Oh My Goodness and the Mind-Blowing Power of the Gospel

There is a problem running rampant within Christianity today. It is one of those problems that we seldom recognize, and fail to face up to if we do. It is a problem that doesn’t seem to be a problem. This problem is our own goodness, and the way it prevents us from experiencing the gospel.

The Gospel Isn’t About Doing Good. It’s about Being Made Good.

We so often confuse “doing good” with being a Christian. They’re not the same thing. People who do not believe in Jesus can do good. Of course, Christians should do good, but good behavior is not Christianity. We deceive ourselves if we think that doing good is the same as being Christian.

Instead, being Christian is about being made good by Someone else. That’s what the gospel is all about. It’s the good news that we don’t have to try harder to do good things. Instead, because of Jesus’ sinless life, death, and resurrection, we can be forgiven of our sins and totally transformed to actually be good. That’s a lot better than just doing good. What this means is that we can not only do good, but we can actually be good at our very core.

Your Goodness Isn’t Good Enough

When we think that our goodness is good enough, we’ve fallen short of the gospel. The gospel isn’t a list of behaviors to imitate. The gospel is the start, the substance, and the meaning of a totally new life. Here are a few examples of our sham goodness that creeps into our life, and begins to edge out the primacy of the gospel.

  • Voting Republican
  • Voting Democrat
  • Giving to poverty or AIDS relief
  • Being against homosexuality
  • Bumper stickers that profess hatred of sin, allegience to God, and what’s going to happen to the vehicle you’re raptured
  • Not having an affair
  • Not gambling
  • Attending a Bible study
  • Faithful attendance at church

Some of these activities are good. Some aren’t. The point is, it’s not about what we do that makes a difference. The gospel produces right behavior, but it goes way deeper.

Dangers of List-Keeping Christianity

There is a grave danger in keeping our little lists, doing our little goodnesses, and smiling about our pretend holiness.

  • It minimizes our sense of guilt before God. We are all guilty sinners before God. When we do good things, however, it tends to erase our sense of guilt. At that point, we find ourselves in the position of the hypocritical Pharisees, who kept the law to a T, but rejected God at the core.
  • It causes us to be critical and judgmental of those who don’t keep our lists of good behaviors. If we encounter believers who don’t mind their Ps and Qs in the same way that we do, our attitude changes from loving acceptance and Christian charity, to one of lurking suspicion and judgmental exclusion. This is tragic. Whereas the gospel provides unity, keeping lists of rules provides dangerous divisiveness.
  • It causes us to look at our performance than our raw and ugly brokenness. Keeping rules gives us the smug assurance that we’re doing alright. In reality, we are merely spraying perfume on the rotting carcass of our depravity. We need to acknowledge our depravity so we can then see the atomic power of the gospel and the brilliant holy glory of Jesus Christ.

Trying hard to be good doesn’t trasnform us. Only the gospel can transform us. Once it has, we can pursue goodness as the Scriptures command. Yet we can never, by our own effort, create our own goodness.

This is good news. It’s a relief for many of us who strive and anguish  and labor, and persecute ourselves over not following our list of rules. Being good on our own is tiring. It’s discouraging. And it’s meant to be. The law doesn’t save. It shows us that we need to be saved by the gospel.

Instead of trying to fix your brokenness, admit that only God can do that. Give up your grip on your own rules and lists. In full realization of your brokenness, turn to the Healer who will restore you. Celebrate his grace, and fall into his arms in a deep and abiding experience of true gospel living.


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