Can People Be Good?

October 18, 2018 at 9:45 AM 4 comments

I listened intently to the guest speaker at our church this past Sunday. His message was insightful and biblical. I’m going to paraphrase key points for you.

One of the key questions he asked was this: Can people be good? 

Christians understand that we are not good, if we compare ourselves to God and Him alone. It is because we understand that we are inherently not good in and of ourselves that we need Someone outside of ourselves who has the power to save us from ourselves and our sin. This grants us salvation – again coming from outside of ourselves from Someone who has the power to provide that salvation.

We are also aware of the fact that in numerous places throughout His Word we learn that we are not good at all. In fact, what we see as “righteousness” to God is simply filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). There is absolutely no doubt that God views what we call good, as “filthy.” We cannot count on our own achievements to gain access to heaven. It simply cannot and will not happen. Understanding this means opening the door to embracing life eternal because if we understand that we are fully corrupt and bereft, without any righteousness of our own, we will have to conclude that we must reach out to Someone outside of ourselves to extricate us from our predicament that sin has created for us.

Anyone who has truly received Jesus as Savior and Lord understands this truth. It is an unavoidable conclusion because of the facts of the situation. We are unrighteous, without Christ in a lost and dying world. Once our eyes are open to this truth, we can then receive the only salvation available to all who will come to Him in humility, through faith, believing that He has done for us what we have no capacity to do for ourselves (Romans 10:9-10).

What is also very interesting is that the Scriptures teach that once we become saved in Christ, it is possible to become “good” as well. But what does that mean? Is it something we achieve? Is it something that by our own effort is accomplished within us? Yes, and no. We need to understand that any “goodness” we might become is accomplished only one way and it is God’s way. Let’s take a look at Scripture to see what it says to us.

20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:20-24 ESV; emphasis added).

I’ve included surrounding verses here for context. Because of the report that the church leaders in Jerusalem heard, they sent a man named Barnabas to Antioch. As you may recall, Christians were first called Christians at Antioch. But Barnabas was a true “helper” and “encourager.” He dutifully did what was needed to be done to help spread the Gospel and the leaders in Jerusalem knew this about him, so they chose to send him from Jerusalem to Antioch to search out the matter and verify the reports they had heard.

When Barnabas arrived, he “saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted (believers there) to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,” (v. 23).

There is an implied question between verses 23 and 24 with the use of the word “for.” Why did Barnabas do what he did? Because “…he was a good man…” (v. 24). Barnabas was a “good” man according to the Scriptures. But wait, I thought God said that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory and that our righteousness is filthy? Yes, God has said that and it is true.

So is this then a contradiction here? Is God speaking out of both sides of His mouth? Absolutely not! May it never be, as Paul might say! If Barnabas was a “good” man, there must be a clear explanation as to why he was seen as such. The answer is in the next phrase: “…full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”

In truth, judicially, all people before God are corrupt, unrighteousness and of course, the standard is Jesus Himself, God the Son. Each person is compared to the Lord Jesus and all of us come up woefully short. We are not righteous. We are fully corrupt.

Yes, when we become Christians, God imputes to us His Son’s righteousness. That is a huge part of the salvation we receive through faith. We literally gain Jesus’ righteousness so that from that point forward, when God the Father looks at us, He literally sees His Son’s righteousness in us. This means that the fear of judgment is forever gone, judicially.

But the verse above is not speaking of that righteousness. It speaks of a goodness that comes to us when we walk a certain way before God. What is that way? Well, the result of it is being full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (in God and His purposes). That is the result. What is the path that brings that result? Obedience.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I was involved in the Charismatic Movement in the 1970’s for a few years. Because of that involvement, I was taught repeatedly that only the “second blessing” (or the baptism of the Holy Spirit), provides the necessary impetus to live a life that pleases God. So, many of us then worked diligently to gain God’s attention so that He would pour out upon us a “second blessing,” that often exhibited itself in signs and wonders and tongues. Once we received this, then we would be enabled to live a life that pleased God on a daily basis.

Though Charismatics would likely disagree with me now, the reality appears to be that the thing that brings us closer to God in fellowship and fills us with His Spirit while increasing our faith is endeavoring to live a life of obedience to God in all things. There is absolutely no substitute for this in the life of the Christian. None whatsoever. We are either obedient to God or we end up being disobedient. It is that simple.

Barnabas was obedient. He did what God wanted him to do and the clear ramifications of that are that his obedience to God brought about within him an increasing measure of the Holy Spirit and the building up of his faith. Because of this, Barnabas was a “good” man before God. This does not mean Barnabas was perfect or sinless. It means that in all things, he endeavored to do what God wanted him to do.

In Acts 5, we read of a situation where Peter and some of the apostles were arrested. It was due to the jealousy of the religious leaders that this was done (Acts 5:17). However, God had other plans and sent an angel to release them from jail and gave them instructions:

Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life (Acts 5:18 ESV).

The apostles were given strict orders. They were to go, stand in the temple, and preach the Gospel. What did they do? They did exactly that. Did they wait for a “second blessing” before they did this? No, the Holy Spirit had already been poured out (Acts 2), just like it is poured out into the heart of every person who becomes a believer. But how do we get “more” of the Holy Spirit? There is only one avenue for that to happen. It is through obedience. I’m not talking about being legalistically obedience for the sake of legalism. I’m talking about obeying from the heart because we want God to be pleased with our lives and what we are accomplishing. If He is pleased with us, then He will be glorified as well. He will not be glorified if we attempt to live the Christian life in a legalistic manner. That is not what it means to live the Christian life from the heart.

As we continue on through Acts 5, we note that the next morning, the same religious leaders that arrested the apostles, found them missing, yet the jail was still securely locked and the guards were still standing there. They did not know that the prisoners were missing (Acts 5:23). Clearly, the angel who released the men blinded the guards and left everything as if untouched.

So, the religious leaders learned that the prisoners were in the temple preaching the Gospel, so they went and brought them back, though they did not use force because they were afraid of the people who might stone them (v. 26). As the men stood again before the council of religious leaders, they were reminded that they had told the men not to preach about Jesus.

Bold Peter took the time to respond and please note carefully what he said: “29 We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him,” (Acts 5:29-32 ESV).

Verse 29 sums things up nicely. Peter boldly (not rudely or disrespectfully) proclaimed that they had an obligation to obey “God rather than men.” Boom! Obedience resulted in increased faith and perseverance.

Of course, Peter’s response was taken as a sign of complete disrespect and the religious leaders wanted to kill them.  However, one man by the name of Gamaliel, talked them out of it indicating that if this movement was of God, nothing could stop it and if it was from men, it would fade away. God used Gamaliel (whether he knew it or not), to accomplish His will here and not allow the men to kill these apostles. God still had work for them, but one day, they would be martyred for their faith in Christ, but it was not that day.

Barnabas was considered a good man because of his faith in God. His faith grew because he learned to live a life of obedience. He didn’t hide in his prayer closet begging God to bestow upon him the “second blessing” of a baptism in the Holy Spirit. He started where he was and began to obey God in the little things. This walk began to increase his faith in God and resulted in more of a godly outlook. His passionate obedience to God grew out of his love for God.

Peter and the other apostles with him obeyed God rather than man. This increased their faith and their commitment to God. They began to take delight in actually loving the path of obedience in spite of the fact that they faced death on numerous occasions. Truly, they counted all things lost except the increasing knowledge of Jesus through faith seen in obedience.

I cannot emphasize this enough and I do so for myself as well as each reader. We must learn to be obedient to God in all things.

Let me ask you a question that I’ve asked before: are you reading His Word every single day? If not, you must ask yourself why you are not. The only way to begin to know Him is to understand Him through the Word that He has written for us. That is the starting point once we become Christians. If you are going through your life hardly if ever reading His Word (and while reading “devotional books” are okay, it is far better to read through His Word daily keeping things in their own context), you will not understand and know what it is He wants us to do. We will end up compromising our faith, giving into the world’s demands because we have no real strong foundation, built upon His word.

As you read through His Word, you’ll learn exactly what God wants you to do. He outlines the things we need to live and obey in His word. As we become faithful in doing the things He reveals in His word, our obedience allows God to refer to us as a “good” man or woman. Again, this is judicially, but in practice.

You cannot be considered “good” as a Christian unless you are living a life of obedience, regardless of the cost to you. As we are faithful in the “small” things of obedience, God will enlarge our borders to take on even greater responsibilities for which we can become obedient as well.

If our life is one that is marked by being obedient to God from the heart, we will be considered good by Him. I hope and pray that you will begin to see or see in greater measure the need to obey God. We are bought with a price. We are no longer our own. We have a Master. We do not want to hear Jesus say, “Why do you call me Lord but do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) How tragic would that be to hear?

Obedience from the heart (not simply put on outwardly), is the path that allows God to see us as “good” because He will see us living a life that seeks to please and glorify Him. He will then reward us by emboldening our walk before Him.

 

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Gospel Reset: Salvation Made Relevant Book Review Don’t Be Conformed but Be Transformed

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Juliana Ricketts  |  October 18, 2018 at 2:34 PM

    “Obedience from the heart (not simply put on outwardly), is the path that allows God to see us as “good” because He will see us living a life that seeks to please and glorify Him. He will then reward us by emboldening our walk before Him.”

    Thank you for a wonderful article. I would be grateful if you would check out – Song of the Bride – YouTube Channel.

    Dolly Faith Webber has written a book called “Strangers in the Oil”. We are not being totally obedient to our Lord God Almighty! Jesus’ Blood is all that it takes to heal! Not doctors!

    I will send you a copy of the book for free if you want next week when I get my copies – or you can buy it on Amazon for $15. It’s worth every penny and more!

    Jesus’ Blood not only saves, it heals too and we are being disobedient by going to doctors to be healed based on the fact that they are – unknowingly so – servants of satan. We are nearing Jesus’ return. He is coming for a ‘spotless’ Bride. I implore you to take a look at her YouTube channel at least and let me know your thoughts. God is orchestrating something here and one day I will get a chance to tell you more – I never knew this lady until recently, but in the meantime as a brother in Christ who I know loves the Lord, please take a look. God will no longer be mocked and He will get ALL the glory!

    Reply
    • 2. modres  |  October 18, 2018 at 4:47 PM

      Hi Juliana,

      Thanks very much for your comments and for your offering to send that book you mention. No need to do that right now, but I will certainly check it out.

      You and I would probably disagree regarding doctors in general. While I would agree with you that too many within the medical profession do not treat people holistically (because they are not taught to do that; they rely on prescribing pills for each and every ailment), I’m not sure I’d go as far as you do.

      Remember, Luke of the Scriptures was a physician and there is never any indication that Jesus or any apostle or Christian ever condemned him as being a “servant of Satan.” I do not put my faith in doctors. I put my faith in the Lord but there have been times when I’ve needed shoulder surgery or something else and was blessed to find doctors who came highly recommended and well-trained. Can God work through the hands of a physician or surgeon? I believe He can and does.

      However, I also believe that often people create their own problems by what they eat or drink or their lifestyles in general. Most people eat very unhealthy foods today. It’s highly processed and filled with chemicals that do no good for our bodies. Because of it, the food-like stuff most people eat tends to do more harm than good for our systems.

      I know of no Scripture kept within context that promises God will heal us of every ailment. Even if that was true, we all will still die. That occurs because our days are numbered and our bodies will slowly become more corrupted by the pressures that work against them (aging), until portions of our bodies shut down and we die. Every faith healer who has died has done so because God did not keep them from dying. Was it because they lacked faith? Many of them developed cancers or other serious maladies.

      Like you, over the past five years or so, I’ve had a remarkable change of view with the way I see medicine. I’ve come not to rely on it at all. The most important thing I can do is to watch what I eat and eat only those things that are completely healthy for me: organic, gluten-free, free of preservatives like sodium nitrate/nitrite, avoiding everything with high fructose corn syrup, eating lots of leafy greens and fruit. I do not avoid red meats because there are certain proteins that are only available in red meats. A strict vegan diet is not that beneficial as far as I’m concerned.

      I tend to only use doctors when there is a real problem. Since I don’t see in Scripture where God promises to heal me of every problem I might have (though I realize some folks DO see that in Scripture), I have taken all the necessary steps I know of to keep my body from being “polluted” by the literal poisons that the big food companies tend to put in our foods. Their goal is to make products that appeal to the eyes, the nose, and the taste buds and it is unfortunately, extremely easy to fool these particular senses with chemicals that create the illusion of good food. I actually tend to see Big Foods and Big Pharma as servants of Satan than physicians. Big Foods/Big Pharma are concerned mainly with one thing: making tons of money and they do so off the ailments that are created by the foods produced by Big Foods. It’s almost like they and Big Pharma work hand in hand because often the medications that are used to treat many of the ailments created by the processed foods generally only treat symptoms. They have little to no capacity to actually heal. Doesn’t it make sense that if we would simply watch what we put into our mouths, we would probably be far better off?

      I believe that for His Bride to be “spotless,” we need to focus on being obedient to His will. I realize that you likely believe that part of that obedience is seen in avoiding doctors, but I have to respectfully disagree. There is a need for that at times and Christians should be able to avail themselves of the help a very qualified doctor or surgeon may be able to provide.

      By the way, if Dolly Faith Webber is wrong in her assessment that doctors are truly “servants of Satan,” she is going to have to answer for it because one wonders how many people she has steered away from doctors who might’ve helped them? It reminds me of the “faith healers” who teach that God wants you healthy, period and the only thing that keeps Him from performing a miracle is the lack of faith.

      In the case of the apostle Paul, he had a “thorn in the flesh” that we’re not quite sure what it was, though many conservative Bible scholars believe it to have been very poor eyesight or near blindness due to clues in other letters written by Paul. Paul, a man of tremendous faith, prayed to God three times that God would remove the thorn or heal him. God’s answer was a simple, “My grade is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and did not heal him. Luke the physician was also a companion of Paul’s and even traveled with him to look after the aging apostle.

      When Jesus walked this earth He personally healed many, many people. He raised the dead. He cast out demons. He did these things because He had great compassion on people. But He also did those things to prove He was God. The apostles were also allowed to do some of these things because it confirmed the authority of their particular ministries as apostles, upon which the Bride is built.

      I’m not trying to be rude or offensive. I’m simply sharing my perspective as you have shared yours. Thanks again.

      Reply
      • 3. Juliana  |  October 18, 2018 at 6:49 PM

        Firstly brother-in-Christ, no offense taken. This message is not an easy one to swallow as we have been ingrained to believe something that’s not true for so long. We have believed a massive lie and it’s not easy for us to make a decision to receive and believe the truth.

        I commend your seeing this from the point of view of food and Big Pharma, but there is a unholy trinity at work here. If you read her book you will see she addresses every single one of your objections. She personally has walked this faith walk in obedience for over 30 years and all her kids too. No immunizations etc.

        This is not your “faith healer” misguided teaching. They didn’t say don’t use doctors and many of them are money-grabbing charlatans.

        This is understanding the saving/healing blood of Jesus and realizing we have only been enjoying one side of this two sided coin.

        This lady’s book fell in my lap and God has been orchasting things only He could have since then. She is not in this for the money, she has no big ministry or church backing her – she is being used by God Almighty to teach a message that hasn’t been taught by the “hirelings” in the churches. She has walked the walk so she can talk the talk.

        The reason I felt lead by the Lord to send this information to you is because you have expressed your sadness for the state of the Body of Christ.

        You can email brother Bruce Hall atburningbushexperiences@gmail.com if you want – as he sent me the book – for more information as he too has had the scales come off. Idolatry is not acceptable in God’s eyes and He will not share His glory with anyone!

        I respect your thoughts and will be praying you begin to understand what I am trying to share. I am being obedient to the Lord and Dolly never asked me to email anyone, I am doing that as lead by the Holy Spirit.

        I got the book and read it before I contacted Dolly and that is only by email. I don’t believe in coincidenes and I believe the ‘remnant’ is bring woken up. I have no agenda and judge no one in what they do, and only God knows everyone’s hearts.

        If you would like a book, please let me know.

        It is well and blessings.🙏

        Juliana

      • 4. modres  |  October 18, 2018 at 9:20 PM

        Thank you for your comments and your kind offer to send a book. If I pursue it I’ll buy a copy. Again, thank you👍🏼😎

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