Be Good, Even to the GFN

Please read Luke 6:32-36 in your Bible.  I have used the NIV for my remarks.

Goodness is a Fruit of the Spirit to be shown to all people.

“Abijah Powers felt moderately sure nobody would recognize him when he registered under an assumed name at the little inn. It was more than twenty years since he had left the town–a hard, reckless boy, running away from a good father and a devoted mother because he hated goodness and loved lawlessness and his own way.

“For years he had led the life of a vagabond. Then the spirit of adventure was aroused in him by the stories of the wealth of the Klondike. He joined one of the earliest parties, in that hazardous search for gold, and succeeded beyond his dreams. Now he had come back, with his old instincts, but with the wealth of a millionaire, and some strange compulsion led him to the village where he first drew breath.

“He did not even know whether his parents were living or dead. It was altogether likely they were dead. With that conviction and without asking a question, he made his way in the August twilight to the graveyard, and to the spot where for three generations his ancestors had been laid.

“Yes, there were new stones placed since he had been there. The sight moved him strangely. He bent to read the inscription on the first one. It was to the memory of his father, ‘Died, 1884.  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’

“The date cut the man to the heart. His father had died a year after the only son had run away! And his mother had been left alone! But perhaps she had followed her husband mercifully soon. Again he bent to read, this time with tear-filled eyes, ‘Died, 1902.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’

“His mother had been alone for eighteen years! She was but just dead — in poverty, perhaps; certainly in loneliness. He drew himself up as if to shake off a hideous dream.             “But the other stone – whose grave could that mark? They had no relatives except some distant cousins. Perhaps some one of them had done for his mother what he ought to have done in her long, desolate years. Again he stooped to read – his own name. ‘Abijah Powers. Born 1870; died–.  The only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’

“It was his own gravestone, set up by his mother when her hope of his return was dead. Out of the depth of his memory there flashed up the story of the widow of Nain, and the gracious presence which spoke the word of life to her dead son. How many times his mother must have read and re-read the page, and how frequently she must have prayed that her boy, bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, might be given back to her arms!

“The thought was anguish to the graceless son, and it brought him to his knees beside his own empty grave. With his hand resting over his mother’s head he wept as he had not wept since he was a child. They were gracious drops. Out of the mother’s love, which had found its cold comfort in the words of scripture for the grave that was no grave, there came, indeed, the resurrection of the real, living soul.

“The widow’s son went out of the graveyard that night a new man. The world wondered what had happened to him. Money did not often make a man over from a devil to a saint; but that miracle seemed to have been worked in Abijah Powers. Nobody knew that the transformation did not come from the touch of Klondike gold, but from the power of love — reaching from beyond the vale, and speaking from the cold marble of a gravestone.” –Youth’s Companion  <Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-michael-mccartney-stories-confessionofsin-repentance-15006.asp  on 6/24/16.>

  1. God’s four-fold standard for how to treat everyone,

including the Good For Nothin’.

First: Show them LOVE (32).  It is not a display of godly love to love people who have already declared their love for you.  Jesus said even “SINNERS” do that.

The word SINNERS is in quotation marks in your Bible to show that Jesus is using that word with more than a bit of irony.  The Jewish religious leaders would have used that word with disdain to refer to pagans, tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “low-lifes” they had decided weren’t really worth it.  Worse than that, they believed that merely associating with the GFNs corrupted a good person and made them unclean.

This was one of their complaints about Jesus: He hung out with the GFNs.  Jesus’ message here is don’t just be loving, good, generous and merciful to the people whom you know have been or will be loving, good, generous, and merciful to you.

Do the right thing without any strings attached.  Do not be motivated by what you hope to gain in this life, but by the REWARD only God can give: in this life and/or in the next.  True love is unconditional.  Achieving that is impossible apart from God, so when we act with this kind of love, we demonstrate we are God’s people.

Second: Treat them with GOODNESS (33).  Goodness is our Fruit of the Spirit for the month of June.  Remember, this is the Year of Jubilee so we’ve been highlighting a different Fruit each month.  Goodness is an active state; we don’t wait for the other person to express a need, we look for opportunities to do good and act when they present themselves.

Claiming faith is easy (which is why most people do it) but enacting it is more difficult.  This is because goodness requires sacrifice.

– Sacrifice of time/my schedule/convenience.

– Getting outside comfort zone.

– Sacrifice of money, goods.

– Sacrifice of prejudices.

Third: Show them GENEROSITY (34).  Generosity does not make much sense financially; it is primarily an investment of earthly goods in order to realize heavenly dividends.

For example, consider the difference between a bank and a church.  A bank loans money to people after they’re assured they can pay it back.  AND they charge them interest for the privilege. A church gives to those in need, not expecting or even wanting a repayment.  We may take steps to verify the need, but we give without strings attached.

Fourth: Forgive and forbear: show MERCY (36).  The justification for being merciful is that we have been shown mercy by our heavenly Father.  We are to gratefully follow His example.

Mercy is the virtue of giving kindness in return for cruelty.  It is NOT insisting on one’s rights or on punishment or getting even.  Mercy is not getting what you deserve, but instead getting what you don’t deserve.  For most people, mercy is not our first reaction when we have been hurt.  But our first reaction is not often the most godly one either, is it?  As with all virtues, doing mercy takes time & practice.  Whether society calls you a SINNER or not, mercy is what God has shown to all people.

  1. What’s in it for you: a GREAT REWARD. (35)

All four of the virtues presented here can be described as different forms of grace.  Jesus taught that showing grace to people who are ungracious to you is to your CREDIT.  That is the Greek word for “grace.”  In our worldly frame of mind, in our human nature, we want to insist on fairness, especially when the big ME is left holding the bag.  This is backwards to God’s economy.  We are promised that showing grace merits us eternal rewards.  God will make justice happen, but not in your timing or in the way I might prefer.  1 Peter 3:19-21 also talks about CREDIT with God being earned by enduring suffering we experience as a result of doing God’s will.

What kind of reward are we talking about?  Is it worth all the trouble of being good?

It’s not an earthly reward.  I say that because in v. 35 Jesus commands us to LOVE, DO GOOD, and LEND WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING BACK.  The word ANYTHING means precisely that.  We are not to be motivated by any expectation of earthly reward, including recognition (like a “thank you”) or even gratitude.  Remember, this standard includes the GFN folk some of whom will not be polite or even think about repaying you.

The adjective GREAT makes me think the reward will be heavenly.  The Greek word for REWARD more often refers to the wage given to workers.  So there is a real sense that these rewards have been earned, or at least, are given in response to sacrifices made.

It is rewarding to be named SONS [children] OF THE MOST HIGH.  We are adopted into the family of God (see Romans 8:23).  We need to act in ways that honor our family name and are in accord with our family character.  We stand for something great.  Our family character has been acted out in Jesus Christ.  We seek to speak and act in ways that would be in accord with Him.

Your reward will be in proportion to your sacrifice. See Luke 18:28-30, where Jesus makes this promise to His 12 disciples who left so much to follow Him.

We are rewarded for being like God – for acting in ways consistent with His character and will.  In this passage, that means God who is KIND TO THE UNGRATEFUL AND WICKED.  Since God is KIND to people who are not KIND to Him, we must be too.

What SHOULD BE our motive for doing good?

– God said so: His commands are perfect and our delight

– Jesus’ Golden Rule (v. 31): Treat others as you want to be treated. Whether you ever get it back or not!

– Sensitivity to need. People need the Lord and have material needs too.  Love motivates us to help.

– Heavenly reward: what’s promised here.

The biggest impediment to our showing the goodness of God is our own goodness.  All around us every day there are people who have no more interest in God than an insurance policy.

They go about their daily lives without prayer or the word, assuming that their goodness alone will be good enough to get them into heaven.  The problem is, that our goodness is never good enough to merit eternal life.  People are condemning themselves to hellfire with their bland, misplaced trust in their own goodness.

Let me be clear – and this is good news, by the way – none of us is good enough.  Salvation is only by grace, it is the gift of God.  But the gifts of God do not stop at salvation.  He commands us to live our daily life doing good works and gives us all the resources we need to do it.  And on top of all that, God forgives us when we fail to do good and repent!

What’s required to receive all these gifts is to accept them by faith.  We can be good if we get ourselves out of the way and let God’s goodness be expressed in our daily living.

“A Native American and a white man were deeply moved by the same sermon. That very night the Native American received Jesus as his Savior, but for days the white man refused to accept Christ. At last he, too, repented and enjoyed the sweet peace of having his sins forgiven. Later he asked his Native American friend, ‘Why did it take me so long, while you responded right away?’

“’My brother,’ he replied, ‘I can best explain it by this little story: At one time a rich prince wished to give each of us a new coat. You shook your head and replied, “I don’t think so; mine looks good enough.” When he made the same offer to me, I looked at my old blanket and said, “This is good for nothing (GFN!),” and gratefully accepted the beautiful garment. You wouldn’t give up your own righteousness. But knowing I had no goodness of my own, I immediately received the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness.”’”

<Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-clyde-grimes-stories-confessionofsin-becomingachristian-11404.asp on 6/24/16.>

In his commentary, Darrell L. Bock wrote, “The call of the disciple is to a greater love, a distinct love, a love that is unique in the world.” (The New International Version Application Commentary, p. 194.)  Again, the point is that we stop trying to do it on our own.

This requires that we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit God gives to all people of faith.  We are sensitive to opportunities to do good and selfless enough to make the sacrifices of our resources of time, convenience, and pride.

(If you’d like to see and hear this message, go to YouTube.com and look up “EBCSF.”)

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