Do You Try to Live a Good Life?
If you are like many other people, you want to live a good life and be loving and kind toward others. By this means, we suppose that God will be pleased and will choose to let us into heaven when we die.
One large but aberrant religion supposes that God will have supernatural scales on the Day of Judgment and use this to weigh the good and the bad that people have done during their lifetime. If the good outweighs the bad, the person will be welcomed into heaven, whereas if the bad outweighs the good, that person will be rejected by God and go to hell. What do you think of this scenario? Do you have something similar in your imagination?
Another large religion of the world supposes that we can merit heaven by doing enough good deeds. If we fail to achieve enough of these good works, we can draw upon the extra works (the works of supererogation) that the Virgin Mary and the apostles achieved. Is this the truth?
A majority of people, even those who are not part of these religions, think that if they do the right and avoid the wrong, God will welcome them into heaven. They hope that their good character and abundance of good deeds will merit a place with God after they leave this world. Is this an opinion that you also hold?
Are You Really a Good Person?
Well return to this belief later, but for now, lets ask a question about being good. Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Most people do think this, but is it true? Gods Word says, Every mans way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2). In other words, we may think that we are good but God looks deep within us to make His judgment.
We also read, All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives (16:2). While we may think that we are a good or clean person, God can see inside of us and not only sees the actions or knows the words, but He also knows the thoughts and motives that prompt the external actions. This should cause us to think deeply about ourselves. Are we really doing what God wants? Are we doing enough to merit heaven?
Examine Your Good Deeds
Our deedsor worksmust be carefully examined. Are you willing to do this yourself as we explore this subject more closely? Lets ask a number of pertinent questions that will cause you to think through your life and determine if you are a good person or not. Consider these questions and try to answer them honestly:
1. Do you participate in things you think are good, worthy, and pleasing to God?
2. Do you always seek to live a good, moral life in thought and deed?
3. Do you a avoid everything that is bad?
4. Do you try to be a good husband, wife, son, daughter, parent, or friend?
5. Do you try to help your neighbors and fellow-workers?
6. Do you try to be a good employee, by being honest, working hard and arriving on time?
7. Do you try to live a pure and clean life, without any immoral sex?
8. Do you live a faithful life with your husband or wife?
9. Do you always honor and obey your parents, if you are still living at home?
10. Do you faithfully read your Bible every day?
11. Do you try to talk to others about the Lord Jesus without being ashamed?
12. Do you act with honesty and integrity in all you do?
13. Do you regularly pray to God?
14. Do you faithfully worship and revere God and always speak well of Him?
15. Have you ever been dishonest in word and deed?
16. Have you ever stolen anythingeven a small item?
17. Have you ever used a curse word or vulgar or profane word?
18. Have you ever watched something sinful or immoral on TV or on a movie?
19. Have you ever viewed an immoral, immodest, and sinful image on your computer?
20. Have you acted unkindly toward a store employee or business worker?
These are some of the questions that you should try to answer as you consider whether or not you are always living a good life. If you fail to answer such questions in a way that would show yourself to be good in every way, can you really claim to be right with God and on your way to heaven?
One time Jesus was talking with a young, rich ruler who claimed to consistently live a good life (Mark 10:17-25). He said that he had never committed murder, adultery, theft, false witness (lying), or fraud. He had always honored his parents. Did Christ Jesus commend him or congratulate him for his good life? No, in response, the Lord told him, No one is good except God alone (v. 18). You see, although we can live a generally good life (Galatians 5:22; Romans 2:7, 10), still we fall short of Gods perfection. Barnabas was called a good man (Acts 11:24) but even he failed the Lord on occasion. As the Scripture says, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When you and I measure ourselves with Jesus, the sinless Son of God, we fail miserably to measure up to His perfection.
The Necessity of Good Deeds
Lets discuss this matter of our doing good and right before God. The fact is, God does require us to do good deeds and we cant enter heaven without them. Paul refers to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. . . . glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good (Romans 2:7, 10).
Paul tells Titus that he must be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech (Titus 2:7-8). He says that Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (2:14). He goes on to say that we are to be ready for every good deed (3:1). He says that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds (3:8). Christians must learn to engage in good deeds (3:14). We can see that good deeds (or good works) are vital in our life in Christ.
Will these good deeds save us?
While these good deeds are the expected demonstration that a person knows God, we must not conclude that they are the basis or grounds of our acceptance by Him. Notice the well-known passage at Ephesians 2:8-9: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Our salvation is through faith. This salvation is not of ourselves but it is the gift of God. But then Gods Word goes on to say, We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (v. 10a). This would say that we cant be saved by good deeds but we are to go on to live a life of good deeds. Do you see the distinction?
Our Problem: Guilt
Why is it that our good and moral life cant save us? Because God demands perfectionabsolute sinlessness. But you may respond, No one has ever lived a sinless life! Thats right. We cant live a totally sinless, perfect, righteous, or good life. Only Jesus was sinless in thought, word and deed, all through His life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5, 7).
Human beings are different. We all fail the Lord, even when we dont deliberately try to break His moral law. Scripture says, There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Solomon said, There is no man who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46). John wrote, If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:10). If we were to live a life of perfect holiness and righteousness and never sin, we wouldnt be human! Since we all have sinned against God and violated His holy will found in His Word, we can see that our good works dont have the ability to get us into heaven.
The Results of Sin
Because all of us have sinned, God is obligated to bar us from heaven. You see, heaven is a perfect place for perfect people; it is a holy place for holy people. No unforgiven sin can enter heaven! (Revelation 21:27; 22:15). Instead, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). When we sin, we separate ourselves from God (Isaiah 59:2), we receive the death penalty (Ephesians 2:1), and in the judgment, we will be punished with hell or eternal separation from God (Ephesians 5:5; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). Because of unforgiven sin, we will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Can you see the helpless and hopeless state we are in as guilty sinners?
This is why God gave His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to identify Himself with lost humanity, to die for us, to die for our sins, and to rise again from the dead (Romans 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22). He bore our sins in His own body on the cross, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). Because of Jesus and His saving act on the cross, our sins can be dealt with. They can be forgiven and the guilty sinner (all of us) will be able to enter heaven!
But the only way we can be benefited from Christs death and resurrection is for us to accept Him and His salvation. We need to receive the reconciliation with God for this blessing doesnt come automatically (Romans 5:11). Just as a gift of one million dollars must be accepted for us to benefit from that huge amount of money, so we must accept Christs sin sacrifice and His gift of forgiveness. In effect, we trade our unrighteousness for Gods righteousness. We become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus becomes our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). As awesome as it may be, you and I can be considered just as righteous as God if we respond to Jesus Christ for His forgiveness.
Distinctions that Matter
We have just seen that we receive Gods righteousness when we come to Him through Christ. Paul wanted to be found in Him [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9). We have received Gods righteousness by faitha faith-righteousness. God looks at us as perfectly righteous or good because of the work of Christ on the cross on your behalf. On this basis, God accepts us:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savor, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7).
This is good news! We could do nothing to make us deserving of Gods forgiveness and acceptance. It was by Gods grace and mercy that we are saved from sin, death, and hell. Lets keep this in mind: We can do nothing that would merit salvation.
The place of good deeds
While we cant be saved on the basis of good deeds and our obedience to Gods will, we cant be saved if we are indifferent to these necessary responses. Again and again, we read that our obedience to God is necessary. This obedience demonstrates our love for Jesus and God! Jesus said, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15; cf. vv. 21-24; 1 John 5:2-3). When we obey God, we also demonstrate our faith in Him: Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself (James 2:17). Faith without works is useless (2:20). You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24). Faith without works is dead (2:26). Faith must be expressed in deeds or works. As Paul put it, what really matters is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6b).
Jesus said, He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36). Doesnt that sound like obedience to Christ is utterly important? Christ became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9). Who finds that Jesus is the source of his salvation? The one who obeys Him! Scripture says that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised (Hebrews 10:36). John also declared that the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:17).
Our Lord warns, Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter (Matthew 7:21). We can see clearly that if we would enter heaven, we must obey God and do good deeds that would demonstrate our faith and love for Him.
How Do We Obey God and Do Good Deeds?
Weve seen that we must continue to do good deeds and obey God if we want Him to save us. But we must always qualify our obedience by saying that nothing that we can do will make God indebted to us. We will need His matchless grace from first to last.
Earlier we asked you if you considered yourself a good person. How did you answer that question? We asked you a number of basic questions to determine if you were actually a good person, always doing the right and never doing the wrong. Were you able to come to the conclusion with those basis questions and answers that there were inconsistencies in your obedience, and thus you were lacking in true goodness and righteousness? At best, we have sinned. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:8).
Lets notice a few (of many) expressions of good deeds that you should be involved in if you wish to demonstrate your faith and love for God in your everyday life:
1. Do you pray regularly? Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
2. Do you rejoice always? Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
3. Do you always give thanks? In everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
4. Do you practice contentment? Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).
5. Do you love God? You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).
6. Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself? You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).
7. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another (John 13:34).
8. Do you love the world? Do not love the world nor the things in the world (1 John 2:15).
9. Do you sing to the Lord? Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another . . . singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
10. Do you prefer others? Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10).
11. Do you help with the needs of others? Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).
12. Do you bless your persecutors? Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).
13. Do you refuse to retaliate? Never pay back evil for evil to anyone (Romans 12:17a).
14. Do you care for your enemies? Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).
15. Do you put to death the deeds of your body? . . . if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13).
Obviously, these are only a few of hundreds of different commands. They relate to what we are commanded to do and what we are prohibited from doing. But these do show where Gods will is and what we can do to be pleasing to Him. This is the kind of character that we should have if we seek to be a good person.
What have we seen?
We have noticed that many people and many religions believe that our good deeds will merit a place in heaven. Sadly, apparently these people dont realize the seriousness of sin and the need to be forgiven. They dont know how extensive sin is and the results of failing to meet Gods standard of righteousness. They may be focusing on outward acts rather than a righteousness that affects the heart. The Pharisees of Jesus day focused on outward, external righteous deeds, but Jesus said that this is not sufficient: I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
We have also examined Gods response to our spiritual needs. In giving His dear Son to pay the price of our sin, He demonstrated His love and justice, His wisdom and mercy. He showed that the only way to be saved was to come to Him through Christ in repentant faith. Nothing less will do.
We also noticed that good deeds are absolutely essential for our life in Christ. We are to be rich in good deeds and look for ways to do good to people. We have been created in Christ to do good deeds (Ephesians 2:10). Further, we are to live in total obedience to the will of God. But even though we purpose to obey the Lord, we still fail to do this perfectly. Even our outward actions that seem right and good are often tinged with wrong motives, desires, and attitudes.
We cant obey enough and we cant do enough good deeds to make us deserving of heaven. All of us have sinned and fall short of Gods glory by failing to consistently obey God in all that we think, say, and do. This is just where God wants us. He knows that we cant lift ourselves up and become worthy of heaven. Our salvation is of God and it comes from Gods grace and mercy alone.
If you adhere to one of the world religions, can you see how true Christianity differs from what you may have previously believed? If you are a Muslim, you cant do enough good to earn your way to Paradise. If you are a Hindu, you cant fulfill enough Karma to enter Gods eternal presence. If you are a Buddhist, you cant work your way to enter Nirvana. If you are a Jewish person, you cant do enough good things that will force God to accept you after this life. If you are a Catholic, you cant merit heaven by doing enough good works and not doing the bad things. If you are a liberal Protestant, you cant be a good enough person to make it to heaven. If you are just a good secularist, you cant make it to heaven either, by being good enough. All of this should be clear to you now that we have discovered what God thinks of being good and doing the good.
We are not discounting the importance of being good and going the good. We are just sharing with you the fact that none of us is good enough to merit heaven. In fact, if we claim to be able to enter heaven by our own character, our own good deeds, our righteousness, our obedience, we nullify Gods grace and the saving work on Christ on the cross. Paul explained, I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law [or any legal system], then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).
Since you now understand how futile it is to try to save yourself by your own good deeds and religious life, what can you do? All you can do is to admit your inability, your sin, and your failures, then cast yourself on the grace of God and depend entirely on the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for you and your sins. This is why Scripture says, By grace you have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
Notice how Paul explains this transaction and combines the various elements of salvation in one significant passage:
Now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (Romans 3:21-25a).
Lets simplify some of the basic truths here. We receive Gods righteousness or right standing with Him through faith in Christ when we believe (in the full meaning of this term). We are justified or declared righteous as a gift from God by His grace and mercy through the redemptive death of Christ on the cross. We respond to the death of Christ (in which He shed His blood) through faith.
Scripture says that this faith is a repentant faith, for one is saved or forgiven by this repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4-5) when he confesses Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and is baptized into Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-27). This baptism is an immersion into water, a submersion in the water, and an emersion from water, that expresses ones death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of lifea life of good deeds and righteous living (see Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:11-13; Acts 22:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
Can you see how all of this neatly fits together and expresses the will of God? We cant be saved by our goodness, righteousness, or obedience, but we can trust in God to accept us through Christ and thereby begin to live a life of deed deeds, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). We are saved not by good deeds, but we cant be saved without good deeds. As someone has said, we are saved by faith but this faith is not alone. We are Gods workmanship so that we might engage in a life of good deeds and submissive obedience to God and His will.
Are you ready to begin such a life? Now is the time to renounce all of your dependence on your good life and righteous works and to begin to place all of your faith and trust in Christs saving work for you on the cross. Will you place your faith in Him today?