Sermon Topic - The Crippling Idolatry of Goodness
Written by David Barganier
An ever present spiritual battle rages within you over the unsettled issue of “self”. Who will be in total and complete control of your “self”, Jesus Christ or you? As long as you maintain even partial control and ownership of “self”, you remain self-centered. Being “self“ conscious causes us to focus our attention upon ourselves, not just our evil, or sin, but our goodness as well. It drives us either to realize shame and condemnation or to strive for self-righteousness.
The actual and effective elimination of personal considerations and “self” to become a truly reborn child of God has become an almost non-existent concept in today’s churches. While being “born again” is sincerely taught and preached about, the pervasive acceptance of self-righteousness and “goodness-activity” has replaced Christianity with “churchianity“. Until Jesus Christ is in actuality the epicenter of our lives, we cannot know true living, true freedom or true Christianity. The standard of the One who lives within us will be the standard by which we live. When the presence of Jesus replaces the existence of self, we will then see with His eyes, hear with His ears and understand with His heart and mind. When we come to truly know Jesus, not just know about Him, our personality and attitude and demeanor can only be determined and controlled by His higher power within us.
As long as we remain self-centered, we are not capable of attaining higher Godly principles of love, justice, mercy, forgiveness, peace, faith, joy, or freedom, though they may be preached and sung about in our churches. We may attach ourselves to “good deeds” and activities, but the underlying nature will still be “self” centered. When we abide in Him and He is in us, there can be no more sin nature within us.
“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3:11)
We are transformed as we behold the Glory of the Lord. “Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s Glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing Glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:16-18)
Our calling is not to be imitators of Christ by our own goodness and self-effort, but to have Christ formed within us. Regardless of how sincerely we attach Jesus’ name to our “good works“, everything powered by the self nature will come to a fruitless conclusion. If the things we do and strive to be, become the focal point of our activity and behavior, the Lord will have to separate us from our folly for our own benefit. The presence of Jesus Christ Himself in us is our unity with The Father. Having doctrinal agreement and social compatibility in a church is not unity; it is false unity, which is a basis for division from our Father God. Jesus is the only common denominator through which there can be true communication and relationship between man and God. Only through Him can we truly understand each other, The Father, and ourselves.
“Jesus is the sum of all Spiritual truth. All things will be summed up in Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:10)
Many church goers actually believe that they can get to heaven by their own efforts and goodness. The attitude of making one’s self into what one should be is so pervasive that they may not even be aware of the extent to which this deception rules their life.
God is looking for His Son in us. The labor of the Apostles was not devoted to persuading the church to comply with certain doctrines, but that the church would be transformed by the presence of Christ. This is the purpose of all true ministries – that Christ is formed in us and we are transformed into Him.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” (John 3:6)
The absolute best that human intentions can bring forth is that which is flesh. “God is not served by human hands.” (Acts 17:25)
Jesus testifies, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship The Father in Spirit and Truth. For such people The Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.” (John 4:23-24)
The Spirit, of course, is The Holy Spirit. The Truth is Jesus Christ Himself. Many who have been saved and baptized with water reflect no change in their pattern of life. Though some external behaviors may have changed, they continue to live primarily in the same powerless natural realm. The Scriptures testify that we are changed by the way we behold His Glory. (II Corinthians 3:18) Man has historically had a tendency to know Jesus after the flesh rather than the Spirit. Jesus cannot be reduced to a natural-sense perception. We will never accurately perceive Him with just our natural eyes or natural minds. He can only be perceived through The Spirit. To this day, the Lord continues to say to His Church what He said to Phillip in John 14:9, “Have I been with you so long and yet you have not come to know Me?”
We also must see Him transformed from “the Man of Galilee” that we know about, into the Glorious Son of God that we can know intimately. We must hear in the depths of our being the voice that exhorts us to forget about ourselves and to know Him. The promises of God are glorious beyond comprehension. However, none of the promises were meant to be taken apart from our relationship with Jesus. It is the Lord Jesus Himself who is our inheritance. This is done so that all of our attention will be on Him and no longer on ourselves. We shall not live in the supernatural by just knowing about Christ, but by knowing Christ in us. There are no cheap substitutes or easy alternatives to true Christianity. We must allow ourselves to be carried well beyond the limits of our human ability and understanding.
Knowing the book of the Lord is not our goal; our goal is to know the Lord of the book. If we read the Scriptures by the Spirit, they will testify of Jesus and He will come to life in us.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; but it is these that bear witness to me.” (John 5:39)
The Spirit was sent to lead us to Jesus in the Scriptures and in all aspects of our lives. Reading the Scriptures without the Spirit brings only the sense of our own good and evil, which actually maintains our self-centeredness. Too many church members are constantly trying to balance the good and evil within themselves, believing a lie that their goodness will outweigh their badness, thus making themselves acceptable to God. Goodness offered as compensation for evil or sin is an affront to The Cross of Jesus and will never be acceptable to The Father.
“All our righteous deeds are like filthy garments.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
This is our condition until Christ transforms our very nature. This transformation is an actual, experiential encounter with the Glory of Jesus Christ, which causes our nature to be changed. It does not happen by default, just because we go to church, or care about those in need, or try to be a ‘good person’, etc. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have been crucified of the sinful nature with its evil passions and desires”. (Galatians 5:24) We have received a new nature; God’s very nature.
The “religious”, whose devotion is to church involvement or to religious activity rather than the person of Jesus Christ, are “creature-oriented”. This attitude is found among believers who seek betterment, fulfillment, harmony, etc. by seeking unity with the created instead of the Creator. Only the transforming presence of Jesus Christ can bring about the inner changes required to be born again. The true church, the bride of Christ, is born of God and not of man. The goodness that a man does will never redeem him from the evil that is his nature. Our discernment must be more than distinguishing our acceptable goodness from our detestable evil. Both are the same in the eyes of God. Sin is not just the wrong things we have done and strive to do no longer. It is the nature of who we are without Jesus, regardless of whether our goodness outweighs our badness.
Because our knowledge about Jesus has often been substituted for life in Jesus, many have been made to feel comfortable with a religious condition in which they blindly remain separated from God. Many strive to be a “good person”, to make themselves holy and acceptable to God. But self-righteousness and the striving for “goodness” have led to a widespread absence of Christ’s power and authority in our churches today.
Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
“The Way” is not a program, but a Person. “The Truth” is not the comprehension of doctrinal facts, but a Person. Unless and until we come into an intimate personal relationship with Jesus as “The Life“, we will not really know the Way or the Truth either. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to experience a magnificent nature exchange; our old nature of fruitless good and evil, for the eternal power and authority of His “Super Nature“.
Far too many “good people” may find themselves in the devastating situation that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers.”