The "Good Person" Heresy
You know, I am a really nice guy. It's true. Ask my family, my friends, my fiancé--and they will all reply with the same answer: "Daniel Harris is a
nice, no, he is a great guy." Not only have
I NOT done anything in my 23 year old existence egregiously terrible (as in kill
someone), but I am a courteous chap who loves and cares for most of the people
in my life. Don't believe me? Go ahead and ask the people in my life! No one to
my knowledge out right hates me (I mean honestly, how could anyone?), and even
most acquaintances of mine would have to admit: Daniel Harris is a good guy.
In general people today tend to think of themselves, how I think of myself: Good. Reasonable. Moral. Fair. Kind. Just an all 'round great person. Sure, we all have some defects, but who doesn't? Everyone makes the occasional mistake here or there, but by and large most of us are well-meaning, good people who are simply trying to "leave the world a better place." Go us.
And archaic Biblical language of "judgment" and "everlasting hellfire" seems not only distasteful to our ears, but strangely inappropriate. Is Isaiah's final verse about the "worm not dying" really necessary? God's frequent preoccupation with "sin" to most of us seems extreme and "nitpicky," especially when we are just trying to live the best we can. Why would God not just accept us as we are? If He is so loving (1 John 4:8) and we are so good, what is there a problem?
Such talk is reasonable. It makes sense. It sounds fair. And yet the "I'm a good person" understanding of self might be the single most deceptive falsehood of all time. Read what John Calvin says on the topic:
"How shall we answer the heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us contemplate that Judge, not as our own unaided intellect conceives him, but as is portrayed to us in Scripture, (see especially book of Job), with a brightness which obscures the stars, a strength which melts the mountains, an anger which shakes the earth, a wisdom which takes the wise in their own craftiness, a purity before which all things become impure, a righteousness to which not even angels are equal, (so far is it from making the guilty innocent), a vengeance which once kindled burns to the lowest hell, (Ex 34:7; Nah 1:3; Deut 32:22). Let him, I say, sit in judgment on the actions of men, and who will feel secure in sitting himself before his throne?" (Calvin, Institutes 3.12.1)
There will be a day when you and I will each have to stand before God as Judge. And before a God of this caliber (as opposed to the one we would like to imagine), it seems we are in way over our heads. Before this God we agree with the Psalmist as he says, "If you, Lord kept record of our sins, who could stand?" The answer to the question is: No one. Make no mistake, this is very bad news for me and you. We are far worse off than we could have ever imagined. And if it is true that it is appointed to man once to die, and then face the judgment; it seems that our time is running out. We need help. We terribly need help.
Though our world denies it, and though the comfort of modernity somewhat cloaks the visible brutality of our fallenness, the truth is we are terrible sinners. We have each turned to our own way. We all like sheep we have gone astray.
We need repentance.
We need forgiveness.
We need help.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."-- Proverbs 14:10