During a recent conversation about righteousness, salvation, etc., someone said, "All you have to do is be a good person." Does such a person exist? Well, the answer is "Yes," and it is "No."
If one is of the world and thinks like the world they would answer, "Yes" because it is possible to live having ever stolen, committed adultry...but it is not possible to live in the presence of a Holy God in the strength of self. However, if one's mind lives on a level higher than that of the things of the world, they would anser, "No" because they realize the inherent weakness of human nature so that we, like Paul, do '...what we don't want to do and don't do what we want to do..." [Romans chpt. 7]
The parable of the Parisee and the Publican illustrates these two classes which are really the only two that exist in the church. One will bring an offering or make some kind of sacrifice which they believe will put them in good standing with God. The problem is that they do not offer themselves.
The other class (represented by the Publican) may bring an offering, but their greatest offering is that of themselves, which they do not in a sense of gaining favor with God but as a seeker of mercy. Cain and Abel represented these two classes from the beginning of time both on the earth and in the "church." Cain brought the fruit of his (presumed) good works and they were rejected by God. Abel, in obedience to God, brought a sacrifice not of his works but of blood as a sign of his sinfulness and his need of mercy. Abel received mercy and forgiveness. And as Cain hated Abel so do Pharisees hate Publicans.
I don't know any good people, really. I have known people who think they are good and "...are in need of nothing. Not knowing that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." [Revelation chpt. 3]
Confession: these ideas were stolen from COL pages 154 and 155. It's better to read the original, actually. e.c.