Isn’t it enough to be a good, moral person? This is an objection often made to Christianity. But Christians too can fall into this idea. We can see ourselves as being good, moral people and our Christianity as just some extra help in being this. I remember when I was teaching a class on basic Biblical principles being asked why many of the people who come to church are not involved in ministering to one another. I did not know the answer, but I went home and prayed about it. And the answer I got was that we really do not believe we are sinners. One of the common beliefs of our culture is that we are all (with the possible exceptions of the Hitlers and Jeffery Dahmers) good people. And it is easy, even as Christians, to be satisfied with that and not go on from there in following Christ. This is not what the Bible teaches. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and our good deeds are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). God’s standard is perfection (Matthew 5:48), and He will judge all the secrets of our hearts (Romans 2:16; 1 Timothy 5:24,25; Hebrews 4:12,13) and not just look at our outward deeds but our intentions (Matthew 5:21-48; 6:1-24). But God has sent His Son to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 1:17-21) that we might respond by loving Him (1 John 4:19) and might grow in Him as we remember what was done for us (2 Peter 1:9).
Simply a desire to be a good, moral person is not enough; we must love God based on knowing His forgiveness of our sins. Marcus Aurelius was a good, moral person. He believed in doing the right thing. He believed in a vague God who encouraged him in following his principles. He was also emperor of Rome. Rome had by that time degenerated into serious immorality, and a number of the earlier emperors had led the way down that path. Not only was Marcus Aurelius unable to turn things around, but after his death his own son, who grew up with the temptations to pride and immorality that went with being the imperial heir, lived a life of cruelty and debauchery and led the empire further down the road to ruin. Now Marcus, being a respectable sort, felt he needed to oppose this strange new sect of Christians. He started a persecution to suppress them and succeeded in causing some Christians to waver. Then there was a little slave girl who refused to submit and continued to do so in spite of all the extremes of torture the Roman state could devise. And others who were wavering, seeing her faith and courage, returned and stood firm. Then the Faith of the little slave girl went forth and conquered the empire. Which side do you want to be on?