God’s Goodness and Sin

February 10, 2016

In my yearly trek through the Bible I’m in the book of Numbers. This morning I read chapter 11 where the people reminisce about the culinary delights of Egypt (cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic – I too really like these foods). The text tells us that “the anger of the LORD blazed hotly.” Not good. Even Moses complains when he says, “Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth that you should say to me ‘Carry them in your bosom..'” Two chapters later the people doubt God and his goodness again. They don’t believe that God can, or will, bring them into the Promised Land. You know the rest of the story.

After I read a portion of Numbers I moved to a section of my favorite edition of Calvin’s Institutes. I’m in the section about true, saving faith. While unpacking the issue, Calvin writes of the importance of understanding God’s goodness. Faith flows from the truth that God is good. How can you trust a God whom you don’t believe to be good?

This is a principle I’ve observed in my own life. If I doubt God’s goodness, and this doubt is usually expressed in fear, I’m a person on the edge. Think about your own life. I suspect that as you reflect on your own sin struggles you will find that sin was attractive because you doubted God’s love, power and goodness. This is exactly what we see in the book of Numbers. The people doubt God’s goodness and power, and thus they are afraid.

Obedience flows from faith. Faith flows from an understanding of God’s love, goodness, and power. If you don’t believe that God loves you, that he is able to bless you, and that he is motivated to give you good gifts, then you are a person on the edge.

Where do we find a clear vision of God’s goodness? Obviously, we could go to the Psalms. I would add these precious words:

Rom. 8:31 ¶ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Rom. 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Rom. 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Rom. 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Rom. 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Rom. 8:36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Rom. 8:37 ¶ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Rom. 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,

Rom. 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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9 Responses to “God’s Goodness and Sin”

  1. phfs9 Says:

    I don’t think I doubt God’s goodness. You wrote, “I suspect that as you reflect on your own sin struggles you will find that sin was attractive because you doubted God’s love, power and goodness.” Sin is never particularly attractive to me but it happens when I don’t quelch my human emotions enough to remember that God is in control – not me. Of course, after the deed is done, I realize my error in that I allow my emotions or fears to control me instead of allowing God to take the reins on my behalf. Runaway emotions can do that.

    The thing I doubt at times is whether or not I have done and become all God wants of me to be accepted into Heaven. That is always my biggest fear. I never doubt His goodness or His power….ever.

    I can partially understand people back then not trusting in an invisible God. I have the modern day luxory of constant teachings and comforts they did not have so for me ‘personally’ it is easier to believe in an invisible God. I am not wandering in the desert with children and no home and hoping for food and water to survive.

    In my emotional fears that God might reject me – below is what I need to grasp far better than I do now:
    Rom. 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Rom. 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  2. Mark Says:

    Thanks for your insight. What I’m going to say doesn’t deal so much with your response as it is a fuller explanation as to my contention. Perhaps we’ll be talking past each other.

    Sin came into the world because Adam and Eve doubted God’s goodness. They believed that goodness was found in Satan’s ways. David sinned with Bathsheba because he doubted that God’s goodness was found in obedience. All sin is deficit-driven. We are afraid because we doubt God’s goodness. We worry, gossip, cuss, cheat on our spouses, pray to little, all because we at some level doubt God’s goodness. I’m not suggesting that we doubt God’s goodness in our heads; it is an implicitly part of our thinking. No one ever sings “God is so Good” thinking that he really isn’t. It is more that when we get drunk, cheat, watch too much TV we do so because we don’t believe God is going to take the best care of us so we devise our own sinful strategy to take care of ourselves.

    The emotional fear that God might reject you isn’t just about your sin; rather it is God’s goodness. Is God good enough to keep his word and save me?

  3. phfs9 Says:

    “The emotional fear that God might reject you isn’t just about your sin; rather it is God’s goodness. Is God good enough to keep his word and save me?” OUCH!

    I don’t feel we are talking past each other. Instead, I feel you directly addressed my issues just from a different angle.

    It is hard for me to get my head around, “Is God good enough to keep his word and save me?”

    More Bible study seems always to not only soothe me but give me a different way to think and feel about God.

    “we don’t believe God is going to take the best care of us so we devise our own sinful strategy to take care of ourselves.” Sometimes being desperate for God’s love and not realizing it is always there no matter the situation can be why we don’t feel comfortable enough in our own shoes to trust Him to take care of us when we should. I can’t help but look back at Adam & Eve, David, etc. and even myself at times and see what you are explaining to me about trusting God’s love for us at all times and in all situations. Being desperate for His love is perhaps a sin in itself.

    • Mark Says:

      The temptation is always to try to sneak works into the equation. Again, I appreciate what you wrote. Your last sentence is most interesting. We have his love. We often don’t feel it. In the last verse of Job 7 he says that he isn’t pardoned. I think that is a experiential remark. God loved him; he just didn’t feel loved. This happens to all of us from time to time. The task is to believe God’s good promises.

      • phfs9 Says:

        You wrote “Your last sentence is most interesting.” If you mean “Being desperate for His love is perhaps a sin in itself.”

        What I meant by that was being desperate is a bad thing in that I must not have trusted completely or I wouldn’t have felt ‘desperate’ in the first place.

  4. Terri J Says:

    This reminded me of a time of great stress in my life when I called you on the phone and asked you to remind me, one more time, of these truths. I already knew them, but wanted to hear you say it again. Remember that day?

    I can attest to that temptation to allow some kind of works to sneak in and muck things up without us even realizing it. You wrote, “We have his love. We often don’t feel it.” and I think those are the times when I’ve somehow begun to credit myself with my own justification. I wonder if it’s because so much of our human experience with love is conditional, that we impose those human flaws on God and presume that He only accepts us when we’re “performing well”.

    Ultimately, I flounder when my focus becomes horizontal or inward rather than vertical.

    • Mark Says:

      I vaguely remember the call. If you hadn’t mentioned it, I think the memory might have been lost. I appreciate what you wrote, especially, “Ultimately, I flounder when my focus becomes horizontal or inward rather than vertical.” It certainly is true in my life. It is difficult to bring the subjective salvation experience in line with the objective salvation truth. It is a struggle for our want-to-deserve-it hearts to grasp or even appreciate free, undeserved salvation.

  5. patrickgmac Says:

    “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” I really like this verse. I have often said that after thousands of years of trying to reel man back in, Jesus was God’s last ditch effort to get through to us. What more could He possibly do than sacrificing his son? And if, as this verse states, He is willing to do that, how would he not be willing to provide us what we need? It’s a good verse in these uncertain times. It’s a good reminder to me that even the hairs on my head are numbered. Thanks Mark. 🙂

    • Mark Says:

      Patrick, grasping God’s love has been, and is, my struggle. God sent his Son, and the Son willingly went. You’re right, what more could he do? As we process this we come as close as we can get to understanding how much God loves us. How I need “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” so that I “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ep. 3: 19).


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