Have you ever tried to share Jesus with a person and they came back with the excuse, "I can't be good enough to be a Christian"? Or have you even said, "I can't do this! I just can't be a Christian. I give up!" There is both truth and hope in these statements.
God never intended for us to be good enough or keep a set of laws or generate our own righteousness. He knows that we can't! He knows that we are but dust in our natural state, so God sent Jesus to live, die and live-on in resurrection life in us and us in Him. Paul wrote,
We know what the message of the Law is, to those who live under it - that every excuse may die on the lips of him who makes it and no living man may think himself beyond the judgment of God. No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law's demands - indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are. But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though amply testified to by both Law and Prophets) - it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ. (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God's plan.) Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith. God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:19-26 J.B. Philips N. T.)
For hundreds of years the Jews proved themselves miserable failures in keeping the laws of Moses. They broke the covenant that God had made with them so He set out to make a new and lasting covenant for all mankind to walk in. Jeremiah prophesied,
Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34 KJ2000)
God wanted to prove to mankind that only One is good, even our Father Who is in heaven. God also had a plan to redeem weak and fallen man from himself. He would put His goodness within us. The prophet Ezekiel also prophesied, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." (Ezekiel 36:26 KJ2000)
Jesus told the disciples that He was going away, but that He would not leave them alone. He would send His Spirit to dwell within them. He has given everyone who puts their trust in Christ alone a new heart and a new spirit - His heart and His Spirit! To put our trust in keeping the old law or even a new "Christianized" law is to make void this New Covenant promise of a new heart being put within us. This is the good news of the gospel, Christ in you the hope of glory, not a new list of rules to keep. We cannot perfect in our flesh what God has set forth in the Spirit. (See Galatians 3:1-3)
The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let's also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49 WEB)
First we live as natural men and women, subject to the nature of Adam and all its weaknesses without the Spirit of God. But when we are born from above another life principle takes over, the very life of Jesus into Whom we have been born. The old Adam cannot please God and he can never live righteously in the eyes of God. God has one standard of excellence, His own Son Jesus. God measures righteousness by Him alone and only Jesus can be righteous as we live in Him. Righteousness comes by living an exchanged life in Christ. Outside the life force of Jesus there is no righteousness. Walking by faith is not about doing good works! It is all about resting in Christ and His righteousness. He does the work in us and we rest in Him. (See Hebrews 4) This is true righteousness.
To do our own works, trying to be good enough, or a good Christian is really an act of unbelief. Like the Hebrews in the wilderness, we are failing to enter into the promise by our unbelief. Faith is not doing good works or living a good life. Faith is Jesus doing the works as only He can. Only He is the Way we are to walk in, because it is Him walking it out within us in His life. John wrote, "If you know that he [Jesus] is righteous, you know that everyone that does righteousness is born of him." (1 John 2:29 KJ2000) Just as He is righteous, we who dwell in Him are also righteous. His righteousness is imputed into us. As John went on to write, "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he [Jesus] is righteous." (1 John 3:7 KJ2000)
Like the Hebrews, we fail when we insist that we can be a Christian or that we must do something for God. Both are out of that old self nature of Adam, also called the flesh or our old man. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and gave the Law to the Hebrew people, they with one voice said, "All the words which the LORD has said will we do." (See Exodus 24:3) In short order they proved themselves liars. Paul had no illusions about his own righteousness, either. Until this issue is settled and we completely accept that we are totally bankrupt when it comes to living in righteousness or pleasing God, we will continue to fail and fall short of a victorious life in Christ.
Doing "great works for God" is no longer in our vocabulary. We know that only the Son can do works that are eternal and we rest in Him even when criticized by church task masters. Doing just one "good work" under the influence of the flesh takes us away from our place of peace and rest in Jesus and our Father. With Paul we must believe, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Philippians 3:8-9 KJ2000)to top