If you ask straight up 100 individuals the question ‘Are you a good person?’, they will almost always tell you yes. If you follow up that question with, ‘Do you think God will reward you for being the good person you claim to be?’, the answer in a clear majority of cases will be again be ‘yes’.
Proverbs 14:12-13 (MSG)
There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell.
I seldom quote from ‘The Message’. I feel in many cases that idiomatic nature of the translation serves to frequently obscure the beauty of the scripture, with an over simplified interpretation, injected into the text. However, I do sometimes reflect on the ‘spin’ that ‘The Message’ puts on passages because it does, often, offer a fresh consideration of what God’s telling us.
As I read this passage using The Message, I felt a tug on my heart. This is one of those verses that you run across quickly, if you’re studying the Word of God.
In the New International Version, it reads:
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
Being Good Will Get You Into Big Trouble
There was sufficient difference for me to render my own paraphrased version, in my head, that read something like:
If you rely only on leading a good life, to please God, despite how it may appear, it is going to lead you straight eminent disaster.
This isn’t to say that being evil is any better. However, reliance in our ‘good’ is like trying to put out a house fire, with a flame thrower. Despite all your efforts you’re going to end up with anything more than expended remains.
Ephesians 2:8 (CSB)
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift
The Grace of Jesus is the only means of salvation. Without Grace there is nothing you can do to work your way into God’s favor. Nothing! Period! Nothing we can do can compensate for the offenses that we have committed against God.
“Now hold on a minute, I’m a good person!”
While faith in the grace of Jesus Christ is the only means by which we avoid punishment for our sins, it is also true that that ‘faith’ compels us to follow the Savior and walk in the commands he gives us.
Among these commands include being kind, loving others, loving God, being His whiteness to a lost world, and standing up for all that He calls us to. In short, ‘being good’!
So, What Is The Big Deal?
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that I’ve now come about to a total reversal of what I first stated; that ‘being good’ doesn’t cut it. But that isn’t the case.
You see, it’s not the ‘being good’ that is the issue; it is the motivation, which prompts us to be good, which determines if the goodness we impart, is “God’s goodness”, or our feeble attempt to win justification via our substandard acts.
Mark 10:18 (CSB)
“Why do you call me good? ” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone.”
This single verse tells us so much about our Lord. We see him respond as He often does, by responding with a question. At the same time, He delivers the question questions He poses with a statement, that from the surface seems to say, “I’m not good only God is”.
However, that isn’t what he’s saying at all. What he is saying is “As a matter of fact, I am good, as only God is truly good, and I AM God.”
The reason I used it here is to illustrate that we are incapable of ‘being good’ within our own power. Only when, we have the Spirit of God Living in us, which will result in pure goodness, via the fruits of the spirit, can we truly produce the goodness that is of God.
Galatians 5:22-23 (CSB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.
Anything we attempt to do outside of God’s Grace is a flawed imitation of what God requires of us.
John 14:6-7 (CSB)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” You simply cannot get there without Jesus taking you there through His abundant Grace. There is no way around this. There is absolutely nothing we can do on our own to come into a loving relationship with God. Until we embrace the forgiveness that comes by Grace, we are lost.
John 3:36 (CSB)
The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.
So, any action motivated by our desire to ‘earn’ God’s favor is in vain. It’s not that, Jesus doesn’t call us to service, he does. But He calls us to service, as a result of obedience, to His commands. We follow His commands as an act of repentance (changing direction in keeping with God’s will).
John 14:15 (CSB)
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
Jesus reinforces his intent in this with:
Matthew 16:24 (CSB)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
Grace is what saves us. Unmerited favor; Jesus forgiving us despite our wretched condition.
Revelation 3:17 (CSB)
For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
Back to my paraphrasing again, ‘You say you’re good, I do so many good things’. You are so wrong! You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked! You are not sufficient in yourself! End of the story. Nothing I can do can justify my wretched existence. I have only one option and that is to throw myself at the feet of Jesus Christ and plead for his forgiveness in total surrender and then act according to His will to put that faith into action.
The birth of our Savior that we celebrated yesterday, was about Love. His life and teaching were bout Love and the demonstration of love. His journey to the cross and sacrifice for our sins to redeem us was about Love, Love demonstrated and forgiveness. And His resurrection and accession into heaven is about Love, it’s manifestation, forgiveness imparted by Grace, and redemption to a new life with Him.
Not something we did. Not something we can do. Something only, He could have done on our behalf, to raise us to living a life of obedience to Him.