(The following piece was written by Lonnie Wilkey, Editor of the “Baptist and Reflector,” the official news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, used with his permission).
As December wound to a close, I received word that my great uncle, Blake Wilkey, had died at the age of 98. He was my grandfather’s last remaining brother. I remembered “Uncle Blake,” having visited him many times as a child, but I had not really maintained a close relationship over the years.
Still, I felt like I should attend his funeral, so on New Year’s Day, my wife Joyce and I made the approximately four-hour trip to Robbinsville, N.C.
Upon arriving to the funeral home, I visited with his wife and two children but didn’t really know very many others who were in attendance. They planned a simple country funeral conducted by two pastors. Both men were good friends with my late uncle and spoke highly of him and his family.
One of the pastors began his message by saying, “Blake Wilkey was a good man.” He then went on in great detail about how he was a good husband, a good father, a good family man, a good church member, and the list went on.
Then, the second pastor clearly communicated the point he was trying to make: No matter how good Blake Wilkey was, he was not good enough to go to heaven, EXCEPT for a decision he made decades ago when he confessed his sins and gave his heart to Jesus Christ making Him both Savior and Lord.
What a great reminder for all Christians as we begin 2021. How many of us know some really “good” people? They may be your neighbors. They could be people you work with or see at the local baseball and football games where your children play. We all know “good” people — people who would give you the shirts off their backs or come over to help you fix the leaking faucet in your house.
But, are they good enough? If they were to die tomorrow, would they go to heaven? Hopefully, we know, but sadly, many of us do not because we never asked. Sometimes Christians assume a person’s spiritual condition because of how he or she lives his or her life. We don’t take the time to ask if they know Jesus.
In our own state, it is estimated that four million of Tennessee’s more than seven million population are lost, having no relationship with Jesus Christ. I would dare say that thousands upon thousands of those four million lost Tennessee Baptists are “good people.” But being good is not enough.
Here are a couple of other statistics that might interest and, hopefully, frighten you. Only one out of 10 of our world’s youngest and largest generation (Gen. Z, those currently between the ages of 4 and 24), will come to faith by adulthood.
Look out your car window when you drive to church on Sunday. Eight out of 10 of your neighbors will not be in any church on any given Sunday. And, if you conducted a survey, you probably would discover that many of those folks are “good” people, but good is not good enough.
As we enter a new year, make a resolution to really get to know the people you think you know already. Get acquainted with your neighbors and others you are in constant contact with.
By doing so, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a funeral one day, you won’t have to wonder, Were they “good” enough? You will know because you shared the good news of Jesus Christ with them. –L.W.
Amen to what Lonnie wrote! His words echo the statement of Paul in Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Our best deeds, our finest intended actions, cannot bring us righteousness or save our souls.
God wants everyone to know that people can only know God’s salvation through “the washing of regeneration”—that soul-cleansing, life-giving new birth by faith in Christ Jesus. Being born again into God’s family only comes one way: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26).
Paul wrote that we could only be saved by, the “renewing of the Holy Spirit.” God wants us to realize that the work of God’s Holy Spirit in salvation makes believers new creatures before God. Believers in Christ get a new start in life. Sins and failures are forgiven, and a new life begins, right here and now. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul put it: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Every conscientious person wants to live right and do well. But sometimes being good is just not good enough! It takes God’s goodness to save. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)