The Tragedy of Good Men

The power of the Gospel is clearly revealed when a man who lived an evil life turns around to follow Jesus. This is why we love apostle Paul’s story. We love hearing those kinds of testimonies that say I was a completely different person before I met Jesus. I was a drunkard, a murderer, a corrupt police officer, a prostitute, and a womanizer. These are the people we call in open-air meetings to show what the Gospel can do.

But what about those who were generally considered to be good people? Those of us who were good boys and girls? Was the Gospel less effective? I meet many people who find it hard to share their stories of conversion because it doesn’t seem as eventful. People already thought they were born again. I bet there are unbelieving friends in our lives who we have not shared the Gospel with because we can’t see what difference it’ll make. They are already good people and better than most Christians. We probably think God will reconsider them and be moved by their “goodness”. But is that right?

The Bible says All Men are Wicked

The Bible has a different view of such people. It still calls them sinners desperately in need of the Gospel. And not only them even the little innocent children we call angels. It says all men, and that means all men, are wicked, see Romans 3:10-12. That the hearts of unregenerate men manufacture evil even from the best of us, see Mark 7:20-23. Can you believe that? What’s wrong with the Bible? Do you mean the Mother Teresas of this world have not done enough to earn salvation? What about that guy who never hurt anyone and always provided for his family? That man who rescued many homeless children. That woman who served his family wholeheartedly while living with an abusive husband? She too won’t be reconsidered? She too is evil?

The truth is at first many people seem good when looking from a human perspective. The reason we struggle to share the story of that good fellow who became a Christian is that we don’t see his heart. We cannot see how he too should be classified with other wretched sinners. But if we did a moral scan of his heart we would see his self-centeredness, his pride, anger, evil thoughts, and pure hypocrisy. The problem is we value people by what they’ve done outwardly and judge them as good. We use the litmus test of our society not what God sees and says in his word. Because of this many cannot accept that God will send good people to hell. They might be convinced the corrupt politician deserves it but not the philanthropist who rejected the Gospel. Surely God cannot judge them the same way.

What about Good Christians?

It is worse when Christians believe this lie. When we think that now that we have believed especially after we were already good people we no longer need the Gospel. When we convince ourselves to be okay and only think of the Gospel in light of the obviously wicked men out there. I’m always amazed at how lacking we can be in our self-awareness. Many people honestly don’t think they need the Gospel. But the man who cannot see how short they fall before the grace of God is a man who doesn’t know himself and doesn’t know God. It should be the case that as we read the word we see our own sin even more profoundly and the need for the Gospel more clearly. I think more Christians should come out of a Gospel sharing broken by their sin however small it seems to the public eye and overjoyed by the mercy of God who died to save sinners like us.

The tragedy of good men is that they are gods to themselves. They judge themselves and render themselves worthy in front of their own eyes. They are self-righteous men who don’t believe they need salvation. When the Gospel is preached they think about other men seeing that they don’t need such a desperate rescue. They prepare sermons for others, they do discipleship with others in mind and when the call to service comes they think you should speak to another as they are doing well already. If our Gospel sharing doesn’t have these people in mind in a country that is largely Christian then we’ll have missed the dark forest for the obvious bad tree. Good men need the Gospel like everyone else and we need to work even harder to show them this need.

Need for Self Introspection

In a world full of distractions and voices that tell us exactly what we need to hear it’s hard to do a regular self-evaluation of our lives, our motivations and the reality of the world within us. We can very easily come to believe in a better version of ourselves than we really are. The stories people tell us about ourselves especially if we are in positions of public ministry become the stories we believe about ourselves. Soon we start believing the lie that we have arrived, that God is lucky to have us on his side, and when we read the Bible we don’t hear the Spirit convicting us of our respectable sins. We become blind to who we are and what we need. We forget that we still have sin within us and the sanctifying Gospel is still our greatest need.

I pray that the day will never come when I outgrow my need for the Saviour and his Gospel message. I would rather I have too much Gospel, a constant reminder of my shortcomings than to fall on the pulpit of a good name. Can you imagine what a tragedy that would be? That my tomb reads here lies a good man only for my name to miss in the book of life? What a tragedy this will be? To build a profile with the world and yet miss the darkness of sin within. To stumble on respectable sins with the applause of public ministry. May the Lord help us because it’s very easy to miss this. May he quicken us to agree with John Newton that we are great sinners but Jesus is a great Saviour. Only then will we keep the word of God closer to our hearts and working in our lives not just being a tool for our ministry.

Burn the old Bridge


If we keep looking over our past
Imagining what would have been
Wondering if we are missing out
Longing for what this body craves
Soon we’ll forget the chains of the old slave master
We’ve got to burn that bridge so we never look back


If we keep playing with the fire
Entertaining that old man of sin
Feeding him when he beckons us
Calling it a small slip into old habits
Soon those habits will become our lives
We’ve got to kill that old man and do it daily


How easily we forget the pains of slavery
It fades in our minds and says it wasn’t that bad
There were good things in Egypt we tell ourselves
Looking back on that bridge life doesn’t look so bad
But we should have burnt it when we closed over
We should never make peace with the old man of sin


We will never see what awaits us if we keep looking back
If our gaze is on the old life the new one will fade away
We will make sin into an idol of worship
We will trade off our priceless salvation
But soon we’ll realise how mistaken we are
Burn that bridge down and turn your gaze ahead


Look to the one who freed you from slavery
Look at the peace and joy he gives you in him
See what fellowship we enjoy with him
Walk this new bridge of life everlasting
Walk the path that brings you closer to him
Let you attention be on what he says in his word


Lord help us to kill the love of sinning
Give us your love for righteousness
Cause us to use our energy and time for you
To build bridges for the kingdom that lasts
To demolish ties with Satan and the world
And walk the narrow path that leads to life


Praying for our own Discipleship

So often when we talk about prayer we think material things and don’t get me wrong there’s a place for that. We pray about jobs, financial needs and health matters. It’s a beautiful declaration of our dependence to our heavenly Father. We should pray for material things.

But it’s striking that we would see our need and helplessness in this and not in our need for discipleship. How often do we turn in prayer to ask God’s help to be like his son? When we read his commands do we ask him to help us obey them? As we fight sin do we ask him for help? As we pursue love for neighbor and godliness in our lives do we ask Jesus to create that in us?

Apart from me you can do nothing

Jesus speaking in John 15:5 that passage we love to quote says something striking in light of our own discipleship.

John 15:5-6 NIV
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

That last line of verse 5 is very important because it means whatever Jesus is asking his disciples here before his imminent death at the cross is something they actually can’t do. Yes you heard me right, on their own, whatever he says here they can’t do it.

Let’s see, in the previous chapters he’s asked them to follow his example; to wash each others feet in chapter 13. To love and serve others. By effect this means being willing to die to self to serve others. In chapter 14, they are not to fear but to believe in him who will walk with them and prepare for them a home in heaven. Every fear calls for a faith response. You could say fearing itself is an act of unbelief.

Here in chapter 15 he’s asking for fruit in their lives. He’s saying the branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned. Do you know what he’s saying strictly speaking? If you don’t bear fruit be ready for hell fire. Later he will tell them to be ready to be hated by the world like they hated and persecuted Jesus. Friends I hope I don’t need to convince you further that if you try this by your own might you’ll have a stressful time. It cannot be done.

That sentence, apart from me you can do nothing becomes very important. It means if we are to become true disciples who follow Jesus and bear fruit we need his help. If there’s any hope to obey and serve King Jesus we need his helping hand. So many times he echoes that in this section. That we can ask the Father for help and he’ll help us. The problem is we don’t ask.

But that’s the point friends, try approaching discipleship with your might and grit and see how far you go. It can’t be done. You can’t even do it yourself however committed you are leave alone discipling others.

Have you asked for his help?

So I ask again when is the last time you prayed for your own discipleship? Yes you can ask the Lord for all the material things you need. But have you lately asked the Lord for his help to love others? When was the last time you told Jesus, this sexual sin is becoming a serious thing, help me Jesus. Have you told Jesus you’d love to serve him but you find it hard to love and serve other people? Do you see how you’ve been setting yourself up for failure?

What do you think is missing in your own discipleship? What do you admire and perhaps even feel jealous about others? I know I would love to be more prayerful. But do you know what I realised recently? I had not before asked the Lord to do that for me. To come and say, Lord help me to pray more to you.

Perhaps you’d love to be more committed to his Word. To be like those people who read the Bible cover to cover every year. But have you asked Jesus to help you in this. Maybe you’d love to serve the church more, give more to mission work. A question for you, have you asked for the Father’s help?

Until we understand those words, that apart from him we can do nothing we’ll always try do something in vain. Alternatively, we’ll give up and conclude I’m just not a prayerful man. We might even theologise it that it’s for the Charismatics.

We’ll end up saying I’m not disciplined enough to read the Bible consistently. We can even argue and show why it’s actually not that effective. But before we get there we need to remember discipleship wasn’t meant for the disciplined and strong willed. It’s actually for those weak in spirit. It’s for those who tell the Father, I can’t do it Lord. Help me dear Father!

Respond to his commands with a prayer

Friends before you drown yourself with sorrow or harden your heart to the Saviour’s call ask for his help. Add to your prayers this prayer: Lord make me what you want me to be. Lord, bear in me the fruit you desire. Conform this selfish heart to love and serve others. Make your will what I crave for. Teach this heart to delight in your commands. Help me Lord to be like your son. Help me to obey him. Help me to say his will not mine be done. Learn to pray back what the word commands you before you get on with it.

I think it’ll be a good practice to pray every time we read his word or are convicted about a specific area of discipleship. That’s a good practice in all things but we need to make it true for our personal discipleship. To read Jesus commands and tell him honestly, fulfill that in me or it’s not going to happen.

He says love your neighbor. Tell him how selfish you are and ask for his help. He says we should commit to his mission, remind him how self centered we are and how we need his help. If discipleship will work, if change will ever happen it’ll take Jesus to accomplish it in us. Apart from him we can do nothing.