Blessed to share at a school chapel for little kids today. Lets me see just how difficult it is for me, an aging adult, to boil down the truths of the Bible to be accurate and yet capture the main point, the real emphasis, of our text.
What do our little ones need to know, as they begin to grow in understanding and experience? Here’s the secret I shared today: nobody’s good. Nobody’s good (Jesus excepted).
All of us to varying degrees and for various motives try to be good. We often tell our kids to be good. But then we do bad things. Sometimes our bad is inside – just bad thoughts. But even bad thoughts taint good deeds.
We try to hold up standards of other people like they are good, to be attained to. So we have Abraham, Moses, David. We look to Peter or Paul. Of course, each and every one of those saints just mentioned were well-documented sinners. Big sins, even… murder, lying, abandoning Jesus. So the very best people in the Bible were not good, not in all their actions. Not in themselves.
It is amazing that we continue to hope in ourselves. We shouldn’t. Our hope can’t be in ourselves. Our hope can’t be in our goodness. The Bible even famously says that our best deeds are like filthy rags before God.
One of the most comforting ways to think about this to me is to look at the armor of Ephesians 6. Paul there writes that we are going to need to fend off the arrows of the adversary, of Satan. What are those arrows? I don’t think it is out of line to consider that Satan is the accuser. His arrows are arrows of accusation. “You aren’t good enough. You don’t deserve to be in heaven. You are a failure, give up.”
What protects us from those arrows?
First, try putting on the clothing of your good works. Filthy rags, right? Even if they aren’t as filthy as the next person’s, rags are no protection from arrows of accusation. Even our best works have threads of ill motive, have pieces of imperfection. It is in this sense that a little leaven flavors the whole lump.
What we need is armor. Armor from the accusations of the accuser, from the deceptions of the deceiver. Hmm. Good thing that’s what we get!
Paul says in Ephesians 6:11-17 to ‘take up the armor of God.’ That would be God’s armor (not mine). Pick it up, put it on, believe it, this is your help, this is your defense, this is your protection.
What is our protection?
- The belt of truth, which is the reality that we are sinners and yet Jesus in love came and died for me.
- The breastplate of righteousness, Jesus’ righteousness. I’m protected not by my goodness but by the goodness of Jesus Christ, given to me. Huge armor right over my heart.
- The shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace. Jumpy joy that the good news is that we are at peace with God. Accuse away, devil. We are at peace with God, right with God, even when we aren’t good. By believing in Jesus.
- The shield of faith. Yes, arrows hit up against our trust that what Jesus has done is true. This is our hope.
- The helmet of salvation. Jesus has done it. He has saved us. This guards my head. I don’t save myself. I trust in the one who is the savior.
- The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The spirit comforts me with the growing knowledge of what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus is the Word, and he proclaims that we have a relationship with God based not on us, but on him.
Do you see? In come the accusatory, deceptive darts of the devil. If we’re trying for protection in our works, we’re toast. If we rest in the protective armor of what Jesus has done, we stand.
This is what being a Christian is: that you hope in somebody just giving goodness to you. Not just someone, actually. Jesus. This is what God promises us. It is a covenant: a big, solemn, serious promise. He promises that he will forgive us of all our sins, every one we have ever done in the past, or do now, or will do in the future. He says he will remember them no more. And then he gives us, in Christ, beautiful clean washed clothes of his goodness.
So hold on to the secret: there’s no one good. Except for Jesus. That’s really good news, because his goodness will protect us as we trust in him.