It’s interesting, isn’t it? We all basically think we are good people. Last week a couple lost custody of 2 of their children over videos they posted on~line *pranking* the kids but, hey, *We’re not bad people.* In other words they basically think they are good people.
People do wrong things yet still consider themselves to be good people. Decent people. We compare ourselves to others & conclude we’re not doing so badly in the *decent human being* stakes. What I want to look @ today is why being good isn’t good enough & what Jesus taught us about being good.
If I asked you to define the meaning of *good* I suspect most of us would be a little vague so we will start with a definition.
The usual Hebrew word for *good* is tov & it means: good, beautiful, to function as it was designed to function. In the beginning everything was tov. It was beautiful. It functioned as it was meant to. The Greek word agathos carries pretty much the same meaning Good, Goodly, Goodness describing that which, being "good" in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect; it is used. [Vines] Connotations of virtue, honour, morality are inherent in the idea of functionality.
We could stop right there & acknowledge no~one always *functions as they were designed to function* all the time because this is a fallen world.
In the 3 synoptic gospels the story is related of a young man who approaches Jesus & calls him *Good Master.* Jesus responds "Why do you call me good?... Only God is truly good”.[Mark 10:18]
It is an interesting story because this young man thought he was a good person. He kept the Torah. He kept the 10 commandments. I’m quite sure he was expecting Jesus to pat him on the back & say something along the lines of: Well done thou good & faithful servant; enter into the kingdom. But Jesus doesn’t. He looks @ him with love & esteem & tells him he lacks one thing. He needs to sell his riches & follow Jesus. The young man is shocked, appalled ~ stygnazō. Jesus does not tell him he hasn’t kept the Torah; He says, in essence, it is not enough!
Now this man’s riches were not his problem per se. However they were preventing him from following Jesus & thus became a stumbling block to him. His problem was self~righteousness.
We must understand that goodness from God’s point of view does not consist of doing all the right things but of being the right thing, of functioning in the way we were created to function.
If I asked anyone: Are you a good person? I’m pretty sure most people would answer, Yes, then give me a list of things they do that they think are morally good: I donate to charity; I help my neighbour; I haven’t robbed any banks lately; I look after my family. Christians might add: I tithe; I help out at church; I pray…Yet it is not enough. It will never be enough. Romans 3:23 says: For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.
God gave us a standard, the reason for it & the reason why it was insufficient.
Galatians 3:19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
The number one reason God gave people His Law was so that we would understand that we have sinned, how we have sinned & consequentially our need of salvation.
See if you believe that you’re a good person you have no need of a saviour. If you have no need of a saviour you have no need of Jesus Christ. If you have no need of Jesus you cannot enter into the Kingdom.
Romans 3:20 ~ For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
According to Paul the Law is good ~ Romans 7:1
But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.
The problem is not with the law; it is with us. Put as simply as possible we think of the Law in negative terms: Thou shalt not… & when we think like that we believe the law has been designed specifically to steal our pleasures, to rob us of happiness, to curb our freedoms when the Law was designed for the exact opposite purpose. By showing us how sinful we really are; our selfishness, our greed, our hostility, our lack of love etc it shows us what we lack in order to be happy, successful, able to fully enjoy our pleasures & operate in freedom.
I will give you a really practical illustration. One of the 10 commandments is Thou shalt not bear false witness…False witness is lying about your neighbour. Proverbs 6:16~19 elaborates: There are six things that the LORD strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Lying displeases God & yet 60% of adults can’t have a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once! [University of Massachusetts, 2002]
What’s more Jesus said: "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. [Matthew 5:17~18]
The Law continues to be valid because men still need to understand their sinfulness in God’s sight. If there is no absolute right or wrong, if there is no moral law, there is nothing to prevent anyone from doing whatever they like whenever they like. I don’t know about you, but I should not like to live in a world like that.
If you have ever been stolen from, if you have ever been betrayed, if you have ever suffered from gossip & slander you know it is the most awful, gut wrenching feeling.
What’s more it is absolutely impossible to keep God’s Law. The Jews have been attempting it since God gave Moses the 10 commandments & still James said: For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws.[2:10]
The Law shows us the impossibility of us being able to keep God’s law. There are literally hundreds of Laws in the Old Testament making it difficult to remember every one, let alone keep them all, but God, knowing the people He made, was prepared to let them try & they still got it wrong. So do we. The reason is simple. The essence of the law, according to Jesus Matthew 22:39~40…Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first & greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’… All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”…
The law is about our relationships with God & with people. It is about how we treat others & in essence is to do with the state of our heart rather that what we do or don’t do. Human relationships are messy. Often our relationship with God is messy too.
The Good News is we don’t have to keep the Law. We don’t have to be perfect. There is only one thing we have to do & for many people it is the hardest thing ever because it involves our pride, our sense that we are *good people*, moral people, that we don’t need someone telling us what’s right & wrong or how to behave.
God disagrees with us ~ ALL are sinners; ALL fall short of the glory of God. ALL are in need of salvation. Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. [Romans 3:19] And knowing this God sent His son.
“Show them how it’s done, son…”
Jesus not only kept the law, He kept the heart intent of the law. That is, He fulfilled the law perfectly according to God’s intentions & purposes so when satan wanted to accuse Him he could find no sin in Him. Free of sin Himself Jesus became the only perfect & acceptable sacrifice. He took our place. He bore our sins & our punishment that we should not have too but He did not simply give us a free pass into heaven. Matthew 3:2 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Jesus taught repentance. What is repentance? The Greek word
even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. James 2:19
Romans 10:9~10 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
The Holy Spirit comes into your life with this confession & it is He who enables us to then live as we are meant to live. Paul says something quite wonderful in Philippians 3:8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.
When we are sinners, relying on our own righteousness, our own sense that we are good people, we feel no need for a saviour. We may think Christians are mad, weak, deluded. We may laugh at them or dislike what they say & what they believe but Oh! How different it all looks from the other side!
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes ~ the Jew first and also the Gentile.
And this little word save, sozo in the Greek, means more than just to rescue from judgement. It embodies to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health, make whole [Strongs] ~ in the same sense that shalom, peace, is more than an absence of conflict. Sozo allows one to enter into the abundant life Jesus promised.
It is through His Holy Spirit that Jesus imparts His righteousness, His goodness, & it is the only way for us to become the people that we like to think we are.