How to Be a Good Christian
Three Easy Steps
By Tiffany Wismer
So, you want to learn how to be a good Christian? Well, you've come to the right place. In just three easy steps I can teach you how to be a good Christian.
Just kidding. There's no magic formula for how to be a good Christian. In fact, it's impossible. Good Christians are like unicorns: a lovely idea, but completely mythical. Consider the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17. This young man runs up to Jesus and addresses Him as "Good Teacher." Jesus responds by saying "Why do you call me good? Noone is good except God alone." It's as if Jesus is saying "You must know that I'm God, because I know you wouldn't be using the word ‘good' to describe a mortal man."
This is the point: God is good, and man is not. Well, you may ask, if we can't be good, what are all those commands for? Here's the answer:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." Romans 7:7
So, the point of the command is to show us that we're not good. It's to prove to us that our nature is the opposite of God's nature. Good doesn't exist without God. He defines good. He makes good what it is. It's like asking "what makes water wet?" Well, the water makes water wet. Similarly, God makes goodness what it is, because God and goodness are of the same essence. But man is made of different stuff (Romans 3:10). God gave us the Law to show us three things: first, he gave us the Law so we could see clearly just what and who we are. Second, He gave us the Law so we could see clearly just Who He Is. Thirdly, He gave us the Law so that we could recognize our deep and desperate need for His essence to enter and regenerate our dead souls (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Asking how to be a good Christian is like asking how to teach your dog to talk. You can't. The dog will never talk. That creature doesn't talk. It's not in its nature to do so. It doesn't have the necessary brain and mouth to be able to talk. Unless the dog becomes human, it will never talk. It's the same with you and me, and the issue of how to be a good Christian. We can't do it. We don't have the right kind of essence. We aren't the right kind of creature. So, that's it, then? Tough luck, now go home?
Not yet. First, remember that God promises that "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17 You are a new creature now, if you are in Christ. Being in Christ means becoming the right kind of creature. But that doesn't mean you know how to be good yet. So, how is that accomplished?
What did Jesus say to the rich young ruler? He didn't say ‘you haven't measured up'. He simply loved him and told him that if he wanted to be perfect, he should sell all his possessions and follow Christ. And the rich young ruler went away sad because he had great wealth. The lesson is that Christianity is not a matter of being a good Christian, or following the rules, it's a matter of desire. What is your desire?
Is your desire to be good? If so, why? Are you looking for praise from men? Do you believe that by being good, God will bless you? Is your goodness a sort of currency, or a bargaining chip?The person who is in Christ will do three things. First, they will love God. They will be fascinated by His goodness and by Who He Is. Secondly, they will trust Him to create goodness in their hearts and lives. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps never works. You have to go to the Source of goodness to get goodness. There's no way to manufacture it on your own, even as a new creature. Your desires have changed, but you are still empty of goodness. You want goodness, but you still can't produce it. So, don't try to be good. Be active when it comes love, but passive when it comes to goodness.
Or, is your desire to be happy being bad? Do you want to justify your bad behavior by belittling the goodness of God, and of His Word? Is it that you know that your actions are sinful, but fail to hate those actions the way you should?
Or is your desire for God? If you desire God above all else, you won't be worried about how to be a good Christian, because you'll be too busy loving a good God.
Does this mean we shouldn't care when we see sin in our lives? No way! We should want goodness in our lives. Matthew 5:6 says "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." See the passive language there? The person that hungers to see goodness in their lives will be filled. They won't fill themselves, they will be filled by another.
This happens as we pray, pray for God's Spirit to enter us and fill us with all His attributes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. And as we love Him and reflect on Him, His goodness will fill us and shine out of us. We will have the privilege of being a vessel for His goodness. But we should never forget where that goodness comes from – we are simply jars of clay, filled with treasure; the carriers of precious cargo.
So, stop thinking about how to be a good Christian, and focus instead on the One who owns goodness, holds goodness in His hand, and can pour it out into your heart.
Image Credit: DorkyMum; "simple heart"; Creative Commons