CHAPTER 21

“I'm Basically a Good Person.”

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Most offenders see themselves as good human beings.  No matter how long their list of crimes, no matter what suffering they have caused others, they will almost always claim that they are really good people. The criminal who operates under this thinking error will say things like, "In spite of my six arrests, I am basically a good person. I don't commit crimes all the time."  "There's nothing wrong with me. All I did was sell a little dope."  "I'm not a bad mother/father. My kids have never lived on the streets."

Some list their daily activities as evidence.  They go to school or work most of the time, and take their family to church on Sundays.  Others say they are good because they provide very well for their family.  Some believe that, if God has blessed them with a special talent such as a musical ability, they must be basically good.  Others figure that if they haven’t hurt someone in the commission of their crimes, if they can pull off a robbery without pulling the trigger, they are "good people".  A few believe that their violent acts were justified, that they did society a good service when they “offed” someone, and we should be thanking them instead of arresting them. Normally, criminals don’t look in the mirror and see themselves as the villains that they really are.

And it’s not just criminals who operate under this thinking error. There is a common perception that as long as a person leads a generally good life, they will get into heaven. You probably know people who say they are entitled to heaven because they read their Bible, go to church on Sundays, and live a moral life. And it’s true - they haven’t murdered or robbed anyone at gunpoint, they will give to charities now and then, and treat other people with respect.  They honestly believe that hell is only for those few folks who have committed particularly evil acts.

This is as much a thinking error for you and I as it is for the criminal.  Biblically speaking, when lined up against the plumb line of God's standards, no one is "good." To one degree or another, we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This does not mean that we are always actively engaged in committing crimes or have ever participated in a depraved act. But it does mean that in our very nature we are "fallen," in rebellion against God and incapable of saving ourselves.

1. How good is good enough to go to heaven?  The Bible says God is good, and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) are His plumb line for measuring our personal goodness. Is there anyone who has perfectly kept all the commandments?
 
  Explain your answer. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23)
 

2. If we trust in our own goodness to enter heaven, we are saying to God, “I should enter Heaven because I have earned my way in.”  Is it possible to be good enough or to do enough good works to earn our way into heaven?
 
  Explain your answer. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
 

3. In Philippians 3:9, Paul said that because he was in Him, he  (Paul) could renounce his own
 
 
  c)

4. Romans 11:6 explains this concept further.  Grace and works don't go together. If our salvation is of grace, it cannot be of
 
 

5. In Galatians 2:16, the word “justified” used by Paul is a legal term, well understood by the Jews of that time.  The person who was 'justified' was the one who received the verdict in a court of law.  Used in a religious sense it means the getting of a favorable verdict before God on judgment day.

What is the ONLY way we can be justified?
 

6. The most important question we can ever ask in our lives is, “What must I do to be saved?”  What is the answer?
 
 
  c) Finally (Acts 16:31)

7. How would you counsel a person, offender or not, who says, “I’m basically a good person”?
 

Continue to Chapter 22

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