Are Christians Supposed To Be Good?

Do we have the concept of a good person wrong? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There’s a story about a professional basketball player who would often distance himself from his female fans, particularly since some female fans will have a tendency to really throw themselves at an athlete they admire. When asked why he would do this since so many other women were offended he replied, “If any woman is going to be offended, it’s not going to be my wife!” His first duty was to honor her and to do that, he would not even risk an event like that.

Yesterday, I started writing about Moral Therapeutic Theism. (MTT) One of the views of God in this is that Jesus came to make us be good people. We are often told that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Indeed, this is true. Yet this is a horizontal command. That is, it is a command about how man is to relate to man. It is often forgotten that this is the SECOND greatest command. The greatest is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

#2 will make no sense without #1. If you do not love God, your love of man will be useless. If you put man before God, you are guilty of idolatry. The love of God must be foremost in your mind. Remember we love because He first loved us. The only way we can love our fellow man is because we have received the love of God. Even if we don’t acknowledge it, there are traces of God’s love all around us.

Yet our reasoning has by and large been horizontal. We do not speak out on sin in the world because we want to be good people. We don’t want to judge anyone. We don’t want to be critical. That’s not what Jesus would do to anyone after all is it?

Go read the NT, come back, and tell otherwise.

Of course, Jesus had love and grace and still does. Who was it towards? It was towards the people who knew about their sin and acknowledged it. Jesus never once made light of sin. He knew it was a serious consequence. Even in the case of the adulterous woman, He never denied the sin. He told her to go and sin no more. He dealt more seriously with the sin of hypocrisy he saw around Him and people who were wanting to use this woman for their own evil intentions.

Go read a chapter like Matthew 23. Go read most any conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Go read a passage like Luke 11. Jesus did not have any patience for people who were thinking they were righteous and not in any need of a savior.

If you do not have a problem with sin in your fellow man, then you are not loving God. Now you can be wrong in how you deal with it, but you have to realize that God does not coddle the sin of people He sees around Him. Christ sought to remove people from that bondage. He never sought to enable them in it.

If you make the love of man paramount and not offending your fellow man, meaning not dealing with evil when you see it, then you are not loving God. Keep in mind John in his gospel told us about people who did not come forward in support of Jesus because they wanted the honor of man more than the honor of God.

Now this doesn’t mean you’re to go out there as if you have no sin and go after everyone for every sin they commit. Yet you are not to turn a blind eye either. How you speak will be important and that will be learned only through the study of wisdom.

Our modern world has got us thinking the opposite. We are of the opinion that we are not to rock the boat at all. If the apostles had not rocked the boat, there would be no Christianity. Go read the epistles and see how seriously Paul took sin in the midst of the church. Go read Acts and see the forthrightness of the apostles. Go read Revelation and see how God judges sin. (Regardless of your views on eschatology, you can’t read Revelation and walk away thinking God takes sin lightly.)

A good person is not someone who just gets along with everyone. A good person is one who values what God values and opposes what God opposes. To be a truly good person today, one will have to know God. Note also that a good person is not the same necessarily as a nice person. A good person will do what he or she ought to do and not simply what will make people around them happy. In fact, if you’re a good person, you will quite often make people unhappy, much like Christ did.

Once again, there is no condemnation about being good. What is asked is that we be good the way God desires us to be. The world is not to set the bar for what is good. Goodness is found in God fundamentally and essentially and we must meet His criteria.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is God There To Make You Feel Good?

Is God concerned about more than your feelings? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend of Deeper Waters called me recently to talk about the post on applications in sermons. She had stated that she found that some researchers had asked about why people walk away and they found another answer. They referred to it as moral therapeutic theism. (MTT) The idea is that God is someone there who tells you how to be a good person and get along with everyone and to help you feel good about yourself, part of the whole self-esteem movement.

Now of course, there is nothing wrong with being a good person, properly understood. (Good person does not mean you never rock the boat. Jesus and the apostles certainly did.) There is also nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, although if you are doing something wrong, you should not feel good about that. Yet is there a problem if you think that is the purpose of the Christian life?

To begin with, if you have this kind of approach, which I would agree is rampant in the church today, then it turns out that God is the servant of you and you are not the servant of God. An example of this is found in “The Shack” where at the end the main character at one time laughs at the thought of “God, my servant.”

So what happens when God lets you down on His end of the bargain supposedly? Then it becomes, who needs Him? It is not the biblical notion that every breath you take depends on Him. It is not the notion that you owe Him everything and He owes you nothing. It is not the notion that every single gift He gives you is grace and not a debt to be repaid.

When you realize God owes you nothing, you can better be appreciative for what He does give you.

Now to be sure, God does give us several things for us to enjoy, but we dare not mistake these for Him. The problem is that if God is just there to make us feel good, what happens when other things seem to make us feel so much better? What if God is really not supposed to give us warm fuzzies? What if that was never really promised in the Bible? What if God was never promised to be our personal therapist?

To begin with, if you find other sources of pleasure, then you will quickly forget about God. Why not? These are better. You can find more joy from sports, video games, television, food, drugs, sex, etc. Now aside from illegal drugs, I’m not condemning any of these totally. I don’t care for sports, but I know several who do. I happen to be an avid gamer. My wife and I have several television shows we like to watch together. My wife has enabled me to expand my diet and so I enjoy many more things in food today. Of course, as a married man, I enjoy sex. You think I’m going to say otherwise?

But let’s suppose that you don’t have that. You will see these as greater goods more likely than God instead of realizing that every good gift you have here comes from God. Do you give thanks for those good things? We often say our worldviews need a place to explain pain. They do! Yet our worldviews also need to be able to explain pleasure. Pleasure is not anti-Christian, but the sole goal of Christian life is not personal pleasure. (Excepting the John Piper version of Christian hedonism.)

What happens when a young man leaves home and later finds the joy of sex and then realizes that he’s not really feeling guilty and he’s having a darn good time. God will be pushed away from his mind. Of course, the exception might be for when he needs Him. God is there to pull him out of emergencies. The young man could find his desire for God suddenly restored when his girlfriend announce she’s pregnant.

Some of you might be thinking he might not enjoy a little fornication. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion though, and it is a suspicion seeing as I remained a virgin until I married, that one’s body doesn’t really know when one is doing something wrong sexually or not. The pleasure sensors act the exact same way. If doing something wrong made us feel miserable every time after all, we’d all live much better lives.

Does that mean these people will openly apostasize and become rabid internet atheists? No. Chances are they’ll just become apathetic. They won’t care. God will be nice when He shows up, but they have no concept that they are to be His slaves. They have no concept that He’s the sovereign Lord of the universe they owe everything to.

Tomorrow, I plan to write more on this topic as I have found it rather fascinating. For now, I just wish to state that we need to do all we can to avoid simply having MTT. We need a real view of the God who is there and to realize that He is on the throne, and not ourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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