I got to thinking about being “good” again last night. It is so tempting to believe that if we're “good enough” we'll go to heaven upon our death. It brought to mind the song about Santa knowing if we've been naughty or nice. Because he's only going to give good gifts to those who have been nice for the previous year. If you've been naughty, though, the consequence will be a gift of coal. How many people do you know of who woke to find coal in their stockings?
How does this image of Santa affect our view of God? And how does it affect our view of our own “goodness” or “worthiness?” We are bombarded with messages like, “You deserve a break today” and “Have it your way” from fast food chains. As moms, we're encouraged to take time for ourselves, away from our families and the stress they cause us. Is this all really true?
Will the Lord be like Santa when it comes time to enter those pearly gates we hear about? Not to say that everyone will be able to enter those gates, after all, we all would agree that those who murder innocent children and adults will be rejected, right? I'm sure there are a few names spinning through our heads right now of those who fit into this category. But as for the rest of us, are we, in our basic human nature, inherently good? All we have to do is be “good enough” to step right through those pearly gates, right?
This might be a good time to define good. Here is an applicable definition of good according to Merriam-Webster.com, “2a (1): virtuous, right, commendable <a good person> <good conduct> (2): kind, benevolent <good intentions>.” That sounds good, I mean we all want to believe that, don't we?
But the Word of God tells a different story. We might have a tendency to think of it as a harsh story, one filled with outdated rules, wrath for disobedience, and a life devoid of fun and adventure. But that's not true! One only has to look at Paul's life to find a God who loves to extend mercy and forgiveness to sinners, including murderers, like Paul. And talk about adventure!
Paul boasts in 2 Corinthians 11 about frequently being in prison, being flogged, beaten with rods, and stoned. He continues to say he's been in danger from rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, in the city, in the country, at sea, and from false brothers. He worked hard and often went without sleep, food, and drink. That sounds far from living a boring life. And he's not talking about video games or movies either, he's living them out because of his faith in Christ as his Lord and Savior!
The Word of God also tells us the truth about ourselves. We've all sinned and have fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). What do you mean we've ALL sinned? What have I done wrong? I am a nice person. I do all kinds of good things. What do you mean by “sin” anyway?
According to Jesus Himself, murder is not just killing someone and adultery is not just...well, you know. Read the following two passages from Matthew 5 to see what He says about these two items of law found in the famous Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV84)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28, NIV84)
Perhaps you're one of the few who has not fallen in either of these ways. What about lying? You might say, I don't lie! What about the so called “white lies?” (Why are they called white anyway, are they somehow more pure than other lies? And are there “black lies?”) Another commandment given is to not give false testimony about your neighbor. In a nutshell, that means we may not lie. About anyone. Anything. To anyone. Ever. So what, you ask? What's the big deal about a little lie?
Well, it's a really big deal according to the Lord. James, who was a brother to Jesus, writes that if we break just one point in the law we are considered one who has broken the entire law. Read it for yourself:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point
is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10, NIV84
Knowing this, is there anyone who can claim to be without sin? Not really, but we do love to turn a blind eye to this truth. The Lord knows this too! We read in 1 John that when we say we haven't sinned we are lying to ourselves and “the truth is not in us.” In claiming this, we are calling Jesus a liar. James says if this is so, the Word of God has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8,10, NIV84) BUT... “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV84)
It is Jesus Who purifies us. He makes us righteous. Through faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe that He is the Son of God. Wholly human. Wholly divine. We must believe that His life had to be sacrificed for ours. He made a way for us to be reunited with the Lord Himself. (Romans 2:21-26).
You see, it's not about our good works, it's about His Grace. We've been saved by His Grace, through faith. And this faith doesn't come from us. It's a gift from Him. It's not through our works. Why? So that no one can boast that he did it himself. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God does it all. Past. Present. Future.
When we are ready to leave our darkness of sin behind and walk in the Light of His Truth, His Word, then it's time to come to Jesus. As we confess our sins and ask Him for forgiveness, we can look forward to a new life in Him. (1 John 1:7, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
Then we need to receive the gift of faith and seek Him. For “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV84)
Do you believe He exists? Our Creator put knowledge of Him inside of all of us, all you have to do is look around to see evidence of His handiwork. We are without excuse! (Romans 1:19-20) So seek Him earnestly. Look for Him as if you were looking for lost or hidden treasure! (Proverbs 2:4) Seek Him wholeheartedly and you will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) God is faithful, and if you seek Him, He will be found by you. Praise the Lord!
When you put your hope in Him and look to Him for help, you will find a happiness that lasts longer than that new outfit (jewelry, car, home, etc.) you bought. Or that party of the year you were invited to. Or that game you won. (Psalm 146:5, NKJV)
And then, if someone says to raise your hand if you're good, you can raise your hand, not because you're good, but to announce, “I have Jesus as my Lord. Apart from Him I have no good thing.” (Psalm 16:2) And you will know true joy and the peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) Because you have given the reigns of your life over to Him. All of your joys. All of your sorrows. All of your sinful tendencies.
**If you have more questions about following the law and being good, may I invite you to read the book of Romans? If you do, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your heart to His goodness and the gift He is holding out to you.**
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:9, NIV84