Am I Good Enough?
So many Christians are burdened with the fearful question, "Am I good enough for God, good enough to go to heaven, good enough not to embarrass the church and my family? Am I as good as others? Am I as good as I can be?"
While those questions are surely superior to the spiritual indifference that some Christians harbor, they can also become an unbearable burden. Our human imperfections -- minor and major, regular and occasional -- stare us in the face through God's revelation and constantly remind us what kind of people we are (James 1:23-24). We are all flawed by our own particular sins and weaknesses and in need of grace, both from our fellow men and more importantly, from God. The questions, though, are not seeking grace; they are seeking human achievement and earned reward. Those questions will invariably lead to painful answers.
If your definition of "good enough" depends upon attaining sinless perfection or leaves no room for the stops and starts of moral, emotional, spiritual and physical development, you will never be "good enough." Only the son of God was good enough like that and he sacrificed himself because he knew no one else would be.
We would not begin to suggest that Christians temper their aversion to sin or disappointment with their failures. While we would dry the tears from Peter's eyes following his denial of Christ, we would be reassured by their presence. Those tears signal softness of heart and his restoration to God's service proves that the fallen can rise again, stronger than before.
We are wise to examine ourselves spiritually (2 Cor. 13:5) and to judge ourselves morally (1 Cor. 11:31). If we expect to find no warts, no moles, no wrinkles, no blemishes of any kind at any time, however, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment.
The Christian, then risks two extremes when it comes to sin, and both nullify God's grace in his life. The one Christian basks in the blood of Christ and indulges himself in whatever sin he finds inviting, confident that he will be forgiven even if his faith and repentance are rather insincere (Rom. 6:1). He is indifferent to the insult and injury of sin and nullifies God's grace by arrogant self-will (Heb. 10:26-31).
The other Christian, operating at the opposite extreme, fully expects perfection from himself and may even imagine it in the brethren he holds in esteem. Like the apostle Paul wrote, this one compares his life to God's word and exclaims, "O wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:24). Unlike Paul's example, however, this Christian stops there and puts those words on like a medieval hair shirt, lacerating the spirit with unprofitable punishment. This one nullifies grace like a proud, poor man refusing a gift. To accept the gift would be to admit need and weakness and failure and dependence. To refuse the gift, however, just means that those things persist and are exacerbated. Accepting the gift of God's grace soothes them by supplying the need, strengthening the weak, forgiving the failure and sanctioning the dependence.
God's word directs us righteously in every choice, but also presupposes that we will occasionally and eventually make some wrong choices as well. We are not to fall into a puddle of self-doubt every time we sin, but to ask the question, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Then we are ready for the answer -- "through Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom. 7:25). If we could cure sin on our own, we would do it. And if we could, we would not need Jesus anymore.
We do need him and he is not ashamed to call us his brethren (Heb. 2:11) or to act as our advocate with the father (1 John 2:1) or to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). In this concession to the necessity of leaning on him we do not surrender to evil, but confess that some battles are lost. Noah built an ark, but then got drunk. David slew an evil giant, but then killed an innocent soldier. Peter made the good confession but then hid in the courtyard. Barnabas gave his wealth to the poor, but then refused to eat with Gentile brethren. Abraham believed God, but then doubted him and then believed him again.
On our own, we will never be good enough, certainly not to deserve heaven and put God in our eternal debt. That glory will only be achieved by craving his grace and humbly accepting it (1 Peter 5:5).