There’s a private battle that every true follower of Christ must face and you must win. There are no exceptions. The battle is for your heart. It’s for your affections. It’s for your loyalty.
We call it a lot of things. Some people call it surrender. Others call it being all in. Others say it’s being totally committed. Jesus said it’s picking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Him and saying that He and He alone is the Lord of your life.
And there’s lots of competition. There’s an entire world system that is designed to woo your heart away from your Savior who loves you.
The barrier is FOMO. F-O-M-O. It’s gotten a lot of press lately among Millennials. Fear of missing out. If you Wikipedia “FOMO” you’ll find just all kinds of information about Millennials and they are online and they are so afraid that while they are online over here, they are missing something here. Or there is a party going on that they don’t know about and there’s this idea that somehow FOMO is this thing that keeps us not enjoying the present, not being who we are supposed to be, living with this fear that we are going to miss out.
Well I’ve got news. It’s not new. And it has not just to do with Millennials. The very first sin by our first parents was FOMO. “Eve, don’t you understand that he is holding out on you? Don’t you really want to be wise? Don’t you want a better life? God is not really good. Has God really said…?” The first sin that ever occurred was a belief that God was not a good God, that He was holding out on us, and that you are going to miss out by allowing Him to be the Lord of your life.
The breakthrough, I am convinced, for all of us, is not trying harder, not seeing someone who is more committed, not saying, “This time I am really in. I’ll do anything! I’ll go anywhere!” And out of your flesh and energy say, “Okay, I am really going to be committed, even though…” Because we have all done that and what happens? You cycle back, cycle back, cycle back.
The breakthrough, I believe, comes when you actually believe that God is good, that He is for you, that the path of His will, though difficult on the front end, is the good, the acceptable; that the highest good that you will ever receive, the best relationships, the best decisions, the best future – that, literally – that surrender or total commitment because God is good is the channel through which His biggest and best blessings flow. And that the most intellectually feasible, the emotionally fulfilling path that you could ever take would be do exactly what God says because all His commandments are for your good.
And rather than being prohibitive, His commands are like guardrails on a winding path and if you would break through the guardrails, there’s a thousand-foot drop and He so loves you and so loves me He gives us guardrails about relationships and sexuality and money and decision making. All so that we land and experience the very best because you’re the object of His affection.
But I am deeply convinced that many of us don’t believe in our hearts that God is really good.
Tozer said what comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about us, and that there is a secret law of the soul that you and I will move and make decisions, consciously and unconsciously, toward our mental image of God. And if God is not good, if He is not for you, if you don’t believe that at the core of your being, then you will constantly struggle with commitment, constantly struggle with manipulating, constantly struggle with: How can I get as close to sin as possible but not fall in? And then ultimately never really fully trust God.
The thesis of this whole study is that our distorted view of God is at the root of all of our problems. Your fears, your anxieties, your relational breakdowns, your sense about the future, your conflict in relationships – at the root of all of our problems, it goes back to a distorted view of God that gives us a distorted view of ourselves, a distorted view of the future, a distorted view of relationships, so we have this scarce pie mentality. There’s not much to go around. I better get mine. If I don’t have this position, if I don’t have this, if I don’t look like this, if I don’t own that, if people don’t think this about me…
And we have all this stuff going on and then we are bombarded by media and a world system that says, “If you look like this or if you have this or if you own this or if you have accomplished this then you are a somebody.
And so our significance, our security is all wrapped around chasing the wind as opposed to realizing there is a good God who is completely for you and it brings rest to your soul. And you can trust Him. But I will tell you, it’s a battle.
So in our study, we are going to start with the goodness of God because it is foundational.
The theologians call God “simple,” and what they mean by that is, think of the character of God as a diamond. And that as you would tilt the diamond and put light on it, it would reveal different facets. But it’s one diamond.
It’s not like God is holy and then on some other days He is loving. His holiness, His infinitude, His self-sufficiency, His justice, His compassion – they all work as a simple unit. He is always holy in all of His love. He is always loving in all of His justice. He is always compassionate, even in judgment.
But I think one of the things that we miss and is foundational is the goodness of God. If God isn’t good, life makes no sense. As Tozer would say, “Heaven can become a hell and hell can become a heaven.” There is no values if there is no goodness.
And so often if you want to study something, go to where the concept first pops up in Scripture. And so I am going to ask you to turn with me to Exodus chapter 33 and chapter 34.
And as you turn there, I will give you the context. Moses has seen God’s power. He has seen the miracles. He is a reluctant servant. “Lord, send somebody else, not me.” But he has now seen the Nile turned to blood, he has seen the parting of the Red Sea, there’s a fire by night, there’s a cloud moving by day. He has seen miraculous things.
And as he has now an intimate relationship with God, the psalmist gives us some insight. Psalm 103, verse 7 is one of those interestingly hinge verses. It says, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” His ways. All of Israel saw His acts, right? Power, deliverance, power, deliverance.
How many of those people who saw all of His acts entered the Promised Land and believed God? God’s acts will never sustain you. Everyone in this room, we all probably have a big challenge – one of our kids is in a jam or we have a health issue or a financial issue or something is upside down or you have a big fear about something.
And all of us – what? We pray, this is human, Oh, God, if You would just do this. And let’s just say, hypothetically, whoo, He miraculously did that big thing in your life. I will guarantee, thirty days from now, I could sit down with you and you would be asking for the next big thing. Oh, if You would just change so-and-so’s heart. If You would only…
And God, supernaturally, if you would look in the rearview mirror in a group like this, He has intervened in your life in supernatural ways, acts that are deliverance are evidence of His kindness and His goodness.
But God’s acts don’t sustain us. His ways do. And Moses, after seeing all those acts and in interacting with God, he makes this outrageous, bold request that I think thrilled God’s heart. “Show me Your glory!” he says. “I want to see You face to face. I want to know all of who You are.” And God says, again, some of these translations are sort of the Ingram telling the story through my lens. So don’t look for this right in the Bible.
But I think God’s response, in essence, was, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And what He actually did say is, “No one can see Me and live.” But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I think when God sees a seeking heart, He says, “Moses, you get over there, edge back in those rocks and what I am going to do is I am going to pass by you. And then I am going to give you just a glimpse of My back.”
And then notice in your notes, when God wanted to describe His passing by, “All My goodness will pass before you.” Isn’t that interesting? Not, “All My holiness.” Not, “All My compassion.” “All My goodness will pass before you.”
And then God answers his prayer. Exodus 34, we pick it up in verse 5. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and He stood with him there and he proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord. The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgressions and sin.’”
And then, in all that love, compassion, and goodness, “By no means declaring the guilty innocent, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and to the fourth generation.”
J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, comments on this passage. He says, “Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections, there is one in particular, the term ‘goodness’ that points to a quality which God especially singled out from the whole when proclaiming His goodness to Moses. He spoke of Himself as abundant in goodness and truth.”
And then Packer makes this comment that, as he studied this word, this idea of goodness at its heart is the generosity of God. Have you ever thought of God as generous? Have you ever thought of God as, no matter, He just wants to lavish, He longs to give, that that core of the character of God in all of His attributes, that He is generous.
No scarcity. When He sees you, when you come to His infinite mind, He longs to bless, He longs to encourage, He longs to create a path, He longs…
In fact, Packer, I love this next line. He says, “Generosity expresses the simple wish that others might have what they need to be happy.” Have you ever thought of God like that, thinking of you? That you might have what you need to be happy?
See, it’s interesting, the world says, “Here are all these things that will make you happy someday, someway.” God says, “No, no, no. Follow Me, worship Me, I have made you. I want to give you a life from within and in relationships, in a path with Me that would bring delight to My heart and make you happy as a byproduct.”
But that’s how God thinks of you.
The Hebrew word here, means pleasant, joyful, agreeable. When it’s translated into the Greek text It’s noble, admirable, worthy. It’s good. It’s the standard of goodness. Goodness isn’t something that God possesses. He is the standard. It is how He is.
And, again, I have given you a thought by Tozer. He says, “Goodness, the goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men; He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy.” Is that how you think about God?
When you bow your head, do you think, Oh, He is for me. He is glad to see Me. He is full of good will. He wants my best. He is orchestrating people and circumstances in my home and in my job and in my heart to bless my life. He is quick of sympathy.
I have got a lot of little grandkids as you kind of know right now. And I have got a little grandson that just, he is three years old and he just is Mr. Noah. Bam! And he will fall and he is just like a little fullback. And when I just watch and he hits and, “Ahh!” And the moment and I just watch his mom, “Oh! Come here, Noah.” And Noah gets up on Annie’s lap. She is quick of sympathy.
How many of you, when you hurt and when you mess up feel like God just moved away ten yards? God’s arms are crossed. God’s attitude is, Hm, again, huh? How many times are you going to go around this barn? So, oh, you think that thought, that lustful thought again? You are still envying her? Oh, you opened your mouth again and talked about a friend? Well, you know what? I call that gossip. Or, You know what? So, are you just possessed with greed? You have to get up and look at The Wall Street Journal before anything else? What’s with you? That show came on and you lingered a little bit longer and you didn’t click the thing so how many times are we going to deal with this issue?
How many of you have a view of God that His arms are crossed and He is basically down on you instead of a view that says the moment that you turn and go, Oh, Lord, You are mindful that I am dust. I am just a person of flesh. I get lulled into these, oh, I so don’t want to be that. And that when you would turn like that, He would be, I understand. I am for you. I love you.
See, the power of temptation, the power of the lust of the flesh, the power of the pride of life, the power of the lust of having and possessing, the power of what everyone thinks matters so much is behind it is a belief that God isn’t for you, that the real action is over there, that the real success, the real fulfillment, all the things you’re looking for are someway out there.
And that’s why in 1 John, the apostle of love would say, “Love not the world or things that are in the world and all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, it’s not from the Father but it’s from the world. And if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father isn’t in him. But the world is passing away. But God’s love abides forever.”
See, what Tozer wanted us to get our arms around is that’s what God is like. The last line, he says this and I have this underlined, like, forty-five times in my little book that I have been reading.
It says, “He, by His nature,” circle that in your notes. “By His nature,” not by your circumstances, not by whether you are doing good or doing bad. God isn’t good to you because you are good. God is good because He is good. It’s intrinsic. He can’t not be good. You have good days, bad days, obedience days, not obedience days, it doesn’t change the character of God.
Actually, there are times that it’s out of His goodness, some of the difficulties that some of us have in our life, the difficulties I had in my life, that eighteen months when I was in a relationship that was sinful and when I had an idol in my life, in the goodness and kindness of God, the velvet vice of discipline started.
So, I pulled my quad right out of here to here. Wow! I couldn’t play twelve, thirteen games. Then, pretty soon, as I rehabbed and so I went again and then I had a stress fracture in my foot. Every year it was like God going, Well, you know, Ingram! You can worship basketball or you can worship Me. But I love you so much.
Finally, my surrender was not like some noble, I will give You everything. Literally, mine was, If you can’t lick Him, join Him. Literally. God, I am bankrupt. You frustrate my plans, this relationship isn’t what I know it is, I don’t like the guilt, I don’t like the shame. I don’t like living a double life. I look in the mirror and I don’t like me. I appear to be one person I know I’m not. You frustrate, frustrate, frustrate, frustrate my plans. You know what? And You won’t leave me alone. I’ve tried to quit the Christian life a couple of times. You won’t leave!
When you receive Christ, it’s like in a marriage you said, “I do.” Lord, come into my life. Guess what. He said, “Yes.” And then He sealed you with His Spirit. And He lives in you. And He permanently came in. And you can grieve the Spirit, but out of His goodness, some of the most difficult things in our life is Him saying, I want what is better for you so I am not going to allow you to keep going down this path.
The Scripture says that God disciplines every son, every daughter that He really loves. It’s out of His goodness, it’s out of His kindness. He doesn’t want you to miss out. “He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”
The breakthrough came for me when a passage came from my intellect to my heart and then I later claimed a promise. It’s Psalm 84:11. I have a little card that is about thirty years old and it says, “The Goodness of God.” And on one side I have written my fears about the future and on the other side, after it says, “Stop being afraid of the future; you won’t miss out.” On the other side it has Psalm 84:11: “The Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold form those who walk uprightly.”
Now, think about this. And, by the way, it’s “The Lord God.” It’s “Yahweh Adonai” – the I AM that I AM. The One who spoke the world into existence, “…is a sun,” unlimited source, “…is a shield,” unlimited protection. “He gives grace,” what you don’t deserve, blessing, lavish, love, goodness, kindness, mercy. What is mercy? He withholds the due judgment that we ought to get in so many occasions. “No good thing,” here’s the promise, “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
As you have the crisscross of this path is God’s way or this path in small and big situations, as you say, “I am going to go on Your path,” here’s what you can say, “I do not fear missing out because on this path, God will never withhold what is best for me.”
That’s a statement of faith. That’s a promise to claim. It will change the course of your life.