Summary: The world is made up of good people, bad people, and saved people, how are they defined?
The Good, the Bad, and the Saved
Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Clint Eastwood began acting in 1955 (in the movie Revenge of the Creature) but his career really took off with his roles in spaghetti westerns (movies about the American old west made in Italy), the most famous of these being The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Two other actors starred along Eastwood in the film and one portrayed the good-Eastwood, the bad-Lee Van Cleef, and the ugly-Eli Wallach.
In the reading today, we are told that it is by grace through faith we are saved, and that grace and that faith is not of our selves it is a gift of God, not of good works. This is a very important passage as we are told that it is not the work of our own lives that merits our salvation but it is a gift God gives to us. With this we can say that people are divided into three different groups; the good, the bad, and the saved.
History is filled with good people; we all know good people and our church is made up of good people. There is nothing wrong with being good, this is something we should aspire to become. However, the good people I’m referring to believe in their own righteousness. They know they are good enough to enter into Heaven on their own merits. They trust in themselves and their abilities to somehow be able to impress or win God’s favor. They believe that God will be overjoyed to welcome them into Heaven just on who they are. These people believe their goodness, their holiness, is all that God requires for them to enter into eternal life. And while they may indeed be saved, as it is trust and belief in God and His saving work that determines salvation, their view of how things work is skewed.
The truth of the matter is that our goodness cannot and does not gain us anything in the eyes of God. We know this because we are told that our thoughts and actions are sinful, as we are told in Romans 3:10, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one”. With our unrighteousness, we no longer have our goodness, in the eyes of God. And without goodness, without perfection, we cannot enter into Heaven.
At the end of the movie “Crazy As Hell”, the main character found himself in hell and in the presence of the devil. The character cried over this and defended himself by saying “But I’m a good person”. The devil asked him, “Then why are you here?” The implication being that the character was not a good person and that was the reason he was in hell. The truth of the matter is whether or not you’re a good person (at least in the eyes of the world) does not determine where you spend eternity. If we had the ability to see those souls in hell we would end up seeing a great many good people there; Mohandas Gandhi, Siddhartha Gautama, who the world knows as Buddha, and Confucius are just a few of the famous people that most people would like to pattern their lives after. And yes these are good people, as the world defines and sees “good”. And while we might want to pattern our lives after these men we must remember they were not believers and therefore they are lost.
There is no doubt about the bad. We see them, we encounter them, we have to deal with them. These people are easy to identify, they are the ones that don’t seem to care about anyone or anything but themselves. They look at others with the view of what that person can do for them. Words such as law-abiding, morality, upstanding, honesty, respectable, ethical, integrity, and truth are unknown words in to them. They seem to take some sort of pleasure breaking the laws of both God and man. If we all wrote up a list of bad people in history, I would be willing to believe that at the very least, four of everyone’s top five would be the same.
But these are those who the world sees as bad and we must look at the bad as God sees bad. To God, all sin is bad. Sin is disobedience against God and His Word. It is sin that God sees in each one of His children. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 51:5; “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” “Behold, I was formed in sin; behold, I am sin.” We know that all people are sinful, we know that all people are unclean and have fallen short of the glory of God. And because of this God does not see us as good.