

First, let’s look at three major reasons for “being good”—allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of goodness in your life. Each reason benefits you.

An Inward Reason
You will never have inner peace and tranquility until you have inner goodness. We know ourselves. We can deceive others but not ourselves. Being able to look yourself in the eye is what the Bible calls “a good conscience.”

  1. Do you have one? We can find out. Paul testified before the Jewish leaders:

Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day…. (Acts 23:1)
This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. (Acts 24:16)

  1. Do you diligently strive to have a conscience free of offense toward God and your fellow man?

Another description: A good conscience is that inner freedom of spirit and assurance, knowing you are transparent toward everyone. No one can accuse you of wrongs toward them that you've not made right.

It’s knowing that if people knew you as you know yourself, they would still respect you. A good conscience will do for you something a sleeping pill can’t do. When you come under attack from Satan or the world, you can say, “I’ve lived with a good conscience.”

  1. Are you transparent like that, having no accusation pointed against you? Or is there someone you need to reach out to and in humility resolve a conflict?
  2. Ask God how you can best settle it. Then write down how you will go about it.

A clear conscience liberates. It removes fear. A guilty one causes fear. That’s why Adam and Eve hid fearfully from God after they transgressed His command. Sometimes people won’t come to church or read their Bible for the same reason. Rather than come asking forgiveness, they choose to hide out. Your conscience is an inner judge telling you you’ve done wrong. It can’t make you do what’s right—it just reveals what’s wrong.

An Outward Reason
Our lives influence others. Paul said he didn’t want to do anything that would cause someone else to stumble and fall (1 Corinthians 8:13). Each time I hear of another prominent Christian who has been publicly exposed in moral failure, it causes me anguish. How many people, seeing that, lose faith? When a giant oak falls in the forest, it pulls down all kinds of saplings and other trees with it. What a tragedy. I would rather die five minutes before I would disgrace the cause of Jesus.

Other people are looking on. No one lives to himself and no one dies to himself. You are the best—or worst—Christian someone knows. You're the only Bible they’re reading. Worse than being in Hell to me would be to know that not only did I go to Hell, but I took others—my loved ones, my children, other friends—with me.

An Upward Reason
There is a God in the glory who is looking down. What joy to know there’s no offense you need to confess. At times I get backslidden. I find my heart has grown cold when things I do for the Lord Jesus take the place of the Lord Jesus. When I find myself caring about these things more than my Savior, I have to get alone by myself, down on my face before God, and give God everything—health, family, reputation—and say, “Dear God, if there's something I haven't surrendered, I want You to show it to me.” I sign a blank piece of paper saying, “It's Yours, Lord. Fill it in. Whatever it is, O God, I give it all to you.” I can tell you, at those times God's light floods my body.

It’s more important to be good than to be great. In fact, if you're not good, you're not great, I don't care how much money you have or what you’ve achieved.

  1. How can we have inner “goodness” when Romans 3:12 says there is none righteous, no, not one”?
  2. What role does the Holy Spirit play in this?
  3. What is our part in this?

The Problem with Goodness

Not to all self-righteous people: frankly, we're not good. Not one. 

There is none who does good, no, not one... (Romans 3:12)

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find. (Romans 7:18)

We’re not born good, nor can we find on our own how to act good. You may be thinking, “That can’t be true. There must be some of us who are innately good. I bet Mother Theresa was born good.” Not so. Every mother’s child is born with a fallen nature. We know that because:

The Bible teaches it. Look again at Romans 3:12.

History proves it. Just look around. Read the newspapers. Do you have children? That alone should convince you “there is none good, no, not one.” Did you have to teach your children to lie? No, they just lie by nature. We all do. Psalm 58:3 says, You don’t have to teach toddlers to be selfish. You have to teach them not to be selfish. You don't have to teach them to get their way even if it means being hurtful. Instead, you have to say, “Don't hurt, don't bite, don't take that from your sister, don’t throw that toy.” Proverbs 22:15 tells us, Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”

Personal experience confirms it. So, we decide we're going to be good. But we can no more will ourselves to be good and then be good than we can will ourselves to change the color of our skin, or a leopard can change his spots. The problem is within us. We know there's a problem of wickedness in our lives by our own daily personal experience.

  1. We’ve all come face to face with our own wickedness. When you’ve seen it, how did you handle it?
  2. See 1 John 1:9. What is the way out God makes available to deal with it and get it behind us?
  3. Turn to Psalm 51. What did David do to make things right with God?

So, what are we to do when faced with our own wickedness, yet we’re to bear the fruit of goodness? I’m glad you asked. We’re about to see that God would never tell us to do something without providing the way to do it.

The Pathway to Goodness

Open your Bible to Romans 7:18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” What the Bible calls “the flesh” is that old Adamic nature. He continues, For to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find.

Paul says, “Hey, I want to do good. But how to do it, I don't know.” He continues in the next verse, For the good that I will to do, I do not do.

  1. Have you been there? You’ve said “I'm going to do this,” made a promise to do so, then fallen through? How did that feel?
  2. Have you come to the place where you’ve admitted, “Inherently in me, in my flesh, nothing good dwells”? What brought you to that point?

We’ve all experienced “to will is present with me; but how to perform what is good, I do not find.” Continuing in verses 19-23,

But the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

You want to do good. You say “I'll never do that again”—then you do it. You say, “I will always do this good thing”—and you don't. You don’t know how to do what you want to do. We find a principle, a law, that when we would do good, evil is present within us.

Goodness is the fruit of the Spirit that will enable you to be transparent and have a conscience void of offense toward God and others.

Romans chapter 7 is important to show you how the fruit of the Spirit will work in your life. Verses 17-24 show the progression in Paul’s walk with the Lord.

Verse 17Paul’s desire: Goodness. The apostle says, “The real me, the true nature I have that’s been born from above, doesn't want to do these bad things. But there's something in me that's ugly and awful. It's sin. And that sin dwells in me.”

Verse 18Paul’s determination: to do good. For to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find.Paul still hasn’t given up. He’s determined.

Verse 22Paul’s delight: God’s law. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. In his innermost nature, Paul had been born again. He loved God and wanted to serve Him.

But he hadn’t discovered the way of victory.

  1. In Romans 7, look at every time Paul uses the personal pronoun to refer to himself: I, me, or my. See how often this happens.
  2. Now look for the word “law” and count how many times you find it used in verses 7 through 24. He doesn't mention Jesus or the Holy Spirit a single time.

What Paul is describing is that he knew the Law of God, then he got saved, and like so many Christians, he thought, “Now that I'm saved, I'm going to keep God's commandments and live for God. I'm going to be a good man.”

  1. Do you remember how you felt when you first got saved? If possible write a brief description of those feelings.

You may have thought, “Now that I'm saved, it’ll be so easy never to sin again.” Then you sin. You pray, “That was a mistake. God, I won't do it again.” You promise, you fail again. You get clean again, then you fail again. The devil says, “You probably weren't saved at all.” Or “There is no God.” Or “What they're preaching in the Bible isn’t true. There’s no victory for people, especially you. Why are you going back down to that church? Why don't you stay out of church and think it over for a while?”

Just like that, Satan has you backsliding.
You had desire, but that wasn’t enough.
You had determination, but that wasn’t enough.
Now you need to come to the place Paul came to, and that was…

Verse 24. Paul’s despair. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” When Paul’s desire and determination failed, it led to despair. But Romans doesn’t stop with chapter 7. We’re headed for the victory of chapter 8.

If only all of us would quickly come to the same place where we realize we can’t do it and raise our hands in that same cry of surrender: “Oh, wretched person that I am, who will deliver me?” God wants to bring you to surrender, then into Romans 8 and victory.

We think we’re too weak, but really, we’re too strong. We continue struggling, rather than trusting. But Paul came to the place where he said, “Who shall deliver me?” not “What shall deliver me.” He'd been trying “what” for long enough. Now he’s crying out for “Who.” The next verse provides the answer.

Verse 25
. Paul’s deliverance: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He learned goodness was not a work of the flesh (“In my flesh dwells no good thing”). Goodness is the fruit of the Spirit.

From the darkness of chapter 7 to the light of chapter 8: God provides the victory in Romans 8. Two phrases are used over and over: “The Spirit” and “Christ Jesus.” “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

Read Romans 8, and as you go, make note each time you see “Spirit” and “Jesus Christ.”

When you get saved, your flesh is still there. The Law of Sin and Death isn’t canceled. But there's a new, greater law: the Law of Life in Christ Jesus, and it supersedes and overpowers the Law of Sin and Death. It doesn't cancel the law. As long as you abide in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus sets you free from the Law of Sin and Death.

We’d love to be free from sin and eradicate our old nature, but as long as we’re here on earth, God will never allow it. Why? We would become complacent. It's imperative that we abide in the Lord Jesus Christ. He'll never give you an experience you could rest in. He gives you a relationship you can abide in. Abide in that relationship.

If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, that experience can help you understand how abiding in Christ works: You step onto a plane weighing thousands of pounds. The Law of Gravity has it pinned firmly to the ground. But the pilot pulls back on the throttle, engines roar, and the Law of Aerodynamic takes over. As long as you abide in the plane, you’re free from the Law of Gravity, protected by the Law of Aerodynamics. But step out of that plane in midair, and you’ll fall to earth like a stone. When you come to Christ, the Law of Life in Christ takes over from the Law of Sin and Death.

As you abide in Christ, the Law of Life in Christ transcends the Law of Sin and Death. That’s why it’s so important that we abide in the vine, Jesus (John 15:5), just as you abide inside that airplane.

Paul said, “I’ve tried and I can't live above it on my own, but the law of the Spirit of life in Christ makes me free from the Law of Sin and Death.”

He also wrote, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God gives you the desire, but you must abide in the Lord Jesus Christ to be a good man, a good woman, filled with the Holy Spirit. If you're not filled with the Spirit, you won't be full of goodness. 

  1. Have you tried and tried to be good? Describe your last attempt.
  2. According to John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Romans 7:25 and 8:2, what is the answer that will end your continued frustration?

Quit trying and start trusting. The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. You don't produce this fruit. You bear it. He produces it as you abide in Jesus.


Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.

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