People Aren’t Truly Good


This is the text of a halftime devotional I gave at an Upward basketball game.

True story – a man and his wife were staying with her great aunt. The great aunt’s home was an old house, and the doors tended to stick. In the middle of the night, the wife got up to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t get the door open, so she called to her husband. He got up, walked over to the door, and opened it without any trouble whatsoever. The wife, only half awake if she was awake at all, was on the other side of the room, desperately trying to open the closet door, which was stuck fast.

A proverb from the Bible says:
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs his heart.” (Prov 21:2)

We may honestly believe the closet door is the right door, but it’s still just a closet door. We may sincerely believe our ways are right, but that doesn’t make them actually right. In the end, the Lord will weigh our hearts. The rightness of our ways will be judged according to his standards, not our own.

Many people will tell you that every religion, in its purest form, teaches us to be good people, and that being a good person is all that it takes to please God or to go to heaven.

Yet, when you compare our ways to God’s, our ways just don’t measure up. He tells us,
“my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways…
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:8,9)

Another proverb says:
“There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.” (Prov 30:12)
Could that possibly describe us? Clean in our own eyes, yet filthy?
We also read,
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is 64:6)
I find that last verse, in particular, a very humbling thought. All of my good deeds, when you take them all together, make me as bright and shining as – a heap of filthy rags. I can’t score points with God by doing good. When you get down to it, I’m not a truly good person, and neither are you. The game show Moment of Truth is evidence that we know none of us are truly good. Perhaps you’ve seen this show. In order to win, contestants need to truthfully answer questions that probe their innermost thoughts. There would be no risk, no danger in this, if people were truly good. So when the Lord weighs our hearts, we are found lacking.

But there is good news! For we are told:

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Is 55)

How can we seek God? What way leads to him? What door should we be looking for?
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (Jn 10:9)
and also “I am the good shepherd. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Jn 10:14,27,28)

Trust Jesus, the good shepherd. Put yourself in his hands. By His blood, we are made clean, pardoned, forgiven. Eternal life is found in him alone.

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