God IS Good
When David prays to YHWH, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you (Psalm 16.2),” what is he saying?
Does he mean that it’s only when he looks to YHWH that he is good?
I think not. At best, that’s an incomplete part of the bigger picture. Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (17.9). And Paul says in Romans 8.8 that those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Paul clearly contrasts being “in the flesh” with being “in the Spirit”, given the broader context of the chapter). And we know from John 16 that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to believers.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the third person of the Trinity. He is God. And He, in fact, is good. I’m not merely saying that what He does or what He gives is good. I’m saying that He is the embodiment of good.
That stands to reason, does it not? If our hearts are absolutely wicked and cannot please God apart from the Spirit, then none of the fruits of the Spirit will be evident in our lives unless we have the Holy Spirit. In light of all of these verses, I’d argue that displaying the fruits of the Spirit does not mean you’re a nice person. Rather, God Himself is showing Himself off in you in that moment.
That’s a big distinction, for a few reasons. First of all, that theology destroys moralism. There are no “YMCA Christians.” That is, you don’t find kindness and responsibility and respect inside yourself. Unbelievers sin even when they look “good” on the outside. It’s only when God works good through your life that you can truly be Christ-like.
Second of all, this theology lets us know another way that we can see Christ. Namely, the Holy Spirit is one of the most visible expressions of Jesus on this earth. If you want to know what His character looks like, you just need to know what the fruit of the Spirit looks like. And if you want to know what the fruit of the Spirit looks like, you just need to see it manifest in the lives of people who trust Christ.
The hand of God is more prevalent in the world than most of us probably realize. And His hand is working to shatter any trace of self-righteousness in our hearts, so that we will be left to stand in awe as He fills our evil hearts with His fruit.