Some Christians seem to live with constant mental turmoil because, as they see it, they are “just not good enough.” When a person strives to make improvements in his character and makes a diligent effort to do his best to comply with the Lord’s will, that is certainly an admirable approach to life. It is a fallacy, though, to think that our inherent goodness is going to catch God’s attention, make a good impression on Him, and persuade Him to grant us entrance into heaven.
Does God call on His children to be good? Yes, He does. “Goodness” is one portion of the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character that God wants to see in each member of His church (Galatians 5:22,23). Indeed, it is possible for you and me to be filled with goodness, as Paul told the saints in Rome: “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).
The Lord wants us to be zealous of “good works” (Titus 2:14). It is also true that Jesus said that the resurrection of life is for “those who have done good” (John 5:29). In this instance, to “do good” is more than doing something helpful or kind for another person – it is the concept of submitting to God’s will.
“I understand all of that, but I just don’t feel like I am good enough.” Good enough for what? Do you mean that you are not good enough to have your sins forgiven? Join the crowd. No human, based on his/her personal merits, is good enough to receive salvation. Salvation is granted by God’s grace – kindness from Him that we do not deserve. God does not wash away a person’s sins because the person is a good boy or a good girl, but because the sinner has been reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:8-10). That happens only when a sinner complies with the instructions of the gospel (Romans 6:17,18).
“But I just feel like I need to do better.” For those who are in the Christ, when we put forth our best effort to conform to God’s will and walk in His light, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from our sins as we turn from and confess them (1 John 1:7-9). If we understand that we are not perfect, we should be grateful that our loving Father graciously provides the remedy for our flaws. In the process, though, we should not beat ourselves up because we are convinced that we ought to act better than we do. Growing up in the Christ is a process. It is not a one-time ordeal, but an ongoing process. We grow in love, we grow in knowledge, we grow in faith, we grow in patience, and we grow in other aspects.
“But I just don’t feel like I am doing enough.” You do not need to confess that to me. If you have not been a good steward with your blessings, abilities, and opportunities, then repent of your failure and make a commitment to develop better habits. Yet, know this: being granted entrance into heaven is not based on “how much” you and I did. Doing more than someone else does not make us better, nor does doing less than someone mean that we are in spiritual danger in God’s sight.
Jesus wants His servants to be faithful (Matthew 25:21). Yes, God wants us to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10), but we should do good works because we love the Lord and our fellow man, not because we think that doing a bunch of good things will secure for us a good standing with the Lord. If you have been keeping a record/scorecard of how many good works you have done, throw it away! In order to receive a free flight on an airplane, you must fly a certain number of miles with an airline. In order to receive a certain badge or level of achievement in a Scouts group, you must perform a specified number of deeds or carrying out a particular number of projects. Walking faithfully with the Lord is different. Walking with Him is not about “doing enough.”
We are not suggesting that we should stop working in the Lord. God calls on all of His children to abound in His work (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we do so, though, let us not approach it as a meritorious system by which doing good works somehow tips the scale in our favor and guarantees our eternal salvation. If you think that you can do more in serving the Lord, go for it. Remember, though, that doing more does not wash away sins. Two sins committed early in the day are not removed by doing two good things after lunch.
Perhaps you have heard it said that heaven is only for those people who deserve to be there. In fact, heaven is for those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Deserve to be there? No one deserves to be there. Be “good enough” to go to heaven? None of us is “good enough” by our own merits. Because of our sins, we ought to be punished. However, God makes available His gift of eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23).
Let us make it our daily goal to conform to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). As we do that, though, let us not torment ourselves by trying to be good enough. Let us walk confidently in the light, knowing that when we do that, Jesus’ blood and grace will cover our imperfections.
— Roger D. Campbell