There was once a man who thought he was good. Certainly he was not perfect, who is? But he took care of his family, attended church regularly, was faithful to his wife. He may not have been obedient in everything, but he made sure that no one knew about it when he strayed, and it’s not like he ever did anything “that bad.” He was definitely a better person than crazy Uncle Larry or Joe Shmoe down the street. In fact, he was better than anyone he knew, so he figured he must be good enough right? I mean, how good can a human with a sin-nature be?...
Is it possible to be good enough? It depends on what you are planning to accomplish with your goodness. Are you trying to earn salvation or gain favor with God? If that is the case then you can never be good enough. It is not possible for us to earn our salvation through anything that we do, it is only through faith in Christ that we can accomplish that. If we are good only to earn favor or blessings then we will fall short automatically because we are serving God out of selfish motives. So again it is not possible to be good enough.
The standards that we set for ourselves tell what our motives really are. If we are trying to be better than those around us, then our goodness is rooted in pride and self conceit which again is not good enough. Those standards are deceptive; first because it is not possible to really know how “good” another person is since we can not see what is in another person’s heart. For another, we are all on the same journey, but none of us are in the same place. It is not just to judge your chapter 20 by another person’s chapter 2, or chapter 100 for that matter. But more importantly, those standards deceive us even more because those are not the standards that God sets for us. They are far short of His goals and if we settle for less then we will be found wanting.
Again, it is not possible to earn salvation through our own goodness, nor do we really even earn favor from God through our goodness. His favor is based on our faith and His will not our merit. So why should we be good if we can’t earn something from it? The Bible says our motives are just as important as our actions.
Proverbs 16:2New International Version (NIV)
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.
but motives are weighed by the Lord.
James 4:3New International Version (NIV)
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Mark 7New International Version (NIV)
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
If our motives are right, then our actions will follow. It is useless to try to “do” good things without first making sure that your heart is good. As Jesus said:
Matthew 23:26-28New International Version (NIV)
26 Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Being a Christian is not about doing the right things, or appearing good to others, it is about having a relationship with God. It is not a contest to see who can be the best, or who is better than another. It is about serving, honoring and loving the God who saved you from death and condemnation, who paid the price for your debt that you could never come close to releasing. It is out of love for Him that we are supposed to be good. Not to pay Him back or in an effort to deserve what has been given, but out of love and gratitude.
John 14:21New American Standard Bible (NASB)
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
If it were possible for us to earn anything with our goodness, then it would not be absolutely necessary for Christ to die on the cross for us. But His death is absolutely necessary because we can’t earn anything with our actions. That is the whole point, we could never earn anything, we could never hope to even come close to being good enough for God because we all start out as sinners so we have nothing good to begin with. What He did for us at
Calvary is far beyond anything we could even come close
to accomplishing. In a sense, we owe Him everything because we do not deserve
anything good that we have, and yet anything and everything that we could give
would never be enough. We literally are nothing without Him. Is that not
something worth living completely for? Is that gift so little that you would
say “thank you” and then turn to serve yourself instead of the One who bought
you? Is the fact that you could not earn or deserve anything really a good
reason to not do anything for Him in return?
The sacrifice that Christ made, the penalty He paid for us, should motivate us to serve Him whole-heartedly with a passion that none other could inspire. We should long to do everything that we can to show Him our love and appreciation. If you were born as a slave to a horrible person and then bought by the most generous man in the world, would you show your gratitude by doing the least amount of work that you could get away with just because you knew that He wouldn’t punish you for your laziness? Who are you serving if you are not serving God completely?
Obedience, then, is not for the purpose of earning anything, or because we are forced to obey. It is out of love. It is to honor the One who bought us. We shouldn’t just be obedient for obedient’s sake. That is why we should try to obey completely, not just when it is convenient or when someone might be watching. We aren’t obeying for other people, we are obeying out of love for God, and that motive requires consistency. That love demands whole-hearted, continual obedience, otherwise it is not love.
1 John 2:3-6New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
We are perfected in love when we obey out of love. Disobedience is anything that is self motivated, and that selfishness is sin. We should be diligent in our obedience so that we can honor the One who created and redeemed us because when we are not obedient, we are serving Satan. There are only two masters, and the idea that you are doing your thing versus God’s is Satan’s way of getting to you rebel against God, so really it is Satan that you are following. We can not honor or please God if we are doing our thing instead of His. That is why love for Him requires whole-hearted devotion. If it is not 100% then we really don’t love Him. I’m not referring to every time we stumble even though we are trying to follow God. I am referring to not caring about whether you are perfectly obedient or not, about not caring if you follow God completely, about not caring or repenting when you do slip or fall. When our objective is to honor God through obedience, He will make a way for it to work out, even if it looks impossible.
Luke 12:29-31New Living Translation (NLT)
don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such
things. 30 These
things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father
already knows your needs. 31 Seek
above all else, and he will give you
everything you need. Kingdom of God
Maybe your family doesn’t have enough money and you are presented with an opportunity to obtain money or food dishonestly. It may be the only way you see to provide for your family, but it is disobedient to God. If you trust God, and intend to honor Him with your obedience, then He will provide for you. If you try to do things your way, you may provide for your family, but you will also face the consequences of disobedience. Disobedience in order to provide shows a lack of trust in God (who says that He will provide) by trying to do things your way instead of relying on Him and doing things God’s way.
Obedience is also the key to defeating Satan. We are “giving” honor to (or using the power of) whomever we obey; either to Satan when we follow him in sin, or to God when we obey Him. If we want to be victorious over Satan and his temptations and trials, then we need to get God’s power through obedience to Him. We can not defeat Satan if we are following him in sin. And we can not use or gain God’s power if we are disobedient to Him. We may think that we are exercising our freedom by choosing to do what we want, but really we are just making ourselves slaves to Satan. The freedom we gain through Christ is not freedom from obedience to do what we want, but freedom from slavery to Satan through sin, not freedom from following the Law but freedom from being justified by the Law. “Using your freedom” to do what you want rather than obeying God is actually enslaving yourself to sin and Satan and forfeiting your freedom. We are never truly Master of ourselves, we are either a slave to God or a slave to Satan, and when we insist on our own way or our right to do something, we are rebelling against God and following Satan and believing his lies that we are ruling ourselves. I saw it described this way; Sin=King I. In essence, sin is any time that “I” am king of my life, because it means that God is not, and that includes “doing our own thing or doing it our way.” It is the blood of the Lamb that gives us power, but we can’t access it if we are rebellious against Him, either by “doing our own thing” or by blatant sin.
God is completely perfect and holy. He can not be in the presence of sin, so when we sin we are separating ourselves from Him. Sin is in itself spiritual treason because it is following Satan instead of God, if you think of it in a patriotic sense. If we truly love God then we should be passionate about following Him and NOT doing what offends Him so intensely. If we don’t care about that then we are proving that we don’t care about Him. Our actions and desires prove what is in our hearts. If we do not desire to honor God completely, if we do not desire to please Him consistently, if we are only willing to serve Him in the way that we want to, we are proving that our hearts are intent on serving ourselves and not Him. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love Him at all, or aren’t saved, but it does mean that you are the lord of your life and He is not. You love yourself more than you love Him, and that is idolatry.
If we focus on God, if we desire to please Him, if we are intent on obeying and serving Him, then our actions will fall into place. But our obedience will only be a stench and a mockery if our hearts are not in it. Do you want someone to love you and do things that make you happy just so that they can get something from you or because they know they have to? If you don’t want your spouse to love you with that self-centered kind of love, then why love God that way? Do you want your kids to be obedient only when they can earn something from you, when it’s convenient for them, or only when you are watching them? If you don’t want your kids acting that way, then why set that example for them?
God doesn’t care how you compare to anyone else, or even what other people see you doing. What He cares about is your devotion to Him. Since our standard of measure is Christ Himself (who is perfect), and we will never be perfect until we get to heaven, then we should always be seeking to be more like Christ, always looking for things in ourselves that need to change and be improved. We should always be looking for things in our lives that are not godly, and then immediately get rid of them once they are found. We will never be in a place where we can sit back and say “I’m good enough, I don’t need to try to be better or try to grow any more.” That is never true and that idea is based in selfishness and pride. And rather than having the attitude that “because I will never reach perfection on earth then it is not a big deal if I stay as I am and I don’t have to try”, we should strive for greater perfection continually because that is the plan God has for us. It is also proof that we have the Spirit of God in us.
Ephesians 2:10New American Standard Bible (NASB)
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Galatians 5:22-23New American Standard Bible (NASB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Again, our motives belie our true heart and priority. If we are content as we are and see no need to try to be better, we are thinking of our selves and not God. We should never be content or satisfied with our status as a Christian, or our relationship with God. We should always seek for more. The benefit to this is that the more we seek it, the more we want it. It is hard to do when you first start out. But once you get a taste of it, you will gain an increasing desire for more.
Our ultimate, created purpose is to glorify God.
1 Corinthians 10:31New International Version (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Matthew 5:16New International Version (NIV)
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The way we glorify God is essentially by being like Christ. So being like Christ should be our greatest goal and our first priority. We should seek that above all else, it should be our greatest desire.
Matthew 6:33New International Version (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Another way of saying “seek first” is “above all else, seek this”. We should pursue His righteousness; desire to have it more than anything and seek to use it. That is how we wear the breastplate of righteousness, by seeking His righteousness and walking in it. We should be passionate about it! And not out of duty or because it is what we are supposed to do, but because we want to, because we love God and want to honor Him with our lives. Love is not passive.
Colossians 1:9-14New International Version (NIV)
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Take some time now to review your life, motives, heart and actions. Don’t flatter yourself and only see what you want. Be honest with where you are at, God already knows anyhow, you can’t fool Him. Make yourself right with Him and renew your devotion.
Romans 4:7New Living Translation (NLT)
7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. https://www.tyndale.com/permissions