Monday, February 19, 2007

First, the Bad News

It has occurred to me that this blog is more than a month old now, and I have yet to post a message of "the gospel". This post will not be a gospel message either, because I am a firm believer that before you hear the good news (and "gospel" means "good news"), you need to hear the bad news. One will not have much appreciation for having a life preserver tossed their way until he realizes that he is drowning. A person will not have much use for a pardon until he realizes he is under a death sentence.

And so it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a person possibly understand the glorious good news, if he is not even aware that there is any bad news? That is why this post will not speak of the gospel, but instead will attempt to address the reasons for the need of the gospel.

Sin! Just a simple little three letter word, and yet it is the destruction of so much of mankind! Yet so little of mankind has a realization of sin, at least to the depth the bible teaches. A man's conscience may point out sin to him, but the conscience is so easily silenced, that it cannot be depended on to be a consistent witness. Indeed, all it takes to quiet the conscience is consistent repetition of sin! No, the only real guide to help us realize our sin is the law of God as layed out in the bible. 1 John 3:4 says: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. "

If we know that sin is the transgression of the law, then would it not be prudent to know what the law says? In one of its most basic forms, God's law can be found in the ten commandments. By that I mean that there are many more commandments to be found in the bible, but certainly there are enough contained in the ten commandments to condemn every man to hell! In America today about the only attention the 10 commandments receive are in regards to whether or not monuments containing them are allowed on government property. It is likely that relatively few people can name more than a couple of the commandments, and probably even fewer can tell you where to find them in the bible! And yet they are undoubtedly among the most important of God's revelation to us.

Paul said in Romans 7:7 "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." You see, if sin is what sends a man to hell, and the law is what shows our sin to us, then it is imperative to know what the law says!

The first place we find the 10 commandments listed in the bible is in Exodus 20: 1-17
"And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
(1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
(2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
(3) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
(4) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
(5) Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
(6) Thou shalt not kill.
(7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
(8) Thou shalt not steal.
(9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
(10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's."

Even a quick reading of these should open one's eyes to at least one area of sin in their life. A closer reading will likely expose others. I can remember thinking when I was young Christian (not young in physical years, but young in time as a Christian), that I had broken every commandment except one, in that I had at least never killed anyone. Of course I soon found that according to 1 John 3:15 "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."

I freely admit that I have been guilty of breaking all of the commandments, but how are you doing? Do you think that you are "a pretty good person"?

How about commandment number 5? Have you always honored your father and mother? Always been obedient to them, even when you thought they were wrong? Have you never done anything that would bring dishonor to their name?

I have already related what I learned about hating your brother being like murder in God's eyes, and how it brings the same condemnation. Have you never had even a moment of hatred for your brother? (and if you are trying to justify yourself by questioning whether they are your brother or not, well that would make a whole post in itself)

What about number 7....adultery? Few in this country could claim to be innocent of this in any respect, but Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." If you are a man can you really make the claim that you have not broken this commandment, the way Jesus defined it?

Have you ever stolen anything? Even something small? Have you ever had a job working for someone else? If so did you ever give less than a good effort for your pay. Did you ever "goof off" during business hours? If so, it is just as if you took money out of your employers pocket.

I have only highlighted a few of the commandments that deal with man's actions toward his fellow man. The first four commandments, which deal with man's actions towards God, are even more difficult to keep, and likely deserve a greater condemnation. Do you claim to be innocent of all of these commandments? If so, I would remind you of Revelation 21:8 which says: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

Are you starting to see yourself as a sinner yet? "But I only broke that commandment once" you say. Or, "that was a long time ago." Do you think God has a statute of limitations? "But I told God that I was sorry!" How well would that work in a human court? Man's justice is flawed, like everything we attempt. God's justice is perfect! Perfect justice calls for a penalty for breaking of the law.

At some point sin needs to become personal, just between you an a Holy God. For several years I was involved in going door to door handing out the books of John and Romans, and attempting to witness to people. Invariably, if the conversation got that far, the person would acknowledge that they were sinners. But it always struck me that it was is a rather flippant admission. I feel that many, if not most would have become offended if we had discussed specific sins. There seems to be a tendency to feel that there is safety in numbers where sin is concerned. It is not so scary to see ourselves standing in a crowd of millions of other sinners before God.

It is something quite different to see yourself standing alone in front of a Holy God, with all of your sins exposed. Just you and the God that you have sinned against! Yet I believe that this is how we need to see our sinfulness. We need to see sin for what a serious matter it is. We cannot just write sin off as human nature. We need to see it for what it really is. A personal crime against the God of all creation. I think Paul said it best in his letter to the Romans. In chapter 7 verses 12-13 he says: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful."

If you have come to understand the exceeding sinfulness of sin, then you know that you deserve whatever punishment God sees fit. If so, then you know the bad news. Perhaps you are ready to hear the good news.

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