One of the most frequent responses I have when sharing that Jesus died to pay for our sin and that one must receive His forgiveness is, “Well, I’m a good person! I love my spouse and family, I try to help people, I give money to charity, I go to church, I take in stray cats”, and so on. A long list of how good a person they are is offered in an effort to justify themselves and deny their need to surrender to Christ. Oswald Chambers wrote about this not uncommon problem nearly a century ago:
“Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil, and wrong, but we do debate over what is good. It is the good that opposes the best. The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ.”
When we become impressed by how “good” we are, we no longer see the need for anything to improve us. To suggest that we need someone or something other than our own good works is to suggest that our works are either not good enough or not good at all. That strikes the ego like a punch to the gut. We like to think of ourselves as good, or at least not as bad as some others: “Well, at least I don’t cheat on my spouse. At least I don’t do drugs. At least blah blah blah”. Anything that pops the fragile balloon that is our own self-importance is rejected and replaced by the soothing white noise of our “good” accomplishments.
The problem is that the Bible makes very plain how “good” we are. The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said that “no one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). The apostle Paul says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “I know in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). In these four examples we see that in our innermost person, in our heart, we are wicked–we have nothing good to offer on our own. The apostle Paul lays out the incrimination that we have all missed God’s mark, and includes himself in that judicial decree by stating that there is nothing within him that rises to God’s criteria of “good”.
This is why we must have a Mediator, Someone to be our intermediary that could make us righteous in God’s eyes. Only Christ and His atoning death on the cross brings such righteousness within our reach. By receiving His forgiveness and allowing Him to change us into new creations that He desires us to be we are elevated above mere “good” to having to potential of “godly”. Godliness is the standard He has for us– to be more like Him–and this is only possible through surrendering oneself fully to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.