Romans chapter 3 states that there is not a single person on the earth or that has ever been on the earth (besides Christ) that is good. None. Not even one. But I think that many of us take this to mean that everyone is as bad as they could be. And that simply is not true. We see people do good things all of the time—we see a lot of non-Christian people do good things all the time. Multitudes of which orchestrate and participate in charities, overseas work, caring for the sick and orphans, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, and the list goes on and on. But the question is, do the good deeds make them good people?
The Bible is so controversial because it claims that a generous and selfless person who lives their life putting others before themselves and doing good things can actually be horrifically and condemn-ably evil. Doesn’t sound quite right does it? It didn’t sound quite right to the Pharisees when it was coming out of Jesus’ mouth either. Moses, the Prophets and the Son of God all witness to the same truth—someone can spend their whole life being ‘good’ in the eyes of other men: doing charity work, emptying out their bank accounts for the poor, fostering orphans in their homes, cultivating good morals in their kids, going to church, teaching Sunday School, reading the Bible—but if God is not their ultimate motivation in doing these things and the primary object of their love, they are evil.
A person is defined as good or evil not based on their relation to others, but on their relation to God. Good relation with God produces good relation with others, not the other way around. Truly being “good” doesn’t come about by doing good deeds–because the good deeds of a faithless person come from the depths of a dead, sin stained heart that has no intent of glorifying God. Truly being good, or righteous, only comes through faith in Christ and trusting in His goodness. If you believe you are good based on anything else besides the fact that Jesus has absorbed your evilness on the Cross and given His goodness to you, you should be very afraid of God. Afraid, because you are making Him out to be a liar as you reject the righteousness by faith that He says you need while you attempt to establish your own. In doing so, you pridefully set yourself up against the Creator of all things.
I fear for professing Christians in America, specifically for those living in the Bible-Belt. I fear that just as the religious community did in Jesus’ day, we are substituting good deeds (a righteousness based on works) for a relationship with God through Jesus (a righteousness through faith). I fear that we have cloaked The Way that Jesus and His apostles spoke about with a man-centered religious system that strives to meet the physical and emotional needs of people while neglecting their spiritual need of reconciliation to God. We emphasize “doing good” while minimizing what it means to be a Christian. Many from the pulpit assure people, “If you say you’re a Christian and believe it, you’re a Christian!” But that’s not biblical. Yes, we are saved by faith in Christ alone….. but it seems many don’t understand what an explosive and transformative device faith in Christ is. It changes everything about a person. Faith isn’t a proclamation with the mouth, it is an attachment of the heart to Jesus Christ which results in a proclamation with the mouth. Verbal proclamation means nothing without a heart attachment to Christ.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”- Matthew 15:8.
Someone knows that they are a Christian not merely because they think they believe, but because they see that their life is wrapped up in a process of becoming more like Jesus Christ. Not just more like a “good person”—not just more like a “caring person”—not just more like a “generous person”. Sure, all of these things are Christ-like characteristics, but Christ’s most defining characteristic was His love for God the Father and desire to be obedient to His Father’s will. Are our good deeds motivated by a love for God and desire to be obedient to His will? Or are our good deeds motivated by our own self-interest and self-righteousness?
I don’t want to see ‘good’ people mimic the things Jesus did while lacking a relationship with Him. Jesus said Himself that multitudes will be in shock on the day they stand before Him and hear Him say, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23). Please examine your heart and motives (as I am also doing today) and ask the Lord to show you now if He really knows you. If you find that your “Christian life” has been a life of fraudulence and deception—full of activities and good deeds, but empty of God—rejoice that the Holy Spirit has shown you this now, and repent and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and for an eternal reconciliation to a good and faithful Creator.
“The people will declare, “The LORD is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”- Isaiah 45:24