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How "good" are you? Do you consider yourself a generally good person? You probably do. And most people would likely agree with you.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate how good you are? Like me, you know you're not perfect, so you probably wouldn't say 10. Even rating yourself a 9 might seem like a stretch if you think about some people who have gone before you like Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. So...an 8? Maybe. But 7 seems more realistic, doesn't it? In our own minds, we generally have a positive view of ourselves, right?
But wait! Don't you remember that lie you told your mom or dad when you came home late as a teenager? How about that white lie? Sure, you said that because you were trying to spare someone feelings, but isn't that still lying? Or how about the pen you took from work without permission? Isn't that stealing? Certainly you don't use the copier at work for personal use without first paying for it. What about speeding? Do you ALWAYS drive the speed limit, no matter what? (That 5 mile an hour over the limit doesn't count...that's still speeding.)
Now how good are you? Maybe you'd be pressed to say you're good half the time. Maybe.
But the question has to be, "By who's standard?" If we judge ourselves by each other, aren't we likely going to think pretty highly of ourselves? You're not a murderer, right? You probably don't consider yourself a thief either. However, maybe you've taken an item from a store by accident and didn't pay for it. Didn't even realize it until you got home. That's not stealing, is it? Umm...yes. Yes it is.
Okay, these are minor infractions. At least you're not Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, or some terrorist nut-job. Now those people...
Now wait a minute. Let's think about this for a second. Does it seem realistic that God would judge whether He will redeem us based on some kind of grading scale? Or does it seem more likely that God's standards might just be a little bit more than that?
The problem with us is that we always want to quantify stuff. We think everything is measurable. Even whether or not we're good enough to get to heaven. Is it just me, or does this sound vaguely familiar? Anybody? How about Santa Claus? He's gonna find out who's been naughty or nice!
Hopefully that is not our perception of God. The reality is that God is a HOLY God! Holy means to be set apart. But for God, it's more than that. God is perfect. As such, His standards are perfect. Consider these words spoken in a prayer by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:
1 And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
2 “No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
3 “Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.
4 “The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
6 “The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
And He has set the world upon them.
9 He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
“For by strength no man shall prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
Pretty powerful words. But they still fail to describe God completely. God is indescribable. The point is is that we can't measure up to God's standards by how good we are. Romans 3:9b-18 tells us that, "...9b both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written:
“ There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “ Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Do you see that? In verse 12? There is none who does good, no, not one. A very sad commentary on the state of man. Do we really think we can measure up? And make no mistake, these verses don't just tell us that we can't be good enough, they do more than that. Scripture tells us that for the unregenerated heart, man is the enemy of God. Two verses stick out that tell us about who the Christian once was before God saved him:
"For if, when we were God's enemies..."
"...and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
So, as you can surmise, God is opposed to the wickedness of man. What's the end result? Death. Not the kind of death you might be thinking of. Everyone is appointed to die once. No, what I'm talking about is a second death. Romans 6:23 says that, "...the wages of sin is death..." A lot can be said of this subject, but let's just say that it's not a good thing. Ultimately, it's the worst thing that could happen, a complete separation from God and your Creator. That's a spiritual death.
The topic here is whether or not we can ever be good enough to measure up to God's standards. Remember, His standards are not on the same level as ours:
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Now the question is, what hope do we have? If we're trying to measure up by man's standards, NONE. No hope. But God has an alternative plan. God did for us what we couldn't do ourselves. By sending His Son, Jesus, through the virgin birth to come in the form of flesh and live among us as a man, God circumvented man's sin nature. How that works, exactly, is complicated but Jesus bypassed the sin nature that ran through Adam by not being born of the seed of man, but by the Holy Spirit.
And the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, He met the standard of righteousness required by God. And then in the process of dying on the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness!
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Jesus, then, is the answer. Jesus was the One good enough to meet God's perfect standards and Jesus is the One, through His righteousness, that justified us before God! Look at the following passage that sheds more light on this subject:
Righteousness Through Faith
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
So, you see, "a righteousness from God - the righteousness of Jesus" has been made known that justifies us before God. It's not about us obeying the law, or being good enough. This is clearly saying that it wasn't, rather that it was apart from obeying the law (or observing it). Now look at this text:
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
The point that Paul is making here is that by working to gain our salvation, the only thing that we'll gain from it is what we deserve. Since wages are paid to the worker, the just payment (Romans 6:23) for works (toward salvation) is duly the very thing deserved. Consider these two verses if you have any doubt as to whether works has any merit.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
1 John 1:8
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Paul reiterates the point that it's faith, not works, that is credited as righteousness. But not just faith in anything or anyone, but faith in Jesus Christ who justifies us before God. The only thing...the only One...that can justify us before God is faith in Jesus, "faith in His blood" that atoned for our sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.