Monday, 7 February 2011

Being good is good enough, right? Romans 3:9-26

How do you know what is good? What does a good child look like? What does a good employee look like? What does a good person look like? Is it someone law abiding, apart from, maybe, a few speeding tickets? Do they give to charity? Are they animal lovers? Do they have to be religious?

Is a terrorist a good person? Someone who sets out to kill others to highlight a cause they believe in. Those who share their beliefs would say they are good, the victims’ families would say otherwise. Who is right? Who decides?

How do you know who is good? Surely there has to be a standard.

In industry there are kite marks used if a product passes certain standards. If it isn’t good enough to meet the standard it can’t have the stamp.

So who ultimately decides what is good? God does. Why? Because “In the beginning God created…” God designed the world, he created us therefore he sets the standard. Just as in industry it is a manufacturer’s agreed standard that sets the pass mark for goodness, so God, the creator, sets the standard.

We’re going to think tonight about who God says is good?

The shock in Roms 3 is God says “No-one”. No-one passes the test, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Why isn’t being good, good enough? because although we meet our standard of goodness, our verdict doesn’t matter, God’s standard counts. There are two reasons why we are not good?

1. Because God says so 2. Because God shows so.

1. Because God says so.
(10-18)are a collection of Old Testament quotations that emphasize God’s standard and our failure to meet it. God’s standard is not a shifting idea of goodness like ours where standards change as societies values change. God’s standard is what? “righteousness”. God’s standard isn’t comparative, it’s absolute - righteousness
Righteousness is living a life that pleases God, in line with God’s priorities and acknowledging God’s right to rule.

What is God’s judgement? There is no-one who seeks God, no-one living with that continual awareness that God rules, is watching and is relevant.

Come back to Genesis 3. God has made the world and it is good and placed Adam and Eve in the midst of it to enjoy and rule it on his behalf. The whole of God’s perfect creation is theirs to enjoy, they can eat of every tree bar one. The question is will they ‘fear the Lord’, can they live righteously and accept the creator’s word and rule?

Well you know the story; they try to knock God off his throne, they reach for self rule wanting to decide how to live, what is good, for themselves. They reject the creator and that’s the problem, why can’t we be good because we reject the creator.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” God says don’t lie but if I don’t lie I’ll look silly, or be found out, so I decide what is right and wrong. God says love your neighbour as yourself, but we justify our standard against God ‘he doesn’t know what they are like’, or I’ll make do with ignoring them – again deciding what is right and wrong. God says love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, but we love our work, we love the money it brings, the things we can buy with it, we love our family, our hobbies. Again and again we decide what is right and wrong and push God’s standard away.

Why isn’t being good, good enough? Because it is not what we think that counts, we might meet our standard of goodness, maybe you even meet mine, but we’re way short of God’s. God says “no-one is righteous”, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. God’s standard is life lived with God’s glory in mind, his priorities in place and his rule established.

Maybe your thinking yeah but that’s just Paul, he had a downer on humanity, what does Jesus say, he was a good moral teacher, he would never say such things he loved people and had a positive view of mankind. Mark 10:17-18 – who does Jesus say is good? “No-one is good – except God alone.” Or Mark 7:20-21 what does Jesus say the problem is? Our hearts and look at the things that show it; some are big things like murder, but who of us can say we’ve never had an evil thought, or spoken slander, or been arrogant?

I’ve never played rugby apart from at school. What would happen if I suddenly found myself playing for England against the France in a few weeks? I guess it wouldn’t be pleasant to find out. Why? Because I am not up to their standard, the sheer intensity would find me out leaving me broken. To even be on the same field would place me in danger because I’m just not good enough.

One day we will stand before God and we can bring our tokens of goodness with us, but we’ll realise they are worthless and that our definition of good isn’t on the same plane as God’s standard.

Why isn’t being good, good enough? Because God says so. But also because

2. God shows so (24-6)
What would you be prepared to die for?

If your willing death would secure world peace would you? What about if it would end the conflict in Afghanistan? 350 British soldiers have considered their lives worth it. What about if it would save the life of a child?

We only make a sacrifice if we consider it worth doing. If the benefits outweigh the cost, that’s true in small sacrifices; giving up chocolate to lose weight, or jogging to keep fit, let alone in the big decisions. We wouldn’t be prepared to sacrifice our life unless it was absolutely necessary, unless we were convinced it was the only way to save someone.

If being good is good enough why would God sacrifice his son?

God paid such a price because it was the only way to save us. The cross is such a radical rescue it tells us we can never be good enough. It was the only way to make us good in God’s eyes, otherwise why would Jesus go through it. That is why God’s Son veils himself in humanity, why the creator submits himself to the blows and indignities rained down on him by his creation, why sinless Jesus experiences his Father’s just anger against our rebellion.
Every blow, every insult, every second bearing God’s judgement, says there is no other way. In fact in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asks if there is another way, but then bows to his Father’s will because there isn’t one – it is the only way to make us good enough for God. Jesus atones for us – he does what we can’t, he meets God’s standard on our behalf. And he does so willingly.

John 18:1-11 shows us Jesus arrest, what stands out as you read the account? Jesus is in control; he’s not swept along by events, he’s orchestrating them. He identifies himself to his would be captors twice, he secures the safety of his followers, he prevents his disciples fighting for him. Why? Why doesn’t he escape when he can? Why doesn’t he fight heroically to freedom?

Because he must drink the cup the Father has given him. He must face the cross and God’s anger against sin as God’s obedient son because we can’t face it. Only Jesus death can pay the bill, we can never be good enough; we need Jesus righteousness his total obedience credited to our account.

If being good is good enough then Jesus death is pointless. The cross stands over history and declares look at the lengths to which I will go because I loved you but you could never be right with me.

Why isn’t being good, good enough? Because God says so, and because God shows so; sending his only Son to die for us to make us right before him. Romans 3:22 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”

I want to work through the implications of that:
1. We had better understand God’s standards.
If what the Bible says is right then there is no point trying to live by our standards of right and wrong, no matter how high we set the bar it isn’t high enough. God’s standard is the only one that counts. If God’s verdict is “all have sinned and fall short” “There is no-one righteous” We fail to meet those standards ourselves so we’d better find out how we can meet them.

Maybe you’ve never thought about this before, maybe you don’t know what you believe about Jesus. Perhaps you accept looking at your life that you aren’t good enough, even by your standards let alone God’s, but you want to look a bit more at who Jesus is. If you want a place to start read a gospel.

2. I better examine God’s solution
Perhaps you realise you can never be good enough, that God’s standard is far above what you could ever hope to meet. Maybe you’ve realised Jesus is the only way to be good enough. That Jesus died for your sin, to credit you with his right standing before God, and your question is what do I do now? The great news is it’s all done for you, Jesus will give you his perfect record and you can be good enough, he will pay for your rebellion, if you confess your failure and put your faith in him.

3. I better warn others
There are millions of people who’ll go to sleep tonight thinking that even if, on the off chance, there is a God they are OK. They have a back-up plan, they lead good lives and that’s good enough isn’t it?

There are others who believe in God but think being religious is the key to heaven. That if they can show their religious credentials that will be enough.
But the key to heaven is cross-shaped.

If being good isn’t good enough someone needs to tell them. Who will you tell this week, who will you warn?

Why isn’t being good, good enough? Because God says so and because God shows us so.
What are we going to do about it?

4. Understand what you are
We are always sinners saved by grace, we never leave the cross behind, we never contribute to our salvation, though we are called to be transformed by it.

No comments: