new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

March’s Verse

Have you heard people say something like “I’m a good Christian” or some other similar variant? I heard someone use it on Highland radio not so long ago. Ironically the phrase often precedes a statement which undermines the very faith they profess to hold. But it always makes me wonder what is a ‘good Christian’ anyway?

It seems to me that there is a fundamental flaw in the whole thing, and it’s this: No genuine Christian would ever describe themselves as ‘a good Christian’!

Let me explain why. The idea seems to be based on some sort of scale of performance—as if you were asked to rate your Christian performance on a scale of excellent…good…average…poor…dismal…does not apply. Or as if we were asked if we are good swimmers or not—“Oh I’m a good swimmer”. But Christianity is not a performance-based religion.

It’s not about what we do. And that’s where this month’s verse comes in. The apostle Paul writes to a group of Christians who are badly confused about what makes them right with God, and he says:

“A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16)

This term ‘justified’ is a key term in the Bible. It means ‘acceptable to God’, having our sins forgiven—the way I teach children to remember its meaning is: “justified means ‘just as if I’d never sinned’”. And so Paul is saying here that a person’s acceptance by God is not on the basis of their obeying God, in other words, on their performance, but on the basis of something that Jesus has done.

You see, Christianity isn’t about our performance, for we can’t keep enough laws to make up for our breaking of God’s law. Try that with the traffic cops next time and see how you get on—“Oh please let me off speeding, I promise to keep the speed limit tomorrow and the next day”! We are meant to keep the law anyway; it’s not a bargaining tool! And the guilt still needs to be dealt with.

That is what Jesus comes and offers to do—to keep the law for us, and to pay for our breaking of God’s law. And so we can be acceptable in God’s sight, not by our law-keeping performance, but by relying on Jesus’ performance—both in his keeping the law and also his paying for our breaking of the law, for our guilt has to be dealt with.

Christianity is about accepting this offer, in other words, receiving it as a gift, a transforming gift. We don’t exclaim when we get gifts, “How good am I!”, instead we say “How good are you for giving me this”.

So a person who says, “How good am I” or “I’m a good Christian” or whatever variant of the phrase, sadly hasn’t got it. They are missing the point of Jesus.

A genuine Christian is deeply aware of how they disappoint God on a regular basis, and yet they gratefully and joyfully rely on Jesus’ life and death to make them acceptable to God. They don’t talk about being good, instead they point to Jesus’ goodness in giving forgiveness.