Christian Counseling: Are People Good or Evil?

Many non-Christians will tell you they think they are good people because of their good works or deeds, while the majority of conservative Christians would likely say that people are intrinsically bad and might even say evil. What do you say? 

Why is it important to know the essence of who we are? Because self-esteem and mental health await an answer, respect and love for others is on the line and eternity lies in the balance. 

Numerous Scripture verses paint a horrific view of  the nature of people: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9); "each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart" (Jeremiah 18:12), "the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil" (Ecclesiastes 9:3); "There is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalms 14:3); "all [are] under sin" (Romans 3:9); and Jesus said, "'If you then being evil'" (Matthew 7:11) and to the rich young ruler He said, "'Why do you call me good? No one is good [Greek--agathos] except God alone'" (Luke 18:19).

Well, it doesn't get any clearer than than, does it? No, unless you consider the following: Jesus said, "'The good man out of the good (agathos) treasure of his heart brings forth what is good (agathos)" (Luke 6:45. The Greek refers to intrinsic moral character, as in Luke 18:19 above); in the parable of the sower we read about the seed falling on "the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good (agathos) heart" (Luke 8:15); Barnabas "was a good (agathos) man" (Acts 11:24); Joseph of Arimathea was "a good  and righteous man" (Luke 23:50); and God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and good (agathos); in creating humanity God said, "it was very good" (Genesis 1:31); and concerning righteousness, the Lord "tests" the righteous (Psalm 11:5) and "loves" them (Psalm 146:8), while many are said to have "performed acts of righteousness" and called righteous--Noah (Genesis 6:9), Simeon (Luke 2:25) and a list of several others with the implication that it is beyond numbering (Hebrews 11:33).

How are we to understand the apparent contradiction that humans are bad as well as good? First, Paul makes a distinction between his carnal (sin) nature and his mind in Romans 7:14-25. With his mind he serves the law of God, while his carnal self serves the law of sin. Thus, we see there is something good and bad within Paul, and us all. We are all at war within ourselves, between the flesh (sin nature) and our spirit, as well as His Spirit. Second, God has done a remarkable work in us and we are not the same; that is, once we are "in Christ." Ephesians 2:5-10 expresses His gracious intervention in the lives of those who believe and have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior--we were "dead in our transgressions," but God "made us alive together with Christ" and made us "His workmanship [or poem]." We are a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17), with a "new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26) and are "adopted" and have become the "children of God" (Romans 8:15, 16). In Christ we are completely forgiven, declared holy and righteous because we are "raised" and "seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).

This is our new identity, "in Christ." Wherein, we no longer mar what God has permanently and perfectly done by reverting back to our old self identity, claiming complete unrighteousness and being wicked-hearted or evil. Yes, the sin nature in us occasionally gets the best of us, but it does not undermine the truth of our new self in Him or the reality that we live in Him 90+ percent of our lives. Upon confession we are quickly forgiven and fully restored by God whose arms are outstretched toward us in complete acceptance and love. With a broad, genuine smile on His face He easily greets and embraces us, His forever children. 

Who will you say you are to Him in prayer and to others, the old self with all its negative attributes or the new, good self in Christ? What do you think God wants you to say? Which one brings Him more glory and you peace? Before Christ a person can only claim to be the old self where sin reigns. After Christ we should only claim to be the new self who is dead to the old self--in deed and self-descriptive word.


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