Thursday, March 21, 2024

You’re Not Good Enough (Romans 3)

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips” (Rom. 3:13).

Most people believe that when they stand before God on judgment day they will be cleared of their sins because they are basically good. They admit they are not perfect, but they are quick to point out that they haven’t been altogether bad either. After all, what counts is that they tried to do their best, isn’t that right? Unfortunately, that isn’t right. To assume that a holy God winks at sin and grants eternal life on the basis of our meager, and selfish, efforts to do good is the greatest deception plaguing mankind.

Sin is rarely taken seriously. People see it as a surface flaw, like a cut on the skin. But, like a deadly virus, sin goes much deeper. It is rooted in our fallen nature. Every person is born into sin because it is passed on from one generation to the next. This is original sin. Because every person is born into sin, we do not just commit sins but we are sinners.

According to God’s Word, man is not basically good; rather, he is altogether unrighteous. Paul says, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10–11). We don’t have right behavior because we have no understanding of God’s standards and we do not seek after God. Some people think man can seek after God, but the Scripture clearly says the opposite. People who say they are seeking God are actually looking for peace of mind, relief from guilt, or significance in their lives. While they seek these things, they are running away from God. Those who truly seek Him do so by His Spirit—and they find Him. But apart from His grace no one seeks God.

Only by God’s grace can a person realize that God’s standard of goodness is unattainable by natural man. Oftentimes, people lower that standard in their minds, making themselves believe they have attained it. Sometimes, they elevate their own behavior, foolishly believing they act and think as perfectly and righteously as God commands. But these extremes are a delusion. Apart from the grace of God, man cannot be righteous, he cannot be good. Only through faith in the righteousness of Christ can we be cleansed of our sin and come into the holy presence of God.

Read Luke 19:16–30. What did the rich young man want from Jesus? How did he think he could attain eternal life? Why did Jesus say only God was good? What standard did Jesus give the young man for attaining eternal life? Does Jesus’ response surprise you? Was the young man really able to keep God’s law? Can you?