A Good Person, Part 2


To the humanist, knowledge and compassion elevate one to the status of an informed citizen -- in other words a "good person." And while he believes that man is innately good, the humanist (reluctantly) acknowledges the reality that natural disposition and circumstance have more to do with an individual's "goodness" than anything else. With the same breath in which he promotes egalitarianism and moral relativism, the humanist contradictorily labels people as "good" or "evil." Yet, he can offer no suggestion as to how to bridge this gap and simply writes off the willfully destructive and ignorant individuals in our society.

To the believer, God's standard for righteousness is justification by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote in Titus Chapter 2:

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
13 While we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
14 Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Because humanism has infiltrated their Biblical worldview, modern Christians tend to diminish either grace or faith. By diminishing grace, the modern Christian runs the risk of becoming a religious humanist -- viewing their theological and intellectual fitness as reverse engineering their salvation. By diminishing faith, the modern Christian eventually syncretizes doctrine and/or becomes a universalist.

The 20th century Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: "We should not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world--and might be even more difficult to save."

When a Christian focuses on personal holiness rather than Jesus, they eerily mirror the humanist's concept of self- (or by extension, group-) engineered goodness. The fact remains that natural gifts, circumstance, location, and other mitigating factors which can contribute to a morally upright condition are solely at God's discretion. The "good person" has little to do with his or her goodness. An individual is not sanctified before the Lord simply because He has given them a naturally sweet disposition or blessed them with privileged circumstances.

A person born with an antisocial temperament and/or unfortunate circumstances is less likely to become the informed and tolerant citizen which the humanist sets as the standard for self-worth. However, a person with the qualities that appeal most to superficial man may turn out to be the furthest from God. The very gifts that God bestows on an individual for His glory can be squandered or abused, resulting in spiritual destruction. Those who have less are often more receptive to the Creator because they recognize their own limitations. The current Christian revivals in depressed or oppressed nations will attest to this.

Man's standards exist to glorify man. His value is determined by birthright, blind chance, or the work of his own hands. He is either a good person (i.e. informed citizen) or a "useless feeder." In God's eyes, no one is righteous, no matter how nice and knowledgeable they may be. Nonetheless, God gives every man, woman, and child -- regardless of station -- the choice of receiving His eternal gift of salvation. Which is the more hopeful worldview?

We have all heard, at one time or another, the axiom "there, but for the grace of God, go I." It is meant to illustrate just this concept of God's saving grace. As an extra-Biblical phrase, it is, however, an incomplete model of God's plan for man. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians Chapter 2:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --
9 Not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Man's purpose is to glorify God, and by His Grace, God equips believers with the faith necessary to fulfill that purpose. God still allows the believer to choose to execute that faith. To experience God's plan for them, the believer must remain faithful. Grace and faith together are necessary for righteousness. "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." (Romans 2:13) God does not let his children stray far without gentle prodding; He will not impose Himself, however. While the believer now possesses a new nature in Christ, faith remains a choice.

Faithfulness must be the hallmark of the Christian, befitting to each individual (see Romans 12:3-4). Faith is not a show. It is an inner joy in Christ. It is not about outward, blinking signs of religiosity, as in utilitarian Christianity, where God or Jesus are proclaimed repeatedly but the Holy Spirit is absent. Because Jesus' regenerative gift works inside the believer first, faith cannot be applied like make-up to make the inside look good. Do the trees, the mountains, the stars have literal signs proclaiming Jesus is the Truth? Yet the hand of the Lord is ineffably there in every part of nature. So it must be with the believer -- in God's time.

The faithfulness of each Christian will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ. It is not to be confused with justification by good works; rather, it is another example of God's grace. We cannot always expect to understand God's grace or judgment. However, we are spiritual beings, and Heaven is a spiritual kingdom. As with sin, our faithfulness has spiritual consequences. Some may say that this makes faith sound too result-oriented, that Heaven is reward enough for believers. Yet, truly, we deserve nothing at all. Remember Jesus' parable of the workers in Matthew Chapter 20: God's grace is beyond our understanding. This parable and the Biblical references to the Bema Seat tell us that there is much more to Heaven than we can conceive. Of course a believer's purpose comes from their relationship with Christ, not from the promise of Heavenly rewards. Otherwise, they wouldn't be living for Christ. Because of that relationship, a joy already exists here on this earthly plane. However, God wants to prepare every believer for a time when they will "judge angels." (1 Corinthians 6:3) When confronted with Biblical mysteries, believers must avoid the tendency to create a small god which seems "right to a man." (Proverbs 14:12)

The Dalai Lama said some years ago on a visit to the United States: "Being religious isn't important. What matters is being a good person [emphasis added]…I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together, a new spirituality. This new concept ought to be elaborated alongside the religions in such a way that all people of good will could adhere to it." Despite the spiritual pretensions here, his words merely reflect the moral relativism and emphasis on Self that are preeminent in humanism. A Christian's purpose is wholly different from the humanist, New Ager, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and so on: the total purpose is to submit to Jesus Christ, not be a "good person". A realization of Selfhood is not the goal. Christ is the wellspring from which all that is righteous and holy flows.

It is impossible to judge a person's every circumstance and nature, which is why God instructs us not to judge a person's heart, although believers are to judge action and defend His Word. Righteousness is the fruit of a faithful heart, but even the most righteous believer must owe every last ounce of their righteousness to Christ.

Romans Chapter 10:
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
13 For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."