Earlier this week I watched a short clip of Professor John Lennox, talking about how Christians (of which he is one) are often talking about things that people outside of the Church aren’t actually asking, or thinking about. Or, more briefly, that Christians aren’t “answering the questions” people have. So I’ve decided to spend a few weeks exploring the common questions and comments people have made to me over the years.
A common question people ask me as a Christian is something along the lines of – “So, as a Christian, you just have to be good, right?” I think HNAC Alison would think this was correct. But she’d be wrong (much like her non-hypothetical counterpart is, far too often).
The Bible says “No one is good except God alone”.
So from the get-go, you know it can’t be that being a Christian is all about being good. And what does ‘good’ even mean? How ‘good’ is good enough? What’s the standard?
I guess one reason why people think ‘being good’ is all important, is their general knowledge of Old Testament Jewish Laws. These laws covered a whole range of things but kinda had their summary statement (or precis) in what’s known as “The Ten Commandments”.
You probably know some if not all of them…
They’re pretty famous, so it’s understandable that people frequently think it’s all about doing the right things listed in the ten (or, not doing the wrong things). You could also think that getting most of them right is OK too, but The Bible disagrees…
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
Ancient Jewish law is very holistic. And no one, being honest, would say that they’ve “done all ten, all the time”. It’s impossible. The reality is, no one is good.
So then, what’s the point of the law? The Bible answers that too.
“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.“
This, at first, may seem like a negative message and could lead to thoughts of “So you Christians think everyone is terrible, even yourselves. You just want to go around pointing out all the things we do wrong (our transgressions).”
That’s one way of looking at it. I prefer to look at it another way: No one is beyond hope.
Because, whilst humanity can’t meet the requirements of the laws, God can – because he’s good! (remember?) Whilst we might think the law is a negative burden to do away with, Jesus didn’t:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.“
Jesus is “The Seed”. Jesus did the job for us. He fulfilled the requirements of the law, which is a legal way of saying he obeyed it perfectly, 24/7. It doesn’t mater how good or bad we might think we are (whether rightly or wrongly); the reality is no one is good except God, and he was good in our place.
That’s why he died at Easter time, because Old Testament Law requires sacrifice to cover over transgressions. Jesus did it all for us. We don’t have to be good, because we can’t and Jesus did it anyway. He makes us good in God’s eyes.
We’re not good like Jesus is, we’re just trying to be like him. That’s why we take his name as our label.
“So you just have to be good, right?”
Wrong. You just have know you’re not good but there’s someone else who is and he can take the blame for your not-goodness instead. Then he’ll make you good in God’s eyes.
And he’ll do it for anyone. Because no one is hopeless.
Yours in trying to be like him,