ON BEING A GOOD PERSON

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A man came to Jesus with a greeting and a question. “Good teacher”, he said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Before Jesus helped him with his question, he addressed the greeting. Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus knew that no one could enter God’s kingdom unless he or she was good as God is good, for there is no evil in God, neither is evil allowed in God’s kingdom; it is a kingdom of righteousness. To enter God’s kingdom, the man needed to become a good person, but he had a problem. Later on in the conversation, we learn that the man thought he was a good enough because he kept God’s commandments. The man did not realize it, but he was overlooking God’s foremost commandment, “You shall have no gods before me.” Jesus pointed out that the man had another god that controlled his life, and when Jesus asked him to give it up, and “come follow me”, the man went away saddened because was not willing to make God the priority of his life. How can any of us think we would be happy in God’s kingdom when we prefer to be our own god and want what we want over against what God wants? Upon hearing this discussion, and hearing Jesus say how hard it is to enter God’s kingdom, Jesus’ closest disciples asked, “Who can be saved?” Jesus said, “With humans it is impossible, but not with God.”

C.S. Lewis said “No man knows how bad he is till he tries very hard to be good.”

C.S. Lewis said “No man knows how bad he is till he tries very hard to be good.”  I learned this to be true when one morning while driving my grandson to school I had in mind to work on being the good person God wants me to be. During that drive, I broke the speed limit trying to get through a traffic light before it changed. Breaking the law was not something God wanted. In addition to that, I found myself hoping my grandson, when I dropped him off, would have to stand out in the cold, under the guise of teaching him a lesson because he bugged me to get him to school early. That was not how God wanted me to think. I also got angry at a semi-truck for pulling out in front of me, and felt impatient waiting for a car in front of me to turn. In that short span of ten minutes, those ungodly actions and thoughts proved C.S. Lewis’s point, even though I wanted to be good.

Most persons would say they are a good person, or at least, basically a good person. Some say, “We can be good without God”. Others say, “No one can be perfect; that’s what it means to be human.” Yet, Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” “Impossible”, we say. The truth is that being imperfect is not what it means to be human. Being human is to be like Jesus, the perfect human. God’s goal is to restore us to the image of the one who made us in his likeness. The truth is, we lost our goodness by choosing to live our lives without acknowledging God, and now, we cannot be good as God is good. We need God and others to help us to become good again.

How can God make us good again, so that we can be truly human, and live forever in his kingdom? Jesus came preaching the message to repent and believe the gospel, which means, the good news about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Jesus offers persons the choice of following him, knowing that he is God’s chosen person to lead us to the life we need, a life that is forever in harmony with God, self, others, and this planet we call earth.

To do this, God the Father sent God the Son to be human like us and make the way for God to be able to accept us. Jesus died on a cross to satisfy God’s just judgment against our imperfections. Through this act of justice, grace and mercy, God can declare us not guilty and forgiven.

Those who by faith in the one who loved them and gave himself up for them, and by God’s act of love and mercy, have received a new life and heart through the gift of his Spirit who dwells within them. They have died with Christ to their wrongful life, and this new heart motivates them to work at overcoming their imperfections. With God’s help, they move closer toward being good as God is good.

That goodness becomes complete when God fulfills our promised hope of being bodily resurrected and possessing a body like Jesus body, one that is not corrupted by evil and is fit for life in the kingdom of God. This is God’s plan:  to making us into a new creation in Christ, truly human in Christ’s likeness, and good as God is good.

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Jay Ashbaucher
Jay Ashbaucher is a native of Northwest Ohio and is currently a retired pastor and published author. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and has been a pastor and teacher in Montana for over 44 years. Jay taught grief classes in a hospital setting, and worked for twenty years as a fifth-step counselor and lecturer in an alcoholic-drug treatment center getting to know the hearts of people struggling to get well. While pastoring in Montana, he had enjoyed racquetball, hunting, fishing, and traveling the Big Sky State. Now living in Southeast Michigan, Jay enjoys his family, reading, hiking, golf, time with friends, and time with his fun-to-be-with wife. They have two happily married children and seven grandchildren.