The ten year old boy’s blue eyes were the most expressive I’ve ever seen. Something, reached out from those big orbs, framed with long black lashes, to pleadingly invite me to know him—to understand. He was dying, and he knew it. Little Jacob wanted to leave something of himself to the world. It was a burning message to all humanity.
Perhaps it was convenience which caused the orphaned boy to select me as the one to broadcast what he felt everyone should know. Time was short, and I was there. He was losing the war against blood cancer, leukemia.
The head of his hospital bed was raised nearly all the way up, as he urgently stretched delicate fingers toward the bedside table, indicating the drawer. Responding, I tugged it open to find a pad of paper on which Jacob had written down the words of wisdom his swollen heart had acquired over the decade of his short existence.
It was only one page, yet the contents could have been penned by wise King Solomon. His summary statement is what gripped my heart the tightest.
“The most important thing in life, is to love everybody.”
Through those passionate eyes, humanity and its condition had been evaluated. Listed, was his perspective of everything that was wrong with the world. Violence, stealing and bullying topped the lengthy column on the left, labelled: “Diseases”. The opposing column to the right bore the heading: “The Answer,” and was Jacob’s corresponding cure for each blight of society. That last column read the same all the way down the page.
Here was a boy wise beyond his years, offering a message taught by Jesus. Our Savior’s summary statement reads much the same as Jacob’s. In essence Jesus had been asked to cite the one most important rule to guide our lives. He answered:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31 NIV)
When I glanced up from perusing what Jacob had written, he was intently studying my face, just hoping I was the man he’d assessed me to be. He made his last request as if that paper contained the very essence of life itself.
“Would you read that to all the people in church Sunday? And see if you can put in the newspapers?”
What the boy was asking me was closely akin to what the Lord had already called me to do when I became a minister of the gospel. At the heart of the good news of Christ is the message of God’s love, displayed so profoundly at Calvary. One of the last things Jesus did before He died and rose again, was to wash His disciple’s feet. He then said that we should go and do likewise, in loving service to one another.
“Yes Jacob, I promise I’ll spread this message to everyone who will listen.”
Jacob had been fighting the powerful medication to stay awake, and to accomplish his mission. A big smile remained on that young face as his heavy eyelids finally closed and sleep overtook him. The attending nurse then lowered the top of his bed, and shooed me out of the room.
Two hours later, I was in the hospital cafeteria purchasing coffee. A thirty year-old wisp of a woman from some social agency, whom the state had assigned to Jacob for his final days, scurried into the dining room. She slowed to a crawl when she found me, her face already delivering the news she bore. “Jacob has left us.”
We could easily scoff at this inexperienced youngster’s naiveté for believing all that ails the world can be changed by such a simple concept. Yet, in essence Jacob is correct. That well-known passage of scripture, John 3:16, declares God’s love for the world, to be His motivation for sacrificing His only begotten Son, to cover all of mankind’s imperfection’s. Accordingly, when that same love becomes the motivating force behind all that we do and say, all the ugliness in the world, which that love touches, is transformed to beauty.
Yes Jacob, we hear you.
My wife, Becca and I enjoy watching the TV show, “America’s Got Talent”. It’s always entertaining, with a wide variety of talents. Some acts include a large number of people, while others are just a single individual.
It appears that larger groups have a distinct advantage over the solo acts, especially in a huge auditorium. A person alone must rely completely on themselves to own that giant sized stage and entertain, without being swallowed up by the vast crowd and enormity of the auditorium. Yet, some individuals seem to pull it off just fine.
Not so for Christians. It sorrows the heart to see believers attempting to take on the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the devil’s attacks as a solo act, cutting themselves off from the body of Christ. I was one of those people myself for several years. My ability to live the kind of life that pleases God was enhanced ten-fold once I finally joined a good church family.
While the Holy Spirit inside of believers enables them with power to live the kind of life that is pleasing to God, the Lord has made it clear that we need each other to successfully keep growing and to serve Him. Besides, much of serving God has to do with serving our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we can’t do that if we never spend any time with them. And the gifts which the Spirit gives are for building up, or edifying the body of Christ: the church.
The love of Jesus unites and makes us strong. God will hold us accountable for what we’ve done with the talents and the spiritual gifts He gives us. They’ve been given for the purpose of strengthening and enhancing the church and ultimately to glorify Him. ...So that, the kingdom of God may continue to grow.
Sadly it may be true that finding the right congregation of believers to worship and grow with, is increasingly more difficult, but we can’t use that as an excuse not to try. Remember, with God all things are possible, through faith.
This final post on overcoming problem anger is the promised short list, an easy reference guide to help us remember the things discussed in the previous five posts on anger.
1. Determine if anger is/was warranted.
Study what happened as a result of your anger, each time, and see if good or bad things came. Study your past experiences with each person/circumstance etc. which draws out your anger. Think of how you felt and determine why you felt that way. Ask God to show you the truth about yourself, and pray for His peace to settle you.
Honestly, confess your anger, and seek God’s help in overcoming problem anger. This is the time to forgive everyone. In faith, tell God that you forgive the offender, and that you need the Holy Spirit’s help in treating that person with love. Pray for the offender!
3. Stop and think
Before responding to anger, consider everything you’ve learned. Think before speaking or acting. If there’s a good & legitimate reason for anger, form a good plan, and use the angry energy to make something good come from the situation.
4. Be prepared
Before you go into a situation where you might become angry you need to get ready. Remember to have good thoughts ready to replace any negative thoughts that come to mind (Philippian’s 4:8). In faith, take control of your thoughts, relying on the Spirit, and make them obedient to Christ.
5. Trust. Forgive. Love.
If we hope to be delivered from problem or irrational anger, we must TRUST God completely—that His way is best. In obedience, we FORGIVE every person who has wronged us, and we also accept God’s forgiveness. And we do our best to treat everyone with LOVE.
Remember, it is your responses you need to control, not circumstances, situations, or other people!
“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
We’re not talking about a little grumpiness before your morning coffee. Problematic anger steals your happiness, robs you of good health, and makes you more destructive than productive.
In the last four posts we’ve learned to search for the true cause of our anger, to identify it as a good or a bad thing in each instance, and to turn anger to our advantage. We’ve seen how a Christian can dispel that anger by being obedient to Christ. And more.
Today, let’s focus on a malevolent trick our minds can play on us, using anger destructively.
When Mister or Missus “pain-in-my-backside” has me really steamed, I can’t seem to think about anything, except for what he or she has done to bring my ire to the boiling point. I rehearse it over and over in my mind, and become more upset by the minute, building that negative force until it blows a blood vessel, or, I do or say something stupid. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. The more I dwell on it, the worse it gets. Sound familiar?
We know forgiveness is the cure for this malady. But who wants to think about forgiving, when we’re relishing angry thoughts? Oh, we can have some real criminal strategies play out in our vengeful fantasies. It may begin with thinking of something witty we’d like to have said, which would've really put Mr. Blankety-blank right in his place! Then it escalates to something worse, and before long a devilish grin spreads across our face. Doesn’t sound very Christ-like, does it? Of course not.
However, we can fool ourselves into thinking this type of mental rehearsal is making us feel better, when actually, it merely serves to exacerbate the problem and further addict us to irrational anger. Both bad and good habits are easy to form, so we need to train ourselves to do the right thing. Every action we take, begins in our thoughts. Study the following verse well.
Philippians 4:8 NLT “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Training our minds to remain focused all that is good and positive takes diligent effort. So once we begin to address the issue, it’s best to pray for supernatural assistance. God will help. We can dump every negative thought that vies for space in our consciousness. The Holy Spirit will help us remember what we’ve set out to accomplish, and He will empower us to do it well. This includes forgiving offenders, and treating them with love. Suddenly, you’ll begin to catch yourself when you start heading down the wrong thought paths. Then, you can deliberately change the course of those thoughts, by replacing them with good ones.
Health and happiness are restored to our lives when we surrender our thought-life to Christ, and when we allow Him to bring us into His wisdom, and into His peaceful and glorious serenity.
1. Trust that Jesus’ way is the best way.
2. Honestly talk to God about it, and commit to putting forth every effort to think only good thoughts. Ask for His help.
3. Forgive everyone and treat them with love, including yourself.
4. Be deliberate about controlling your thoughts, and have good thoughts ready to replace the bad ones.
P.S. I had promised a summary and easy to use list for overcoming anger after post #4. It's still on the way and will be the final post an anger.
Problem Anger or a Theocentric Life
It's a choice.
There’s a boat load of scriptures that speak of God’s righteous wrath and of His anger, so naturally we can surmise that anger has a divine purpose to it. Yet scripture also tells us to get rid of anger. Is this a do as I say, and not as I do situation? By no means!
Studying these scriptures on anger more fully, we find that God commands us to turn away from several “types” of anger, all of which are based in satisfying ourselves, in pride, arrogance and disobedience to God. We should be angry at evil and at sin. We need to hate it just as God does.
Problem anger stems from an egocentric outlook. It’s a self-centered attitude and mind-set. But when we come to faith in Christ, we leave self behind. We gain a theocentric perspective (God centered).
Luke 9:23, “Then he (Jesus) said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
We die to ourselves so that we may life for Christ. It is virtually impossible to simultaneously live a life of self-denial and have problem anger and rage.
It’s a tough problem to have. How can we be rescued from a life that is constantly being robbed of happiness and contentment, because of anger over all the unfair things in the world? Or anger over another person’s idiocy and insensitivity? What can we do—what’s the solution?
The first thing we do is to surrender our rights to Christ. That’s the first step in denying self. We are not actually losing our rights when we give them up. We are merely trusting them to Christ Jesus. When we relinquish control of our lives to God, were saying that he is now responsible for those rights. And there’s nobody better to trust with your rights than God!
Yes, there will still be irritants, but now we won’t have to allow them to get under our skin so much. We know that God sees all and will work everything out for our good.
If someone steps on your right to anything, whether it be your right to privacy, to peace and quiet, or simply your right to be treated with respect, they haven’t taken the right from you, they’ve taken it from God. Because He now holds your rights, and you are a part of Him now.
The well-known serenity prayer helps us combat our anger issues. It refocuses our attention on God instead of trying to demand control of the situation. You remember it right?
“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Next time we'll condense the practical steps to overcome anger into an easy to use list. And we'll discuss dangerously rehearsing in your mind, that situation which stirred your anger.
On August 24th 2014 in Texas, two young boys were helping push a pick-up truck off the roadway when a drunk driver plowed into both of them. Understandably, their father was enraged. He has now been cleared of murdering the drunk driver who struck his boys. However, most people thought he had done it. Why? Because we are all familiar with what rage can do to us!
Whether our anger is a righteous and good anger or an irrational destructive anger, we can use it in the wrong way. Naturally that means there’s a right way to utilize anger as well. What did Jesus do with His rage at the vendors in the temple? (John 2:14-16)
First, He did not act immediately. He sat down and braided a whip, a scourge of cords. That had to take a little time to do. Obviously, Jesus had time to think over the correct course of action. In this instance he revealed His authority by driving the uncouth merchants from the temple, who were turning a place of worship into a profitable enterprise.
Remember the old tactic for controlling anger: “First count to one-hundred”. That’s a good idea, but while were counting we need to be considering what our anger is really all about and if in fact it is a righteous or an irrational anger.
If I had a child killed by a drunk driver I’d be angry too, and with good cause. What about the mothers who’ve lost children to drunk drivers? Some of them got together and formed an organization which has done a lot of good. “Mothers against Drunk Drivers” or MADD, has brought the problem of drinking and driving to the attention of the entire world. And as a result, many laws have been passed to help fight the problem. They used that angry energy to do something about the problem.
Anger creates within us a surge of energy. We can harness and then channel that concentrated force into a productive power. We can use it for something good, instead of for destruction.
1. Stop and think
2. Assess the true cause of your anger
3. Pray about it
4. Harness the energy of anger
5. Form a plan
What can I do about recurring, problem anger? Too bad we can’t simply take an anti-anger pill and let all that negative force just melt into peace and happiness. But the good news is: There is a cure! Don’t forget Jesus came so that we could have peace and joy—sublime happiness!
When we surrender to God’s will by obeying His word and following His Spirit within, we find a cure all. A panacea for all our rage, hostility and frustration.
Okay I agree, that sounds too much like a pat, spiritually correct answer and not enough how-to help. So let’s break it down in a way we can apply it to real world difficulties. But first we have to see what the Lord’s word says.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Forgiveness is the cure. We need to forgive others. But how can a mere mortal accomplish things that only Jesus was able to do? Are you a mere mortal? Doesn’t the Spirit of the living God reside within you? As a baptized believer, fully surrendered to Christ, isn’t He a part of you now? This is where faith does its most supernatural work!
If you’ve followed me for long, you’ll know I often describe faith as “Belief in action”. Faith is acting upon what we believe, or at least believing with the implication that action based upon that belief will follow.
Jesus preached that if we hope to be forgiven we are to forgive each other. I can’t forgive an enemy all by my lonesome, but in God’s power I can. I must believe in His power, and in His willingness to exert that power in my behalf.
Here’s what it looks like in action. I’m irritated, frustrated and steaming hot towards this one guy. He’s just so smug about it all! I can’t even look at him without blowing a fuse. So I go to the Lord and first ask Him to forgive me for my anger. It doesn’t matter that the other guy is in the wrong. I must seek the Lord in each individual situation that angers me.
“Lord I don’t want to be angry but I am. Please forgive me, take this anger away. I know I’m supposed to forgive so-and-so. I don’t feel forgiveness towards him, but I’m willing. So right now I’m going to speak it. I forgive Mister so-and-so. Now help me treat him in the right way, with love, just as you have commanded.”
Is that it? Are we done yet? Not quite. We have to follow up on what we said we were going to do. Here’s where we become amazed, because the Holy Spirit will enable us (give us the power) to be obedient. The next time I see so-and-so, I deliberately treat him just as if I felt love for him.
You know that old Christian expression, “Watch God work”? Well too many folks think that means we do nothing and God does it all. That’s dead wrong. We step out in faith and treat that guy with love. True, God is the one who is doing it through us. And we are going to be absolutely joyful, exuberant and bursting with happiness over the results.
Now let’s take it up a notch and really tap into the power of God! Start praying for Mister so-and-so. Prepare to have goose pimples, because God is going to pour His Spirit into that situation and change it, heal it and turn everything around for good. And you will be healed of your anger, because you acted in faith and obeyed God.
There is a whole lot more to discuss and some great tools to use in combatting anger. But we want to take small bites and digest it well. More next time.
One of the most common complaints among people I’ve counselled is difficulty controlling anger. Or, irrational anger.
Anger has been touted as the path to destruction, as well as a powerful force for good and righteousness. So what’s the determining factors in whether it’s a good anger or a bad anger in each particular episode?
Obviously the results of our anger is a good place to start. Did something good come from it, or was it simply a terrible experience we’d prefer to forget about? What did we do with that anger? But even more importantly, what was the real reason we became angry?
Delineating the cause of personal anger is the first step in discovering if it is a healthy and good thing in each instance, or if we are simply digging our own grave. Why are we angry? Not simply the obvious problem, person or circumstance that brought anger to the surface, but the true underlying causes, are what we hope to unmask.
Self-awareness is vital for discovering causes for anger, resulting in gaining control over that anger. Yet, many times it’s from a sub-conscious level that anger springs. Have you ever verbally snapped at someone or answered them harshly for no apparent reason? Then we get down on ourselves and bear a load of guilt for doing so. You see, many times anger is born of other emotions we have felt and stored away as a result of how someone made us feel in the past. Perhaps that person is much better at a particular thing than we are, and that made us feel “less-than”. Now in the present when that person shines, we react in anger. And we just can’t understand why that other person’s success irritates us so much. Understanding what we are angry about is key to controlling whether or not we become angry in the first place.
We realize that anger is a powerful emotion which must be controlled. Uncontrolled anger is irrational anger. If we find ourselves unable to control what we say and do when we are angry, that is a good indication that this anger goes on the negative side of the ledger.
Yet also important is what anger is doing inside us. It increases blood pressure and exacerbates stress levels, creating all sorts of health maladies. So even if not acted upon (what I call semi-controlled), anger can be a life killing monster on the inside of our bodies and souls. And it steals off with our happiness. Just because nobody knows about our anger but us, does not negate its destructive capabilities.
1. Study what happened as a result of your anger, each time, and see if good or bad things came.
2. Study your past experiences with each person/circumstance etc. which draws out your anger. Think of how you felt and why you felt that way.
3. Ask God to show you the truth about yourself, and pray for His peace to settle you.
In the next post we’ll dig a little deeper into the causes for anger, only, from a spiritual and biblical perspective. And we’ll discover some tools to help us grow in this area of life.
Like a lot of Christians I’ve asked the same question. “Why me Lord?” God’s answer is amazing and wonderful.
“Because you are special to me!”
For I reckon that sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Roman 8:18 KJV)
Is life getting tough? Sometimes we’re tempted to question why God would allow His loved ones to go through such difficulty. But of this we can be absolutely certain: He loves you very much and He has His reasons.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1st Peter 4:12 NIV)
God doesn’t want us to be confused over this. That’s why we are forewarned that suffering will come. Hardships are necessary, or God would not permit them. Several of His reasons are cited in scripture. And those indicated purposes are multiple. First is the growth of our faith. And the strengthening and shaping of our Christ-like character. He tests and proves our faith so that one day all others will see His work in us. Also, hardships teach us to depend on the Lord and trust Him implicitly through every circumstance.
Yet we can take joy in knowing that one day there will be no more tears, no pain, and no sorrow. And the difficulties we endure in the here-and-now will seem as nothing someday. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2nd Cor. 4:17 Holman CSB) We will shine with a glory unrealized in any earthly realm today! God is creating beauty and splendor in us. One day he will lift you up to showcase you before all of creation. “Look what I have created in this glorious soul!”
“…You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. (21) A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (22) So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20b-22 NIV)
For now, there’s great comfort in God’s promises. We know that He’s already explained as much as we are able to understand. Sure, there’s a lot more to God’s reasoning. But His mind dwarfs the greatest genius minds of all the ages. If the Lord were to explain any further than what He already has, we’d be completely incapable of comprehending it. Sufficient is our knowledge of His great love for all mankind, His omniscient wisdom, and His omnipotent ability to carry out His divine plan. Add to that our faith in God's trustworthiness to keep His promises, and we can face anything. Christ in us continues to suffer with us. He is with us every step of the way.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28 NIV)
After one of our often spirited debates, a certain relative by marriage asked me to write an article on how someone can be a good person regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. As an agnostic with atheistic leanings I believe he, like many folks today, feel that they are good people. And by the world’s standard of what is good, he is correct.
As I pondered covering such a topic, I was rather loathe to do so, having had my own heart revealed to me in the light of God’s glory. I’m fully persuaded that every person on earth is quite flawed. However, after checking with the big boss upstairs, He’s disclosed the door to enlightenment which such a discussion can present.
As humans it would be quite offensive to say, “You are not a good person”. It goes against what we believe. And of course the prospect that we are not good people is repulsive. It just down right makes us feel bad. In fact if you tell a person they are not good, their response might reveal the truth of the statement.
I don’t like to see Christians acting unwisely and unkindly towards those who disagree with them. It is necessary for me to acknowledge that atheists and agnostics can be very nice people, charitable, and have a good sense of morality. There is no denying mankind’s capacity for doing good works separate from a belief and trust in God. That is a result of an innate awareness of good and evil (God consciousness), an inherent knowledge of good and evil which mankind received in the Garden of Eden. But to me that’s never really been an issue. By my fleshly perceptions atheists can be very good people.
Christians are not better than non-Christians based on their own merit. We understand that we are in need of God’s grace like all other people. But God views those who are saved differently than those who are not. Because the righteousness of Christ covers the redeemed. Note that it’s Jesus’ righteousness that makes me good in God’s eyes. Yet God loves all people regardless of their lack of faith. Christ died for my sins before I even committed them. Faith in and obedience to the Lord has to do with the restoration of mankind’s relationship with God, not His love for mankind. God loves you very much! But He must remain true to His nature of holiness and justice, because He is the epitome of good.
I do believe that a Christian’s motivation to do what is good becomes greater because of their love for God. They receive joy by pleasing Him. Their capacity for goodness is aided by the power of God sanctifying the individual. Therefore the Christian has a distinct advantage over the non-Christian for doing good, because they are following the one who is perfectly good.
I do however, feel that when a non-believer comes to faith in Christ, that their capacity for love, and ability to perform good works becomes exponentially greater than before. They would then have the capability to be a better person than they ever thought possible. This, due to the enlightenment they’d receive by contrasting their goodness with that of the pure holiness they’d see in God. But mostly by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who would then dwell within them. We must remember, it is God’s power at work within believers that makes them different. Therefore no Christian can boast of being good and doing good. It is God who does it.
However, let’s look at the difficulty with our perceptions of goodness from an earthly viewpoint.
Though I’m only five foot eight, God has blessed me with a great deal of physical strength. Pound for pound, I felt as though I was one of the strongest men around. Back then, my schedule allowed me to hit the gym in the middle of the day on weekdays. It was the time of day when the place was sparsely populated. Then I started coming in on Saturdays too, and the place would be packed. Making some friends, I found several guys who all weighed the same as me (within about five pounds). Was I ever in for an education!
A lot of them were stronger than me—most by just a little. But Jack was extraordinary.
My eyes must have been bugging out of my head when I first witnessed his strength. After each three repetition set on the bench press, he jumped up and added two more forty-five pound plates, clanging the steel disks together. On his last set, he pressed five hundred fifty pounds for eight repetitions! Back then my one rep maximum was about 300 pounds.
On every exercise, including dead lifts, squats and curls, he could lift twice the amount that I could lift. And do more repetitions. Compared to Jack I was not very strong at all, and he was the same size as me. What amazed me even more was what he said.
“I’m not very strong compared to some other guys I know. They’re about the same size as us, and they can put me to shame!” I went home a humbled man that day.
But this story as an analogy can’t hold a candle to the vast expanse between the goodness of Homo-sapiens and the perfect paradigm of God’s goodness. The best person in the world pales in contrast with God’s purity and holiness.
It’s not all that difficult to be good enough for the world. The world’s standard is much lower than God’s standard. I think we’ve all heard, “Nobody’s perfect”. There’s lots of faithless humanitarians and do-gooders out there who spend themselves for the sake of others. And they accomplish countless good things. Only an idiot would say that you have to have faith to do good things and be considered a good person by the rest of the world. But that’s only the physical or natural world, which many times cannot even perceive its own corruption. Yes deeply egregious evils we recognize, but to God, the slightest flaw is egregious, because it introduces impurity. Though housed in a physical body we are also spiritual beings, we do not cease to exist once fleshly life ends.
God will hold us up in comparison to His righteousness. If there is the slightest flaw in us, then we are not fit to be in His holy presence. That’s why we need a Savior. As a Christian, I believe God when He says to trust in Christ Jesus alone to make me fit to be in His presence. There is not a perfect person on earth. And if we are not perfect then we won’t make the cut.
All the good works in the world won’t make a shred of difference in our admittance to eternal life in God’s loving presence. The kindest, the nicest and the most loving person on earth is not good enough. There is no way to earn salvation. The only escape from God’s wrath against sin is the way He has provided for us. It is by faith in the sacrifice He has made of His Son Jesus, to pay our fine for us.
God’s law states that the penalty for sin (being less than perfect) is death. But God can legally dismiss our case because He’s paid the penalty in our behalf.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Notice the severity of God’s judgment. Directly followed by His loving provision to negate the harshness of such judgment. The escape from being judged by the standard of His perfection is a gift. It is received by accepting His gift in faith that God will honor His word. He then imputes the righteousness of His Son Jesus to us. In a sense, we borrow Christ’s perfection to gain acceptance. When our Savior returns He shall complete and perfect us so that we may dwell with Him forever.
By God’s standard none of us are good. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23) Yet, He wants to be with us, because He is a God not only of law and justice, but also of mercy and love. The next verse (24) completes the sentence of Romans 3:23, and reveals the other side of God’s nature.
“(23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
He has redeemed us from the death penalty that is upon all people. And because none are perfect by God’s standard, His love demanded He provide a way to save us. Then, when Christ returns, the redeemed will receive a new spiritual body, an eternal body which is no longer prone to sin and imperfection. We will be truly good as God created us in the first place, before disobedience, or sin entered the picture. Perfect and good—God’s kind of good.
By all means, to the best of your ability, continue to be good and to do what is good. Be a nice person and a kind, charitable and loving person. But don’t depend on your own goodness to save your soul from damnation. Accept the gift.
The more a person comes to discern spiritual truth the more they realize how far off the mark they actually are. Each year, God progressively reveals more things in me that need to change, as I strive for His standard of perfection.
I’d like to say I’m a good man. But I cannot do so in good conscience, because I know God.
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
(Scripture References are from the New International Version)