Not Good Enough?
Have you ever felt that you just weren’t good enough? Maybe one or both of your parents, or classmates, teachers or bosses made you feel that way. You might have low self-esteem or be filled with guilt because of past actions or due to addictions, abuse or learning difficulties. Whatever your problem, you felt that you didn’t meet the expectations of the important people in your life, people whose love and respect you most wanted and needed. And if you weren’t good enough for them, how could you EVER hope to be good enough for God?
The great preacher and reformer Martin Luther felt that way, too. The beliefs and superstitions of his religion filled him with fear of God as a cruel dictator, a harsh judge. As a young man, he constantly feared that he would upset or offend God. The more he read the Bible, the more guilt he felt. He tried hard to find pardon and peace by fasting, beating himself, studying his Bible day and night. In the end, his health was gone, yet he still felt only guilt and despair.
Finally, when everything seemed hopeless, a new-found friend — a wise old preacher — brought him a completely different idea of God. The older man showed Luther in God’s Word how he should stop looking at himself and his own failings and instead he should look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. “Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins,” the old preacher told him, “throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in Him.”
The idea that man can save himself by his own works is at the foundation of every false religion. God does not require us to undergo physical suffering, making long and tiring pilgrimages or performing painful penance, in order to have forgiveness from sin. There is nothing that we can DO to save ourselves. Romans 3:20 says that no person can be declared righteous and forgiven except by faith.
Every effort to live a righteous, holy life through our own strength is doomed to failure. The Bible says that there is NO ONE who is righteous, no, not even one. For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God — every person in the world! (Romans 3:10, 23) Then is your case hopeless? Is mine?
You might think you have been too bad for God to love. But no one who truly repents of wrong thoughts or actions is beyond God’s forgiveness. God loves everyone — He loves you — no matter what you may have done, and He doesn’t want you or anyone else to lose out on heaven but He wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
If there was anyone who wasn’t good enough, it was a woman of Samaria whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well. All the other women came to the well in the early morning. She came during the hottest part of the day while no one else was around. She had a “reputation” and didn’t want to experience yet again others’ condemning looks and hurtful comments. Jesus knew that this Samaritan woman had already been married five times, and that she was now living with someone who wasn’t her husband. He knew all her sins, all the secrets of her life, yet she felt that He understood her, that He loved her anyway. She had faith in Him, and at last she felt accepted.
The worse your life has been, the more you need God’s forgiveness. And there is only one “unpardonable sin” — only one sin that God will not forgive (Matthew 12:31). It is to stubbornly refuse throughout your life to accept God’s invitation to repent and let His Holy Spirit work in your life. If you deliberately choose to reject God’s love and salvation, there is nothing that God can do to save you (Hebrews 10:26). Yet He has promised that if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just — completely fair — to forgive you from sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Whoever tries to hide his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and gives them up, will receive God’s mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
Christ said that everyone who has sinned is “a slave of sin”. Sin does produce guilt. And guilt can be a very heavy load to carry, damaging its victim not only spiritually and emotionally but even physically and mentally. But the cure for guilt is forgiveness, which gives a clear conscience and peace of mind. Christ has assured us, “If the Son — Jesus Christ — makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Your freedom is what Christ died for, because He loves you.
You can never earn salvation or deserve it by TRYING to be good. In your own strength you aren’t capable of obeying God. As Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Your part is to give EVERYTHING to God every day — your heart, your choices, your service. And you must TAKE all that God wants to give you — His compassionate control of your life, and His Holy Spirit living in your heart, “giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT). It is by faith — by complete trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for your sins – that God accepts Christ’s righteousness in place of your failure. Then God treats you and loves you as He loves His own Son, Jesus.
Satan wants you to believe that you are too bad for God to save, that your case is hopeless, that you have been too bad for God to love you and forgive you. Satan may make you believe that you cannot come to God until you have made yourself good enough. But we may answer Satan’s accusations with God’s promise that “whoever comes to Me, I will in no way cast out” (John 6:37). Tell the enemy that Christ’s blood shed on the cross cleanses from all sin and that as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far God has removed your sins from you (Psalm 103:12). If you take even one step toward God in repentance, He is listening, waiting eagerly for you to give your life to Him.
Jesus loves to have us come to Him just as we are, sinful, helpless, and dependent. We may come with all our weakness, our foolishness, our sinfulness — our messedup lives — and fall at His feet in repentance. He wants to encircle us in His love, to heal our wounded lives, and to clean us from all sin. It is true that God hates sin, but He loves each and every sinner. He sent Jesus to our world so that EVERY one who would choose to accept His love and forgiveness could experience the peace and joy that comes with freedom from guilt.
You may, like the apostle Paul, say, “Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Yet Christ would have died to save even one person. John 3:16 assures us that God loved the world so much that whoever believes in Him will not perish (die eternally) but will have everlasting life.
That “whoever” means YOU.
Unless noted otherwise scripture references are taken from the New King James Version. Used by permission.
Cover image: © www.istockphoto.com/AdrianHillman