A.W. Tozer once said that Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them in church. This statement is more accurate than most of us realize. Strangely, there seems to be a glaring disconnect at times between the truths that we profess as believers and how we live as a result of our profession.
At the very core of this problem lies question of the sufficiency of the scripture. Do we believe the sufficiency claims of scripture to be true? By sufficient, we mean that the Word of God is not only all that we need for teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but also that it is the final governing authority in matters of Christian conduct and church polity.
Christians fall prey to sins of omission almost without knowing. We cling tightly to some commands in the scriptures while omitting or turning a blind eye to others. We claim belief in a sufficient canon but betray our words with a lack of obedience. I often use the example of pregnancy to press my point. Either a woman is pregnant or she is not. There is no half way or in between. And in turn, the scriptures are either fully sufficient or all together unreliable. They are either the final authority or man has the last word. There is no in between.
Jesus gave testimony to the power, authority, and sufficiency of scripture after his resurrection and before his assertion.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19.
The Word of God was the authority that Christ declared to the disciples. And with this authority they were charged to teach the church to observe and obey the commands lain out in the scriptures. Notice that Jesus did not say that the disciples had some authority apart from the Word of God. All authority had come from God was given Christ’s followers with the expectation that they would neither add to or take away from them.
Peter proclaimed that the Word of God was fully sufficient for all things pertaining to life and Godliness.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3.
Again, we see that Peter was mimicking the words of Christ given in Matthew 28:18-19 when he said “His divine power has grated us all things…” We have no authority of our own that is separate from God’s Word. Everything else falls into the category of either speculation or opinion. All authority comes from the Word of God.
The Apostle Paul acknowledged in his letter to the Corinthians that we have no sufficiency within ourselves, but only in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are ministers according to His precepts, not our own.
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6.
The question is not if we profess the scriptures to be sufficient, because to say otherwise is a denial of what is blatantly obvious. Rather, the question is do we humbly bow to this authority or do we try to add in our own preferences?
When our traditions override scriptural authority, then we are denying the sufficiency of the Bible. When our man made rules ignore God given commands, then we are denying the sufficiency of scripture. And when our personal preferences take precedence over the Word of the Lord, then we are denying and defying the sufficiency of scripture and the authority of Christ Himself.
When it comes to things such as discipleship, how we worship, the church’s ecclesiastical structure, evangelism practices, and all other things pertaining to life and Godliness, God’s Word must be the final authority in our faith and practice. Because our concept of authority is self biased and critically flawed, but His words are fully sufficient in every way.
Currently I am preaching through the book of Titus with our Foothills Community Church family on Sunday mornings. As I began to study this great epistle, I was immediately struck by Paul’s instructions to Titus in verse 5. And Ive not been able to get past the implications of the words of the Apostle in this one verse.
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” Titus 1:5.
This is the Biblical blue print for missions. But more than that, this is the Biblical mandate for discipleship in general. As Christians, we so often over look this cookie cutter approach to making disciples to our great detriment.
Titus was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians a total of 9 times. Titus was also present with Paul at the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Titus was not only discipled by Paul, but he was trained by the Apostle in doctrine and how to refute error. After being raised up by Paul, Titus was sent on mission to the island of Crete.
Paul immediately gave his protegé two orders. First, Paul ordered Titus to “Put what remained into order.” Paul was speaking of teaching the natives proper doctrine. It is easy to infer by the words of Paul that the Gospel had reached the people of Crete. And quite possibly there had been believers trying to establish a church. However, what remained on the island was confusion over Biblical doctrine.
Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete and play games with their children. Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete to do Boy Scout, good deed, missions. Titus was sent there to first teach them Biblical doctrine and set straight where they were believing in error.
Paul first ordered Titus to straighten what remained, that being the doctrine, as a means to an end. What Paul really sent Titus to Crete to do is to establish churches in the area. And you cannot establish churches without first raising up men who are equipped with a Christ centered doctrine. This is why secondly, Titus was commanded to raise up Elders.
So many missionaries passionately claim they want to go to the ends of the earth to give their life to the people of the world. But people don’t need our life. They need men who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel and refuting error.
It’s not enough to send simply send any warm blooded man or woman with a church membership into the mission field. Missions is not a Christian vacation. In missions, we are sending people into the Spiritual war for the souls of men. We must strive to send people who are able to teach Biblical doctrine and raise up new leaders.
I fear that the church in America has for the most part lost it’s focus. In our great zeal to reach the lost, we have forgotten the blue print given through Titus and at times, resorted to man centered tactics. We’ve become more concerned with drawing lost men who are outside of the church instead of focusing on raising up the saints inside it’s walls with intentions of sending them out to preach the Gospel to those in their lives.
Paul’s blue print for evangelism was never to say to Titus, “I sent you to Crete for two reasons; to create churches that are more like the world so the world will come to you, and to get people into the church building by any means possible so they will hear the preacher.”
The blue print was never to get people to merely come hear the preacher on Sunday mornings. The goal was never to put our hope in being as culturally relevant to the world in hopes the world would come to us. Because if our hope is in the power of relevance, then it’s not in the power of the spoken Word of God.
The goal of the church is replication. It is to disciple men, creating many preachers that would then go forth in making disciples.
The church is not a vacuum, attempting to suck as many people in the doors as possible. The church is to be a dispenser, churning out trained disciples able to rightly handle the word of truth as they go forth as the Royal Priesthood of Christ.
One of the great flaws in modern day evangelism is neglecting to pray fervently that God would raise up men from within who are doctrinal sound and equipped to speak the truth in love. We pray for the lost and right we should. But how often do we corporately pray that God would raise up leaders from within?
I pray that our churches would consider heavily the command of Titus 1:5.
I pray that our greatest focus as pastors and church leaders would be to preach and teach Biblical doctrine. I pray that our people would become disciples, not attenders. That we would raise up missionaries, not members. And that God would bring forth preachers, not partitioners.
The focus of the church should be to glorify God, to edify the saints, and to raise up pastors, elders, and missionaries from within. And when spiritual maturity has been achieved, we send them out. The goal of mission and discipleship must be focused first on reaching and discipling the church. Because when the church is made strong, the lost will be reached.
Christians are Biblically and historically know as a called people. However, I fear that with each passing year, believers are forgetting what they have been called to do. Cultural Christianity is rapidly taking the place of Biblical Christianity. Catchy clichés are quipped more quickly than Bible verses. And an ever changing array of the latest fads in outreach methodologies are being utilized by churches instead of looking to the scriptures for our evangelism blueprint. In our evangelistic zeal, I fear that this 21st century Christian culture is neglecting to examine the Biblical pattern of evangelism that was given through the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself, and instead attempting to use worldly tactics to draw sinners to the Savior.
I mentioned yesterday on social media that I was greatly bothered by a post I saw by someone attempting to promote their church so that others would come. The post read, “Come to our church. We’re the church for people who don’t do church.” Others have also spoken of this church, boasting of its amazing performances, its entertaining speakers, and its vast fun filled programs for the family. Not once was the Gospel presented. Not once was the aim of Christ’s glory mentioned. They desired to be known as, “The church for people who don’t do church.”
The justification for this statement is always something like this; “Well we have to get them into the church somehow.” What is actually being said is, “The Gospel is powerless and not attractive, so we need to disguise it by appealing to their flesh.” Let me say that I am not anti church programs nor am I against outreach strategies. But the question must be asked, “What is our main objective in evangelism?” Is it to get people on a membership role? Or is it to glorify God?” Even more to the point, “Are we sharing the Gospel and presenting Christ as Savior in our evangelism?”
I fear that we have forgotten the 1 Peter 2:9 mandate that says that all believers are a Royal Priesthood;
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9.
The mindset of today’s evangelism is to get people into the church by any means except confronting them with their need for a Savior. The mindset is, “Lets get them in the church and THEN, once we’ve enticed them with appealing to their desires the Pastor can preach to them.” But if we are truly to be a Royal Priesthood, shouldn’t that mean that it’s not only the Pastor’s job to present the Gospel, but the duty of every believer and the purpose of evangelism?
How you draw men to the church then becomes the measure as to how you must keep them in.
If people are drawn to the church by the tag line, “We’re the church for people who don’t do church”, then you cannot do “Church” in any way that will come across as being contrary to their expectations. If you draw people with cotton candy and balloons, then you will have to keep with the same methods.
In John chapter 6, Jesus fed 5000 people by miraculously multiplying five barley loaves and two fish. The people were so amazed by this feat that they followed Him, even wanting to make Jesus their King. They followed Jesus across the sea to Capernaum. When they finally caught up to Jesus, the crowds were eager to see another miracle from Christ. And Jesus spoke directly to them.
“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” John 6:26.
Jesus then proceeded to begin teaching them doctrine. He began teaching them about Himself being the bread of life. No more miracles. No more entertainment. And the multitudes of people turned and walked away from Christ until he was left with only the original twelve.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66.
What we draw men with is how we must then keep them.
So how do we properly evangelize? Recognizing the role we have as Royal Priest, how do we witness to others around us? The most effective pattern that I’ve ever seen has been recorded in the scriptures and it is seen time and time again.
Reluctantly, Jonah went to the wicked city of Nineveh to evangelize the people as God had commanded. He confronted the people with their need for a Savior. He spoke of the wrath of God against sinners, and the Salvation that the Lord offered to those who would repent of their ways. And the people saw their transgressions and repented before Holy God.
“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Jonah 3:4-5.
In Nehemiah chapter 8 the prophet Ezra began to preach from the Word of God in the town square, reading from the law and exposing to the people how they had all transgressed against the Lord and we’re in need of saving. The response from the hearers was weeping and heartfelt conviction of their sins.
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Nehemiah 8:9.
One of the most notable examples of evangelism is seen after the resurrection at Pentecost. Peter preached to thousands of people and many Jews who had been instrumental in condemning Christ to death. Peter, like the prophets before him, preached the Gospel. He exposed the people to their own sins by pointing them to Christ. And the result was mass repentance and true conversions.
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:36-41.
In our evangelism, there is nothing wrong with highlighting the great things about our churches. There is nothing wrong with noting the great fellowship they will find within, the Christ centered programs that are at their disposal, and the wonderful people they will meet. My concern is this; are we seeking opportunities to have the hard conversations with people? Are we proclaiming the Gospel and trusting in its power to save or are we ashamed of it and fearful that it needs our help?
I heard a pastor once tell of one of his members trying to explain why he didn’t share the Gospel with his friends. This member told his pastor, “I don’t share the Gospel and speak of sin because I don’t want to run them off from church!” The Pastor replied, “Where are you going to run them to, Hell number two?”
When we take time to present people with the Gospel, and let them see how Christ has saved and transformed us, then He will be seen as a Savior and not self help guru. He will be cherished as a treasure and not a means to their fleshly desires. Those that only are coming for the entertainment will leave just as quickly when the fish and loaves are replaced with doctrinal preaching.
There are numerous approaches to putting ourselves in front of people to evangelize. But there is only one method that has been ordained to draw men for the right reasons, and that is the sharing (preaching) of the Gospel, not just from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but in the context of everyday life, engaging with those whom God has placed in the path of each of His children.
Let us never become so consumed with attempting to get people in the church that we forget the reason for our outreach to begin with. Let us never become “The church for People who don’t do church.” Pragmatism is always easier than sharing the Gospel. When we neglect to share the Gospel in our evangelism, we show that we are trusting in our own strength and not the strength contained in speaking the Word of God.
“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5.
The Gospel is the only way that men will ever be saved. The evangelistic methods of the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself will prove no less effective today than it was in their day. May we always trust in the power of the Word to change and transform.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
“It takes two ingredients to deliver a message that really sticks. It takes the right message and it takes the right time. Matt Chandler’s 2012 sermon “God is For God” is an example of this kind of timely message. Tim Challies revisits Chandler’s sermon and the controversy and Christ-centeredness that made it so memorable.”
The Intersection of the Natural & Supernatural in Preaching — “How do the supernatural and the natural intersect in the act of preaching? The emphasis will be on the fact that God intends for preachers to make the fullest use of their natural powers in preaching, even though the aim is to waken and sustain worship that is possible only in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.”
How Does God’s Sovereignty Not Violate Our Decision Making? — “How does God’s sovereignty over every life not make each of us robots? Where is the place for human willpower and decision-making? And how does God govern over it all?”
4 Reminders From Galatians That Every Pastor Needs Today — “One of the central blessings of pastoral ministry is saturating your mind with the Word of God. Pastors have the privilege of devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”
A Great List of Book Recommendations — “I friend made the request. He’s looking for books to read and to recommend to others. “Give me a list of 50 or 60 authors you’ve read and a representative book by each of them.” His wish is my command. Here are 50 or 60 contemporary authors I’ve read and a book by each of them you may enjoy.”
Isaiah’s Sixfold Depiction of God’s Glory — “What kind of God does the prophet proclaim in Isaiah 42:18– 43:21? What must God be like if He promises to restore and renew despite the abject failure of His people? What kind of God is our covenant Lord? The answer is that He is like no other!”
How We’ve Misunderstood, “Do This in Remembrance of Me” — “Often today we call it communion or the Lord’s Supper. Although churches differ on how frequently we should take communion, the universal consensus among Christians is that this meal is an important part of our faith.”
6 Cracks in The Secular Worldview — “Don’t get me wrong. We Christians aren’t good people either: We’re a bunch of immoral hypocrites clinging for dear life to a beautiful Savior. But something about that clinging seems to help.”
Recently I overheard a conversation between two men. One of the men was telling the other about a lady who worked in his office that he found very attractive. As he described the lady to his friend, he included a scattering of curse words to add emphasis to his story. Did I forget to mention this man wore a wedding ring?
After he had concluded colorfully describing his lust for a woman who was not his wife, he said in a laughing manner, “The Lord knows I’m not a perfect man, so he’ll just have to forgive my wandering eye and slips of the tongue. Besides Im just a man.” It was as if the man was attempting to cap off his story with justification of his continued actions. It was as if he were saying, “We’re all sinners, so God just needs to accept how I am.”
This post is an extension of last weeks blog entitled “Are You a Good or a Bad Person?” One of the reasons our Christian culture has such a low view of God is because it has a shallow understanding of sin. And in turn, our culture has a shallow view of sin because it also has a low view of God. The lost world is not impacted by the church because a great majority of the modern-day church has no true understanding of the Holiness of God nor the depravity of man.
People have little conscience when it comes to what Jerry Bridges has called respectable sins. A little white lie, the slip of a lustful glance, or the occasional curse word are considered to be every man sins. We pat ourselves on the back for steering clear of what we would consider the big sins such as murder and adultery, and laugh at our affinity for these respectable sins.
As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog, many professing Christians treat certain sins in a tongue in cheek manner because they measure themselves by other people and not by the measuring stick of our perfect God. We look at the man who beats his wife on the five o’clock news or the murderer we read about in the newspaper and we consider ourselves to be good people. But this is a great fallacy.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
It’s easy to laugh at sin when we have no understanding of the depths of its offense. It’s easy to justify sins such as lying, cursing, or lusting when we close our eyes to what the Bible says about these things. Truth be told, if a person can flippantly speak of their sin with the proverbial wink of the eye, then they deceive themselves if they claimed to be a Christian.
Am I saying that a person must be without sin to be a Christian? By no means. Unfortunately we all sin, we all fall short. But some will use this statement as an excuse to continue in sin. What I am suggesting is that a person’s attitude towards sin speaks volumes to if they are truly saved. Consider what the scriptures say about our attitudes towards sin.
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:9-10.
John is writing to Christians. And in this context, he says that no one who professes Jesus Christ as Lord makes a practice of sinning. Notice John did not say, “No Christian sins.” He specifically mentioned that no Christian practices sin.
What is a practice of sin? I think of my son’s football practice. We know that Andy is going to have practice each week. He anticipates it before it happens. And we do nothing to avoid driving him to the football field. It is part of our regular weekly routine. Going to the football field each week is our practice.
In the same way, a practice of sin is one that we do not avoid. It is to say, “I know that I curse, that I lust, or that I tell little lies, but it’s just who I am.” When we begin to justify what we would consider to be even the smallest of sins, and have no sorrow over them, we have entered into a practice of sin.
The frightening part about this is that John stated in the verse above that no Christian practices sin. No professing believer who truly has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within them can laugh at their sin. Rather, the true believer mourns over their sinful nature.
“Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:9-10.
There are far too many professing Christians who take joy in and laugh over their sins. Yet James writes that when it comes to our sins, our attitude should be one of mourning and humility before the Lord. Three of the most popular respectable sins predominantly overlooked by professing believer are lying, lusting, and cursing. And I can already hear some of the objections.
Objection # 1; It’s just a little white lie!
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.
The verse above didn’t say, “Only the big liars will have their part in the lake of fire.” Rather, the text states that ALL LIARS will spend their eternity in Hell. All of those who have not repented of lying. All of those who continue to practice the sin of lying because they think it to be innocent. All of those who do not seek to put this sin to death will be cast into the lake of fire.
The question is not have you ever told a lie, because all of us have. The question we must ask of ourselves is, “Does telling lies…even little white lies…bother me? And do I desire stop this practice of sin?” In short, are you seeking to repent of even the smallest of transgressions in your life?
Objection # 2; It’s only a lustful glance!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28.
Pretty harsh words from our Lord. The act of adultery is not merely a physical act, but it begins with just a lustful glance. Adultery occurs when the heart begins to lust after someone else other than their spouse. So if just a mere lustful glance can make a person guilty of adultery, then what does God say about adulterers?
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,” 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Again, this list of sins doesn’t mean that anyone who has ever committed these sins is damned. Rather, it speaks to those who will not repent of such sins. They will not turn from these sins. They are entertained by them. They justify these sins. And they practice them.
Objection # 3; It’s just a curse word!
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26.
Todd Friel of Wretched Radio give us Ten Tests For Biblical Decision Making.
How To Get Wisdom; Become a Fool — “Divine wisdom is the perfect factual knowledge and the perfect situational insight and the omnipotent resolve that together will succeed in achieving his intended, righteous goals.”
Can We Really Trust the Bible if the Manuscripts Have Mistakes? — “The New Testament has been sufficiently preserved for us to be confident that we can recover the meaning that God intended and inspired in the original text.”
Are You Addicted to Your Phone? — “Take this short quiz provided by Tim Challies and find out.
How To Pray — “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus’s disciples asked. This simple prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples, can also show us how to talk with God in prayer.”
The Reality of Disappointment — “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” To live is to be disappointed.”
Reflections on Singing with 12,000 People — “Last week, the night before Together for the Gospel began, someone asked Ligon Duncan what advice he’d give the first–time attender. He replied, “I come here to sing.”
Call Upon Me in the Day of Trouble — “A true incident in ‘the Battle of the Java Sea’ (27th February to 1st March 1942) in the experiences of Victor Hannaford, of Plymouth, England.”
Do you consider yourself to be a good person? A person’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ hinges upon how they answer that question. Many people think themselves to be good because their standard of measure is other sinful human beings. We consider ourselves to be good because we are not as bad as the criminals on the five o’clock news. Or maybe because we don’t cheat on our spouse like the neighbor down the street.
But what if the standard of measure to determine our goodness was not other people, but a Holy and sinless God? What if the measure of which to answer this question was not man’s laws, but God’s? Do you personally consider yourself to be a good person? Well take this short 5 question test and find out!
Question 1: Have You Ever Told a Lie, Even a Little White Lie?
If your answer was yes, what do you call someone who lies?
ANSWER: A Liar.
Question 2: Have You Ever Stolen Anything, Even a Pen?
If your answer was yes, what do you call someone who steals?
ANSWER: A Thief
Question 3: Have You Ever Used God’s Name in Vain, Even Saying OMG?
If your answer was yes, that is the sin of blasphemy. A very serious offense in the sight of God.
What do you call someone who blasphemies?
ANSWER: A Blasphemer
Question 4: Have You Ever Committed Adultery?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-32 that if you even so much as look upon a person with lust, then you have already committed adultery in your heart. What do you call someone who commits this act?
ANSWER: An Adulterer
Question 5: Have You Ever Committed Murder?
Jesus said in Matthew 5 that if you have hatred for someone, then you have committed the act of murder in your heart. What do you call someone who commits murder?
ANSWER: A Murderer
So how did you do?
If you answered yes to each question, then by your own admission you are a lying, thieving, blaspheming, Murderer and an adulterer at heart…..just like the rest of us. Just so you know, these were only 5 of the Ten Commandments, proving that we have broken every one of God’s laws.
Now, if you were to stand before God on judgement day with this failed test in hand, proving that you are a cosmic law-breaker, would God declare you innocent or guilty? Would you go to Heaven or Hell?
Many will immediately answer this question by saying that they are guilty, but God will simply forgive them because that is what He does. But there is a problem with that. God cannot merely forgive all of the times we have broken His laws, because that would make Him an evil and unjust judge.
Consider an earthly judge for a moment. Imagine that someone had come into your home and murdered your whole family. The police catch this man and you sit in the courtroom as he is to be sentenced. All of the sudden, the judge says, “I am a merciful judge, and I see that this man has done more good things in his life than bad, so I’m going to forgive his trespasses and let him go.”
Would you consider this judge to be a good man? Of course not. A horrible crime was committed, and justice must be served.
God is not a bad judge. Therefore He cannot let our sins and transgressions of His Holy Law go unpunished. Justice must be served. This answers the ultimate question. God is a good God. And we are not good people. According to His Law, we are guilty of multiply crimes and we deserve to be cast into Hell. Our good works do not have the ability to outweigh even one of our sins.
James said regarding the law of God, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10.
The Apostle Paul said in Galatians that if a person ceases to keep every law of God, then he deserves damnation. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10.
Paul tells us that even if a person breaks only one of God’s laws one time, that in and of itself is enough to condemn us to Hell. That is how serious God’s laws are, and how wretched our sins. This seems harsh to many, but only because we cannot fathom the extreme Holiness of God and the heinous nature of our sins.
Do you feel the tension yet?
So what is a Holy God to do with cosmic, serial lawbreakers like us? Our fine committed against the Almighty must be paid. Our offenses cannot be dismissed. This should cause us to plead the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
The answer is the Gospel, which means good news. You see, it is impossible to fully grasp the good news of the Gospel unless we first understand the bad news of our plight and hopeless. We are not good people. We are the worst of sinners. But God made a way of salvation for His people.
Before the foundation of the world, God set forth a plan to satisfy His justice against us. Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, stepped out of the Heavens and took on flesh. He lived the perfect life that was demanded by the law of God, and He died the death that was due us. And all of those who will believe upon Jesus and repent of their sins are covered by the blood of Christ and stand justified before God.
And in His death, Christ imputed His perfect record onto all of those who would believe upon Him and repent of their sins, and in exchange He took their guilty record and placed it upon Himself. Jesus endured the full wrath of God that was aimed at us. Therefore when God looks upon a sinner who has bowed the knee to Christ, He no longer sees them as a criminal, but because of the blood of Christ, they are seen as justified before the Lord.
Jesus satisfied the demands of the law of God that you and I could not.
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.
You are not a good person. Neither am I. This is why you and I need a Savior. The rich young ruler in Luke 18 did not believe Jesus to be God, but he considered Jesus to be a good person. Jesus, who is God incarnate, answered the ruler by saying, ““Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone.” Luke 18:19.
In essence, Christ was saying to the ruler, “If you don’t think I am God, then why do you call me good?” Because no man is good. Our good deeds don’t erase our transgressions against God nor do they cancel out our sins.
““There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10.
No amount of good deeds or acts or morality can save us from the wrath of God. As Paul Washer once said, “God saved us for Himself, by Himself, and from Himself.” This is why it is so important for all believers to witness this way to others, using the test of the law of God to expose them to their desperate need for Christ.
People who do not believe in Christ are not under the love of God, but they remain under His wrath.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.
If you have friends or family members who do not know the Lord, give them the good person test. Tell them of God’s Holy and righteous standards, and how desperate our situation is outside of knowing Christ. And tell them that the Lord commands them to repent of their sins, and believe the Gospel. Seeing ourselves rightly through God’s law leads us to fully realize the beauty of Christ and our dependence upon Him.
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24.
The video below is a great example of how to witness and share the Gospel with others by using the mirror of God’s law. If you are interested in learning how to witness to others using the law of God, Todd Friel and Ray Comfort do a Witness Wednesday broadcast on Wretched radio each Wednesday. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the ONLY power of God unto salvation! And this is extremely good news for bad people like us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
Pastor Steve Lawson gives a very detailed and concise explanation of the Gospel. If you or someone you know has never heard the Gospel, or perhaps have never understood what Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection, then do not neglect to watch and share this video.
Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God — “Preaching is not conversation. Preaching is not discussion. Preaching is not casual talk about religious things. Preaching is not simply teaching. Preaching is the heralding of a message permeated by the sense of God’s greatness and majesty and holiness.”
Christian, Are You Growing in Wisdom and Maturity? — “There’s a call on every Christian to grow and keep growing in wisdom and maturity. Are you?
What is Pastoral Preaching? — “Faithful preaching is never disconnected from pastoring. That’s because a pastoral preacher is not merely concerned with the meaning and theology of the text, but also with the particular people to whom he’s preaching.”
The Holiness of God and the Sinfulness of Man — “Two things that every human being absolutely must come to understand are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. These topics are difficult for people to face. And they go together.”
The Biblical Importance of Catechizing — “Briefly, why should you catechize yourself and your family? A few reasons to get you thinking…”
Why You Can’t Understand the Bible Without Understanding the Covenants — “If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we wont understand how the story fits together.”
Four Ways Doctrine Impacts Every Day of My Life (And Why the Church Needs it) — “Sound doctrine is good for followers of Jesus. We need to know the truth, which means we must study the truth.”
When our son Lincoln was five years old, he loved to play catch with any ball he could get his hands on. So we did what any red-blooded American family would, we signed our son up for t-ball. This was actually the first time we had ever officially put Lincoln on an organized sports team, and as his father I was pretty excited.
I had grand visions of Lincoln stepping up to the plate and knocking the ball clear over the fence on his first swing. And I could just envision little Linc playing the outfield and catching a pop fly ball, which would leave all the other parents in awe of my sons athletic prowess. However, the reality of his first game didn’t quite play out how I had imagined.
Our team was first up to bat, and it was time for Lincoln to step up to the plate. Lincoln was so excited about playing baseball. The umpire placed the ball on the tee, and gave Linc his bat. Lincoln drew back the bat so far behind his shoulders that it looked like he was preparing to knock the ball into orbit. And then he swung the bat extremely low. So low in fact that he hit the dirt on the ground instead of the ball.
Lincoln hit the ground, the tee, and eventually he tapped the ball. And when I say tapped, I mean that I believe the ball decided to fall off of the tee because it felt sorry for him. My little man ran as hard as he could….toward second base. “Run to first base!” I yelled. But Lincoln wasn’t even familiar with the terms of the game, nor did he really care. He just wanted to have fun.
Next Lincoln took to the outfield to play center field. A little boy on the opposing team hit the ball and it was coming right towards Lincoln. I looked over to center field expecting to see Lincoln crouched and ready to grab the ball. But what I saw instead was Lincoln rolling around in the grass, paying no mind to the duties of his position.
Lincoln didn’t care about learning the rules of the game. Being just a little boy as he was, all he cared about was having the experience of playing ball, and telling people he was a baseball player. He just wanted to have fun. And believe me, he had a blast.
Now consider for a moment that Lincoln continued to play baseball as the years went by. And eventually he decides to try out for a professional baseball team. He walks on the field for try outs and jogs to center field to practice catching fly balls. The coach hits the ball to center field, but Lincoln is not prepared to catch it. Instead, he is rolling around in the grass on his back in a world of his own.
What would happen? Well I can assure you that aside from the coach being livid, Lincoln would not make the team. You see when he played t-ball, the kids were not playing to win. In fact, the coaches didn’t even keep score. It was fine (and expected) if the kids rolled in the dirt or miss the ball, because it was more about the kids having fun than actually winning.
However, pro sports teams are competitive. They have a goal and a mission. In professional sports, it’s not view as game as it is an imperative to win. And in pro sports, no one is allowed to play the game if they have not been rightly trained and prepared to contribute to the end goal of beating the opposing team. No one would be allowed to play just so they can have an experience. It is a privilege to play pro sports, and only those who have prepared reach that level.
With anything that we take seriously in life, be it sports, a career, military service or otherwise, only those who have been properly trained and are prepared to be effective are allowed to participate.
However, when it comes to missions within the church, it has become common place to let the unprepared go. Mission trips have become viewed not as a life or death objective to preach the Word to people who do not know Christ, but as quaint little Christian vacations. Mission trips are increasingly seen as a chance for people to have some kind of religious experience.
Unfortunately a great majority of missions that we see today center around going to an underprivileged part of the world, spending a few days feeding the natives, teaching them catchy songs and playing Christian games, and spending at least one day sight-seeing or touring the country side.
Many people who sign up to go on these mission trips are not trained in evangelism. They do not know how to explain the attributes of God. They cannot tell the natives about repentance or justification. And they’ve not been trained in using the Law of God to prick the hearts of men to expose their sin, which in turn should lead to telling them why they so desperately need a savior.
The serious, life and death implications of Christian missions is viewed by many churches as little more than a Christian experience. Mission is not a game, nor is it to be promoted as a fun little get away for the church.
I have heard it said that taking untrained people on mission trips can deepen their faith and even lead to their salvation. And I say in rebuttal that their faith may be deepened and they may indeed find salvation, but it would be in spite of them going on the mission trip, not because of it.
I suppose that if you placed a man on a professional baseball team that had never played the game before, he might deepen his knowledge of the game and even be given a jersey. But he would be useless in the game when it mattered. Or in like manner, if you sent an untrained man into war he may pick up a few maneuvers from the soldiers, but he will be little help in the battle.
The purpose of the local church is to preach the Word of God, raising up disciples of Christ and equipping them for mission. The proper use of the mission field is not to evangelize people in the church or get church members saved. Missionaries are soldiers sent into a foreign land with one purpose; to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christian missions are not primarily doing humanitarian deeds or playing games with children. These may accompany mission, but these are not mission. The main purpose of Christian mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety. The church is given by God to equip the saints and prepare them to live life on mission, be it nationally or internationally.
If a person has not first been utterly floored by a high view of God’s Holiness, as well as devastatingly broken by a right view of the sinful depravity of their own sins, they have no business even contemplating missions. More than that, if they do not have a right view of God and a correct biblical view of man, then it is impossible for them to have the proper motivations to go and be a useful servant on mission.
Serving on Christian mission must be preceded by three things. A right view of God. A right view of man. And a regenerated soul. Isaiah chapter 6 exemplifies this blueprint for us.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah 6:1-3.
Isaiah was a prophet of the Lord. In his lifetime he had the great honor of serving as an advisor to four earthly kings. No doubt Isaiah was known as a religious man, and was seen as one who was respectable. In the year that king Uzziah died, the nation was cast into despair due to his passing. The nation of Judah had prospered tremendously under Uzziah during his reign. King Uzziah died of an extreme case of leprosy. And although Uzziah was not a moral man, he was well liked among the people and was loved by many.
In this same year, Isaiah was given a vision of the Lord. The prophet wrote of his vision that the train of His robe filled the temple. This is a reference to the full Sovereignty of God which permeates all areas of life. Isaiah saw the angelic seraphim, who themselves could not bear to look upon the glory of God lest they be consumed by it. And around the throne they cried ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
No other attribute of God is thrice emphasised in scripture. No where in the Bible is it written that God is love, love, love. Or that the Lord is merciful, merciful, merciful. Rather, the emphasis is placed on His great Holiness. Holy means to be separate from. In a world that loves to worship common image of God that is their “homeboy” or their best pal, the scriptures give quite a different description. God is not at all like us. He is ‘separate, separate, separate‘ from all that is under creation. God is Holy. And we are not.
Isaiah caught a glimpse of God. And immediately His Holiness was undeniable. R.C. Sproul once said that if Holiness was not the first attribute that popped into our minds when we think of God, then we are committing idolatry.
After gazing upon the Holiness of God, what was the reaction of Isaiah? Did he begin to sing a chorus of ‘Jesus is a Friend of Mine’? Did he throw on a trite t-shirt with Jesus winking an eye and giving a thumbs up? When a man has truly seen God as being Holy, it is impossible, even nauseating to even consider thinking of the Lord in such trivial ways. No, Isaiah’s reaction to seeing God as Holy was quite different from much of what is seen in contemporary pop culture when it comes to Christ.
“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:4-5.
John Calvin said that man cannot truly know himself unless he first knows who God is. Without a right view of God, man is prone to compare himself to the measuring stick of other sinful men around him. And in doing this, he will falsely begin to think himself to be righteous and good. He will see himself as deserving of Heaven. But when we measure ourselves by the standard of a perfect and Holy God, even the most self-righteous of us will experience fear and trembling. This was the case with Isaiah.
Again, Isaiah was a prophet. Isaiah was most likely known as the church guy around town. He was seen as a very moral person. He may have even considered himself to be a righteous man when compared to others. But when Isaiah was placed up against the measure of the perfect Holiness of God, he was shattered.
‘Woe is me’, cried Isaiah. He considered himself lost and unclean. Why? Because he had gained a right view of the Lord. And in contrast, his right view of God led to a right view of man. He saw himself for what he truly was. A desperately depraved and sinful man who did not deserve to stand in the presence of God.
Notice in Isaiah’s vision, he was not holding hands with Jesus and skipping down the streets of Heaven as many writers of popular Christian books have written false accounts. Nor was he filled with a sense of peace in being close to God as others have written. In the presence of God and in light of his Holiness, Isaiah was terrified.
We see this same terror exemplified from the disciples of Christ in the Gospel of Mark.
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:37-41.
When we truly realize the extent of the Holiness of God, it leads us to see that if He is good, then we are not. We have broken every law and standard of this Holy being, and as a result all of mankind deserves separation from God eternally. In fact, if God were to show mercy to no one and send the whole human race to Hell, He would still be Just, loving, Holy and Righteous. Because He is Holy and He sets the standard, not us.
Isaiah was devastated when he saw a vision of the Lord. A right view of God’s Holy nature led to a right view of man’s utter depravity and divine sentence of eternal destruction. Isaiah was experiencing a state of hopelessness in the presence of such a majestic being such as God. He professed to be undone, which is to be as one who is literally coming apart at the seams.
But after the Lord had given Isaiah a right view of Himself, and a right view of mankind, He cleansed Isaiah of his hopeless state, and gave him reason to lift his head.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:6-7.
It’s been said many times that in order to understand the good news of the Gospel, it is pertinent that we first understand the bad news our own depravity. If man cannot look upon himself and see that he is tragically separated from God by way of His sins, and experience a hopeless fear as a result, then he will never be able to appreciate the atonement that Christ provides to those who will repent and believe upon Him.
In Isaiah’s vision, one of the seraphim flew to him with a burning coal from the altar of God. And with it he touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt has been taken away and your sins atoned for.” This symbolism of this portion of the vision needs little explanation as it is self-evident in what it is saying.
This is a picture of regeneration. This is a glimpse of God atoning for the sins of the penitent sinner. For the man who will come before the Lord, humbly and broken over his sins and in awe of God, he will be lifted high and cleansed of all former transgressions. In the new covenant, it is the blood of Christ that covers our ugly past and atones for our sins, justifying us in the presence of our Holy God.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4-6.
What sort of love is this, that God would substitute Himself and die for the sins of man and imput to His righteousness to cosmic criminals like us? It is a love that humbles man. And it is a love that spawns joyful devotion to such a King that would save us from His wrath. Such was the reaction of Isaiah after his sins had been atoned for in the vision.
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
After Isaiah was given a right view of God, he saw the depravity of his own soul, and had his sins atoned for, then and only then was he able to gaze upon the Lord with joy! And a heart for mission was the result of these right views. When the Lord rhetorically asked, “Whom shall I send”, Isaiah was not reluctant in volunteering. Nor was his motivation for mission to have a nice Christian experience.
Isaiah had seen the glory of God. Isaiah had now known the fear of the Lord. And Isaiah saw the desperate plight of sinful man without the atonement of God. Isaiah’s idea of mission centered around proclamation. He had seen the true God, and now Isaiah wanted others to see Him too. Isaiah responded without hesitation, “Here I am, send me!”
Missions is not an easy excuse for a Christian vacation or an opportunity to have an experience. Nor is a mission trip a place to take someone who is immature in their faith or altogether lost. Christian missions are serious ventures for believers who are mature in their faith. They have, as Isaiah, come to know God as Holy. They have been broken over their sins. And they have come to faith in Christ through believing in Him for salvation and repenting of sins. And as a result, they have a burden to preach the Gospel to the lost.
In my early thirties I stumbled upon a sermon on Matthew 7 via the internet. The Lord used that sermon to radically bring me to a broken realization of my sins and in time bring me to salvation. The preacher of that sermon is an evangelist named Paul Washer, and I would later come to find that his sermon had been titled by many, “The Shocking Youth Sermon.” To this day it is one of the most powerful and convicting sermons that I’ve had the great privilege of hearing. In the video below, Paul Washer looks back on this sermon and recalls its impact and the controversy that surrounded it.
What Made Paul Washer’s Message So Shocking? –The Lord uses sermons to save, stir, and edify his people–and that sometimes he does this through unexpected messages and messengers. Tim Challies takes a closer look at Paul Washer’s “Shocking Message.”
What Is Definite Atonement? — “The atonement is limited in its efficacy to all who believe. I think we can agree on that. But it’s also limited in its eternal design for God’s elect—that Christ laid down His life for His sheep and all for whom Christ died come to Christ, experience His redemption, and are redeemed forever.”
The Remedy For Our Idolatry — ““Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). If the heart of man is, as John Calvin described it, “an idol-making factory,” then the way in which those idols are destroyed should be of utmost importance to us.”
What Scale Will God Use on Judgement Day? — “The scale Jesus presents has God’s perfection on one side. That’s the standard that it takes to get to Heaven.”
Can a Person’s Family Become an Idol? — “Some people do not have a biblical worldview on the family. For them, the family is always number one regardless. The Bible teaches a different perspective.”
Attending Corporate Worship — “Here are four important—yet underrated—reasons Christians ought to attend the Lord’s Day gathering.”
The Acropolis of the Word of Faith Movement — “The Word of Faith Movement is nothing other than works-based righteousness.”