Previously I thought of Christianity as just that- a generally good moral code. I figured I already had that, so what was the point exactly? Religion seemed all the same to me; each a different fable asking people to live moral lives. Be kind to one another. Turn the other cheek. Don’t swear, steal, or hurt others.

As I’ve grown deeper in my faith I’ve learned how off base this was.

 

gesture-772977_640I’m Already a Good Person

Humor me for a minute. Do you already think of yourself as a kind, good, decent person? I know I did. And do you think you know right from wrong? Yeah, who doesn’t, right? They seem like innocent enough questions, but have you ever stopped to think why it is we are born knowing right from wrong? Some might argue that it is our parents and our society that teach us these things. As a parent, I strongly object to this notion. From an early age it was evident that my children had an innate grasp of this concept: right vs. wrong, it was simply my job to finesse it and teach them the nuances. So if it is indeed something we are born with then where does it come from?

The Bible answers this clearly: It comes from God who has told us:  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  Stealing, lying, murder, adultery, we all know these are wrong because it is written within us from the moment we were formed.

 

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.  (Psalms 139:13-16)

 

Why We Strive for Goodness

“Big whoop. I don’t do these things,” you say. So what’s stopping you? What’s stopping anyone? If there really was no God, what would be the point of being “good”? After all, there would be no eternal punishment to stop you. There would be no police to catch you because they would all be off doing their own thing and no one would be concerned with “right” and “wrong”.  There would be no such thing. Why doesn’t a greater majority live by their own selfish code, gratifying their own selfish lusts? Is life any better, any easier, because you are “good”? Isn’t doing the “wrong” thing, more times than not, the simpler path?

Again, God is the answer. The answer is because there is a God and He IS love. He is all that is good. He created all that is in the world- both light and darkness; Love and evil- though He Himself is not evil (we’ll get deeper into this in another post, I promise). Evil and sin have a purpose in His plan, but what we see most predominantly in our world is love. We feel an unconscionable pull toward what is right and good because He put it there inside of us. We gravitate toward what is good because we are made in His image.

 

Christians Don’t Seem Any Better Than Anyone Else

money-652560_640We, as Christians, are no better. We lust, lie about silly little things and even big things. God’s law is written on our hearts as well as all other non-Christians. It’s written on the heart of every human being. Even the worst murders & sociopaths know it is wrong, they simply do not have remorse.  Besides God’s law, we also have hearts filled with sin.  It’s everywhere and in everyone. When I became a Christian I did not cease to remain human. I didn’t become impervious to sin. So I sin? I mean, I give to charity, I watch my friends’ kids for free, I give a bottle of water to a homeless person when I see them. By goods outweigh my bads. I must be a decent, good human being, right?

Wrong. Maybe by earthly standards where other flaw-filled humans are our judges. The truth is: We as humans can do NO right without God. When is the last time you did something completely unselfish and didn’t tell anyone about it? Didn’t even hint at it? I think for the majority it is hard to name a time that you didn’t do something because of the good feeling it would give you just to do it, how it would make you feel like a “good person”, how you found a way to tell someone about it or write it in your journal so there was “proof” you were indeed a “good person”. It’s human nature, baby. We are all self-centered creatures. We do “good” when it is convenient for US; when it benefits US. As a Christian I still struggle with my own self-centered nature and pride.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” (Luke 18:19, NIV)

 

So If It Isn’t About Morals, What Is It About?

jesus-1166170_640The Bible is very clear, “good” deeds will not get you to heaven. You can never be a good enough person to buy your salvation in good deeds. Being a Christian is not about trying to fit into a moral standard. So what the heck is it about? Trusting in Jesus. Realizing that because of him you can be granted forgiveness for your sins. God is beyond good- He is sinless. He created His Son in his image and longs for us to make our hearts to look like His own. He knows this is impossible and so in his infinite grace sacrificed His Son so that we may be forgiven.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6, NIV)

Nothing, nothing you can do will make you worthy of God’s forgiveness other than the belief in His Son. This seems so simple, right? It is not. This is why they call it a “leap of faith”.

Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (NIV)

 

But doesn’t the Bible talk about morals?

Yes. God gave people laws to abide by. He gave them rules by how they should ultimately live. But only one man could ever keep them: Jesus. It’s simply not possible for us to live by God’s law; He knew this and this is why he sacrificed His Son for us.

The funny thing is, when you start to find faith in Jesus, to truly trust in Him, you find your heart changing. You find it molding into a closer (though never perfect) version of what God ideally wants us to be. Your love for God  & Christ will change you. Subtly at first, but the more you lean in and trust, the greater your heart reforms. As James points out you cannot love God and believe in Christ without that love changing you and how you move in the world:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!  (James 2:14-19)

 

To become a Christian is to realize that all people are from God and they are struggling like you once did and still continue to do. This love breeds a joy that is uncontainable. You help, you give, not because you should, or because you have to, but because you can’t image not. Christianity is not simply a moral code to follow, but a faith & love that changes you and brings you deeper in a relationship with God that is evident in your thoughts, words, and deeds.