Five Ways to be a “Good” Christian

I wonder if you’ve ever heard your friends or family talk about how “good” someone is? They might say things like, “How could that happen to her? She’s a good person!” or “He should get that promotion because he is such a good person,” are often said in conversation. Even more surprising is how common we say this within the church. Living in a Christian environment, we often hear things like this said about professing Christians. We must understand, however, what the Bible says about our true nature and our goodness. The Bible is clear that no one has merit or no one can be called truly good.

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” (Rom 3:10-12).

Here are five ways we are deceived into thinking we’re “good.”

1) We love church, but not the covenant.

Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, "I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart" (Deut 29:18-19). 

Our Sundays are all about church, but there is no sign of saving grace. As one who grew up in church, I genuinely believed that I was saved because of the “church” things I did. I went to every meeting, every Sunday school class yet there was no salvation. We are often tempted to think that just because we attend church regularly, go to all the Bible studies, do all the “churchy” things, that this somehow improves our standing before God and makes us “good.” We must be careful, because just being part of a covenant community will not save us.

2) We read the Bible, but never repent.

...having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 3:5-7).

Second Timothy talks about those who love learning, love reading and knowing things, but are never able to understand the truth. Reading the Bible for years on end will never take root in our lives unless the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Christ to us. Genuine repentance can only be brought about by the revelation of Christ to us through the gospel. Do you pray for this when you read your Bible?

3) We pray, but are proud.

Luke recounts Jesus telling his disciples a parable about a tax collector who stood in the temple by himself and prayed a lengthy prayer, telling God how holy he was because he prayed, gave tithes, and kept the law.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Lk 19:13-14).

We love praying eloquent “biblical” prayers, but in our hearts we do it to glorify ourselves, get approval from others and like the Pharisee, mainly do it for the outside world to see. Our genuine prayers are the ones that no one sees except God and no one hears except him. That is when our true hearts, desires and delights are revealed. On our knees before God is where we are truly humbled and experience the grace of God. How is your prayer life?

4) We confess, but haven’t been changed.

Jesus, in the parable of the sower talks about the seeds that fell on rocky ground.

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away (Lk 8:13).

Jesus is describing those who accept the gospel who say that they love Jesus and are excited, elated, and eager, but their joy is shallow and is not founded on true change. So when they see the cost of discipleship and truly following Christ, they fall away. The moment any sign of testing their faith comes, they are gone. The truth we profess should not just be lip service, but life service to Christ.

5) We have doctrine, but are in denial.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (Jas 2:19).

We may intellectually assent to the Apostle’s Creed or to Calvinism or to any theological school of thought to a certain doctrine or have excellent theology. You may read hundreds of Christian books, but merely agreeing to truth is not the same as believing in it. We should be aware that Satan knows more about God than anyone else. So, we should watch our life and our doctrine closely. Doctrine will never save us. Only through the blood of Christ that washes away every sin can we be truly saved. If our doctrine doesn’t translate into real life change that causes us to love God and other people more, it is useless.

Without the illumination in our hearts of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father, we will never be truly “good.” The only “good” person who ever lived was the Lord Jesus and unless we depend upon his perfect record of being good, we will not be saved. So let us rush to the throne of grace, repent of our sins and live as a redeemed people.

Let not conscience let you linger, 
Nor of fitness fondly dream; 
All the fitness he requireth 
Is to feel your need of him. 
Come ye weary, heavy laden, 
Bruised and mangled by the fall; 
If you tarry till you're better, 
You will never come at all.

For further reading, check out these books:

Am I Really a Christian
An Alarm to the Unconverted
What Is the Gospel?


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