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Mark 10:17-18 (ESV)
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Many times when I talk to people about God and heaven they will tell me that it seems logical that a God who is fair and loving will accept them if they are a good person. The implication is that sometimes they do bad things and sometimes they do good things, but if the good things outweigh the bad things then they should be ok. I think the logic of this idea is solid. I do believe that God being fair and just and loving would accept someone who is good. However, the problem is, as today’s verses teach us, that no one is actually good except God.
It is a hard concept to grasp because most of us when looking at our lives can say , “hey I never killed anyone or robbed a bank or stole a car”. Most of us think that there are degrees of good and bad and that breaking the speed limit can’t be nearly as bad as murdering someone, but God is not concerned with degrees of goodness or badness, He is concerned with perfection. The reality is that the speeder and the murder are both lawbreakers and God who is perfect and just has to punish those who break the law. Think of how many times we see the news about someone getting away with something that they should be punished for and thinking, “What’s up with the justice system. Why do some folks get locked up while others who may have money or influence get away with it?” It’s frustrating. This is not so with God. In his perfection, He will punish equally with death all law breaking.
Hard to accept that you might not be a good person? Most people don’t like to think that about themselves. Read today’s verse again. This is Jesus telling the young man he is speaking to that only God is good. This man was looking at Jesus as many in our culture do. He was only seeing Him as a gifted teacher or good moral philosopher that may hold the keys or the teachings that could take him to the next level spiritually. Jesus challenges the young man to compare his goodness to the perfect goodness of God. We are also challenged to do this. I think if we are honest with ourselves we would find our goodness less than that of God. We have to remember that God is not interested in anything less than perfection. It’s not this way because God is an elitist or an arrogant killjoy, it is because He is perfect and pure and holy. God cannot fellowship with imperfect man because we would taint His perfection. God cannot fellowship with man because we are all lawbreakers and the punishment for breaking the law is separation and death. This is the human condition. This is the bad news.
However, there is good news! While we cannot be good, we can escape the punishment for our law breaking and be reconciled to God. Unlike the notions of the culture, Jesus was not born to be a mere teacher or philosopher. He was born to bear the punishment of humanity’s rebellion. The reason he could do this was because he was born perfect and in his life broke no laws. He offered himself to God as a substitute for humanity and God accepted him as the perfect sacrifice. That’s the big deal of the cross. As Jesus suffered death on the cross the punishment that God would have poured out on humanity was poured out on Jesus. Jesus provided a way for man to be reconciled with the perfect God. The challenge now for man is not to be good but rather to be submissive. In order to be covered by Jesus’ sacrifice we have to submit to his Lordship. We have to be his disciples and do the things he commanded us to do. We have to recognize that we have been lawbreakers and we have to turn away from our rebellion. The original question posed to Jesus was, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer, repent, that is turn away from our law breaking and our rebellion against God, and believe that on the cross Jesus died for our sins to remove the penalty we deserved.
Are you a good person?
Heavenly Father, you are good and in you there is no imperfection. Out of you flows all life and love and justice. Thank you for the consistency of the application of your justice. Help us see our condition of separation today and help us understand the good news of Jesus. Forgive us our sins and empower us with your Spirit to walk in submission to Jesus our savior and Lord. We offer you praise, in Jesus’ name. Amen.