Christians: "Good People" With "Good Hearts?"
By: Steve Shirley
A few friends and I were recently discussing a popular book for men (that I had not read) in which the author claims that once a person is saved, they should, in essence, no longer believe they are evil sinners with wicked hearts, but rather, should think of themselves as good people with good hearts. I was intrigued. This ran contrary to what I believed, but I wasn't sure why I believed it, so I set out to see what the Bible had to say on this. Let me state upfront, some may not agree with my position, but here is how I view what the Bible has to say concerning this matter.
Let me begin with a few Bible verses on the condition of man's heart:
(Eccl 9:3) ...the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
(Jer 17:9) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Mt 15:19-20) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (20) these are the things which defile a man: (also see: Mk 7:21-23)
(Gen 6:5) And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (also see: Gen 8:21)
And, here are some verses on why it doesn't appear that man is good:
(Mt 19:17) And he (Jesus) said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: (also see: Lk 18:19)
(Eccl 7:20) For there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
(Rom 3:12) ...there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (also see: Ps 14:1,3 Ps 53:1,3)
Clearly, based on these verses (and there are many others), man is neither good, nor has a good heart. BUT, does this apply to Christians, or just to non-Christians? I believe these verses apply to both, but there is one word that makes a key difference between Christians and non-Christians: IMPUTE. Impute means to have something counted or credited to a person's account. What this means to a Christian, in the simplest sense, is that Jesus' perfect righteousness, sinlessness, and goodness is credited to those who are born again and have surrendered their lives to Jesus. Paul speaks a great deal about this in several places in the Bible. Let's look at a few.
(2 Cor 5:19,21) to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them... (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
(Rom 4:7-8) saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (also see: Ps 32:1-2)
(Rom 4:24-25) but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
And, James said of Abraham:
(James 2:23) ... Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness...
For more on imputation, read all of Romans 4. (also see: Isa 53:6, 1 Cor 1:30, Phil 3:9)
In other words, there is NOTHING good or acceptable or righteous about us, it is ALL about Jesus living the perfect life we could NEVER live, and His righteousness is imputed to us. God doesn't see us, He sees the blood. We have a great example of this in (Ex 12:1-32). These verses form the basis of what we celebrate today as the Passover. God told the Israelites to place the blood of an unblemished lamb on the top and sides of the doorpost of their houses. Those that had the blood over the doorpost would not face the judgment that God was bringing. When God went through the city in judgment, He did not look at who was in the house or what the people in the house were like, but rather, He simply saw the blood. This pictures Jesus today. It is not about who we are or what we do, it is about what Jesus, the unblemished lamb of God, does for us. His blood covers us.
Those who know me very well realize that there is one thing that pushes my buttons and sets me off more than anything, and that is when one group of people tries to set themselves above another group of people in some way, be it racially, in gender, in spiritual gifts, denominationally, in claiming God chooses them over someone else, etc... And, in my opinion, this topic is another example. Do we, as Christians, really believe we are better than non-Christians?? Can we really see ourselves as good, and they as bad? Is it not prideful to think there is something "good" about us that makes us acceptable to God? Is it not prideful to think that because God dwells in us as Christians, it makes us good or better than the non-Christians?
Let me give two quotes here from my favorite
Christian theologian, Jonathan Edwards.
The first is from his sermon, "The Portion Of The Righteous."
(He poses a comment on what someone might say and then answers it.)
"It is not too great to be bestowed on others, yet it seems incredible that God should ever give such glory to such an one as I am, that am so mean, and so worthless, and vile. I not only was once unworthy, but I am so unworthy still, I am so blind, I have so much sin, and so little goodness, I commit so much sin, and do so little good, that it appears incredible that I should have a title to such blessedness. I can far more easily think that others will possess it than myself." (Answer) It is no way incredible that infinite grace should bestow it on the meanest and unworthiest. God's design is to glorify his free grace, and this is one way by which free grace is glorified, viz, by bestowing such blessedness on the most unworthy.
A second quote comes from his teaching called "Religious Affections." "...it is a mysterious thing which has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, the saving grace of God and the new divine nature, dwelling with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in the heart of the same saint."
So... the question might be asked, the Bible says we are new creatures or creations in Christ and old things are passed away and all things become new (2 Cor 5:17). Doesn't this mean we can now be considered good? No... When we are born again, we do become a new creature, but this does not mean we are no longer "your name," with our sinful thoughts, lusts, and carnal (worldly, fallen, non-spiritual) nature, but rather, our position changes. We become a member of the family of God, a child of God. We are adopted into God's family (Eph 1:6)(Rom 8:15)(Gal 4:5). For example, picture a real life adoption of a child. When a child is adopted into a loving family, the child does not give up his identity, but instead, his position changes. He is still the same person he was before (with the same thoughts and nature), but he is a part of a new family now.
When we are adopted into God's family, the change that occurs is that our DESIRE is different. While our carnal, sinful nature remains, we now have a new desire to please God and live for Him. We don't do this out of obligation, but out of our love for God. We begin to detest the sin in our lives because it separates us from God (Jn 9:31)(Isa 59:2)(Ps 66:18)(Prov 15:29). This "new desire" is a sign that we have been adopted into God's family, because one of the actions of the Holy Spirit that lives in a believer is to convict us of our sins (Jn 16:8).
Let me add here, for those of you who have been born again and become a child of God, do NOT come to doubt your salvation because you cannot get free from the bondage of sins you have struggled with. Surrendering one's life to Christ does NOT mean that we are automatically freed from sinful strongholds in our lives (although for some this does happen), but rather, it means that we now have a new power living inside of us (through the Holy Spirit) to help us overcome these sinful strongholds. God looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7)(1 Kin 8:39)(Lk 16:15)(Acts 1:24). When we are repentant and sorrowful for our sins, God sees this in our heart and He will work in those who are His children in Christ. When our "desire" is to continue in a sin, with no remorse, that is the sign of a person who isn't a child of God.
In addition, when we are adopted into God's family, the "old things that are passed away" are NOT our sinful thoughts, lusts, and carnal nature, but rather, our life up to that point is passed away. EVERYTHING that we have done prior to being born again is forgiven and in the past! This is an AWESOME moment for all Christians! The slate is wiped TOTALLY clean, no matter what sins we have committed. Amazing... This is what it means to be a new creature in Christ.
You might also be thinking, the Bible says that when we become a new creation, we have a new and cleansed heart, so can't we be considered good as a result? No... What we need to understand, as Edwards stated, and the verses quoted at the beginning of this study said, our hearts are still wicked and full of evil. What happens, when born again, is that our heart, as well as our mind and will, are regenerated. Another word that can be used for regenerated is renewed. What this means is that our hearts are not replaced, but they are changed. The Bible says that all men are dead in our trespasses (Eph 2:1,5)(Col 2:13). When we are born again, our hearts are no longer dead, but made ALIVE. We have the same heart, but the heart is renewed. For a kind of crude example, picture a man in a hospital who suddenly has a heart attack and dies. After he dies, the doctors rush to his bedside and use a defibrillator to bring him back to life. The man still has the same heart he had before he died, the heart was simply renewed or given new life. We also have the same heart we had before we were born again, but it is renewed. However, when our heart is renewed, the Holy Spirit is the "doctor" who brings it to life (Jn 6:63)(Jn 3:5)(Rom 8:11), and at that moment we are born again. In addition, once we are brought to life, we continue to be renewed day by day: (2 Cor 4:16) For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
David was a man who was filled with the Spirit. However, he realized that even through the Spirit dwelled in him, his heart was unclean and sinful and he asked God for a renewal of his heart and spirit.
(Ps 51:9-11) Hide not thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. (10) Create in me a clean heart of God; And renew a right spirit within me. (11) Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me.
What about (Rom 6:6-7), you ask, which says, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (7) For he that is dead (in Christ) is freed from sin?"
Doesn't this mean that our old man (our carnal and sinful nature) is dead and that we can be declared a new and "good" man? No... Actually, there are two other verses that mention the old man in the New Testament, and they clearly show that the old man isn't dead in a Christian.
(Eph 4:22-24) that YE PUT OFF concerning the former conversion the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; (23) AND BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND; (24) AND THAT YE PUT ON THE NEW MAN, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (caps emphasis mine)
(Col 3:9-10) Lie not one to another, seeing that YE HAVE PUT OFF THE OLD MAN WITH HIS DEEDS; (10) AND HAVE PUT ON THE NEW MAN, which is RENEWED in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (caps emphasis mine)
If we put these verses together, we get a clear picture of the "old man." (Rom 6:6-7) tells us that we are freed from sin and no longer need to serve sin when in Christ. However, this does NOT mean that our old man, with it's carnal and sinful nature is dead. It means that we now have the power in us to help us overcome this nature, which we did not have before Christ. If the old man was dead, or our sinful nature gone, WE would not need to PUT ON the NEW MAN and be renewed as (Eph 4:22-24) and (Col 3:9-10) tell us to do. It is also quite apparent that Paul is speaking to Christians in (Col 3) because he says they had already put on the "new man." However, it appears that according to verses 8 & 9 that they still needed to put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, and lying. Apparently, the "old man" might still have been a problem for them. Through Christ, and the Holy Spirit working in us, we can PUT OFF the old man through prayer, confession of sin, repentance, learning to die to our wants and desires (Gal 5:24)(Col 3:5)(Eph 4:22) and seeking to do ALL things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31)(Col 3:17,23).
Some, including the author of the book mentioned at the beginning, also seek to make a distinction between the heart and flesh, quoting (Rom 7:20) which says, "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." In other words, they would take this verse to say, "I didn't do it because I am good and my heart is good, but my flesh, which isn't really me did it. I guess a clearer way to say it would be, "the devil made me do it." Is Paul trying to abdicate responsibility for his sinful nature by saying in this and other verses in (Rom 7) that it really isn't him doing it, but his flesh? I think we can see in (Rom 7:14) that Paul takes responsibility saying "I am carnal." Is Paul trying to make a distinction between the heart and the flesh? I don't believe so. Does the Bible ever make a distinction between the heart and the flesh? I know of no place that does.
The Bible DOES say the war is between our Spirit and flesh (Rom 8:1,4-5,9,13)(Gal 5:16-25). And, Paul has this to say about the war: if we "walk in the spirit, we will not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16), and, "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). (Gal 5:25) continues saying, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Walking in the Spirit helps us to stop doing that which we do not wish to do in our "new man" or our renewed, but still sinful, heart.
Claiming one part of us is good and another part of us is evil is a dangerous thing. In the past, certain Greeks in pre-Christian and early Christian times, tried to make a distinction between spirit (which was good) and matter (which was evil) and it was called dualism. This later became the basis for what was known as Gnosticism, which held man was body, soul (both bad), and spirit, and what was essential for salvation was for the spirit in man to be awakened by special knowledge (limited to a small group of people) of God and spiritual truth. (Of course... this allowed all kinds of sinful behavior for most, since it didn't matter how they lived because their bodies [matter] were evil anyway.)
OK... why does the Bible call some people good, righteous, just, and upright? This is the question I have had the most difficult time answering for myself. After all, Zacharias and Elizabeth (Lk 1:6), Abel (Heb 11:41)(1 Jn 3:12), Lot (2 Pet 2:7-8), and David (1 Kin 3:6) were called righteous. Noah (Gen 6:9), Simeon (Lk 2:25), and John the Baptist (Mk 6:20) were called just. Joseph of Arimathea (Lk 23:50), and Barnabas (Acts 11:24) were called good men. God even called Job a perfect and upright man (Job 1:8)(Job 2:3).
If the Bible says these things about these men, can't they be said of us as well? I believe we need to look at why these people were described with these traits. Was it because these characteristics described the condition of their heart? I don't think so. As we have already established, our heart is wicked and evil. They were described with these characteristics based on two main things I believe.
First, they were based on the outward actions that these people showed in the way they lived their lives. Often, they stood out from others around them by these actions and lifestyles. Think about the heroes of faith in the Bible. What set them apart? They had faith and trusted in God (the second characteristic which we will discuss in a bit), but it was also a lifestyle they lived. Hebrews 11 discusses some of these heroes of the faith. Let's look at what made some of them heroes.
Abel (by faith) offered a more excellent sacrifice.
Enoch (by faith) pleased God.
Noah (by faith) obeyed God.
Abraham (by faith) obeyed God and trusted God by offering to sacrifice Isaac.
Jacob (by faith) worshipped God.
Joseph (by faith) gave instructions about his bones (where he wanted to be buried).
Moses (by faith) refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, left Egypt, and kept the Passover.
Rahab [a prostitute] (by faith) protected God's people.
What do all of these have in common? They were all ACTIONS. Things that they did. These actions were the characteristics that were used to define and describe them. I believe this is exactly why these people above were called good, righteous, just, and upright. The Bible writers were describing their actions and lifestyles. Clearly, we can see that many of them did some pretty bad things: i.e. David committed adultery and murder, Lot chose to dwell in a city filled with ungodly people and slept with his two daughters. God described Job as perfect and upright, in the beginning of the book of Job, but later rebuked Job causing him to repent (more on this below). In fact, it is said that the only two major characters in the Bible that had nothing negative said about them were Daniel and Joseph (although Joseph married the daughter of a priest named Poti-pherah, who was part of a cult that worshipped a sun god: Gen 41:44-45).
However, these people had faith in, and trusted God. As we discussed earlier, God knows our heart. David, in spite of the evil acts he committed from a sinful heart, was also called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22)(1 Sam 13:14). Why? Because he had a desire to confess and repent of his sins and serve the Lord continually. His heart was fully committed to the Lord. I believe this goes in conjunction with the actions of all that are called good, righteous, just, and upright in the Bible, they came from a heart that was on fire for the Lord. In fact, God has contempt for those who are lukewarm in their faith (Rev 3:15-16). I believe this is why the Bible uses these positive traits to describe people; the desire of their heart is to have faith in and trust God, and the actions that result from this desire are the fruit by which other's judged that faith.
There is also a common thread among these people who are described as good, righteous, just, and upright in the verses above. They were not proclaiming these attributes about themselves, but others said it about them. It is one thing when others are stating positive attributes about us, it is another when we start believing or proclaiming them about ourselves.
I read an interview recently with a very well known Christian musician. He was stating that one of his biggest struggles is with personal pride. He said people everywhere are always telling him how great he is and how he has changed their lives (mine included). He replied that he has to keep in mind all the time that it is the Lord's work, and he is just a conduit through whom the Lord is working. What if this man started to believe all of these compliments that are said about him, or started proclaiming what they telling him? What if he started saying, "I am great and have changed people's lives because of Jesus working in me?" What would we think about that statement? What would people have thought if the men in the Bible started proclaiming all of the positive attributes said about them?
As I discussed this topic with some friends, an example was given to me which caused me to pause and reflect on it. In essence, it was said, let's use a real life family. If I, as a father, call my child good, and praise him for being good, he then comes to believe he is good, and can declare he is good, because his father has called him good, and there is nothing wrong with that. And, I don't think our Father in Heaven wants us, as His kids, to call ourselves dirty, rotten sinners either. At first, this seemed plausible to me. However, if we carry out this analogy from the point of view we are discussing, it falls apart. Using this example, if we tell our child that he is "good" from our viewpoint as the father, and he should not call or think of himself as a dirty, rotten sinner because he is our kid, then we would also have to state the opposite viewpoint from a Godly perspective... i.e. those who aren't my kids ARE dirty, rotten sinners because I am not their father. In other words... as children of God (Christians), we are better than those who aren't (non-Christians). As I have already stated, I just see this as wrong from a Biblical perspective.
*** Note: Clearly we need to exhort, praise, and affirm our children for who they are, for their positive actions, and when they attempt to live in a way they see as good. I am simply saying that these actions do not change the fact that we are all born as sinners (Ps 51:5)(Isa 48:8) and need Jesus' imputed righteousness to make us acceptable to our Father in Heaven.
There ARE three places I found (there may be others) where great men of the Bible do appear to be boasting about their positive attributes: David (Ps 18:20-24)(2 Sam 22:20-25), Job (Job 9:21, 10:7, 27:6, 29:14)(and others), and Paul (2 Cor 11:16-23). How do we explain these? I am not going to go into great detail here, but let's briefly look at each in it's context.
David's words were a part of a thanksgiving song to God for victory over his enemies. What David is saying, I believe is to contrast his motives and desires for serving the Lord against those of the Lord's enemies. He realized that the Lord gave him the victory, that he obeyed the Lord's directives during the fight, that he sought God's will during the fight, and that God rewarded him for his faithfulness. It wasn't about David himself being better than his enemies (because God had chosen him), but it was about his blamelessness in his conduct vs that of his enemies. (Note: One commentary claims that these are prophetic verses not even pertaining to David.)
Job called himself blameless, not guilty, and righteous. He made these claims in response to the attacks his "friends" were making on his character. They believed the trials Job was facing were due to something he had done wrong in God's eyes. We know this not to be true though from what God said about Job in Job 1 and 2. However, although Job was right in what he said in defense of himself, I believe God was not at all pleased with Job's high opinion of himself. When God finally speaks in Job 40 and 41, what does He say? Basically, it is a whole litany of "can you do this" questions to Job, spoken, I believe, to humble Job's opinion of himself. How did Job respond to these questions? (Job 42:6) Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent, In dust and ashes.
As for Paul, and his boasting, it seems quite apparent that it pains Paul to have to resort to boasting about himself. He says, to begin the chapter:
"bear with me a little in my folly (foolishness)" (11:1)
"Let no man think me a fool" (11:16)
"That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord (not speaking as the Lord would)" (11:17)
"I speak foolishly" (11:22)
Why is Paul boasting at all? False apostles were deceiving the Corinthians through false teaching and acting as "ministers of righteousness" (11:15). Some translations call them "super apostles." By sounding more knowledgeable, speaking better, and boasting about their credentials, they were making Paul (and therefore his TRUE message of the gospel) seem inferior. Paul had to lower himself to boasting about his credentials in order to show he was NOT inferior to these "super apostles," but rather, he had even more credentials. Why? Quite simply, to show that the message he was preaching was not a lie (11:31).
*** Note: However, Paul saw no problem in boasting about others, as he did, for example, with the Corinthians (2 Cor 7:14, 8:24, 9:2-4).
Martin Luther had one of the best quotes I have ever seen regarding Christians. We are "snow covered dung." I don't think it could be said any more clearly or concisely. Abraham referred to himself as nothing more than dust and ashes (Gen 18:27). I can't speak for you, but as for me, I agree with Paul that, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; OF WHOM I AM THE CHIEF" (1 Tim 1:15)(caps emphasis mine). I am one who, as John the Baptist said, is unworthy to stoop down and even unloose the latchet of Jesus' shoes (Mt 3:11)(Mk 1:8)(Lk 3:15)(Jn 1:27).
I am sure many of you are now thinking, "How can you EVER be happy, you must be depressed all of the time thinking like this." Let me tell you why I am not. Joy and happiness are not the same Biblically. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Eph 5:22)(1 Th 1:6). There is unspeakable (inexpressible) joy in Christ (1 Pet 1:8). There is fullness of joy in God's presence (Ps 16:11). Joy is described as everlasting (Isa 51:11)(Isa 35:10). One of the main reasons we should have joy is because our names are written in Heaven (Lk 10:20). Joy is not tied to the things of this world, but to God. Happiness is tied to the things of this world. Happiness is fleeting, however, there is exceeding joy in God (Ps 43:4). (Neh 8:10) says, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength." One of Satan's main objectives is to steal our joy, because when he does this, he can steal our strength. However, if we are obeying God's commandments (Jn 15:11), praying in Jesus' name (Jn 16:24), and in fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:4), our joy will be full.
I spent much of my life searching for happiness. I tried just about everything the "world" said would make me happy, but the happiness was short-lived, and I was back to a feeling of emptiness again in a short time. I was quite depressed as a result. I never realized what I lacked in my life was joy. When I surrendered my life to Christ on Oct 27, 1994 at a Billy Graham Crusade, the one thing that changed in me immediately was I had a peace I had never had before. OH, what joy came with that! I have faced a number of trials in my life since I gave my life to Christ that night, but the Lord has carried me through each one and given me peace in the midst of them. As I grow in the Lord, I become more and more aware of how much for which I have to be thankful. SO, how can I be content and not depressed when I consider myself snow covered dung? Because I am filled with joy and peace by believing in Him (Rom 15:13). I have peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7) in Jesus Christ (Jn 14:27)(Jn 16:33)(Acts 10:36)(Rom 5:1).
In addition, there are SO many other reasons why I am thankful, and why you should be thankful as well, in spite of our unworthiness.
God loves us (Jn 3:16)(Rom 5:8)(Titus 3:4-5)(1 Jn 4:8-11)
God has given us grace (unmerited favor despite who we are or what we deserve) (Eph 2:5-8)(Rom 5:15-17)(Titus 3:7)(Rom 3:24)(2 Cor 8:9)(Acts 15:11)
The Bible says in (Jn 15:13-14) "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (14) Ye are my friends..." (Jn 10:11) says, "I (Jesus) am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (also see: 1 Jn 3:16, Rom 5:7-8, Gal 2:20) Jesus gave His life for us... He suffered for us (Acts 26:23)(1 Pet 2:21,23)(1 Pet 3:18)(1 Pet 4:1), and bore our sins on the cross (1 Pet 2:24)(Gal 3:13). Because of this sacrifice, we can have eternal life (Rom 6:23)(Jn 3:15-16)(Jn 10:28)(1 Jn 5:11-13,20).
Jesus is continually making intercession for us (Rom 8:34)(Heb 7:25)(1 Jn 2:1)(Heb 9:24).
Jesus calls us brothers (Mt 12:50)(Heb 2:11-12,17)(Rom 8:29)(Mt 28:10)(Jn 20:17).
Jesus has given us an abundant life (Jn 10:10).
God has given each of us spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-7)(Eph 4:7)(Rom 12:4-6).
God has given us beauty for ashes (Isa 61:3).
God has given us a sound mind (1 Tim 1:7) and sound wisdom (Prov 2:7).
God will turn our mourning into dancing (Ps 30:11).
God has blessed us (Mt 5:1-11)(Rom 4:7-8)(Eph 1:3)(Ps 32:1-2)(Ps 84:4-5)(Jn 20:29)(James 1:12).
In Christ's name (Jn 14:13)(Jn 15:16)(Jn 16:26), we can go to God in prayer ANYTIME with any need.
God gives us:
comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4)(2 Cor 7:6)(Isa 51:12)
rest (Mt 11:28-29)(Heb 4:1-11)(Jer 6:16)
protection (Ps 144:2)(2 Sam 22:2)(Prov 30:5)(Jer 16:19)
hope (Ps 71:5)(Ps 146:5)(Rom 8:24-25)(1 Tim 1:1)(1 Pet 1:21)
refuge and strength (Ps 46:1)(Ps 62:7)
Thankfully, these attributes also describe God:
He is longsuffering (2 Pet 3:9-15)(1 Tim 1:16)(Ex 34:6)(Num 14:18)(Jer 15:15).
He is patient (Rom 15:5).
He is slow to anger (Neh 9:17)(Ps 103:8)(Ps 145:8)(Joel 2:13)(Jon 4:2)(Nahum 1:3).
He is gracious and merciful (2 Chr 30:9)(Ps 103:8)(Joel 2:13)(Neh 9:17,31)(Jon 4:2).
He is compassionate (Ps 78:38)(Ps 86:15)(Ps 111:4)(Ps 112:4)(Lam 3:32).
What an incredible God we serve... I am so grateful for those last five attributes of God. It is a fearful thing to consider where I would be if they were not a part of God's loving nature.
Let us never consider ourselves as good and someone else bad. This is exactly what Jesus addressed in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in (Lk 18:9-14). The Pharisee, believing he was righteous in God's eyes prayed to God saying, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess" (Lk 18:11-12). (Lk 18:13) continues, "And the publican standing afar off, would not lift so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." And, what did Jesus say about the publican? (Lk 18:14) "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
May we all be as the publican, and humble ourselves as the unworthy sinners we are before the Lord. Let us be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Pet 5:5). (also see: James 4:6) Let us remember Paul's words in (Acts 20:19) and serve the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears. Jesus must increase, and we must decrease (Jn 3:30).
Let me close with several more verses to keep in mind.
(Gal 6:3) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
(Isa 64:6) But we are all as an unclean thing, And all of our righteousness are as filthy rags; And we do fade as a leaf; And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
(Jer 9:23-24) Thus saith the Lord, Let not the rich man glory in his riches: (24) But let him that glorieth glory in this, That he understandeth and knoweth me, That I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: For in these things I delight saith the Lord.
(Rom 12:3) For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.