“I Don’t Feel That I’m Good Enough!”
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
All too many Christians are constantly attacked by feelings of guilt. They look at the Word of God and they see what God requires, and then they look at their lives, and they see a huge gap between what they are and what they’re supposed to be.
If you’ve ever done a careful study of the Ten Commandments, as they’re
explained for us in such great detail in the Westminster Larger Catechism, you know how perfect the law of God requires us to be. And that means you also know how far short you fall of the righteousness that God requires.
Laboring under all this guilt causes many Christians to become spiritually depressed at times. They lack joy in their daily lives. They don’t enjoy their work because they feel like failures at work. They don’t enjoy their families because they feel like failures in their families. They don’t even enjoy going to church to worship God because they just feel more guilty whenever they go to church, especially if the sermon discusses the holy law of God.
There are at least two very good reasons why we must combat this kind of spiritual depression:
First, we must combat spiritual depression for the sake of our own sanity. If we’re spiritually depressed all the time, we fail to know and experience the joy of our salvation. When we’re constantly focusing on our sinfulness and guilt, we’re taking our eyes off Jesus, the source of our only true
And second, we must combat spiritual depression for the sake of God’s glory. Spiritually depressed Christians are unable to attract the world to Christ and to His church. They mope around all the time, never smiling, never laughing, and never shining forth the love of God in their lives. They’re unable to focus all their energies on serving Christ, since they’re so caught up in their own
worthlessness that they just don’t seem to have any energy left to think of
loving or helping anyone else.
There are many contributing factors to spiritual depression, but there’s really only one basic cause: A lack of faith in the Word of God. Such Christians simply fail to appropriate, by faith, those promises and those resources that God’s Word makes available to them.
Picture a soldier in Iraq. He’s all by himself, surrounded by a hundred, big, strong enemies, all armed with huge knives and swords. All the soldier has with which to fight is a small pocket-knife. Oh, he also has a box full of hand
grenades right next to him, but for some reason, he doesn’t seem to know how to use the hand grenades. So he charges forward, doing the best he can, with only the little knife in his hand, out-numbered a hundred to one. So you could say that he has all the resources he needs, and then some, but he
doesn’t utilize them. That box of hand grenades could easily wipe out all of those one hundred soldiers, but he’s trying to defeat them with only a pocket-knife. This, of course, causes him much worry and fear because he’s leaning only on his own, limited resources – the little pocket-knife.
When we become spiritually depressed, as Christians, we’re very much like that soldier. We feel guilty and greatly outnumbered by our own sins, yet we try to lean only on our own resources and our own efforts at righteousness to combat those forces of guilt. We try to do better, but we find that we still continue to sin. And the more we learn of God’s holy and perfect law, the more we realize how far we fall short of obeying it.
What we need to do is to pick up the Word of God, that box full of hand grenades at our side. We need to take out one of those grenades, pull the pin, and toss it at our enemies of guilt! We need to remind ourselves of those powerful Words of God and use them.
Today I want to talk about one of the most powerful hand grenades the Christian will ever know in combating spiritual depression. I’m talking about the doctrine of “justification by faith, apart from observing the law.”
Paul explains this doctrine in our text. First, he makes it very clear that
everyone is a sinner, apart from Christ.
Now some people think that Romans 3:10-18 is a description only of the worst sinners of this world. After all, listen to how Paul describes these people in vv. 13-18, “13 ‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ 14 ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ 15 ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.’ 18 ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”
The Jews thought that that was certainly a fitting description of those unclean Gentiles. We, today, might think that that would be a fitting description of what we might call the “dregs” of society: the hardened criminals, the psychopaths, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, etc.
But Paul is describing, here, every man, woman, and child who is outside of Christ! Every man’s natural born state of righteousness is what’s described in those verses. When we compare our lives, outside of Christ, to that standard of the perfect law of God, which is imprinted on the heart and soul of every man, we become conscious of the fact that we’re all sinners, through and through. There is none righteous – no not one. There is no one who is “good
enough,” when it comes right down to it.
In vv. 19-20, Paul writes, “19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing
the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
Do you realize how much spiritual depression can result from becoming
conscious of such great sin in our lives? Do you know how many countless thousands of men, women, and children, who’ve come to know the law of God in some measure, are still depressed, spiritually, simply because they realize how utterly guilty they are of breaking God’s law? They remind themselves, again and again, “I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. I think evil
thoughts. I speak evil words. I don’t love as I should. I love money or possessions too much. I’m a failure. I don’t pray enough. I don’t read my Bible enough. And on and on…”
So what do they do about it?
They make resolutions. “I’m not going to be like that any more. I’m going to try harder. I’m going to change my life. I’m going to turn over a new leaf.”
And what’s the result? More guilt. More depression. More failure.
Why? Because they’ll never be good enough!
Here’s the problem: In order to be free from guilt, and therefore, free
from spiritual depression, you must be perfect! You must be as holy
In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
James 2:10 says, “10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
That doesn’t leave room for much hope that any of us will be “good enough,” does it?
You see, you’re fighting against impossible odds in trying to be righteous on the basis of your own obedience to the law of God! And if you’re fighting with only that pocket-knife of your own righteousness, you should be depressed! In that case, you’re destined for failure! You don’t even stand a chance of being freed from your guilt!
But then, Paul reveals the secret of victory!
He says, in Romans 3:21-22, “21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through
faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
That, congregation, is a hand grenade! There it lies, in your Bible. Do you see it? Do you believe it will work? Then pick it up, and throw it at your enemies of guilt!
Every time you begin to think, “I’m not good enough – I have a lot of
serious sins in my life…,” pick up that hand grenade, pull the pin, and throw
Ka-boom! There goes your guilt!
Listen to Romans 3:21-22 again, “21 But now a righteousness from
God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through
faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
And just a little bit later, v. 28 says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
We may know it. But we don’t throw it! We let it lie there in our Bibles as we
rise up to do hand-to-hand combat with guilt in our own strength, with those
little pocket-knives of our own righteousness. We moan and we groan and we sweat and we strive. We fast and we pray, but we don’t seem to have sense enough to pick up that hand grenade, pull the pin, and throw it.
Paul knew what he was talking about. He was in that same battle with sin
and guilt in his life. Look at how he describes himself in Romans 7:14-8:1, “14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [literally, “in my flesh”]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law
of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature [literally, “in the flesh”] a slave to the law of sin. 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
Next time you start thinking depressing thoughts about your sinful guilt, saying to yourself, “I’m a failure. I’m not good enough. I may not even be a Christian at all,” set your thinking straight! Remind yourself of this box full of
Scriptural hand grenades. Don’t be stupid and try to wage the battle with guilt all by yourself, using only the worthless little pocket-knife of your own righteousness.
You’ve got a box full of hand grenades right here in your Bible!
Why are you trying to get rid of your guilt by your own efforts? Use the hand
grenade! Pick it up, pull the pin, and shout, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law!” Throw that hand
grenade at your guilt!
Ka-BOOM! Your guilt is gone!
Oh yes, it’s true: you’re not good enough! And yes, it’s true: you are a
worthless sinner in your own righteousness. But if you have faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is your righteousness! Jesus Christ is your only righteousness! And Jesus Christ is your perfect righteousness, if you have
faith in Him!