Am I a good person?
There needs to be a universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good” before one can wholeheartedly answer the question, “Am I a good person?”. Countries, governments, cultures, religions, universities, institutions, laws, and individuals adhere to various definitions of “good”, which can lead one to think that “good” is relative.
Subjective morality is one way many humans define “good”. Subjective morality is fueled by one’s own personal convictions and moral compass. Whatever one decides to be morally “good” is morally “good” for him or her. For example, I recently discussed with 12 young adults the difference between murdering and killing. One teenager was fully convinced that murdering is “good” in accordance with his personal beliefs. If we adhere to subjective morality as the foundation of determining a universal “good”, then anything and everything can be “good”. One can say, “murder is good” and so it is. Subjective morality breeds a universally inconsistent definition of “good”.
Societal morality is another way humans measure “good”. Countries, governments, cultures, religions, universities, institutions, laws, and individuals all influence, create, enforce, or adhere to a definition of “good”. Universally and comparatively speaking, most societies do not share the same definition of “good”. For instance, the state of California deems homosexual marriage lawful and “good”, whereas Uganda, Africa deems homosexuality unlawful and “bad”. Additionally, in parts of India - killing rats is deemed “bad” because of reincarnation, whereas in most American homes killing rats is deemed “good” because rats carry life-threatening diseases. Like subjective morality, societal morality breeds a universally inconsistent definition of “good”.
Where can one find a universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good”?
Take a gander at the Empire State Building. It would be foolish to think the Empire State Building just randomly appeared and constructed itself to become what it is. Consider mountains, birds, humans, fish, stars, the Milky Way, and the universe. A builder is required to build buildings, just as a Creator is required to create creation. The creation of a human brain is much more astonishing and elaborate than the creation of the Empire State Building. To conclude that one is built by a builder and the other is by random chance is foolish.
What does this have to do with the definition of “good”? If you want to know how a building is built, you would ask the builder. The same goes when trying to know the universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good”. Humans and manmade laws are universally inconsistent in their definition of “good”, so to know the universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good”, we must ask the creator of “good”.
Jesus is creator.
“For by Him (Jesus) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
The Bible reveals Jesus as the creator of all things. So how does Jesus define “good”?
“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18
Jesus defines “good” by pointing to God alone.
The universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good” is God.
Jesus did not say:
“Democrats are good.”
“Vegans are good.”
“Women preachers are good.”
“Those who speak in tongues are good.”
“All parents are good.”
“Buddhist monks are good.”
“Calvinists are good.”
“The educated are good.”
“The poor are good.”
“The rich are good.”
“Pastors are good.”
“Doctors are good.”
Rather Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.”
The Bible reveals that the trespass of one man, Adam, resulted in condemnation for all people (see Romans 5:12-15). Additionally, Jesus said that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God (see John 3:1-15). Because of Adam’s one sin, mankind inherently stands condemned - needing mercy, forgiveness, and rebirth. Many world-views and individuals will argue that man is inherently “good”. All the behavioral modification, psychological education, and societal justification will not change the true standard and definition of “good”. God alone is the definition and standard.
So, how does man compare to the only true standard and definition of good - namely God?
Before comparing man’s goodness to God, let’s start with God’s law, specifically the 10 commandments. Let’s say someone believes they have kept the outward behavioral requirements of the 10 commandments: thou shall not murder, thou shall not steal; thou shall not commit adultery…
Jesus has something to say to that someone:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:21-22
Jesus places the focus from behavior to inward desires of the heart. At the core heart-level of humans there is failure to measure up to God’s perfect law. Outwardly, one could “seem” to perfectly keep the law, but inwardly, it is impossible. And that’s the point. God’s perfect law screams of man’s inability to measure up. In essence, God’s law gives man knowledge of his sin.
“Now, we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may be accountable to God; because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
If man doesn’t measure up to God’s law, he stands no chance of measuring up to God:
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
Are you always just, perfect, upright, faithful, and without iniquity?
So, am I a good person?
God is the creator of all things; God alone is good; God is without iniquity; and God’s law exposes heart-level sin. The answer to the question, “Am I a good person?” is an unequivocal “No”. Humans do not measure up to the universal, unwavering standard and definition of good, namely God.
My just Sentence.
God is not only worthy of the title “good”, He is also the just and perfect Judge who will righteously judge all people. (see Acts 17:30-31) All people have broken God’s law and fall short of His glory. All are guilty of sin. All the protesting, good works, and redefining God will not change God’s perfect standard and man’s inability to measure up. All have sinned, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). All people deserve the just sentence of death.
Jesus on a tree.
All people deserve the just sentence of death, but God - through Jesus Christ made a way through faith - for sinners to have their sins fully forgiven. Jesus entered into His creation to fulfill the law and promises of God: absorbing God’s wrath and dying the death we deserve. Every step Jesus took on earth was one step closer to the tree - where He was sovereignly appointed to hang and die for sins. Anyone who was hung on a tree was a curse: Jesus, perfect and sinless, became a curse to set curser’s free.
“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:10-13
Anyone who loves someone will entertain the thought of dying for that someone. Jesus willingly died for those who hate(d) him. Let that sink in for a moment. God is love, so all his actions are loving. Jesus on a tree is true love in action. There is no greater love. A perfect sacrifice was required for the wrath of God to be satisfied against all sins. The wrath that we all deserve, Jesus bore. Jesus knew no sin, became sin - paying born-again believer’s debt in full: becoming the perfect and final atoning sacrifice, “It is finished.” (see John 19:30)
Justification: man-centered verse God-centered.
God-centered justification is God receiving all the glory for one placing his or her faith in Jesus’ finished work alone. Jesus died the death we deserved, so that we may be forgiven, justified, and made righteous. Those who place their faith in Christ alone are no longer condemned for the sins they committed against God, but rather their sins are completely forgiven - forever. Jesus’ sacrifice is and will forever be enough. The selfless, righteous act of Jesus on the cross has greater strength and power than all of man’s sins combined.
“Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:16-19
Man-centered justification is man receiving all the glory for trying to make himself righteous. Anything that a man does to justify his sins - apart from trusting in Jesus-finished work on the tree - is man-centered justification. The level ground at the foot of Jesus’ cross angers those who seek justification through manmade efforts. Instead of repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus’ finished work, man-centered justification focuses on redefining God, self-help, subjective and societal morality or doing “good works”:
Redefining God: Those who redefine God - twist and distort Scripture so they don’t need to repent and fully trust in Jesus’ finished work. They would rather live in sin and “feel” justified by their man-made god than turn their life over to Jesus Christ. They have one foot planted in appeasing societal morality and the other foot softly placed on their subjective view of God’s word. Additionally, some of those who redefine God add to the finished work of Jesus, making the equation: Jesus + man’s work (or super seeker knowledge) = salvation.
Self-help: There is no way one can improve sin with sin. Instead of trusting in Jesus’ finished work, self-helpers invest in their dying flesh. In essence, self-helpers place their faith in building up the flesh for justification. The thought goes: the better one appears on the outside, the better they must be on the inside. One can perfectly clean the outside of a dish and still leave the inside filled with dirt: a life of vain-glory.
Man’s morality: Many people use societal and subjective morality to justify themselves. Some will deny the existence of God and become their own god: judging themselves. The thought goes: as long as I’m a little bit better than the other guy, I’m doing just fine.
Good Works: Those who justify themselves by good works are relying on self-righteousness for justification. This makes Christianity different from all other religions and man-made efforts in the world. Every other religion - apart from Christianity - makes man do a bunch of seemingly good stuff. If the followers do enough “good” they might make it into eternal bliss. Whereas in Christianity: Jesus has done the final good work to attain justification for all people. The world says “do”, whereas Jesus says, “done”. Those who justify themselves by good works put their faith in “do”.
If someone denies the existence of gravity, does that mean gravity doesn’t exist? The same goes with God. All people know God exists. All people are without excuse:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” Romans 1:18-24
God is the true definition of “good”, even if individual humans and societies have formed different definitions of “good”. Humans know that God exists. The truth of God has been suppressed by the wicked, which has resulted in a manifestation of false religions and people calling good evil and evil good. A man not born-again by Jesus is a man at war against Jesus. Those who are at war against Jesus are ultimately rejecting Jesus’ finished work on the cross: the forgiveness of sin. People go to hell because they refuse to have their sins forgiven. They will spend an eternity in torment - paying the just price for their own sins.
God is love.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9
God’s actions, words, and intensions are all rooted in true love. Some will say that God is evil because God sends people to hell, but the very ability for one to say such a statement is given by the mercy of God. In essence, who is the clay to criticize the potter? Especially when the potter’s true desire is for all to genuinely repent of their sins and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11
The only true God of the universe loved everyone first, even when people deny, hate, misrepresent, and criticize Him. Jesus’ love in action is Him becoming the atoning sacrifice for all sins. There is no greater love than this. God loves because He is love. The question isn’t, “Does God love us?” but rather, “Do we love God?”
Children of God.
God’s law points to the amazing reality that those who place their faith in Jesus alone are adopted as God’s children:
“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:21-27
The law can’t save. Only Jesus can save. When children of wrath become children of God - they clothe themselves with Christ. To clothe oneself with Christ is to be in obedient relationship with Jesus - loving Him by obeying His word, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (see John 14:15). This type of obedience is not rooted in stale duty, but rather earnest delight. The new birth and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit - inside an adopted son and daughter of God - produces an earnest desire and ability to grow in obedience and righteousness. The sanctifying work God does inside His children will produce godly desires, which yields fruitful service for the building up of the church and community.
Earnest faith in Jesus transforms children of wrath into children of God. This transformation from darkness into light enables one to truly serve the living God. Children of wrath are dead in their trespasses. Something spiritually dead cannot produce eternally lasting fruit. Sure, the spiritually dead can temporarily alleviate pains, hurts, and sufferings through good works, but this effort is like a cigarette. It may yield a temporary relief, but it will never fix the root cause. Only those who are cleansed by the blood of Jesus can truly serve God:
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from the acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:14
Yes, good works - apart from Jesus - lead to death. The self-righteous live by their own manmade standard of righteousness, whereas those who are made righteous by the perfect blood of Jesus - live by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, which is revealed in Scripture alone. From the finished work of Jesus, the children of God are with Jesus, doing good work for Jesus.
Complete in Christ.
Countries, governments, cultures, religions, universities, institutions, laws, and individuals all adhere to various definitions of “good”, which can lead one to think that “good” is relative. But only the creator of good can define good. Jesus is the creator and He points to God alone as good. The universal, unwavering standard and definition of “good” is God. And no one else is good except God alone. God’s law points to man’s inability to perfectly keep His law - giving man knowledge of his sin. The just sentence for sinners is eternal damnation, but Jesus Christ willingly went to the tree to hang and die for the sins of the world - absorbing the Father’s wrath that mankind deserved. No greater love is Jesus willingly dying for those who rejected him.
All people are without excuse when it comes to knowing God exists and the fallen nature of our individual hearts. But man’s fallen nature rejects this truth and tries to find refuge in justifying themselves by works of the law or manmade morality or redefining God or building up the self to appear more holy. Praise God that man can be fully justified through faith alone in Jesus alone. Jesus’ finished work on the tree is enough to see the love of God on full display. God’s love is poured into His children’s hearts through the Holy Spirit who gives them their identity as true sons and daughters of God. The children of God’s new identity finds delight in obeying and following Jesus in Spirit and Truth, yielding fruitful service that produces eternal ripples of God’s glory into a world in desperate need of God. Once again, “Am I a good person?” No. I will never measure up to God and His goodness, but I always measure up in Him as His child: completely forgiven, completely known, completely equipped, and completely loved.
by Logan Heine