How many times have we defended ourselves with this phrase, “But, I’m basically a good person…”? It happens when we get ticketed for speeding, or we’ve been caught in a lie, or we failed to do something another person was counting on us to do – anywhere we’ve messed up. We’ve all done it. We instinctively compare ourselves to others so that our behavior becomes relative, and our offenses not so bad.
The problem is that somewhere along the way, we start believing in our own goodness. Proof comes in kind words or actions extended to someone else, financial assistance to others in need, volunteering our time/talents in the community – any number of acts we consider altruistic. Often, our list of good deeds comes straight from the Bible:
feeding the poor, spreading the gospel of Christ, practicing forgiveness, leading Bible Studies, and much more. Unfortunately, we slide into creating our own righteousness through the “good” things we do.
A tragic aspect of this slide is that we don’t see it. It is not the sudden jolt of falling off a slippery rock. It is more like dancing in one spot, never realizing we have moved until we stop dancing and check our bearings. And that is the key – we must be diligent about checking our bearings. Lamentations 3:40 says it this way: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”
To the degree we consider ourselves righteous, we do not need – nor do we truly appreciate — Jesus’ sacrifice of suffering in our place. God proved through the Israelites that no one could be counted righteous through obedience to the law – all failed. In the New Testament, Romans 3:12, Paul repeats, “There is no one righteous, no, not one.” No one can achieve the holiness that is God’s very Nature. The distance between us and God is a bar set too high for any human to cross. Only God could make the way and span the chasm, covering the base and unholy with Himself, so that we would not instantly perish in the atmosphere of holiness.
Since we are so prone to deceiving ourselves about our goodness and operating in our own righteousness, how do we know when we are doing it? Here are just a few flags:
— Our world revolves around us.
— We must be in control/dictate/manage our circumstances and lives.
— We believe in the importance of our ideas and opinions, and believe others should also.
— We make judgments about the intentions and/or behavior of others.
— We take offense, and have trouble forgiving offenses committed against us.
— We treat complete strangers with more consideration than our own families.
— What we do or say behind closed doors is different from what we do in public.
— More . . . (each of us must ask God to show us, because we WILL lie to ourselves)
Jesus, please open our eyes to all the ways we deceive ourselves about being good. We confess these things before You now, asking Your forgiveness for the actions and the self-righteous attitudes. Help us NEVER lose sight of your purity, holiness, and tremendous sacrifice, so that You alone are ALWAYS the LORD our Righteousness.