Actually, I'm far from a good person. However, that is the thought that runs through our minds often, isn't it? I would never say that of course, but deep down I have the same tendencies as many people. The fact is, I am a sinner and I need the gospel to be applied in my life constantly.
Externally I do seem like a good person to many people. I justify myself by comparing myself to others. After all, if I look hard enough I can find something in anyone and everyone that I'm better at than they are. For instance, I have never actually murdered anyone. I have never actually cheated on my wife. I have never actually done many things that others have done. Of course, anyone familiar with the teachings of Jesus will know I have done those things. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is very clear that I'm guilty, but externally I still appear better than those who've been caught in such actions. Those are clear examples, but most often that's not where I fall into sin. I usually fall into sin when I start comparing myself to other 'Christians' and see how much better I am. This, of course, is pride and is a great sin. Maybe since I've been educated in the Bible I know more and therefore am better. Maybe since I'm the pastor I'm better and they should all know that. Maybe...I could throw out thousands of examples to make me appear better than others.
The fact is, I'm a very competitive person. Whatever I'm playing, I play to win. Back in the day it was sports. Now it's sports AND church. My pride (competitiveness) wants the bigger church. To be fair (to try to justify), I want the church to be healthy and making disciples of all nations, but I still want the bigger church! I want to be known. I have to fight this temptation daily because it is so clear in my own heart. In fact, it is so strong that I can create this image of myself that externally looks really good. Right there lies the problem. I am a Pharisee at heart. I want the praise of man. I want people to acknowledge me. I want...I want...I want...
What's the answer? The gospel is the answer! Knowledge of a few things is important. Knowledge of God's expectations is important. Knowledge of my own depravity is important. Knowledge of the gospel is important.
First of all, God expects me to reflect His glory in all of life. I am to be holy and perfect as God the Father is holy and perfect. I am to submit my every thought and action to His Sovereign control. But I haven't done this! I have rebelled. When I compare myself to others I may seem like a good person, but when I compare myself before God I realize how utterly depraved I am.
That is the second point. Just because I haven't actually cheated on my wife or murdered anyone, doesn't mean I'm innocent. Jesus is very clear that I have murdered when I've been angry with a brother (which I have been!). He is clear that I have committed adultery when I look lustfully at another woman other than my wife (which I have!). I need to go further still. When I know the expectation of God, and I know how miserably I've failed at glorifying Him in all things, then, and only then, do I start to sense the depth of my depravity. At that point I also begin to realize that though I have not externally fallen into murder, my depravity is such that I am actually capable of murder and many other things.
The third thing I need to know, and this is key, is that Christ died for my sins. The gospel that Christ came and became sin on my behalf is the only answer for fighting against my own flesh that wants to says, "Randy, you are a good person." No! I am not a good person! I am a wretched sinner. I have rebelled against the holy God! I have sinned repetitively and am capable of far more than I may have actually done. If it were not for His grace and His sacrifice, I would have no leg to stand on before the Creator. Jesus became my sin, and through faith in Him, I have been declared righteous. His righteousness has been credited to me!
Knowledge of God's expectations and my failures, joined with the depth of my depravity, leaves me without hope unless the gospel is true. When I begin to realize this in my own life, then, and only then, I may start realizing I am no better than anyone else. I am no better than the one who seems worse than I. I am a sinner, saved by grace, and kept only by the Sovereign King! I need the gospel.