My parents built a new house when my brother and I were in college. The house was in the early phases of construction, basically just a wooden structure, when one night my brother Andy decided he would go check it out. In the dark. Alone. Andy arrived home later that night covered in mud. As it turned out, Andy decided to walk around the structure of the house in the dark. He went to the upstairs part and due to the darkness, he didn’t notice an unfinished hole in the floor and he fell all the way down to the first floor, landing in a puddle of thick mud. My parents were not happy to say the least, because as they told him, “You could have easily been hurt!” My brother being the constant optimist that he was only smiled and said, “There was thick mud all over where I fell! No way I could have been hurt!” Andy laughed it off and went to bed.
The next morning he and I went out to the new house where he could show me where he fell. He was laughing about how safe he was the whole ride over to the house. However, when we finally walked through the house and to the spot where he had landed, his face went white. Not six inches from where he landed, there was a huge metal spike sticking out of the ground. If he had fallen six inches over, he would have been impaled.
Due to the darkness, the night my brother fell he was blinded to how close to a physical death he actually came. And in the same way, we are blinded by the darkness of ignorance. We are ignorant to how very much in need of a savior we are, and how very close to the flames of Hell man is due to our sin nature. Jonathan Edwards in his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” described man akin to a spider hanging from the thread of a web over a fire in the ignorant state of our own depravity before God.
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Ephesians 4:18.
Our culture does not run from sin today, but instead embraces it. Even in Christian circles, we are ignorant to how hopeless we are without Christ. We gravitate more towards moralistic deism than the actual God of the Bible. Moralistic Deism would be when a person thinks he or she can inherit eternal life by serving a God who just expects us to be good. And we hear this all of the time from people in and around church culture.
I once attended the funeral of a man who had no love for the Lord. He never went to church, he never read his Bible, and was a constant womanizer and alcoholic. But there is a problem with that line of thinking, mainly the Bible. The pastor presiding over the funeral made the comment in his closing remark, “And we know that he is present with the Lord, because even though he had his struggles, he was a good person who loved his family.” And I remember being angry and broken hearted at the same time. Because what that pastor had just told everyone in attendance was, “To inherit eternal life, you don’t need to be changed or have any love for God, you simply need to be good.”
Even inside of the church, many congregants have yet to understand that no amount of good works can entitle us to eternal life! Another phrase you will hear people say is, “Well I know Ill go to Heaven if I died because Im a good person.” But who are they comparing themselves to? What is the measuring stick they are using to declare themselves good? Adolf Hitler? Serial killer Ted Bundy could be considered a “good person” compared to Hitler who slaughtered thousands of innocents! The problem is, we base our idea of goodness by comparing ourselves to others! A person who doesn’t cuss would be considered good when compared to a person who curses like a sailor! But that person who doesn’t cuss may be a terrible gossip!
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
Paul dealt with this in 2 Corinthians. When we judge ourselves by comparing ourselves with other sinners, we are without a proper understanding of how close to the spike in the ground we really are. When a person says that they are going to Heaven and safe from the fires of Hell because they are a good person, it is much the same as my brother saying that he was perfectly safe the night he fell through the floor.
The truth is that no one is good. Here are just a few verses that speak to the true nature of man.
“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18
“Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” Psalm 143:2
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” Isaiah 53:6.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12.
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Isaiah 64:6.
The scary reality is, there are no good people apart from faith in Christ! Even if a person is the most moral person on the face of the earth, if they are not covered by the blood of Christ, then their good works are like filthy rags before God!
“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23.
That is how little we think of sin! In our world sin is predominantly thought of as murder, excessive cussing, promiscuity, or what we would consider major sins. But God takes it a step farther, saying that anything that is not done with faith in Christ is sin!
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Even the natural day to day things we do such as eating, drinking, playing with our children, loving our spouse, if not done with faith in Jesus Christ is sin! Why is this?
God gave man good food not so he would gorge himself, but so that man would enjoy and give praise to God for making it. God gave sex in the confines of marriage not so husband and wife would worship each other, but so they would glory in God who gave them that union. The same goes for a beautiful sunset. A warm gentle breeze. Laughter with friends. James writes that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).. And these are good gifts that bring men and women joy. So what happens when God lavishes these good gifts upon his creation, and instead of thanking God for the gifts, the horde and over indulge in them. Like a small child who gladly takes the gifts of his father but then spits in his face are we. And God calls this sin.
In the days of the old testament, God would have nothing to do with anything that was not perfect. Man could not come before God because he was sinful. The sons of Aaron tried this in Leviticus 10 and God killed them. And they were attempting to draw near to God, but without the proper sacrifice for their sins! So God created the sacrificial system, in which before a person could commune with God in the temple, they would have to make an animal sacrifice to atone for their sins.
And on top of the everyday sacrifices of the people, once a year there was an event called the Day of Atonement. On this day, the priest of the temple would bring a bull and a ram, pray the sins of their family over them, and slaughter them as a sacrifice. Then, the priest would bring in two lambs. The priest would bleed one lamb of its blood praying the sins of the nation over it, and the other lamb would be led out into the wilderness and let go, symbolizing the lamb carrying the sins of Israel away.
God has not changed. The God of the Old Testament is the same God we serve today. Contrary to what many think, God still cannot have fellowship with anything that is less than perfect. That means just one tiny white lie, one sin, is more than enough to separate us from God forever! Where we use each other as the measuring stick of what is good, God measures us by Himself, and we all fall short. God’s standard for eternal life is perfection.
Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the time. They were the most moral men and devoted to the scriptures that you could find. In fact, they had the old Testament memorized! Yet they trusted in their goodness and had no relationship with God. And Jesus said that unless we have a level of “goodness” the exceeds that of the Pharisees, we cannot enter Heaven!
So knowing this, and knowing how sinful we really are in the sight of God, this should concern a great many people! Because according to the scripture, no amount of good works can get you to Heaven!! So how is it that we can be seen as righteous before God! We can’t!! Unless we were to be given the perfect record of someone else!!
Remember the two lambs at the Day of Atonement. One lamb the priest bled and the other he prayed the sins of the nation and let it go off into the wilderness, symbolizing the carrying away of sin. On the cross, God struck His only son with the blade of His wrath that was meant for you and I, and He bled the son dry. And in the physical Death of Jesus, the sins of mankind were placed upon His head. And He carried them away. This is what John the Baptist meant when he said;
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29.
Jesus became the final sacrifice. He gave His life for those the Father had given Him before the foundation of time, so that when God would now look upon the sinful man who was in Christ, He would no longer see the sin, but instead the blood of His perfect son. And they would now be declared righteous, not due to works, but according to the faith that had been gifted to them by God.
Does a Christian do good works? Absolutely. But not in order to be justified. We do good works BECAUSE we have been justified. Not to earn God’s favor, but because we have been given Gods favor. Its not that we have to live for Christ, but that we now desire more than anything to live for Him! Because we realize what a savior He is in light of how unworthy we are!! That is the Gospel! And the realization of the cross should never cease to pierce our hearts, and birth a heart of extreme gratitude in living ever moment for Him!