Can “Good People” Please God?

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

In brief, Paul is saying here in Romans 8:5-17 that those who live according to the sinful nature:

  • Have their minds set on what the nature desires
  • The mind controlled by such is death
  • Are hostile to God
  • Do not submit to God’s Law
  • Cannot submit to God’s Law
  • Do not belong to Christ

I often hear the question, “What about those ‘good people’ who give up their possessions and/or help others?” And they’ll usually give some examples of people they know who do nothing but good in the world, yet reject Christ. Why wouldn’t they go to Heaven? Well, first, we know from John 14:6 that Jesus is the ONLY Way, Truth and Life, and that nobody gets to the Father but through Him.

Second, we know that only those who have accepted Christ have the Holy Spirit inside them, for Jesus is the one who sends Him. We also know this because of the incident in Acts 19 where the previous disciples of John the Baptist were asked about having the Holy Spirit and they said they’re not familiar with it. So Paul explained to them about their baptism, then baptized them in the Trinity and laid hands on them. So though they’d repented of their sins and improved their lives, they never accepted Jesus Christ, He whom John the Baptist had spoken of.

And third, we know that Heaven is not received as a reward, but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. So while doing nice things for others, giving oneself up for others, giving to charities, etc. will get them noticed as good people, people with good hearts, etc., it’s not what will get you into Heaven.

So what I’m trying to get at here is that there are people out there who the world may recognize or claim as “good people”, above and beyond, or exceptional among the rest, but that doesn’t mean they have the Holy Spirit. They may not have even accepted Christ. And according to what Paul’s saying in Romans 8, if they don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them, then they’re still living according to the sinful nature, for if not, then they would have accepted/given their lives to, Jesus.

So even though others may see them as “good people”, there’s still nothing they can do to please God, for they neither will nor can submit to God’s Law, their minds are still set on evil desires, their nature is still hostile towards God and they don’t belong to Christ (also, as you can see, they don’t bring glory to God, but to themselves).

But those who have accepted Christ and have the Holy Spirit:

  • Live in accordance with the Spirit
  • Have their minds set on what the Spirit desires
  • Their minds are life and peace because of righteousness (Romans 4:1-5)
  • God will give life to our mortal bodies
  • Are Children of God (through adoption).

“But wait!” they say, “He’s a good person, for he does this and this, he helps here and there, he gives money here and there and everybody respects him…” So who’s being glorified by all he’s doing? Him or God? I’m going to say this guy because he’s all you’ve talked about. In fact, you’ve already said he’s not a Christian, so he’s doing it all according to his own will and desires. That’s still sin. He neither accepts nor belongs to Christ. He’s not a child of God, for only those who know Christ and have the Holy Spirit are children of God, and only children of God get into Heaven.

I don’t think people understand this: being sent to Hell is not always a punishment for what somebody did in this life, but for what they did NOT do, which is accept the One free ticket to Heaven, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the door, the doorman and the ticket to Heaven. There are no other doors, no other tickets and only 1 guy who will let you in. The doorman’s giving out free tickets! Yet, many choose to either not receive one or they try to work for it. But neither will get you in.

if you don’t know/have Christ, then you neither have the Holy Spirit nor are you righteous in God’s eyes, all of which are necessary to enter into Heaven. If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, then you’re still living according to the sinful nature. And if still by the sinful nature, then not by God’s nature and you won’t be getting into Heaven (unless you change this status by accepting Christ). And if you don’t change your status, then you also have no hope because you’re not saved.

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