Part 1 (of 2)
If churches and Christians can’t convince people God is good, evangelism falls on deaf ears. The less we declare God’s goodness, the more our culture declares its independence (from God).
Humans are imbued at birth with an innate connection with their earthly parents and their heavenly Father. We inherit a desire to know our Creator and a sense of awe at His creation. Children understand when they’re doing wrong and seek relief from guilt. In other words, it takes hard work to overcome our natural inclinations and intuition that God exists and that He is good.
Dig deep into the psyche of most (professed) atheists and you’ll discover that the beginning of doubt or disbelief (in God’s existence and goodness) was unanswered prayers. A child wonders why God did or didn’t do something against his or her will. So the starting point for disbelief isn’t whether God exists but whether God is good. When belief meets with personal disappointment, it triggers a battle of wills – God’s versus ours. As in the Garden of Eden, questioning God’s goodness brings awareness to the opportunity for free exercise of personal preferences apart from Him. In America today, government, universities and advertisers gladly offer alternatives to God, claiming “goodness” of their programs, products and services. Unwittingly, citizens and consumers pledge allegiance to those whose motives (power, money and influence) are not nearly as good as God’s (who always has our best interests at heart).
To ensure society’s hope and trust remains with the world and doesn’t revert to God, secularism is quick to implicate the God they say they don’t believe in for disasters and diseases. Leaders of America’s 7 mountains question how Christians can worship a God that made human nature bad and then punishes innocent victims who slip up. They deride Christians for being judgmental, imposing beliefs, and impeding progress. Some of that blame is deserved for failing to espouse and reflect God’s goodness. But God is not at fault for any of the bad that occurs within churches or in the world – man caused all of it either through mistakes made at the Fall or since then.
God (and God Alone) is Good
The Bible is an autobiography written by God about God. Its core message is His goodness and love for humanity. As Christ-followers entrusted with Scripture, we are responsible for understanding and communicating its central theme. Those who’ve distanced themselves from the God they once knew have a vested interest in misinterpreting and distorting what the Bible says about God’s character. Even some pastors selectively omit passages (or the entire Old Testament) if God’s actions therein did not align with contemporary definitions of “good”.
In an environment already difficult to convince non-believers of God’s goodness, most churches are not discipling members adequately to make that case. It’s also a challenging environment to grow a congregation, tempting us to tout the goodness of our church, its theology, and its stance on morality. Yet making Scripture about ourselves is to misunderstand its authorship and intent. It’s about the “good news” of a good Father, yet according to surveys the message being conveying by Christians is that they see themselves as good. If more churches made the Great Commission their church growth strategy, members would be better equipped to declare God’s goodness and less likely to emphasize their own. But pushing churchgoers to be, become and make disciples would send many running for the exits, finding it too time-consuming and countercultural.
Simple. everyday blessings that loudly proclaim God’s goodness escape the notice of those who’ve exchanged His love for self-centeredness, obedience for self-determination, and thankfulness for self-sufficiency:
- If we are breathing, then God is good
- If nature is beautiful, then God is good
- If we have kids and caring parents, then God is good
- We have an opportunity for salvation, so God is good
- The Lord created his second “son” knowing we’d kill His First, so God is good
- We get to learn and grow from challenges, so God is good
- Hard times draw us closer to the Lord, so God is good
- The Lord’s discipline refines our character, so God is good
- There’s a cure for sin and hopelessness, so God is good
- We have a conscience pointing us to Jesus, so God is good
- Biblical law provides guardrails for our lives, so God is good
- The Father’s love is unconditional even when we mess up, so God is good
Selfism, the fastest growing religion in America, would label many of those “bad” because they involve confession and submission. The Bible describes a God who turns bad into good, but Selfism refuses to view anything as bad except for infringement on the pursuit of happiness. If there’s no need for forgiveness, what good is God’s grace and mercy?
Why Declare Independence from Such a Good God
America is rapidly declaring its independence from God and pledging allegiance elsewhere:
- Church membership dropped below 50% for the first time ever (2021, Gallup)
- Decrease from 137 to 65 in median church attendance since 2000 (2020, FACT)
- 63% of adults profess to be Christian, down from 75% in 2011 (2021, Pew)
- 31% of millennials claim no religious affiliation, up from 22% in 2011 (2021, Pew)
- 74% of millennials say all religions have equal value (2021, Barna)
Why would anyone want to come out from under the authority of our loving heavenly Father?:
- Not knowing a Christian who adequately conveyed God’s goodness in words or actions
- Misunderstanding that, like a (good) dad, there’s nothing we can do to lose or earn God’s love
- Not realizing God’s plan is better than ours and thanking Him for unanswered prayers
- Viewing God’s promises (of good) only in terms of outcomes experienced in this life, not considering how “bad” circumstances lead us closer to God and toward eternal life
- Feeling it’s kinder to assume people are essentially good natured, the foundation for Atheism and all other religions (hinging on man’s good works or inner divinity)
- Believing the alternative to God is freedom to do as they please, ironically entrapping them in sin and subjection to those who don’t care about them like God does
- Seeking relief instead of repentance – distance (from guilt) rather than deliverance (from sin) – through distractions, drugs, etc.
- Claiming tolerance by not judging anyone else when their actual motive is escape from accountability and scrutiny by anyone else (including God)
Children once drawn to know God leave their first love when they realize “with God, all things are possible” but “without God, all things are permissible”. Eventually, consciences become cauterized and no longer tolerate sound biblical teaching, finding leaders who tell them what they want to hear. Unless their trust in God’s goodness is somehow restored, they’re unlikely to return to Him and die to self.
Consequences of Declaring Independence
Human beings were created by God for God so life apart from Him doesn’t work:
- Inconsistency – The whims of culture and manipulation of media dictate beliefs of those with no foundation, even when they defy reason and science (e.g. defining a person’s gender based on feelings or a baby’s viability based on whether it is wanted)
- Double Standards – Freedoms and rights (e.g. to free speech) are curtailed only for those who object to society’s prevailing (and fleeting) views on morality
- Insincerity – Policing and publicly condemning unkind actions or speech is an implicit admission that human nature is evil, particularly given the invectives that “virtue signalers” utter behind closed doors
- Lawlessness – Tolerance’s logical extreme defines criminals as victims and precludes pointing out atrocities abroad if any misdemeanors are being committed here at home
- Decadence – Relativism eventually calls evil good and good evil, vehemently defending deviance yet eerily silent on abuses against non-conformists (e.g. persecuted Christians)
- Hopelessness – We teach children in schools that they are cosmic accidents with no purpose, leading to the depression, escapism and suicides we are witnessing today
- Fatherless – We trade identity as a child of a perfect Father and eternal life with Him for acceptance by a fickle culture during our short stint on planet earth
The world can never give what it never had. When we surrender our desires and will to God, He offers us all that is good about Himself – consistency, justice, freedom, direction, righteousness, hope and identity.
It’s Your Turn
Our next blog post will address ways churches and Christians can prove God is good by highlighting and reflecting His goodness. Please share your thoughts on that topic…