Several years ago, I had a Personal Care Attendant who would often say, “I’m a good person.” She did some very fraudulent things, and asked us to do something illegal, which resulted in me firing her, yet she’d respond to any suggestion of her sinfulness by insisting on her innate goodness. Did she believe herself? I have my own theory about that, but I really don’t know her heart.
I do know, however, that most people fight against the Gospel because it begins with the premise that, as sinners from birth, we deserve nothing short of God’s eternal wrath. Nobody enjoys hearing that truth. We all want to believe that God has no right to condemn us. Sometimes, of course, we admit to having sinned, but we immediately qualify that admission by adding, “Nobody’s perfect.” We comfort ourselves with the thought that the good we do far outweighs any sin we might commit.
The Bible turns such a claim on its ear. James 2:10 asserts that if we break just one commandment, the Lord finds us guilty of breaking the entire law. I don’t know about you, but I’ve broken a good deal more than one commandment in my almost 62 years of life. There’s absolutely no possibility of making up the balance. Apart from Christ, I can’t avoid sin.
Scripture paints a dismal picture of human nature. In Romans 3:10-20, the apostle Paul offers a gruesome, but woefully accurate, description of human beings and our crushing guilt before a holy and righteous God. That passage shows that we all merit condemnation.
Praise God, we can find mercy because Jesus bore the wrath that rightly belongs to you and me when He died on the cross. Then He rose again, and by the power of His resurrection He enables those of us who trust Him as our Lord and Savior to perform good works.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
The Lord shows His grace to those of us who know (all too well) our intrinsic sinfulness. Once we agree with Him that we have nothing good within ourselves, His mercy fills us with joy and praise. Scripture shows human depravity so that we might see Christ’s mercy and abundant goodness!