October 17, 2014

Christians should be nice, but niceness is not necessarily Christian

Another spiritual danger is dismissing the need for a radical change in the life of those who profess to follow Christ. This radical change involves repenting from sin and self-effort, realizing that nothing I can do will earn or deserve eternal life.

My mother used to think that whoever was ‘nice’ must be a Christian. While she had a loving heart, she didn’t seem to realize that ‘niceness’ can not only be faked, but even if it is real, it is not what gets a person into the kingdom of God.

Jesus said “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17)

Paul echoed it with, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

Eternal life is a gift. It is neither earned nor deserved, only received by faith. And ‘faith’ does not save either; it is merely the means by which the gift is delivered. This gift of life is given in Jesus Christ and is a person. ‘Niceness’ cannot deliver it to us, for if it could, we would definitely boast.

Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) When faith delivers life, change happens. No one can stay the same when given such a gift and such a Person. Rebirth is about receiving Jesus and new life that makes a person a new creature.

Years ago at a writer’s workshop, I said something about being born again and the speaker went ballistic. She said that statement tantamount to claiming there were “two kinds of Christians, those who were born again and those who were not” and then she accused the ‘born again’ kind of being elitist over those who simply believed in God. She began to praise all those ‘nice’ people who were not born again, but who called themselves Christians.

While that may have sounded reasonable to her, the Bible is clear that becoming a Christian is an event. It involves faith, but the Christian faith includes believing what God says about sin and our need for new life. Even those whose faith is a gift from God are not eager to deal with sin, but we must, and we know it. Being nice will not do it.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:18–21)

‘Nice’ people can be nice for several reasons, yet no matter the motivation or the source, without confession of sin, repentance and the new birth, there is no salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit . . .” (Titus 3:5)

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