How to Be Sure You are Really on God’s Good Side

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Does God like you?

At the end of life, you would like to think God would look at you and say, “OK, you pass.”  I mean, none of us are PERFECT.  But over all, you try to help people out and be kind.  You consider yourself a good person and hope God does too.

But can you be sure? Or do you just HOPE you are on His good side?

Yes, you can be sure.  But first, you will have to acknowledge that deep inside there is a terrible thing called a guilty conscience.  It can be a hard thing to shake.  This nagging feeling deep inside that you might have done something wrong to upset God.  Maybe whenever something bad happens you think “I probably deserved that.”  And when several things go wrong in your life at the same time, you start to wonder, “If God mad at me?”

But why would He be mad at you? Surely He knows that you have put every effort into being a good, upstanding citizen. On top of that, you regularly do charitable acts without expecting anyone to repay you!!

 

If it were up to me…

Shouldn’t being a good guy or a bad guy would be an easy choice?  Personally, I would try to just simplify it into a list of “dos” and “don’ts.”  Like the rules parents set for their kids, but a grown up version.  Something like this.

 

The Good List                                  The Bad List
Read Bible everyday                         Don’t kill anyone
Go to church every week                 Don’t steal anything
Pray for the sick                                Don’t cheat
Give to the poor                                Don’t cut in line
Recycle                                               Don’t plagiarize

 

Wouldn’t that be nice?  Just have two basic lists, and then compare yourself to each one.  (Isn’t that how religions work?)  Oh, I’m sure you would fall into the category on the left! But yikes, I definitely don’t read my Bible every  day!  We don’t make it to church every week either…

 

I even break my own rules!

OK, so thank God my little list up there is not really His standard of judgement.  At first it seems like it would be easy to follow, but sometimes life just gets in the way!  And Sheeesh, its a pet-peeve of mine when people cut in  line.  BUT, if my eternal destiny depended on little rules like that?  For sure I’d be a goner!

What about you?  You probably have a subconscious list of what you consider right and wrong.  We all do.  But sometimes we break our own rules, and then we try to justify it!  Just yesterday I was telling my husband that I didn’t think it was a good idea to throw our toddler’s diapers in the little trash can that sits in our bathroom. For one, it doesn’t have a lid, and then our whole house might start stinking.  Plus, the giant diaper trash can with a LID on it is only a few feet away!  But guess what?  There is a diaper in that same little trash can in our bathroom right now.  It was me.  I got in a rush between putting our daughter on her little potty and washing hands.  Yup.  I threw it in there today.   I broke my own rule.  And its still weighing on my conscience.

Is that the way God’s rules are—an unreasonable list of pet peeves?  A list of things He can’t stand just because they get on His nerves?  I’ve seen God’s “good list” in the Bible.  It starts with the ten commandments, but then the rules go on and on and ON.  And somehow religious people can remember just the right rule to quote just when you think you’re in the clear.  “Oh, in Deuteronomy it says not to make a statue of anything in case you might start worshiping it!”  Clearly I’m going to hell then, since I have a Buddha’s head and two angels on my front porch.

It seems impossible to keep up with all of God’s “pet peeves.”

 

God’s rules

The thing is, even IF being a good person were as simple as keeping a set of rules, everything in life is not always black and white.  That is where religion falls short.  It doesn’t take into account all the gray areas.  We need some sort of system that doesn’t just look at the APPEARANCE of good and evil, but actually gets under the surface and considers the MOTIVE behind each action.  For example, what if you were put in a situation where you had to kill someone in order to save a hundred innocent lives?  Some might say you were a hero.  But the religious might say no, you are a murderer, regardless of the cause.

I guess this is why God goes by the intention of the heart.  People can look good on the outside.  But on the inside, all they care about is their self.  It doesn’t matter if every person in the world agrees that you are a good person, if on the inside you could care less if they all went to hell.

God honestly doesn’t care so much about the rules as He does the motive in your heart.  Don’t believe me?  He says it a bunch of times throughout history.  The great King David, who was known for being close to God, prayed, “For you don’t want sacrifices, or I would give them;  you don’t take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God, you won’t spurn a broken, chastened heart.” (Psalm 51:18-19, CJB)

 

God is not religious.

This is both good news and bad news for us.  I mean, it’s good that God looks at our heart so He can see when we were TRYING to do the right thing, and we really MEANT to do good.  But its also scary to think that He knows the secretly selfish, utterly dirty thoughts of our hearts.  Sometimes I have the most selfish impulses, and then immediately  I realize how awful I am!  It makes me tremble to think that I could be literally sent to hell based on the corruption of my mind.

The bottom line is that God is not going to judge us based on a set of rules.  Like a parent, He gave rules to the nation of Israel when they had no basis of government and no concept of laws.  But when it comes to determining if we are good enough to go to heaven, He judges the heart.  If you were coming to me to clear your checklist and confirm that you are a good person, I’m sorry.  All I can tell you is NO ONE is going to have a perfect score when it comes to checking the inner motives of our hearts.  That is the reality of being a human.

God is not religious, but He IS perfect.  That’s why we tend to get caught up in trying to make ourselves perfect with all these regulations.  We give ourselves regulations to try to superimpose goodness over our guilt.  But I find, the only way is to give up and admit you can never have a 100% clear conscience all the time.  If you are able to admit that, then you are stepping towards humility.  And that’s the secret—if you want to be a good person, you’ve got to be convinced that you’re not.

 

If we all deserve hell, then why would God make us in the first place?

I get it.  None of us are good enough on our own.  We are all human.  We all make mistakes.  So why would God knowingly make the stakes SO HIGH that we are basically incapable of meeting His demands?  It would be like a teacher giving an algebra test on the first day of pre-K.  Imagine the teacher saying, “Oh, no matter how hard you try, you are not going to get a 100 on this test.  In fact,  I’m going to DEDUCT points from all of you since you can’t even write your name yet!”  Seriously.  What type of teacher says that?  Umm no.

But maybe there is a teacher who hands out the test—this very hard test—and says, “Look, by the end of the year, you are going to be able to do all of this.  Because working together, all of your teachers and I are going to help you get there.”  Isn’t that more like God?

No actually, because the test we have in front of us is way more difficult than an algebra exam!  We are all faced with the test of our character. And none of us stand a chance.  The second teacher says, “If we work hard enough we can make it.”  That SEEMS like a good teacher, but this is the pitfall of religion—lying to us and telling us that if we do more good works we can get there, when in reality we can never do ENOUGH.

 

The Good Teacher

But there is a third teacher—God.  And He is a GOOD teacher.  Although He does require a perfect score to pass, one little boy in the class trusts Him.  So the boy raises his hand, and says, “Teacher, will YOU write my name for me?”

Deep in our gut, we know we don’t have what it takes to measure up to God’s standards.  And that is why we have a guilty conscience.  It’s something we try to forget about and even excuse.  But what happens if we expose our own inner guilt to God?  He knows we are just human because He made us!  It’s like He is just waiting for us to have a meltdown and turn to Him for help.  We just have to get to that point where we realize, “I can’t do this on my own.”  Then we have a choice:  we can either be angry at the Teacher for giving us such an impossible test.  Or we can trust Him.  And ask Him to take the test for us.

 

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2 thoughts on “How to Be Sure You are Really on God’s Good Side

  1. This longer post caught me by surprise!

    Your analogy of the test-taking was a really helpful way to consider this topic. I wonder where the intersection of “Jesus pays the price for us” and “sanctification/good works that result out of being made-new/the fruit of the spirit” meet? I tend to think of it as Jesus put our name on the test so that we can actually take the test. Except it’s not a test, but a life-long group project (the group is the Church!). So our works DO matter, but not in “getting a good score” or “passing a class” or “salvation” but rather in building His Kingdom and living in right relationship with Him.

    You talked about rules not being about our motive, but then it is our heart that matters. I would love to hear more about how those are different or similar?

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