I have many friends who are not believers that are far greater people than I am. They are more kind, driven, and morally upright so it makes me wonder if people can be good without God, then why Jesus? If people can be good through sheer will power and by taking charge with their life, then I don’t see any reason to continue to believe. Maybe I am just frustrated by a lack of change in my life and filled with regret because of all the bad decisions that I have made that still haunts me today.
Dear friend, absolutely anyone can be “kind, driven, and morally upright” without Jesus: but that’s not the point of Christianity, nor do I even believe it’s the point of life.
You mentioned you feel a lack of change in your life and a regret over past decisions: which means you’re actually much closer to the heart of the Gospel than you think.
Jesus is exactly for people who realize they are broken, beat up, and busted in all their attempts to be “good” — because Jesus offers a supernatural grace that surpasses what we’ve done and what’s happened to us.
Let’s consider a few important nuances in your question. Feel free to skip around. Please bear with me on the doctrinal stuff.
1) How do you actually know your friends are better off?
Who says your friends, either Christians or non-Christians, are better off than anyone else? By what standard? Because they are polite and courteous? Because they’re successful in the world? Because they have a confident attitude? Is this what defines a good person?
I’m willing to wager that all of them are hiding stuff, covering for insecurities, dealing with emptiness, uncertain about their future destiny, or a mix of all of these.
2) How much good is good enough?
How do you define your measure of good? At what point has someone reached the maximum level of good deeds to be considered fit for Heaven or to be called good people? Isn’t it sort of exhausting to chase after this definition of “good” if it’s never quite good enough? It sounds very arbitrary to me: because it is.
I think we need to throw out this word “good” from our theological vocabulary, because there was only ONE good person in all of history and we killed him on a cross. Everyone else is either desperately pursuing an idea of “good” to compensate for their shortcomings, or they’re pursuing after the only True Good who can save.
Please understand that our very limited modern idea of “good” is a shallow, superficial, barely surface-level philosophy that tries to define behaviors and rules, but neglects the actual scope of the human narrative. The human race has been trying to be good for ages and ages, and it’s never worked. We need help beyond us.
3) Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to raise the dead to life.
Maybe you’ve heard this one before, but just because it’s corny or ordinary does NOT make it untrue.
See: a world run on moral conformity eventually leads to self-righteousness or inferiority. You see this both inside and outside the church. Those who meet the status quo are somehow successful; those who don’t “fit the mold” are ultimately cast out. So the world is headed towards pride or despair.
Jesus makes us all even at the cross, showing us what we fundamentally need. God says we’re all broken by a condition called sin: and in the face of a perfect God, no one even comes close to goodness. Moralism will not get you there. Church attendance will not either.
At the cross, we are all exposed and restored: exposed by showing us what sin really costs, and restored by showing us the extent of God’s love.
The simple Gospel says: JIMP = Jesus In My Place, and the Christian life is NIBC = Not I But Christ. Notice that absolutely none of this has to do with our behavior, moral record, or good deeds. It has to do with what Jesus already did.
I can almost guarantee your friends will be more interested in that sort of freedom from the world than they are their own desperation.
4) Don’t compare or go into morbid introspection: neither help. Look to Christ.
I understand you feel a little crappy compared to your friends.
But comparing yourself to your friends is like comparing poop to vomit. You might feel better or you might feel worse, but nobody wins and everyone still stinks.
If you really want to “get better,” then stop worrying about getting better.
Honestly, to compare yourself to others will force you to either raise the bar to a destructive height or to lower the bar to a runner-up prize. Either way, you’ll be miserable.
The Christian faith says raise the bar so high that you realize you CAN’T do this, and only God can.
If God is our standard of good, then the bar is raised to an infinite level. So on one hand you can be humble enough to say you suck, but you can be victorious enough to say you won.
If you can have a humble confidence, you will automatically get better. You will try hard by not trying so hard. Your efforts will not be focused on being good, but will stem from a source of goodness. Your movement forward will not be dictated by the tyranny of self-measurement, but based on a victory that has already been won for you.
The Christian lives his life on It Is Finished. You’ll find yourself looking back on where you once were to a much further place than you ever thought you could be.