Are People Good?

September 3, 2013

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We see countless headlines about the athlete who took drugs, denied it, then when he got caught says, “I’ve made mistakes.”

Politicians are caught in immorality, acknowledge their failures only to get re-elected in a few years. Why are we surprised when they mess up again?

We want to point the finger of blame.

“I’m a victim”
“It’s my parents fault?”
“The devil made me do it.”

We call them mistakes. The Bible calls it sin.

Andy Stanley recently preached a message, pointing out the replacing of sin in our vocabulary with the word mistake.

He accurately noted, that if the problem is merely mistakes, why don’t we just correct them like we would a problem on a math test.

Instead we blame, we lie, we cover up…
All this to avoid confessing that we are sinners.

Are people good? Aren’t all people basically good and just a few go off the rails?

The truth is:
People were created in the image of God.
People are the most precious and valuable of all God’s Creation, bearing his own breath.

But good?

No, we are broken.
God gave Adam and Eve one command in the Garden…..and they broke it.
The world is not as God created it, we now live on a broken planet.

A leader of a major church in the USA recently preached that all people are basically good. This is not a new teaching. In church history this thinking was called Pelagianism and was declared a heresy. In simple terms, it is humanism decorated with a cross.

How is Christianity different than humanism? Why is this important?

If people are basically good, 3 things must then be true as well.

1. We should be able to fix ourselves. There is no need for God to change us, we just fix the mistakes. Try harder, be stronger, and make better choices. (how is this different than any other religion?)

2.  God becomes the bad guy. If we are not the problem, someone is! The focal point of Christianity is not the goodness of man, it is the goodness of God. God is the Good guy.

3. We no longer need Grace. We are not broken. Only those who are weak need something to fix the problem. We pursue the cycle of self effort and legalistic works

Didn’t Jesus himself say he came to those who are lost? He did not come to rescue the good. He came to help the broken be made whole again. Jesus had no problem calling people sinners. He set the standard high so we would not rely on our “own goodness”, but we would rely on His.

The hope of the gospel does not lie in the goodness of man, it lies in God’s gracious solution to the sin problem.

We broke the planet.
God gives us a way to fix it….to fix us.

Francis Schaeffer in his book, True Spirituality says, “The first step in the true Christian life is to acknowledge that I cannot live it on my own strength or goodness.”

William Temple echoes this thought with,  “I like to remind myself and others that the only thing you contribute to your salvation and to your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary.”.

But Philip Yancey may have put it the simplest when he said, Grace, like water, flows downward.”

Man is valuable, but broken.

But there is hope.

It’s called grace. Freely given ; not earned or deserved.

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God