How good is good enough?

There’s a familiar question: : If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he said to you, “Why should I let you into heaven?” What would you say to him? The standard answer would seem to be  “I would tell him that I think I’ve lived a pretty good life. Hopefully the good I’ve done will outweigh whatever bad I’ve done.”

Maybe you feel the same way? But here’s the problem: Just how good is good enough? This was also a question that people raised in Jesus’ own day. So he addressed it quite clearly in Matthew 5:17-20. What kind of goodness was he looking for? And exactly how good was good enough?

Jesus begins by saying that he’s not starting all over from a blank slate. Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

“Law and Prophets” was typical way of referring to the Scriptures, what we call “The Old Testament”. Jesus is trying to head off any misunderstanding: Was Jesus saying that it doesn’t matter if you’re good—that it doesn’t matter if you obey the law?

No, he says, “I am not doing away with it, I am fulfilling it.”

This means that the OT points to him. By his life, his teachings, his death, his resurrection, and his return he completes the OT—he makes it happen, he brings it into reality. Jesus is not setting it aside and starting over with something different. He’s finishing the incomplete masterpiece that was begun in the Old Testament.

Several things in the Old Testament are radically changed by the coming of Jesus Christ. In the completed masterpiece, there are temporary measures that are no longer needed, like sacrifices. But that is like removing the scaffolding. It is far different than erasing the masterpiece.

[18] I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Basically, he’s using two expressions to say that no part of the Old Testament, no matter how small, no part can be set aside without being fulfilled, as it is being fulfilled right now in the life and teachings of Christ. Since that is true, it is important that we keep to the code. It is to be practised and taught.

[19] Anyone who breaks [or relaxes] one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The one who is really fulfilling his role as a citizen of God’s kingdom is one who follows God’s commands and teaches others to do so too. They will be recognized as the great ones in the kingdom. The code requires perfection.

[20] For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,

The Pharisees were theological conservatives. They believed God. They believed his word. They wanted to live lives that demonstrated their devotion to God. So they were very careful about their behaviour. They went to great extremes to make sure they were not disobeying God’s law. To the people of the day, there was no one more righteous than the Pharisees. But Jesus says, “If you aren’t better than them—the most righteous people you know—then you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

In essence what that means is that no one is good enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. How good is good enough? Perfect. 100%. Better than you are. More righteousness than you have. Even the most righteous people are not qualified to enter the kingdom.

If you’re thinking that when you’re standing at the entrance to heaven, you’ll be hoping that you’ve been good enough to get in, then Jesus says here in these verses that you’re in for a big disappointment. No matter how good you are, it’s not good enough. That leaves us all in a tough spot. It means that no one is qualified to enter God’s kingdom. So…where does that leave us?

It means that we need something. These verses tell us four things that we need when it comes to being good.

First, I need righteousness. I’m not righteous enough to enter the kingdom. So, I  need someone else’s righteousness.

Romans 3:20-22 No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law. … But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

When we put our trust in Jesus, he gives us his righteousness. In God’s eyes, he makes us completely righteous.

Romans 8:3-4 What the law was powerless to do …God did by sending his own Son …to be a sin offering …in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.

The law has not been abolished. It’s still there and it still reveals God’s will. But through Jesus, I have met all its requirements.

Second, I need the Old Testament

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This is speaking of the Old Testament. It is still God’s guide for us. It is still a revelation of his righteous character.

Third, I need to do right.  We don’t need to do the right thing in order to win God’s love and acceptance. We already have that. God’s love and acceptance are based not on what we do, but on what Jesus did for us.

We don’t need to do the right thing in order to look good to others. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us.

We need to do right because  to do the right thing is good for us.We often think of sin as a restriction from something good. “Keep away from that!” But sin is not a bag of sweets; it’s a poison. The reason God tells us to keep away is because it will kill us. So doing right is good for us.

We need to do right because we were made that way! We are hard-wired into a moral way of understanding ourselves!  Good is what we were meant to be. He gave us righteousness (that means he forgave us and declared us righteous) so that his righteousness would change who we are, effecting every area of our lives. Christ saved us so we could become like him, not just in right behaviour, but also in right thinking and believing.

And  most important, when we do right, we are preparing a gift to bring pleasure to the most important person in our life, Jesus. If you have been forgiven and you understand what Jesus has done for you, how can you not love him and want to show him that love? We often show love to people by giving them gifts. Do you know how we show our love for God?

1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, … [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Reading this verse, it’s easy to think of this judgment as a trial. We immediately feel guilty (like getting called into the headmaster’s office).

But that’s not what this judgment seat of Christ is like. Think of it instead as Dad’s birthday party. The family’s all sitting around. Now it’s time to open the presents. Everyone’s a little curious to see what each person got Dad for his birthday. As the presents are opened, they reveal each person’s creativity, thoughtfulness and affection for Dad.

One day we are going to stand before God at a celebration in his honour. By the way we live our lives we are preparing a gift for him, the one who created us, forgave us, rescued us, cared for us and brought us back to life forever. On that day, the gifts will be opened and the contents revealed. What will you be giving the King at his celebration?

Only while we are here on earth do we have the opportunity to prepare our gift for him—a gift designed to bring him pleasure—our obedience.

I know right now, heaven seems a long way off. Maybe you don’t really feel like preparing a gift for Jesus—you’d rather please yourself. I know. I often feel that way.

But when we all stand before him on that day, I think we will suddenly realize fully the extent of what Jesus has done for us. On that day, we’ll finally get it. And we will want to be able to give Jesus everything. We’ll want to show him our love, our complete devotion and allegiance. But at that point, all the shopping days will be over. Whatever gift we have prepared is the only one we will have to present.

On that day, when all the gifts are opened, we might want to give Jesus more, but we will only be able to honour him with what we have already done with our lives here on earth. That is why it is so important to do what is right. Because of God’s grace, our relationship with him will never be threatened, but at his celebration, we will want to please him with the way we have faithfully followed him.

This verse also gives us another reason to do right. At that same celebration to honour Jesus, after we have honoured him by opening our presents, the Bible says that we will be rewarded for what we have done. What does that reward look like?

Fourth: I need to be genuine.

Jesus said, “Your righteousness must be greater than that of the Pharisees. Although Pharisees were on very good behaviour, Jesus criticized the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocrites.

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

External performance must be measured against internal reality. What does it look like to be genuine in our obedience?

That is the real task of our living.


This entry was posted in Christianity, Film, God, Jesus, life, Morning Devotions, Prayer, Purity and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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