Every few years we walk our youth through the qualities that Peter encourages us to add to our faith in 2 Peter 1:5-7. We looked at faith last month. The first thing Peter says to add to our faith is goodness or virtue. The Greek word is arete (ar-et’-ay) which has a connotation of moral excellence.
Let’s break it down… What does that mean, “moral”? Conforming to a standard of good and right behavior.
Now what does “excellence” mean? First-class, best (or as we said in the 80’s, “Jam-up!”)
So, why would the best and most right and good (and jam-up) type of behavior be the first thing that Peter suggests we add to our faith? Because that reflects who God is! “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” Psalms 11:7 (and I am pretty sure “jam-up” is somewhere in the Bible)
Now I want to differentiate here between two deceptively similar ideas, looking good versus being good.
Let's look at a story to communicate these two ideas, a story about a husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). This story takes place a couple of months after Jesus was killed on the cross and, more notably, arose from the dead. People are beginning to trust in Jesus by the thousands. A vibrant community of passionate Christians is growing. However, many of them are very poor so the richer people are sharing their money so that no one is in need or hungry. Suddenly, it is the “cool” thing to give to the poor.
Now read the story in Acts 5:1-11 (Yes, you have to open your Bible!) and think your way through each question below.
Whoa!! What happened here? God just killed two folks who gave money to the church!!!
1) What did they lie about? (Vs 1&2)
2) Who were they lying to? (Vs 3, 4 & 9)
3) Could they have simply given part of the money and told the truth? (Vs 4)
4) How did Peter know they were lying? (The same way your Momma knew you were lying!)
5) So, ultimately, WHY did they lie? (If God had not killed them what would their lie gain for them? Would they look like “good people” for giving their money to the poor? Were they more interested in looking good or being good?)
Now at first glance does it seem “good and right” for God to kill Ananias and Sapphira over a simple lie? Though they lied we must acknowledge that they did actually give some money to the poor. I believe God wanted the early church to know how serious He is about sin. This seems like an extremely high and impossible standard. If God is so good, why would He set a standard so high that no one could meet it?
Because He wanted to show His love. I can already hear you saying “Hmmm. Well, Jeremy, you are going to have to explain that one!”
The scary truth is that we ALL deserve what Ananias and Sapphira got! Even the best people on earth are sinners against Holy God. (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3, Eccl 7:20, Romans 3:10-12,23) I wince as I make the following analogy, but do so only to connect with today’s techno-youth. This would be like the cell phone company “blocking God” on your phone before they ever sold it to you, a broken relationship. We receive no input from God, so everything we do is driven by our own selfish, sinful nature. (Yes, even if it makes us “look good” to others). Apart from God our selfishness moves us toward our own destruction in this life and in the next.
Since God is fair and just, He must maintain the standard of paying for our wrongdoings. But instead of demanding that we pay for our own sins, God payed the price for us. Let me repeat that, because some of us have heard it so many times that the powerful love of God is missed. HE PAYED FOR OUR SINS!!!
You see, God set the standard high for us, but then He met the high standard in our place.
He is delaying justice for the majority of humans out of love. He wants to give us a chance to choose to receive the forgiveness provided by Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). Only once we receive faith in Jesus Christ’s payment for our sins can we see our true need and helplessness. Once we “unblock” Jesus from our phones and put ourselves completely under His loving authority, then and only then can His moral excellence flow through us.
God chooses to love the world through us if we will let Him. He wants to give us His very nature so that we can glorify Him, love other people and be filled with true joy (John 14:20; 15:7-11).
POINT to the nonbeliever***Apart from trusting in Jesus, you and I cannot “be good” in the eyes of God because our hearts are broken and selfish and sinful. If we turn from our sins and receive faith in Jesus Christ’s pardon of our sin, then we can be in a right relationship with Him as our Lord. Then God can express HIS goodness through us.
POINT to the believer***If you are a Christian and claiming to be one publicly, then you should hold yourself to a high standard of courageous, God-honoring, excellent, selfless goodness. Others are watching and depending on you and you are representing Jesus Christ in all that you do. Strive to become more like Him every day!
SELF CHECK to the believer!***If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, are you portraying an excellent level of goodness and right deeds (for which you do not necessarily need to get credit)? Does your life glorify God and overflow with love for other people? Is your life full of joy? Or are you still trying to make it all about you? True faith in Jesus Christ will change your actions, thoughts and words. If that has not happened, you should re-examine your faith (James 2:14-19)
SELF CHECK to the nonbeliever!*** If you have never given your life over to Jesus Christ, what is keeping you from it? God does not want you to go another day in a broken relationship apart from Him in this life or to be permanently apart from Him in Hell in the next life. No amount of effort on your part to be good will save you. He wants to help you be everything that he created you to be, a good, excellent person that glorifies God in all you do, that loves other people and that is full of joy. He wants all that so badly for you that He died to give you the opportunity to choose it. But you must choose it. If you have not trusted your life to Jesus Christ, what is keeping you from it?
Are you being good or are you just looking good?