The great Christian dilemma – Being a Good Enough Christian. You are probably thinking, “I already know we are saved by grace alone, not by our works.” That’s true and all Christians know it. However, many Christians still do not feel good enough. The reason we don’t is that we have no way to measure it.
This relates to our mind and conscience and I will lead you through. Let’s start with this scripture:
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” 1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV
The Deception of Works
Paul has been writing to Timothy about the problems in the church in Ephesus. There were false teachers, false doctrines, and many had been led astray. It was Timothy’s job to bring truth and restoration to the church. In Chapter 4, Paul expands his conversation about the deception, pointing out that the people who are teaching false doctrines have seared their consciences. They have caused others to abandon their faith by reverting to the works of the law.
In the next 3 verses, Paul states the problem:
“They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV
My first reaction is, “What? That’s no big deal. They are telling people not to get married and not to eat certain food? That’s it? Does that mean their consciences are seared?
Law Versus Grace
However, when you really look into what Paul is saying, here is the problem – law versus grace.
How is that, after experiencing freedom from the law and the beauty of grace, people would turn back to rules and laws? It isn’t that we accept Christ and the next day we decide to reject His grace. Instead, it is that, over a period of time, we want to know how well we are doing. We know that our works are not what saved us, and we know that we were sinners who fell short of the glory of God. We know what we are not. Now, we want some way to know how we are doing. We measure what we are by what we are doing. This is the lure and the trap of the law and works. This is how our conscience can become seared.
On a scale of 1-10, where am I? I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to others but how else can I know if I’m being a good enough Christian?
How to Know If I’m Being Good Enough
The first two commandments tell me to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. How do I know if I’m doing that well enough? There is no way to measure it. I know when I’m not doing it, but how much is enough? How can I know if I’m being a good enough Christian?
Being good enough may feel like being a hamster on a wheel. No matter how fast you run, you never seem to get anywhere but tired. It truly is hard and people often turn to laws that provide a measurement. I can create a checklist.
- Took a meal to a widow
- Did not eat pork
- Did not say bad words when I was cut off in traffic
The Negative Side of Checklists
It might sound funny, but it’s true. We love checklists and measurements and grace does not provide us with those. In fact, Paul was warning against them. Not because the checklist is evil, but because of what it often does to us.
Have you ever set goals at the beginning of the year? Perhaps you are going to go to the gym 5 days a week and lose 15 pounds by May first. However, by January 20th, you are only going to the gym twice a week and by the end of February, you aren’t going at all after having gained 5 pounds! You feel like a failure and suddenly your body is your enemy. Or, if you did manage to stick with those goals, you feel great about yourself and that’s wonderful! However, when it comes to spiritual matters, we have to understand that we did not earn grace through our flesh and we will not maintain it that way either.
Works and Worth
We are supposed to do works that proceed out of faith and our love for Jesus. We can set goals for those works, but there is a line we cross when we begin to look at that list of goals as being a determining factor in our relationship to God’s love for us and our standing with Him. Works should never become a measure of our worth.
What if, tomorrow, something happened and you were paralyzed and could only lay in bed. You could not do any of the things on your checklist. There was really only one thing you could do – pray. Does that mean you are no longer good enough because you can’t do any works? You can’t visit widows and orphans in their distress or write encouraging notes to a soldier friend. Unable to go to church or read your Bible without help, how do you measure your value? You don’t.
Whether you are able-bodied or not, your value has not changed.
Does that mean that once you are saved, you should just sit back in your easy chair and wait to go to heaven? No. Because, if you truly love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, that love will flow out in natural acts of kindness and mercy. Acts that are natural to you, not the acts someone told you would make you holy like don’t eat and don’t marry.
If you want to know how to be a ‘good enough Christian,’ don’t ask someone else. The first thing you need to know is that you will never be good enough without Jesus. In Him, you are righteous before God, The next place to go is to God. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. You may have a friend who feeds the homeless every single week. You don’t and so you feel guilty and determine that they are a better Christian than you are. While you have no way to really know that, you do have your Good-Works-Ruler and your checklist. According to the ruler (not created by God), you are not good enough but your friend is. Neither the ruler nor the checklist were created by God.
Living By Grace
It’s hard to live by grace. That almost sounds like a blasphemous contradiction but, for the very human part of us, it’s hard because we have no outward way to measure ‘good enough.’ But, just pretend that you don’t know what anyone else is doing in the way of good things. You have no checklists. All you have is you and Jesus. You are naturally being kind and helping those God brings your way. You have your struggles, but overall, you are just trying to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying each day with no clue as to what good works anyone around you is doing or not doing. Is it possible that you would have far more peace and contentment in your relationship with Christ if this was how life was?
Paul’s warning revolves around our tendency to revert back to the works of the flesh. When we do that, there is a slow mental progression related to good-enough. Our flesh feels good because we can measure our level of good. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and,
“But perhaps his most evil temptation is the pride of life, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God (Isaiah 14:12-15). The arrogant boasting which constitutes the pride of life motivates the other two lusts as it seeks to elevate itself above all others and fulfill all personal desires. It is the root cause of strife in families, churches, and nations. It exalts the self in direct contradiction to Jesus’ statement that those who would follow Him must take up their cross (an instrument of death) and deny themselves.
The pride of life stands in our way if we truly seek to be servants of God. It is the arrogance that separates us from others and limits our effectiveness in the kingdom. The pride of life “comes not from the Father, but from the world.” And, as such, it is passing away with the world, but those who resist and overcome the temptation of the pride of life do the will of God, and “the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).” Charles Stanley
Our checklists and Good-Enough-Rulers can lead to pride and arrogance. I once knew someone in church leadership who had memorized huge portions of the Word and could easily quote them. On the Good-Enough-Ruler, this person was up around 9 because Christians measure spirituality in terms of fleshly accomplishments like memorizing the Bible. However, on the inside, this person had a terrible and uncontrolled problem with lust. Because no one but God could see that, everyone around this person looked up to and admired that person. The person fell into sin and also fell off the throne next to the Good-Enough-Ruler. That person repented and was restored, but I tell this story to help you see that our checklists and rulers mean nothing in the Kingdom of God because He looks at the heart.
How do you measure or know the condition of your heart? With the help of the Word, the Holy Spirit, your conscience, and your Christian friends – the real ones. From the very beginning, the only thing God was looking at was our hearts, and, from the beginning, we wanted outward measurements. We can know the condition of our own hearts – we just may not like what we see.
Then came Jesus and the cross. Our rulers and checklists get in the way of the work of the cross because they cause us to stop listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Good-Enough-Ruler says you must stay busy – volunteer at the homeless shelter, volunteer at church, be a perfect wife and mother, and get the Best Employee award at work, and be a Good-Enough Christian. What you really want to do is make gifts for the people at the VA retirement center and deliver them anonymously twice a year. Or, maybe you just want to take care of your family and do more with your husband because your marriage is strained right now. But, that isn’t on the ruler or your checklist. What if the Holy Spirit is telling you to skip church and go have coffee with an old friend because they need you?
Just to clarify, I am not saying to quit church, stop volunteering or trying to be the best wife and mother you can. I’m just saying that you need to be set free to do and be what the Holy Spirit and the Word are saying to you. We need to step out from under the societal pressure to BE everything to everyone and we need to burn all of the Good-Enough-Christian-Rulers! Do whatever you do because you love Jesus and you love doing whatever it is He is saying to do! He may also have you do something you don’t really want to do but you will discover the enjoyment of obedience and learn some things along the way.
Find Your Calling
Doing things we don’t want to do is part of life. The key is to do them based on obedience to the Holy Spirit, the Word, and being a servant – NOT in order to be good enough. The great antidote to the boastful pride of life is servanthood. God really loves servanthood. Jesus came to serve not to be served. He came as the least of all. He gave up everything to come and be a servant. So, if you wonder what your calling is, I can tell you. Be a servant! Find ways to serve. You are not looking for ways to be good enough – that ship sailed. You can always find ways to serve.Paul's admonition regarding the deception of works makes sense when you see it in the light of works versus grace. We are to be Doers of the Word. But our doing should have nothing to do with being Good-Enough. Our doing of the Word… Click To Tweet
I will finish with this beautiful passage from Romans 3:21-28 from The Passion Translation.
This is our righteousness and freedom.
“But now, independently of the law, the righteousness of God is tangible and brought to light through Jesus, the Anointed One. This is the righteousness that the Scriptures prophesied would come. It is God’s righteousness made visible through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And now all who believe in him receive that gift. For there is really no difference between us, for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God. Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!
Jesus is Our Mercy Seat
“Jesus’ God-given destiny was to be the sacrifice to take away sins, and now he is our mercy seat because of his death on the cross. We come to him for mercy, for God has made a provision for us to be forgiven by faith in the sacred blood of Jesus. This is the perfect demonstration of God’s justice, because until now, he had been so patient—holding back his justice out of his tolerance for us. So he covered over the sins of those who lived prior to Jesus’ sacrifice. And when the season of tolerance came to an end, there was only one possible way for God to give away his righteousness and still be true to both his justice and his mercy—to offer up his own Son. So now, because we stand on the faithfulness of Jesus, God declares us righteous in his eyes!
Do Our Works Bring God’s Acceptance?
Where, then, is there room for boasting? Do our works bring God’s acceptance? Not at all! It was not our works of keeping the law but our faith] in his finished work that makes us right with God. So our conclusion is this: God’s wonderful declaration that we are righteous in his eyes can only come when we put our faith in Christ, and not in keeping the law.”
There is only Jesus. No Good-Enough-Christian-Ruler and no checklist. Just the love of God flowing out of your life, producing works of faith and love every day.
Click Here to download or print the Devotional Pages for today,
**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.
1 – 24 Day Challenge – Renewing Your Mind and Conscience
2 – Living By the Golden Rule
3 – Being Falsely Accused
4 – A Personal Testimony of Salvation
5 – Knowing Right From Wrong
6 – What is the Power of the Holy Spirit?
7 – Submitting to Authority
8 – What is a Weak Conscience?
9 – Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel
10 – Speaking The Truth at All Times
11 – Purity of Heart and Mind
12 – 12 Steps to Overcoming Guilt and Shame
13 – Living With Integrity
14 – The Goal of Unselfish Love
15 – The Shield of Faith
16 – Leading By Example