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Friday, November 04, 2005


What is good? Who is good?
Who does good? Why do good?

What is Good?
Good is a relative term. It is the standards by which we judge that determine what goodness is. When we judge ourselves according to the standards of the world it is easy to label ourselves as good. We can watch the news any day and compare our deeds to those of the world. No matter what we’ve done we can say, “At least I’m not as bad as him or her and at least I don’t do this or that.” We can read history and compare our country to the worse that the ages had to offer and feel comforted, proving to ourselves that we are not that bad. The thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history. “All a man’s ways are pure in his own view, but the LORD weighs the spirit” (Proverbs 16:2).

When we honestly judge ourselves by God’s standards we fall infinitely short. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind. Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We can determine God’s standards by looking at the one who is considered by Him to be perfect, He who knew no sin (see 2nd Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (see John 1:29). According to God such a sacrifice must be unblemished (Exodus 12:5). Besides the Messiah, every person in the history of creation has fallen far short of God’s standards. “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?’” (Proverbs 20:9).

The realization of not just our sinful nature, but the fact that we make plans to sin, we carry out sin, and we do it all again will cause the unsaved to cry out, “…to the mountains and rocks, ‘fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb for the great day of His wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand.’” (Revelation 6:16).

Consider how even Isaiah, a holy prophet of God reacts as he sees God, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple…So I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’” (Isaiah 6:1 & 6:5).

Who is Good?
We say, “I am a good person and that should be enough. Why would God send a good person to hell?” This all goes back to our definition of good. Actually, people condemn themselves to eternal separation from God by choosing to deny the salvation that He offers. If we stand before God relying on our own goodness, we cannot measure up to His standards for entry into His eternal kingdom. We are weighed on the scale and found wanting. Such would be the case with an unsaved person, one who has denied the salvation that God offers as a gift.

“‘Do I have pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23). God is so loving that as much as He wants us to do His will, He will allow us to do our own will if that is what we really want. Therefore, if we live our whole lives proving by thought, deed, and word that we want nothing to do with God then when we come before Him after death He will not force us to spend eternity with Him. If He did then He would be unfair and unjust. Be careful what you wish for you just might get it. So, who is truly good? Good enough that is, to stand before the judge on our own merits. “no one is good but One, that is God” (Matthew 19:17). “For there is no one who does not sin” (1st Kings 8:46).

I wonder about people who say that as long as a person is good, everything is fine and heaven awaits. What, I wonder, about all the people who are not good? How could it be possible for a good person to say only those good people like themselves will gain heaven. The Christian life begins with a bad person realizing that they are bad. Therefore, we reach to the bad people so that not just the good will be saved. Christians honestly believe that we are going to heaven, not due to our own goodness but through the salvation that God offers through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We honestly believe that we are going to heaven and we are not content to go there alone. This is why Christians proselytize.

Who does Good?
Is a good person one who does good? Since good is a relative term, then so is doing good. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33). “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Matthew 5:46-47). How often is our wish to do good no more than an intention? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

To intend is not necessarily to fulfill. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart for him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1st John 3:17). No matter what ideals, standards, philosophy, or religion we follow we will at some point act against that which we believe and what is to happen when we do this non-goodness? Or politically incorrect but honestly speaking what should our payment be for our evil doing? God is so Holy and righteous that He cannot look upon sin (see Habakkuk 1:13). The thing that a saved person has going for them is the assurance of forgiveness.

So who truly does good? The Messiah’s life proves that doing good is a full time job. He fed the hungry to nurture them, because He cared for them. Jesus said, “I have compassion for the multitudes, because they have now continued with me three days and have nothing to eat, and I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on they way” (Matthew 15:38). He rebuked hypocrites to save them from damnation. “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, But that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). He became a servant of men. Putting Himself not first but last. “…if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant to all” (Mark 9:35). Ultimately He gave His life to save us filthy dirt clots. This giving, servitude, goodness was one hundred percent of the time. No one else comes remotely close to that.
“There is none who seeks God. They have all turned aside; They have become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). “For there is not a just man on the earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Why do Good?
This is all pretty depressing. If no one truly does good, if the good that we do (our own righteousness) is as filthy rags, if good deeds do not gain us salvation, then why bother? We might ask, greatly astonished as the disciples did, “‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:25-26).

We are obsessed with the concept of goodness. Some truly believe it to be the way to heaven. Most people who seek the unification of all religions focus solely on good deeds as an assumed tie that binds. These points would be valid if good works or deeds gained salvation. If good gains salvation, then what do bad deeds gain us? Maybe, if our good deeds outweigh our bad, then we will go to heaven. Where is this cosmic scale? We wouldn’t know the outcome until in death we faced judgment. Imagine living with such spiritual paranoia. To believe that our own righteousness would outweigh our sin is to demonstrate a tremendous amount of ignorance as to what sin is.

If goodness is enough then why (literally) in God’s name did Jesus Christ humble Himself? Why did He dwell among us, to become, “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”? (Isaiah 53:3). Why did He come to be betrayed, mocked, beaten, and killed? Because “when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

It’s hard to believe people when they claim to believe in working for salvation. I always wonder why they are wasting time talking with me instead of doing good works since their eternal destiny hangs in the balance. The point is that if you believe that you can walk a 100-mile pilgrimage to gain merit with God, then why aren’t you walking 500 or 1,000-miles? If you believe that 1-hour of chanting will harmonize your karma, then why aren’t you chanting 10 or 24-hours a day? If you believe that you can gain indulgences by walking through the doors of a cathedral then why aren’t you stepping in and out, in and out that you may pass through the door over and over? “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6).

“‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered” (Ezekiel 33:12).

Grace is God’s undeserved favor, the undeserved salvation which He offers us. If we are saved by grace then works cannot merit salvation, and if we are saved by works then grace is of no affect, therefore, if grace is then works are not, and if works are then grace is not. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The main thing is not just that we could not possibly do enough good works, or that we could but we just don’t. The main thing is that there are no more works to do because the sacrifice has already been made. The blood atonement for sin has been shed, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). From the cross Jesus cried “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word He used was street language meaning paid in full.

This was understood at the time to be tantamount to when a purchase was made and paid for completely owing absolutely nothing else. The debt for sin has been paid in full. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1st Peter 3:18). To believe in good works for salvation then is to look at Jesus, the unblemished sacrificial lamb in the eyes and say, “You are not good enough, your perfect sinless life and your unfathomable humble death for us is just not enough. I’m here to finish the work you left undone.”

“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:10-12).

Salvation is a package waiting for us in the post office, waiting to be picked up. The Bible is the slip of paper left at our door informing us that there is a package for us, it is paid in full. All we have to do is ask for it, just receive it. A gift is not earned, purchased, or deserved. A gift is given out of love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

However isn’t faith without works dead? (see James 2:20). Aren’t we commanded to love and do good to our neighbors and those who hate us? (see Luke 6:27 & Matthew 22:39). Yes, but these good works are not done in order to gain salvation rather, they are to be done because they are a natural part of walking with God (see Ephesians 2:10). “As fellow-workers we also urge you not to receive his grace and then do nothing with it” (2nd Corinthians 6:1).

It seems that since God knows who will come to Him, He knows that these would yield to His Spirit and be led by Him. He sees were those could be useful, and places them there. God often blesses people through people. He provides for people by His people. “I announced first in Dammesek, then in Yerushalayin and throughout Y’hudah, and also to the Goyim, that they should turn from their sins to God and then do deeds consistent with that repentance” (Acts 26:20).[2]

Having stated all the above I won’t deny, or neglect to comment on the fact that there is reward for works. The reward for a sinful unrepentant life is death, not just physical but spiritual (Romans 6:23). The good deeds done to be seen by others, to aggrandize ourselves, have as a reward nothing but to be seen by others doing good deeds (Matthew 6:1).

There are also heavenly rewards yet, this is not salvation as a reward for good works but rewards for those already saved,

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1st Corinthians 3:10-15).

“for the Lord our God is righteous in
all the works which He does, though
we have not obeyed His voice”
Daniel 9:14

[1] David H. Stern, The Complete Jewish Bible (Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New
Testament Publication, Inc., 1998), p.1444
[2] David H. Stern, p. 1397

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