We’ve all heard that it is best to just rip a band-aid off because when you pull it slowly it hurts more. My childhood memories say that’s true. So, what about the band-aid of “I’m a good person” should we slowly pull it off or just rip it off by saying, no, none of us are good people.
The issue isn’t that we don’t behave nicely, hold the door open for people, or at times go out of our way to help others. The issue is our definition and standard of goodness are not necessarily God’s standard of goodness.
Mark 10:17-31 ESV “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
I’ve always wondered why Jesus asked why the man called Him good? My answer is, duh, you’re Jesus. But I know who Jesus is, I’ve heard the gospel and I’ve read the Bible. I also acknowledge that Jesus is my Savior and Lord. The rich young ruler was not acknowledging Jesus in that way, thus the question. It’s obvious as we continue reading the story that the man thought that he was good. He boasted about how he kept the commandments, he thought he was in pretty good shape. This is why Jesus said no one is good but God. The young man was not prepared to acknowledge his need and his sin.
When he responded in his own righteousness Jesus answered him, “looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” Scripture tells us, “disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus knew that the man trusted in his own goodness. The man may have called Jesus a good teacher but in his mind, he was just as good.
Each of us may have some level of what we consider goodness or righteousness but Isaiah 64:6 says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (ESV).
Romans 3:10-12 ESV “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
No matter how good any of us think we are, we fall woefully short of God’s standard. The fact that any of us think we are a good person is a witness against us. We don’t take the breaking of God’s law seriously. We may even be like the rich young ruler and think we have kept the commandments. None of us have, and the commandments are God’s standard of goodness. None of us can keep the commandments perfectly, that is why Jesus had to come to earth as a man and fulfill all righteousness. He died in my place and your place. Our sin was placed upon Him so that His righteousness may be imputed, that is, given to us, placed in us.
The world today and even many preachers today may talk about the importance of self-esteem and how we should push the guilt aside, but the truth is when we do wrong things we should feel guilty. That is a warning system letting us know we are in dangerous territory. We shouldn’t feel good about ourselves.
Romans 7:18-20 ESV “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
It’s time for us to recognize our sin, to recognize our inability to do good as defined by God, and it is time for us as Christians to not read something like this and say it’s talking about the unsaved. No, I’m talking to myself and I’m talking to you. I sin and you sin every day and that is an offense to a holy God. We may read the story and think, how could someone walk away from Jesus? Well, how can those of us who know Him take sin so lightly? Ask the Holy Spirit to break your heart over your sin, over your “mistakes” over the thing you so desperately want to stop but deep down you want to do it, you just know you are supposed to repent. Ask God that you see in the way He does. The sad and sick truth is, most of us are not repulsed by our sin, it is a flippant matter to us, yet God’s anger burns against us as we continue in our disregard for the love that has set us free from the law of sin and death.
REPENT! REPENT! Be broken-hearted over your sin. Return to your first love and do your first works again. The story of the rich young ruler ends with the question, who then can be saved? The answer is all things are possible with God. Repent of sin, humble yourself before God, and begin to walk in His ways again.