Are You Good Enough?

Mark 10

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

This story in Mark 10 is also shared by Matthew in the 19th chapter of his account of the life of Jesus. I wrote about this story about a year ago here, in which I addressed the question of whether or not Jesus requires rich people to give up their possessions in order to be saved.

You can read my thoughts about that in the previous blog post as I’m not intending to regurgitate all my thoughts again here. Instead, I want to focus on an often overlooked part of the exchange Jesus has with this person of extreme wealth.

The passage starts with the man coming to Jesus and asking Jesus what is required to inherit eternal life. But what is often overlooked is how he addresses Jesus. He calls Jesus “good teacher”.

Jesus picks up on this and replies in verse 18, “Why do you call me good?….No one is good except God alone.”

You almost never hear any sermon that focuses on this verse or gives any explanation of why it’s there. In fact, if you just eliminated verse 18 from the story altogether, the main idea and explanation seems to remain unchanged. In other words. Jesus’ response to how the man addressed him does not appear to be central to the main point of the story, which is the idea that coming to Jesus and inheriting eternal life requires us to recognize our spiritual brokenness and our need for a savior.

So if Jesus’ response is not important to the main idea in the story, why is it there?

Jesus is using this exchange to fundamentally change our idea of what is considered good.

Think about it. Almost everyone everywhere thinks that making it to heaven is a matter of being a good person and I’ve never met a person who, no matter what bad things they may have done in their lives, didn’t consider themselves to be good. Jesus’s response alters the equation of what is required to gain eternal life, which is the central query of the rich young ruler.

Do you think you’re a good person? Jesus says that ONLY GOD is good. Jesus also indirectly points to his own deity in the process when he asks, “why do you call me good….no one is good except God.” Jesus is pressing the implication that calling him good is tantamount to calling him God, since only God is good.

The rest of the story is simply a process by which Jesus reveals to the rich young ruler that he does not measure up to the standard of goodness (perfection) that is required to gain eternal life.

The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus responded that with man, it is impossible. Why? Because no man can achieve the perfect goodness required to save himself.

But all things are possible with God. Jesus makes the impossible possible through His death on the cross!

Reflection

What has been your concept of goodness in the past? What is the standard you use to determine whether a person is good or not?

Do you agree with people who say that most people are basically good? Why or why not?

Do you think it’s possible for people to save themselves?

What do you think is required to inherit eternal life? How would you explain it to someone else?

 

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby, you’re no good!

Romans 3

21But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. 22We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

23For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. 26And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.

27Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. 28So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. (Romans 3:21-28, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Back in the day there was a popular song by Linda Ronstadt with a chorus that said, “you’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby, you’re no good”! (see Ronstadt YouTube video here)

It’s doubtful that Ronstadt (or whoever actually wrote the song) had Romans 3 in mind when they penned the words, but this chorus is actually the sentiment of Paul’s message in Romans 3.

Paul has spent the first 2 chapters of Romans outlining how the pagan, the moral person and even the religious person are all sinful and therefore under God’s judgment.

In this chapter, Paul finalizes his argument that all people are no good. It’s doubtful that he could bust out the lyrics as soulfully as Ronstadt but Paul’s message is essentially, “you’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good….baby you’re no good.”

Perhaps you disagree with this assessment. After all, a lot of people think that people are basically good. And many would argue that at least SOME people are good. So how can Paul say ALL people are NO GOOD?

It all comes down to how you define good. We (people) tend to define good in relative standards that make us look good and feel good about ourselves.

For example, if Hitler is the standard of bad, then I feel good about myself because I’m reasonably confident that I’m a better person than Hitler.

And that’s the problem. Everybody is using a different standard of goodness and each person’s standard tends to be derived in such a way that they themselves end up on the good end of the spectrum.

Is this not blatantly obvious? How many people would actually say they are no good? Very few, in my experience. Even the most hardened criminal is likely to point to someone whom they believe to be a worse person than they are as their comparison for measuring and evaluating goodness.

But God’s standard of goodness is different than ours. God doesn’t use Hitler or Stalin or any other authoritarian tyrant as the standard for what is good. God uses HIMSELF as the standard of goodness.

With God as the standard of goodness, we can see that being good requires us to be as good as God is, which is impossible. This is why Paul says in verse 23 that “all fall short of God’s glorious standard” and it explains how Paul can say that ALL are NO GOOD!

That may seem like really bad news, and it is, but fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. There is good news, really good news actually.

Paul states that God has created a different way for us to be made right in his sight. Before Jesus, Jews tried to maintain a right standing before God by following the Law – the long list of legal requirements as outlined in the Torah – the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Adhering to all these religious requirements (over 600 of them) proved to be impossible for even the most devout God-follower. It simply highlighted the reality that we are sinful and incapable of fully following God’s rules consistently.

God ‘s better way involves us being made right with God when we trust in Jesus to take away our sins. When Jesus died on the cross, he actually was being punished for our sins and, according to verse 25, God’s righteous anger is satisfied as a result of Jesus’s death.

When it says that God’s anger is satisfied, it’s saying that God’s punishment has been poured out on Jesus instead of on us. So when we trust Jesus to pay for our sin, we receive a full pardon from God and there is no longer any punishment reserved for us.

However, we can still choose to reject Jesus and continue to follow the old pattern for achieving a right standard before God. We can choose to be evaluated by our works and our own ability to live up to God’s moral standards. In that scenario, we will be found guilty and we will experience punishment for our sins because we’ve rejected Jesus’s alternate method of paying for the penalty of our sins.

Or we can choose the better way…trust Jesus, receive a full pardon for all of our sin and experience a right standing with God that saves us from the punishment that we actually deserve!

Reflection

What is the standard you have been using for determining goodness? How close is your standard to the one Paul says that God is actually using?

What would you say to a person who claims to be a good person?

What would you say to someone who claims that it’s not fair that God would condemn anyone to an eternity in hell? What arguments would you make to demonstrate that it is fair and just?

 

Photo by Nick Gavrilov on Unsplash