The classic "I just want to be a good person" response

(Wesley Chandler) #1

Hey all!

I’m currently on an 11 month missions trip with the World Race program and this month we are in Nepal (somewhat closed country). We aren’t partnering with any ministry this month so we are following the Holy Spirit to go wherever and share the good news with tourists and locals!

There were already a few times we got to talk healthy discussions about purpose of life and what it means to believe and follow in Jesus.

One thing I’m not too sure how to navigate is to help those who are in the mindset that they just want to do good and live a good life, but have no belief in life after death. If they have no belief in life after death, is it even possible to share the Gospel?

I’d love to hear some thoughts! :slight_smile:

God bless you all!

(SeanO) #2

@heywesleyc Great question! I think that such an individual is settling for less than their heart really desires. As Ecclesiastes says, God has put eternity in the heart of man. We all desire eternity - to leave a legacy through our children, to leave the world a better place, to be remembered - we all have that desire that cannot be filled by the things of this life. I think we need to reawaken that desire within people - to help them see what they have quelched - to find in Jesus a reason, purpose and evidence for the existence and glory of eternal life.

You may find some of the below resources helpful. Jesus grant you wisdom as you share His truth and love!

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Lewis

Ravi Zacharias: The happy pagan is wrapped up in the belief that this world and the success it affords are the greatest pursuits in life. He or she feels no need for anything transcendent. Life has been reduced to temporal pursuits disconnected from all the other disciplines necessary for life to be meaningfully engaged.

Some are completely unreflective; they don’t think enough to know they have no right to be happy. They borrow on capital they don’t have. Many of these people, though, are sophisticated thinkers in their fields-scientists, mathematicians, computer engineers. They are specialists with a glaring weakness: The do not ask the questions of life itself.

I am okay with meaninglessness!
(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi @heywesleyc,

Thank you for raising such an interesting question for us! I appreciate your willingness to be available to God and passion to share the gospel!

Depending on the situation, I might share something like this (in a conversational way):

Yes, that is what God made us for - to do good and to live a good life. The good news is that this desire can be fulfilled through knowing Christ.

The Bible says that God wants to help you, on this earth, to do good and to live a good life. The Bible says that God forgives us when you fall short and do bad - as we all do. The Bible says that you can join with God and all of his people in doing good and living good for eternity. Death doesn’t have to be the end and the destruction of all the good we’ve done in this world.

Knowing that God is preparing us for eternity actually gives us a stronger motivation to love others now, and to make this world a better place, because we know that what we are participating in God’s plan to restore all things.

Instead of feeling like we have to do this by ourselves, and ignore all the ways that we are selfish and do bad, we can come clean, be honest, and confess our sins to God. He will forgive us, restore us, and send us into the world to accomplish his good mission.

The real question we all have to face is this: will we define what it looks like to do good? Or will we humbly come before God, who is completely good, and ask him to show us what it looks like to live a good life?

Possibly, some of those thoughts could be helpful in a few of the conversations you are having?

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #4

I’d ask people who answer like that Greg Koukl’s Colombo tactics to get a better scope about what they believe and why:

What do you mean by that? (i.e. what do you mean by “a good person”)

How did you come to that conclusion? (i.e. why do think living a good life is meaningful?)

Get to know their worldview by using questions and keep the conversation going. This a great way to for you to know what they believe and why, but it also gets them thinking about what they believe as well. We all can be guilty of holding unwarranted beliefs because we haven’t given what ever it is much thought.

(Stephen Wuest) #5

NIV Matthew 19:17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

I would ask what they mean by “good.”
“Good” from whose perspective?
If we have an eternal spirit and eternal existence, what does it mean to be good (eternally)?
If God exists, then what does he call “good?”

(Cameron Kufner) #6

Great question. I would say that, just in general, we all feel that way. We all want to be a good person a live the kind of life that good people lead. If we’re talking about the context of salvation, then noone could measure up. That’s why we need Jesus! Paul reaffirms this truth in the 3rd chapter of Romans, verse 23. If we could measure up, there would be no need for a savior. There would be no need for a new covenant! several times throughout the NT it mentions that God had to create a new covenant because mankind turned away from God and did not faithfully keep the old covenant agreements. God was not satisfied with burnt offerings, sin offerings, animal sacrifices, etc. (Although it was required in the law of Moses) That’s why he sent Jesus to be the once and for all times sacrifice for sins. You can find these truths in Hebrews 8,9,10, as well as throughout Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, The Gospels, etc. We must understand the old covenant before we can understand the new covenant. Like John MacArthur has said: “I could not be a Christian if it weren’t for the old testament.” For many reasons this is true. To name a few, if it weren’t for the old testament prophecies, we would have no idea that Jesus would be the Messiah. To add to that, we would have no idea a Messiah was even on his way if it wasn’t for the prophecies foretelling the coming Messiah/Savior of the world. Also, if we have no concept/understanding of the old covenant, we cannot fully understand the new covenant that Jesus has made between God and mankind. Jesus is our mediator. The new covenant is much better than the old! The old testament was only a shadow of the things to come, and in the new covenant established by Jesus the veil was lifted and the old testament shadow was removed. Now it’s something we can all see because of Christ. The old covenant is now obsolete because of the work of Christ.

You can tell them that there’s no problem with wanting a good life or to be a good person, but only Jesus can give them life and life more abundantly. They must not fall into the mindset, that is a trap from Satan, of “What can God do for me?” But instead they must constantly ask “What can I do for God?”

Great question and God bless!

(Scott Dockins) #7


Below is an essay that was written by C.S. Lewis addressing the question of whether a person/s can live a good life apart from God.

I will let the text speak for itself, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

I will attach the PDF “God of the Docks,” a collection of theological and ethical essays by C.S. Lewis, including the essay "Man or Rabbit and, a link to a Youtube video of Daniel Mumby impersonating Lewis while reading the same essay.

A Collection of C.S. Lewis Works.pdf (1.1 MB)

CAN’T YOU LEAD A GOOD LIFE WITHOUT BELIEVING IN Christianity?" This is the question on which I have been asked to write, and straight away, before I begin trying to answer it, I have a comment to make. The question sounds as if it were asked by a person who said to himself, “I don’t care whether Christianity is in fact true or not. I’m not interested in finding out whether the real universe is more like what the Christians say than what the materialists say. All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think them true but because I find them helpful.” Now frankly, I find it hard to sympathize with this state of mind. One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.
As soon as we have realized this, we realize something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live forever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organizations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be “good” or “bad” simply insofar as it helps or hinders that kind of “happiness.”
Now there are quite a lot of things which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the materialist would simply ask about a proposed action, “Will it increase the happiness of the majority?” the Christian might have to say, “Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.” And all the time, one great difference would run through their whole policy. To the materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy-odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day.
The Christian and the materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.
With the best will in the world… then it won’t be his fault. Surely God (if there is a God) will not punish a man for honest mistakes? But was that all you were thinking about? Are we ready to run the risk of working in the dark all our lives and doing infinite harm, provided only someone will assure us that our own skins will be safe, that no one will punish us or blame us? I will not believe that the reader is quite on that level. But even if he were, there is something to be said to him.
The question before each of us is not, “Can someone lead a good life without Christianity?” The question is, “Can I?” We all know there have been good men who were not Christians; men like Socrates and Confucius who had never heard of it, or men like J.S. Mill who quite honestly couldn’t believe it. Supposing Christianity to be true, these men were in a state of honest ignorance or honest err6r. If their intentions were as good as I suppose them to have been (for of course I can’t read their secret hearts), I hope and believe that the skill and mercy of God will remedy the evils which their ignorance, left to itself, would naturally produce both for them and for those whom they influenced. But the man who asks me, “Can’t I lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” is clearly not in the same position. If he hadn’t heard of Christianity he would not be asking this question. If, having heard of it, and having seriously considered it, he had decided that it was untrue, then once more he would not be asking the question. The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true. He is really asking, “Need I bother about it? Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being ‘good’? Aren’t good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn’t someone inside?”
To such a man it might be enough to reply that he is really asking to be allowed to get on with being “good” before he has done his best to discover what good means. But that is not the whole story. We need not inquire whether God will punish him for his cowardice and laziness; they will punish themselves. The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately “forgets” to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him.
The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity. Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed—"Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him."1 But to evade the Son of man, to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.
But still—for intellectual honor has sunk very low in our age—I hear someone whimpering on with his question, “Will it help me? Will it make me happy? Do you really think I’d be better if I became a Christian?” Well, if you must have it, my answer is “Yes.” But I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage. Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal “sell” on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a
rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug? Faced with such an issue, can you really remain wholly absorbed in your own blessed “moral development”?
All right, Christianity will do you good—a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy thatl the fact that what you have hitherto called “good”-all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind”—isn’t quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be remade. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.
“When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” The idea of reaching “a good life” without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are “done away” and the rest is a matter of flying.

(Tim Ramey) #8

Hey Wesley
Years ago, I went door to door talking about Jesus. Your question was the most prevailing attitude. Everyone thought that life meant just being a good person. I’d recommend a short little book by Andy Stanley called, “How Good is good enough?” I bought 100 of them to give away as they are a short read and he tackles the question, beginning from a non-Christian stance and takes you right through to the gospel, I highly recommend it.

(Wesley Chandler) #9

Wow guys! I’m so thankful for all your response! I’m sorry I haven’t had time to reply. It has been quite a ride being on the field. I actually got diagnosed with Giardia (which is an intestinal parasite) which has put me out for a while and admitted to the hospital for a day. But God is moving here, and I have seen kingdom come in so many ways!

Thank you for all your heartful response. It will help me guide those around me towards Jesus and eternal purpose!

1 Like
(Tim Ramey) #10

Read that book that I mentioned in the prior post Wesley. It’s a quick read and does a thorough job. You’ll appreciate it, I’m sure.

Sorry about your Giardia - that is no fun! I’ve known people who have gotten that parasite. Take care brother!