You're Pretty Good.
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
- John Wooden
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
- John Wooden
How would you respond to the following?
How good are you?
How would you feel if your most secret thoughts became public knowledge?
What do you want people to remember about you after you have passed from this life?
I've placed this Self-Check section at the beginning of the guide. The reason for this is that by going through this section first, you will see the information in the following sections in proper context.
Most people think they are pretty good. Don’t they? You think you are pretty good, don’t you? I know I used to.
Don’t we feel this way because we compare ourselves to others who we view as worse than we are? If we look throughout history or even just the evening news, we can see numerous examples of people who are worse than we are. Doesn’t comparing our lives to them make us feel much better about ourselves, and give us confidence that we really are pretty good?
But is the standard for good simply being better than those we consider worse than we are? If it is, then couldn’t someone be good enough to be considered better than we are, and thus rendering us as not good? Do you see how subjective this standard is?
Considering that this standard can’t be relied upon to evaluate every person as to being good, what kind of standard could we rely upon to accurately evaluate whether we or anyone else is good? What about the standard of living a perfect life? That’s a standard everyone could look at and consider anyone who met the standard as truly good. Right? The only problem with this standard is that no one could ever be perfect, could they?
If a real standard of good isn’t perfection, then how good do you think we need to be to be considered good? Have you ever really thought about 'Good' in this way? So what would your standard for good be? If you have a standard for good, have you ever been able to actually live your own standard which you have determined for yourself, and live it 100% of the time? If we’re honest with ourselves, we all know that we’ve never been able to keep any standard, even one we’ve set for ourselves, have we?
Think about the possibility of Heaven. If there really is a Heaven would we be considered good enough to enter? If you are not a Christian, you may not believe Heaven exists. But let’s for a moment consider the possibility that Heaven might actually exist. Since most people are familiar with the Ten Commandments, What about using them as the standard of good. Would we be able to meet this standard?
“Have I obeyed all of the Ten Commandments?”
When asked this question, most people respond,
“Well, I’ve broken one or two, but nothing too serious like murder, etc.”
That is how I used to answer the question. So let’s consider just a few of the Commandments and see how we do.
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.
To “Bear false witness” is the legal terminology for telling a lie about someone. Have you ever told a lie about someone, even a small one? Have you ever lied to someone when talking about yourself, your abilities, what you promised to do, etc.? How many murders does one have to commit to be a murderer? Just one, right? So telling one lie makes one guilty of lying, right? The Bible warns that all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8). If you’ve told even one lie, what does that make you? That makes you a liar, right? Guess what? I am too.
Exodus 20:15 "You shall not steal"
The basic definition of stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to us. Have you ever taken something that belonged to someone else; taken from work, from school, from your parents, etc.? Have you ever download music, movies, or software without paying for them? If you have taken anything that doesn’t belong to you, you have stolen, right? Even if it was very small, taking something not belonging to you is still stealing. The value of the thing taken doesn't matter does it? Petty theft is still theft. If you have ever stolen anything, what does that make you? That makes you a thief, right? Guess what? I’m guilty of that one also.
Exodus 20:12 "You shall not commit adultery"
Jesus warned, "You have heard... 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
The Bible mentions both adulterers and fornicators (those who have had sex before marriage), as being in the same dilemma. Have you ever looked at another person with lustful thoughts? What does that make you? That makes you an adulterer or fornicator, right? And yes, I’m guilty of this one also. What about pornography? Have you viewed pornography and had lustful thoughts toward the persons in the pictures and videos?
So how did you do? Guilty of all three like me? Anyone I have ever asked has admitted being guilty of all three as well. I would imagine if we are honest, almost all of us have to admit that we have broken all three of these commandments. In breaking just these three commandments, by definition, we are lying thieving adulterers at heart. If God were to judge us, would He find us innocent or guilty? I know I would be found guilty.
What if we looked at how successful we’ve been in obeying the other seven commandments? Would this help us? If you’re like me then almost surely no. Most of us have broken almost all of the Ten Commandments too because the Bible indicates that we are not only guilty because of our actions, but also guilty because of our thoughts and motivations.
You may not use the Ten Commandments as your standard for good. If not, that’s fine. What is your standard then? How do you want others to treat you? Don’t steal from you, don’t lie to you, don’t murder you, etc.? Hmmm, those standards are pretty similar to the Ten Commandments, aren’t they?
Jay Wegter (http://gospelforlife.org) proposes a scenario to consider. He asks,
“Could you claim to love and care for one of your friends, and at the same time hate them in your heart, slander them, steal from them, lie to them, treat them as a sex object, and plan their murder?”
The question almost seems absurd. Of course you can’t. You know that it’s impossible to claim that you love and care for your friend, while also doing the other things to them too. Right?
Now think about this. Do you need to be told that claiming you love them while feeling the other ways described is completely contradictory, or do you know this instinctively? You don’t need to be told, do you? Jay Wegter points out that the big surprise about this question to many is that when you look at it closely you will see that six of the Ten Commandments are referenced in it. Surprised? When you really think about this, you know these things instinctively. Deep down don’t you want others to live by these commandments, at least in how they treat you? When you consider the above scenario, wouldn't it be fair to conclude that even if you are not a Christian, you really do consider the Ten Commandments, (or at least the six commandments referenced), a constructive standard which we could all benefit from living consistently with?
Something else to think about, if you have determined your own standard of 'Good' for your life, again, have you ever truly lived up to that standard 100%, every single day? You see, whichever standard for good we try to reach, even when it is a standard we have created for ourselves, if we are honest we can’t live up to it 100%. As much as we want to be good, we can’t be good enough by any standard. Is that surprising? It’s not surprising to God.
The Bible indicates that God knows that we can’t be 'good' enough.
Romans 3:20 “No one can be found innocent by obeying the law. The law was given to show us how sinful we are.”
Many believe that the closer they live up to the standards in the Bible, the closer they are to going to heaven. However, this verse shows that our efforts will never make us good enough. The second part of Romans 3:20 actually shows the purpose of the law:
Romans 3:20 “The law was given to show us how sinful we are.”
Many people mistakenly look to the Bible as a standard to try to live up to, to show how good they need to be. But the Bible shows how far short of the standard we actually are.
So, one of the purposes of the Bible is not to show us how good we need to be, but to actually show us how bad we already are. Think about using a mirror to get ready for the day. When you look into it, are you looking to see how perfect your appearance is or are you looking to see what in your appearance needs work? What needs work, right? The Law given in the Bible is similar to the mirror in that it shows us our true sinful condition. The difference is that unlike our appearance in the mirror our sinful condition is something we can’t change through our efforts.
A quote I heard some years ago shows the reality of the deceptiveness of sin,
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
it will keep you longer than you want to stay,
and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”
While we will consider evidences for the Bible and Christianity later in this guide, let’s look at some of the teachings of the Bible as it relates to sin.
Romans 3:23 "All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God".
Romans 6:23 "The wages of sin is death”.
These two verses show how widespread the effect of sin is, "All have sinned", and also the severity of the penalty we earn for the sin we commit, "The wages of sin is death".
What do you think of when you hear the word 'wages'? In a job, wages are what we earn for the work we do for our employer, right? 'Death' as indicated in Romans 6:23 is separation from God forever. So being guilty of sin, the wages we have all earned is eternal separation from God forever.
God created Hell as the location for this separation from Him. Since God is everywhere except for hell, hell is the only place a person can be sent to be separated from Him. If hell is what we deserve then what hope do we have? We have a big problem, don’t we?
The second part of Romans 6:23 actually shows us hope,
Romans 6:23 “. . . but the gift of God, is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord”
Think about the phrase, “The gift of God”. Can we earn a gift? No. A gift is something that is given and accepted or rejected. We can’t earn it, we can only accept it.
Look at Isaiah 64:6
Isaiah 64:6 "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our works are like filthy rags."
It is clear through this verse that our best human attempts to be good are nothing compared to God's standard of Good. Nothing we try to do can earn us eternal life according to the Bible.
Think about someone you have given a gift to. How would you feel if when you handed the gift to them they tried to pay you for it? Would you have considered their attempt to pay you for the gift a compliment or an insult? An insult, right?
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have eternal life.”
To 'believe in Jesus' means that we believe Jesus is God, believe what He said about our sinful condition, believe how He said we need to live, live in the way He has indicated, and to accept His gift of payment for the sin we commit by His dying on the cross. If we try to earn this gift offered by God, it’s like trying to pay Him for the give He offers. We insult God.
Jesus paid the penalty we deserve, and if we “Believe on Him” (accept His gift of paying for our sin by dying on the cross, which we can’t earn, and then turn away from our sin), we will be saved from that separation! When we try to earn our salvation, we are telling God that Jesus’ death on the cross wasn't enough, and that we need to do something to earn it. Essentially, this is like us trying to pay God for his gift, and also telling him the gift He provided isn't enough. We’re telling him that we need to do something more. Can you see how insulting this is to God? If when you gave a gift to someone they responded with, “Oh, I was really hoping for something more”, would you feel complimented or insulted?
Again, some believe that the Bible shows a list of the standards we need to meet to go to heaven. And again:
Romans 3:20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”
As we can see from this verse, the law in the Bible is not something to strive toward, as many people mistakenly believe, it is the mirror we hold up to our lives which shows us our true sinful condition in light of God’s standard.
God has indicated that none of us are good enough nor can we be, so we are guilty of committing sin. And because we are not qualified to pay the sin debt we owe, a perfect sacrifice, He is the only one qualified to pay our debt. His payment is based solely on our acceptance of it, an amazing gift! It is not dependent on how good we are, how intelligent, how capable, how much money we have, how much power, etc. His gift is freely available to all, regardless of what we have to offer. Everyone can freely choose to receive His gift, or freely choose to reject His gift. This is only possible because Jesus is perfect because He is God, and because He is perfect He alone is qualified to pay our sin debt. He did everything necessary to pay the debt.
So, the question we must answer is,
“Are the claims of Christianity true?”
If not true, then none of this matters. You may be reading this and truly believe that Christianity isn’t true. Is there any possibility that you could you be wrong? If there is even the slightest possibility that Heaven and hell exist and that everyone will go to either heaven or hell after this life, isn't it worth investing a little time to consider the evidences and the implications of the evidences?
You might be thinking the same question of me. Is it possible that I could be wrong? I would answer “Yes”. I fully admit that there is that possibility I could be wrong.
You may wonder then,
“Why would I try to persuade others about a belief which could be wrong?”
That would be a very fair question, and one I’ve asked myself in the past.
The answer I would give has to do not with my beliefs or the sincerity of my beliefs, but with the evidences for those beliefs. The evidences confirming the teachings of Christianity as true; the evidences for God, Jesus, and the truthfulness of the Bible are so overwhelming compared to any evidences proposed against them or supporting any other belief. If there was a belief other than Christianity which better fit the available evidences I certainly would change to that belief instead of Christianity. The reason I am trying to persuade people to check out the evidences for Christianity is because of the implications if Christianity is true, and my concern that everyone is subject to these implications.
So the question is,
“Can a case be made in support of Christianity’s claims, and are you willing to invest some time to consider such a case?”
Rather than make a decision based on what people hope is true, and even my claim that Christianity can be supported by evidences, let’s consider evidences which can actually be verified. Before we do though, I want to clarify some misunderstandings many have and show the difference between belief and truth.
Some believe there is nothing after this life, others believe in reincarnation, and still others believe everyone will go to either heaven or hell when they die. Obviously the truth is that only one of these beliefs can be true. Think about it, if there is nothing after this life then there can’t be a heaven or hell. If reincarnation is true then there is something after this life, but it isn't the heaven or hell of the Bible. If heaven and hell actually exist then the other two options can’t be true. If the Bible is true then the years spent here on Earth are only a brief moment compared to an existence lasting all of eternity.
Again, if the existence of heaven and hell are a possibility shouldn’t we spend just a little time considering the evidences for this possibility? And if the evidences are convincing shouldn’t we then consider what determines each destination, and then which destination we are likely to go?
There was a game show on TV a few years back called Deal or no Deal. If you’ve not heard about it, there are probably scenes from the show on YouTube. The first part of this game show would have contestants choosing between 20 brief cases based upon what monetary amount they believed was in the cases. The object was to win up to $1 million. During the game the contestants would often jump up and down and scream and stress.
Watching the show you got the impression that the contestants actually believed their effort and sheer will could result in a particular dollar amount in the case. Ultimately, did it really matter what the contestant or the audience did or didn't do to try to change the amount that was in a case? It made for good TV, but whatever the contestants did had no effect on the contents of the cases. What was in each case was what was in each case.
In the same way, whichever belief about what happens after this life is true, it is true regardless of how strongly we believe it or how popular or not that belief is. Also, any belief other than what is true must be false. If there is nothing after this life then there can be no eternity in heaven or hell. However, if there is a heaven or hell, it doesn’t matter how much one might want to believe that there isn’t.
Some state “There is no truth”, that we can’t know anything with any real confidence. Think about the statement though. By making this absolute statement, "There is no", they are making what is called a 'Truth Claim'. The person making the statement is essentially stating the 'Truth' that there is no 'Truth'. Since we can’t possibly have a statement be true if the statement claims there is no truth, the statement can't meet it's own test for 'Truth'. The statement contradicts itself and can’t possibly be true. As such, this contradiction proves that truth does in fact exist. And since Truth exists we can discover whether some things are true, and other things false. We can discover the truthfulness of different beliefs about things.
If we think about our lives, there are many truths we deal with every single day; that I did or didn't study enough for the test, the actual time I woke up, that it is day or night, etc. Since truth exists, we can evaluate events and beliefs as to whether they are true or not. We can evaluate the truthfulness of the different beliefs that people hold. It is good to remember that two or more contradictory beliefs cannot all be true. Considering that truth does exist, when you have two or more contradictory beliefs only one can be true and the other(s) are automatically false.
Whether you are a Christian or not, I encourage you to read and consider the 44 questions at the link below. They will start to give you a little insight into the evidences in support of Christianity. And if you don’t currently accept Christianity as true, there are some things to consider which you may not have considered previously. Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason (www.str.org) mentions that the evidences supporting Christianity are the reasons he believes it, not that he likes everything about Christianity. He says that if he were to choose a belief based upon what he liked, he would choose something different because Christianity is often inconvenient.
However, Greg adds that he doesn’t get to change what is true just because he doesn’t like some things about that truth. He said that if the evidence proves Christianity to be true, he has no choice but to accept it. After examining the evidences for Christianity in this guide, I believe you will see the great truthfulness of Christianity as compared to any other belief system.
44 Questions for the Not-Yet-a-Believer
Next Page: Worldview and Phylosophy