What does a person have to do to share God’s Kingdom? A common refrain that we here now-a-days is “just be a good person”, but what does that mean? And is that truly “good enough”? This Sunday we considered that question. Here’s a recap.
If you asked your friends or coworkers what is good, or what is good enough there’d be a lot of discussion and most likely disagreement as to what it means and what it looks like.
Clearly there should be some level of requirement. We have expectations when we buy food, but our standard for “good enough” fast food is lower than what we expect from a “good enough” three course meal. And in serious matters should you settle for good enough? If you needed major surgery would you settle for a “good enough” surgeon? …or would you want the best?
Every person would set their own standard, but when it comes to salvation and participation in God’s kingdom, do we have the liberty to set the bar where we want it? When it comes down to a matter of life and death we have to ask: What does God say is good, because the creator is the one who defines what is really “good enough”.
What does God define as being Good?
In Exodus 33 and 34 God shows to the man Moses what “goodness” is: It’s God’s character. God is Good, and that Goodness is mercy, grace, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving the repentant, but holding the unrepentant accountable. The Bible speaks to this on every page and gives us plenty of insight as to what this looks like in principle and practice.
In creation God created Adam and Eve with the ability to develop God’s character: His “likeness” (Gen 1:27; cp 1 Corinthians 11:3). Does that equip us with the ability to define our own standard of Good? In Jeremiah 10:23 we have the answer. We can’t direct our own steps. If choose the path that suits us we’re doing what’s right in our own eyes… That’s a path that leads us very far from God’s goodness and his standards. If there’s doubt, take a look at the book of the Judges – written about a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. It’s not a pretty picture.
So what is goodness? We saw in Exodus 33 and 34 that it is God’s character and that idea is reinforced in Galatians 5:22-26. He defines goodness as the fruit of the spirit, or the characteristics of an individual who is driven by God’s spirit word:
Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness Goodness, Meekness, Faith, Self Control.
To help us understand what that looks like, we are told in that same chapter what the opposite of that is in verses 19-21, called the “works of the flesh”:
sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. (NET)
If we think we live a good life and it doesn’t contain the fruit described, then we’re not living a life that’s “good enough”. Alternately, if our lives contain any of those works of the flesh then we’re falling sort of what God defines as good enough.
If we’re honest with ourselves we all fall short of that standard. Here’s a harder question: Do we enjoy those things? If we take pleasure in watching or reading about or hearing of those types of un-godly behaviour, Romans chapter one’s admonition says we’re in the same boat as the individuals that physically participate in those things.
Can we attain that?
The short answer is no. Romans 3:23 tells us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory (read goodness) of God. Romans 5:12 confirms that for us. No one is good enough if we take God’s estimation, so where does that leave us? Are we without hope because we haven’t measured up to the standard of perfection that God set for us?
What should we do?
Jesus tells us that life eternal lies in knowing God and his son (John 17:3). John 3:15 and 16 tell us that Jesus was sent so that we wouldn’t perish, but how does that help us?
God expects us to follow his standard to the best that we can. We won’t achieve perfection, so God offers forgiveness for those times that we fall short through our obedience to his word, our acknowledgement of our own short-comings, and a change in behaviour that brings our character into alignment with God’s.
God’s grace in offering us forgiveness is not a free ticket to live life according to our own standards, but an opportunity to start again in our desire to live to God’s standard. That’s the message of Ephesians 2. We are saved by grace – because we aren’t good enough – so we do our best because we have been created in Christ Jesus to show good works (vs 8-10).
So, maybe the question shouldn’t be “is being ‘good’ good enough”, but rather what does God require of us?
Micah 6:8 gives us the answer: we must “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God”.
The fruit of the spirit needs to flourish in the life of a believer. Knowledge of God’s character of Goodness, needs to become the motive force in our lives. If the word of God is active in our lives it will change our character so that it becomes a reflection of God’s goodness. Yes, we will fall short, so we must rely on God’s grace offered in Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15, 16). From there, in thankfulness to God we can press toward the high calling that he has established in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).