Did Jesus Come to Save The Good Girls Too?

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We read in the Bible about Jesus and how he brought about radical life transformation in the form of:

  • Damascus Road conversions
  • Thief-on-the cross forgiveness
  • Mary Magdalene sacrifical devotion
  • Woman-at-the-well contagious discipleship

But what about those of us who grew up in a Christian home (or more generically, a “religious” home), a stable family, have never rebelled, are rule-followers, and always do the “right” thing. When we read the Bible, we may not “see ourselves” in the lives that Jesus touched, so how do we know we need Jesus? Did Jesus come to save us too?

Filthy Rags

First and foremost, it is imperative for us to know that no matter how “good” the Good Girls are, our “good works” are not good enough to earn our place in God’s presence. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” And in case you’re a predominantly New Testament girl, Paul confirms this in Romans 3:10 saying, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So, to Jesus, our outer “goodness” — the “righteousness” of our own striving — does not meet the standard of a Holy God. Apart from Jesus, our “goodness” is still like filthy rags. Our propensity for sin may look different than the rebellious girl next door, but our sin-stained souls are no different to God.

“God Has No Grandchildren”

As a Good Girl, our Christian upbringing is most definitely a blessing to us, but it will not save us from eternity in hell if we do not claim this faith for ourselves. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.” And Romans 14:12 says, “Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” Jesus himself said, “’Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24). There are many other Scriptures that point to our individual need to respond to God in faith. These are only a few.

Having worked on Anne Graham Lotz’s ministry team, I heard her say on numerous occasions, “God has no grandchildren.” Can you imagine being the daughter of THE Reverend Dr. Billy Graham? Talk about spiritual coattails! And yet, Anne will be the first one to tell you that if she were to try to stand in the shadow of her father on Judgment Day, she would be denied a place in heaven. God has no grandchildren. No matter how “good” or religious or spiritual or Christian of a family we come from, at some point, we must make our own decision to follow Christ. Our parents’ faith will not save us.

Rule Followers

It is easy for us “Good Girls” to mistake our “rule following” for Christian-living, when it may be more akin to Pharisaical legalism or self-reliance. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness’” (Luke 11:39). Jesus goes on in this passage to warn the Pharisees repeatedly of presenting an outer “good” image, when the reality of their hearts was sinful.

This can be tricky for a Good Girl. Because, it’s not the good deeds and “rule following” in and of themselves that are wrong. As Christians, good deeds are required! In fact, James says clearly that faith without good deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). In that context, good works that are done in response to Christ’s transformation of our heart are evidence of our faith.

But this should not be confused with trusting in our own Good Girl rule following and “good works” as the means of our salvation. Scripture is abundantly clear that all the rule following and good works we can muster will not save us. Our eternal salvation is only secured by God’s mercy and grace through faith in Jesus (Titus 3:4-6).

This is a danger of living the Good Girl life because “being good” is easy for us to do, even if, in reality, our hearts are not close to the Lord. As a Good Girl, this will likely be something we need to watch for, and perhaps repent from, daily.

Old Nature, New Nature

It is our “nature” to be a Good Girl, but when we are saved, God commands us to put off our old nature, and put on our new nature. This can be tough for us Good Girls because we may not think we need a radical lifestyle transformation. We keep on doing the “new self” Good Girl things, which look an awful lot on the outside like the “old self” Good Girl things. But that is the key: the kind of “old self-new self” transformation Jesus works in us originates from the inside-out; not from the outside-in (Ephesians 4:22-24 and Romans 12:2). We may not need a radical lifestyle transformation, but we very well may need a radical heart transformation.

When we reflect on the true nature of our heart, us Good Girls might especially find sin lurking there in the form of pride or selfishness or resentment or greediness or self-reliance or idolatry. It’s easy to “hide” these sins, masterfully masked by our Good Girl exteriors. But do not be fooled that these sins of the heart are any less destructive than sins of the flesh. The heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23) and eventually, our life will reflect what we keep there. When sin lurks in the heart, it inevitably begins a slow rot unto death of friendships, of marriage, of commitment, of life.  As David confronted his own sin, he knew the only path to a transformed life was through this heart, so he prayed: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

Good Girls Need Jesus Too

In case you’re confused, let me be clear: Being a Good Girl is good. It truly is. We probably saved our parents a lot worry and grief; we tend to bless those around us; we typically don’t bring external destruction to our world. But we must be equally clear that those are benefits of being a Good Girl in this life.  All through Scripture, God shows us that His primary concern is with our eternal life, which is determined by the state of our heart. For our life in eternity (which, incidentally, drastically impacts our life here on earth also, but that’s a post for another day) we cannot depend on our upbringing, or rely on our good deeds, or look to the “goodness” of our outer self. But rather, we look to the inside. Because on the inside, “Good Girls” look like everyone else (Romans 3:23). We have a heart stained by sin, unacceptable to a holy God. The only hope for a Good Girl — for all of us — is Jesus. If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

Yes, Good Girls need Jesus too. We all need Jesus

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Grace and Peace

Ephesians 1:1-2

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though I am always tempted to rush past these first two verses of Ephesians, the Lord has used them to teach me to look for deep lessons in unexpected places. I would have never guessed that I could learn as much as I have from the opening of a letter. And yet, there are two very important lessons for me in Paul’s opening greeting to the Ephesians:

In every role the Father has for us:

  1. He establishes us
  2. He equips us

He Establishes Us

If you’re really honest with yourself, do you sometimes wish for a different life? In the frenzied frustration of work, kids, errands, home, marriage, ministry – all at the same time – do you sometimes question the roles that God has ordained for you? Are you single, but wish to be married? Married, but wish to be single? Parent of one? Parent of many? Parent of none? Do you work full-time, part-time or no-time? Are you unemployed, under-employed, or over-employed? Do you quietly question whether God really meant for you to be in the place where you find yourself now?

In this opening verse of Ephesians 1, Paul proclaims that he (Paul) is an apostle, by the will of God. Well, if Paul’s role as an apostle was established by the will of God, aren’t my life’s roles also established by the will of God? Yes – I believe so.

By the will of God, I am a wife.

By the will of God, I am a mother to five children.

By the will of God, I am a worship leader.

By the will of God, I am a project manager.

Does knowing God has established me in these roles change the way I approach both the challenges and the triumphs I face in them? YES! In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus tells us God’s will on earth is the same perfect will with which He rules in heaven, and so therefore, we should pray: “Your will be done.” God’s will on earth does not contain mistakes. His will on earth is not Plan B. God’s will on earth is as it is in heaven – it is perfect.

Therefore, while there may be difficult, complicated, confusing, painful, gut-clenching-heart-breaking circumstances to face as I do life, work and ministry in each of my roles, I am confident that by God’s perfect will, He has established me in each one “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

He Equips Us

But as is God’s loving way, He does not establish us in these roles and then leave us to fend for ourselves. In verse 2, God assures us that He equips us with all we need in order to function in the roles where He has established us. It is so simple, I almost missed it.

I’ve often wondered why Paul starts so many (all?) of his letters out this way: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Why does Paul repeat this phrase over and over? Because Paul knew he had received grace from God, so he had peace with God. And Paul knew that the recipients his letters (including us!) also need grace from God in order to have peace with God. And likewise, these are the two provisions we need to operate in the roles where God has established us:

Grace from God. And Peace with God.

Let me share about those one at a time, but in reverse order.

Peace with God is fairly straightforward. God is holy and we are not – we have a sinful nature. This nature (our “natural-born self”), left unchanged, separates us from God – for now and for eternity.

But, not only is God holy, He is just – He requires “justice.” So, in order to be brought into a “right” relationship so that we can know God now and for eternity, He requires “justice” for our sin: a sacrificial payment – an “atonement” (Romans 3:25-26).

Again, however, being sinful in nature, no sacrificial payment we could ever provide would be “good enough” to make ourselves holy in God’s sight. Even our sacrifices are insufficient to meet the requirement equal to God’s righteousness.

So, God provided a perfect sacrifice for us. He sent His beloved son, Jesus, to earth – causing Him to be born as a baby, live as a man, die as a perfect sacrifice for all of the sin of all of humanity, and then be raised again on the third day to reign for all eternity as King. And God promises, that for those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and King, they will have peace with Him as His children – now and forever (John 1:12).

By providing the way for us to be restored into “right” relationship with Himself, God equips us (by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) with what we need to have peace with Him.

But, what about grace?

John MacArthur, in his article “What is Grace?” defines grace in three short words: “God’s unmerited favor.” And not just His “unmerited favor,” but, MacArthur writes, “favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath.” In fact, as Christians, we stand in grace – we remain in His grace (Romans 5:2). Grace is not once and done. We deserve punishment and death and yet, God continues to show us His favor instead.

Here are just a few examples from Scripture:

So, follow me here:

By God’s grace, by his unmerited favor, I have peace with God. And because I have peace with God, by His grace, I am able to be strengthened, to learn, and to live rightly in the roles in which He has established me.

Paul writes extensively to the Ephesians about grace, so this is surely not the last time I will share what the Lord is teaching me about grace. But here, in just these first two verses of Chapter 1 that I’m always tempted to breeze past, I receive tremendous assurance that God has indeed established me in my life’s roles and He has equipped me with what I need to live, learn and be strengthened there: grace and peace.

Think About It:

  1. By the will of God, what are your roles?
  2. How does knowing God has established you by His will in your life’s roles impact the way you receive the rewards and the challenges of those roles?
  3. How have you seen God show His grace to you?
  4. Do you have peace with God?
  5. Being equipped in grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, how will you approach the roles where God has established you today?