But, I’m a Good Person!

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” – (Luke 18:19, NIV)

There is a belief that has been around probably since the beginning of time, that generally goes as follows:

I should be able to go to heaven because overall, I’m a good person.

It seems logical enough, doesn’t it? A good many people seem to believe this, if the internet is any indication. I’d like to hope that isn’t the reality, but the internet spans quite a number of people so I’d be inclined to wonder…

The idea is that if we are generally “good”, then we ought to be allowed entrance into heaven. We shouldn’t be turned away, and we certainly shouldn’t be subjected to an eternity of torment. The question is, how do we determine what qualifies as “good”, and what then qualifies as “good enough” – to get into heaven?

Well, so far we’ve touched on this point in a roundabout way a few times now, but I figured I’d do one more post to really spell it out, just in case.

There are a couple problems with this line of thinking. It’s easy to see how many people struggle with it because of all sorts of methodologies devised to avoid it. For example, many believe that everyone can work their way into heaven with enough good deeds, or maybe enough good deeds to outweigh the bad in a sort of 60/40 mindset. Others believe that God sent Christ to die for all people, therefore everyone who isn’t evil or wicked will be saved. You know, not the really bad guys but – everyone else. Some believe that Christ died for all people and therefore everyone will be saved regardless.

It’s fascinating to me that many people hold a strong objection toward the idea of needing to believe in Christ in order to be saved. That is, they will accept that He saved them – as long as it applies regardless of whether or not they choose to believe in Him. Oftentimes, it goes back to an argument such as this: I am a good person, so Christ’s death should save me also, even if I don’t believe in Him, if God is all-loving.

Now, I have never heard any one person use that specific argument. However, I’ve known of many people who have a general belief that if God is all-loving, He must save them too regardless of what or who they do or don’t believe in. He must save everyone, except those really evil people!

Well, we are again brought back to a point of, “Who determines what is good?” and, “Who determines what is evil?” and furthermore, “Who determines what qualifies as good enough to enter heaven?” This is where it comes back to the original argument – Well, I’m better than these people, or these people, or even most Christians I’ve met! Should I rather be like you – bigoted and hypocritical?? 

Ouch.

I haven’t heard that particular argument said to me directly, but I’ve seen a variation of it and heard the gist of it before. Sometimes not with the last part, but almost always with the first.

Now, sometimes people will go back to the 10 Commandments, or the golden rule. That is, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, treat others the way you wish to be treated… So if they keep those, they are good, right? They overlook all the other commandments, but that is not the point. Some people will also throw in other characteristics that aren’t listed – ones that they may even accuse many Christians of being, but that they don’t consider themselves to be – bigoted, judgmental, sexist, homophobic, etc. So what’s the problem with that person? He or she is clearly a “good” person, and may even be a better person than me! I should be the one ashamed and they should definitely be the one to enter heaven.

But, again. What qualifies as “good enough”? Why is it that we Christians think we are somehow good enough to be qualified to enter heaven, yet we think that these other people who are maybe even more morally upright than us, somehow aren’t? How can we be so utterly arrogant as to make such an implication?

Well, we aren’t “good enough”.

But, how then can we claim that we will go to heaven? How can we possibly claim that we are going to go to heaven and everyone else will go to an eternity of torment?! That’s ludicrous to suggest, right? What arrogance!

Now on the other hand, someone might see a Christian who is truly a living witness. They are living as Christ lived. Meeting them is almost as though you are meeting Christ face-to-face. Well, they should be good enough, right? Granted all Christians are called to be living witnesses, yet not so many are – and I do not exempt myself from that at all. I am absolutely not the living witness I should be. But, I and many people can see that my dad is like that. He is still goofy and silly, but at his heart he has many Christ-like qualities. And everyone who knows him, loves him, and appreciates all he does. So, going back to the idea of being good enough, am I suggesting that my dad would not even qualify? Is he not good enough to get into heaven??

No. He’s not.

How can I say that? How then do I qualify what is good enough?!

Well, that’s the question at hand, isn’t it? What is good, and what then is good enough? Well, I don’t decide what is good, let alone what constitutes good enough. God does. It’s His heaven. I am not the judge of who goes in, He is. That said, none of us are the judge of who enters, only Him. Only He can say who is good enough to enter heaven. But, this brings us back to the original argument, “Well, He should think me good enough since I am not like all these other people!”

Do you know the real heart of the matter? It’s pride.

Pride tells us that we should be good enough, pride tells us that we should be able to work our way into heaven. Pride tells us that at some point, we should be deemed good enough unless we know we’re really bad. Now, I can’t say, “And that’s fine,” but I can say that it’s understandable because we are all proud.

Now, with this idea one might be inclined to say, “I’m not proud! I don’t walk around all cocky like so-and-so! I am not a narcissist!” I know that I would certainly be saying that myself if someone just claimed that I was proud! I would say there’s no way. In fact, I’m largely self-defeating – isn’t that the polar opposite of pride? I put myself down and see where I fail more often than I build myself up and see where I succeed. How can that be prideful?

Well, this is where our human definition is different from God’s definition. And deep down, we are all proud. We don’t want to admit it, and we, like myself, often may not even see it. But it’s there. Pride is what makes us want to be like gods. Not in the fashion of Zeus or some other false god, but rather in the characteristics that God holds. He is not accountable to anyone. He is not dependent on anyone. He is (literally) better than everyone else. He makes the choices. He has the final decisions. He says, “This will happen this way,” and it does. He is worthy of respect, glory, honor, and praise. He issues rewards and punishments. He knows literally everything.

What God says goes, every time.

Now, think for a minute with me. Regardless of how mopey we might feel at times, regardless of how self-loathing we might feel at times, or regardless of how good we feel about ourselves at times, let’s look at these characteristics.

  • When was the last time you wanted to be treated with respect, if not demanding it?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to be or feel independent of others?
  • When was the last time that you thought, in some way, that you were better than someone else?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to have the final say on a particular decision?
  • When was the last time that you – secretly or openly – wanted recognition or praise for something you’d said, done, or even just how you are?
  • When was the last time you wanted to tell someone what to do?
  • When was the last time that you thought you knew how to handle a particular situation better than someone else did?

Is it possible that you wanted one or more of those…today? Yesterday? Within the week? Have you ever felt like that? This is where pride really rears its ugly head, because even when you seem the opposite of proud, you can almost certainly agree with one or more of those above points. This is where I am convicted! I frequently use self-defeating humor and often I feel what seems to be the opposite of proud. And yet, when it comes down to it – boy, do I ever get angry when someone cuts me off in traffic, or tailgates, or when someone gets recognition for something good that I said or did at work!

How dare they?! Who do they think they are?!

Have you ever had a thought like that? What follows that line of thinking? We sometimes stop there – accusing the other person of thinking that they are so high and mighty. Yet, underlying that is frequently, if not always, a thought that they are doing it to us. We “do not deserve“to be treated that way!

Consider when we see someone cut someone else off in traffic. Or speed excessively. Or run a red light. What’s our reaction then? When it isn’t happening to us directly, we might have a similar reaction of “Who does that person think they are?” or “Gee, they think they own the road, don’t they?” but we typically won’t get fuming mad if it is happening to someone else. Why is that? Why don’t we get just as mad to see it happening to someone else as we get when it happens to us? Or, alternatively, why don’t we stay as calm when it happens to us as we do when it happens to others?

More so, why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard? If we are getting tailgated, we might get furious at the person doing it. We might do things like slow down to make them angrier (guilty…) or make a (hopefully not) obscene gesture at them, depending on how well we can keep our calm. But, if we are tailgating someone, well, we have a reason for it. We are trying to get somewhere! It’s important! THE BANK CLOSES IN 10 MINUTES, CAN’T YOU GO ANY FASTER?!

Again, it’s because when it happens to us, the perception is that we are being slighted. It is almost like a sort of personal attack, offense, or insult against us! But when we do it to others, we justify our behavior. We have reasons for it. And if someone gets mad at us for the same behavior that we get mad at, well, they’ll just have to deal with it. Or, if they would just hurry up, or move over at least!

OK, I went off on a pretty big tangent, but you can see where it goes. Traffic, incidentally, is a great illustration for our pride. We get behind the wheel and often morph into someone vastly different than who we are face-to-face. But it all boils down to the same thing – we think we’re important! We think we are important and that we deserve respect. We take disrespect personally and it angers us.

Now, how did Christ feel?

This is a very tough pill even for a believer to swallow. We get so angry about petty things because we think ourselves of high value. We think ourselves worthy of respect, and maybe even praise.

We think that we are good people. Yet, we’re not.

We all sin and we all do embarrassing, faulty, shameful, reprehensible, perverted, deceptive things. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can admit that we have all done things like that. Maybe we haven’t done all those things. Maybe we don’t do them that much or maybe not that bad. That doesn’t matter – we still do them.

We think that we are good because we want to be like God. We want to be so much like God that we want to act as our own god. I am not exempt from this behavior and likewise, other believers aren’t either. We all have the sin nature, and we all have the desire to act as our own god. We all have the desire to be like God, not to know God. We want to make the decisions, we want to show we are better, we want to be worthy of praise and respect, and we want to think that we are good.

Well, it’s not an easy think to accept, which is I think why so many don’t. Again, there are so many methodologies and theories to try to get around this because our pride blinds us to the fact that we even have it! We think we are good people, so we don’t want to see that we are, in fact, vile. Job, a man “proclaimed blameless and upright” by God Himself was overtaken with self-righteousness. When God confronted him on it, he said:

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4, AKJV)

I think that one of the biggest things that keeps people from believing in Christ is accepting that they are actually not “good” people. But, Christians are no different. None of us are “good people”.  The reason we turn to Christ is simply that we don’t see ourselves as being good enough to enter into God’s presence out of anything that we can possibly do. We can’t say enough, do enough, serve enough – nothing that we do or say could ever possibly be enough to deem us worthy to enter God’s presence. There’s only one Person who is. His Son. His Son, who lived a perfect life on earth only to sacrifice Himself in our place. Because He knows we aren’t perfect, and He knows we aren’t good enough – and never could be. He knows that the only way that He can bring us into His presence is to provide the only worthy sacrifice – that is, Himself.

Why Does Salvation Have to be by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone?

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)

These days, there are a lot of different views on salvation. Which one is correct? Maybe all of them are correct? Why can’t it be this way or that way? What makes one person or one group wrong, and the other group or person right? Why does any “one” have to be right – who says we all can’t be?

Can’t all religions just find God and eternal life through whatever way they deem necessary? Do you even have to ascribe to a specific religion? Don’t they all lead to the same God? What if you are a good person – why should you even have to believe in God?

Can’t we all just get along?

Well, the thing that sets Christianity apart from all the other religions is our way to get to God – though, many have tried to distort even that. So, here is the purely biblical way to get to God:

Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

It’s that simple! Now of course, that assumes the prerequisite (that you need saving in the first place). But, why does salvation have to come by grace alone?

Salvation by Grace Alone

Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24, NASB)

Well, salvation comes by grace alone because that is what glorifies God, and because we need His grace. We use “grace” in a lot of different ways, and God’s grace is abundant in a variety of ways, but for this way the word is equivalent with a pardon. God’s grace for our salvation is like a pardon. It’s an act of forgiveness. It’s an act of mercy. Grace is receiving something good that we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving something bad that we do deserve. He is pardoning anything and everything we’ve done wrong – forgiving all our sins no matter how insurmountable they may be. He is pouring out both His grace and mercy on us through His love for us as a free gift to us. This glorifies God, and humbles us. This also ties in completely with the next step…

Why does salvation have to come by faith alone?

It’s funny (not in a ha-ha way!) how these 3 steps seem to be the most controversial, dicey ones for people. People often want to argue on steps 1 & 2 with almost the same argument. Other people want to twist the wording a little to suit their purpose. For example, some people have been known to say things like, “Well, God’s grace is what saves us through faith in the beginning.” The rest isn’t always immediately clear, but the implication is a lot different from grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There are many people who will say that they believe in Christ, and that they accept His method of salvation, or they accept Him as their Savior – but they won’t mean it the same way that I mean it here. We’ll get into that more another time, and I’ll link back to it here whenever I do.

In the meantime, why does this saving grace have to come by faith alone?

Salvation Through Faith Alone

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21, ESV)

I think most people are probably familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9, which ends with “lest any man should boast”. Salvation comes through the free gift of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If God demanded that we earned our salvation, then His grace would be lessened. It would not glorify Him. To top of all that, people could walk around confidently proclaiming “I’m going to heaven because I’m righteous,” and God would, unthinkably, have to then honor that if they were. When I think about that even just to type it, it can’t sound any more ludicrous. And yet, people do believe like that.

Perhaps they wouldn’t be so confident about it. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite say it that way. Nevertheless, people all around the world say things like, “I’m a good person,” thus implying that they don’t do too many bad things or even things they consider very bad. They feel that their lack of bad behavior should qualify them to stand in front of our Almighty, Holy, Perfect God and be credited as at least “good enough”. This is where many people also get into that attitude of, “God’s grace is what allows us to do the works that will get us into heaven,” or some similar variety of that statement.

Going back to Ephesians:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV)

Here’s the simplest way to say this – no amount of our good works could ever be enough to save us. As previously mentioned, we need God’s grace which we receive by faith. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned or it is not grace. We cannot do it on our own and to say otherwise is preposterous.

So, why is it that we can only receive grace through faith in Christ?

Salvation In Christ Alone

Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13, NKJV)

The verse above is from the final of the plagues on Egypt. God’s instruction to Israel was that each household was to take a young male lamb without spot or blemish. The lamb was to be killed before the whole congregation. Each household’s lamb would be then roasted and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, but first they had to paint the doorway with its blood. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”

Now, there is nothing within all our human logic to say that this should make sense. People often don’t seem to view this as a “miracle”, but it is. There is no way to explain why some blood on a doorway would serve any purpose other than look strange to those around you. But this is a picture of Christ and His death. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the same way that it makes no sense within our own way of thinking that some blood over a doorway would “cover us”, it doesn’t always make sense to people that the blood of another Man would save us from our own wrongs. But, God’s holiness requires death for sin. There’s no way around it. However, as Dr. Benjamin frequently points out, God doesn’t specify whose death that has to be! He is free to provide a substitute as He did for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Every individual of humanity has “spot or blemish”, but not Christ. He is perfect, and sinless, and therefore He is the only one qualified to provide the acceptable sacrifice.

Now think back for a moment. What did the Israelites have to do in order to be saved from the plague? Did God tell them, “Now, be on your best behavior and find a lamb…”? No! In fact, remember, they didn’t get the Law until after they left Egypt. The Israelites had already complained against Moses and therefore, against God, for the Egyptians becoming harder on them after the plagues began. That was a sin, so it wasn’t that God was saving them because they were sinless. And Moses himself had murdered an Egyptian, so that was a sin – yet he was the one who was talking to God!

So at this point, we can see that all they had to do was believe what God was saying and act in faith by obeying God’s commands in that situation.

That’s it! In order to receive God’s grace, they had to believe what God said and act in faith, and then they were covered (saved) by the blood of the lamb.

Summary

Since Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, and He was sacrificed for us, we have to believe in Him, and accept His death in our place. He is the only acceptable sacrifice since only God can meet God’s standard – therefore God Himself had to come down to take the punishment that we deserve. We don’t have to believe in Him, but if we choose not to accept His pardon then we are choosing to accept the punishment we rightly deserve.

The method of salvation has not changed – in order to receive God’s grace, we have to believe what God said (that we are sinners in need of a Savior) and act in faith (by acknowledging that we need to be saved and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior and our Sacrificial Lamb), and then we are saved by the blood of the Lamb.

The first Passover was a picture of the Passover to come, and that’s why we as Christians don’t need to celebrate the Passover feast as Israel was instructed to. The Passover is Christ. Everyone throughout history has been saved by grace through faith. They believed God, and they acted in faith, thereby receiving His grace and mercy.

At that time, the blood of the lamb was covering the doorway for the whole household. At this time, the blood of the Lamb covers us. At that time, it was to save their firstborn sons. At this time, it is to save ourselves.

This is why salvation must be by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. As Pastor Mac Sauerlander said:

Nothing I did, said, will do, or will say can earn or improve my salvation.

As Pastor Sauerlander said (paraphrased), “If I give you a great, expensive gift, and then allow you to mow my lawn for a year as thanks, is it really a gift?”

Anything that we contribute would leave us unsure of our salvation and would rob Christ of His glory and the act of immense suffering He endured. God’s already given us the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, so why would He turn around and lessen His own act by requiring us to earn it in part?

Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is what glorifies God and humbles us, as we realize that it can be no other way.

What is the One Prerequisite to Salvation?

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1, NIV)

Lots of people talk about salvation, but the question is salvation of what?

“Your soul.”

OK, my soul. But what am I saving my soul from?

“An eternity without God; eternal damnation!”

OK, but why do I need to save my soul from eternal damnation or an eternity without God?

“Because you’re a sinner!”

OK, but what makes me a sinner?

“You were born that way!”

The prerequisite to salvation is that we have to believe that we need saving in the first place! In order to believe that we need to be saved from anything, we have to understand who we are, who God is, and what awaits us in the future. Well, obviously in order to believe in all that, we need to also believe in God, but if you don’t already, stay tuned – we’ll get into that a little later on.

So, here we are. We’re told, “You need to be saved – from an eternity without God!” Many say, “From eternal damnation and hellfire!” Some would say, “No, from annihilation!” but I’ll go into that at a later point also. Either way, for now, let’s just say that it won’t be pretty and you won’t like it.

So, we’ve now heard that we’re not on a good path. A path that will be very ugly and terrible should we choose to remain on it. Maybe we don’t believe that we are on that path. Maybe we believe that we are on a good path.

Well, that depends. In order to understand what path we are on, we have to first look at who we are. We are sinners. That means, we have all committed some wrong, at some point in our lives. Now, keep in mind, that means any wrong. This applies even if we were hypothetically entirely good – except that one time when we did that one thing that we knew we shouldn’t or weren’t supposed to do . Well, that’s still one wrongdoing. Maybe somehow that was the only flaw ever, but that’s still “missing the mark”. Now, I don’t honestly think there is anyone out there who could say they have done only one thing wrong in their entire life, but even if there was, they would be included in this.

More so, one outward wrong isn’t the only way we can “miss the mark”. Let’s say that someone never outwardly lied, cheated, stole, murdered, cheated on their spouse, etc. But let’s say that they got really angry at some coworker and they thought, “Grr, I could just bash their face in!”  But he/she didn’t actually do that. Never lays a hand on the other person.

Or, maybe a married man sees a beautiful woman walking down the street and starts fantasizing about sleeping with her. But, he never physically goes after her in any way or even so much as speaks to her. Maybe some woman living in a small rambler, with an old beater car had a neighbor who had a large, lovely house. It was just beautiful. She also had designer clothes and a nice car. The woman was always cordial with her neighbor when she would visit her, but always went home frustrated and thinking, “I wish I had a house like hers, a car like hers, and all the money she has to throw around!”

Well, those are also examples of “missing the mark”.

One might at that point say, “OK, but that’s awfully extreme.”  Well yes, yes it is quite extreme.

One might also say, “Well, maybe I’ve done something like that, but so does everyone else! We all do stuff like that!” Well yes, yes we all do.

So, this is an awfully high standard that we have to achieve, right?

Well, who says we have to achieve that high of a standard? Why can’t the standard be a bit lower, more feasible? Well, that’s where God comes in. God is the standard of purity, holiness, truth, faithfulness, righteousness, and perfection. But, because He is that standard, He also requires that standard of us.

Well, shoot. We are in a real bind, here. We can’t meet that standard. We can’t achieve that level of perfection! We can only try to be “better than the next guy”.

OK, so we realize that we aren’t at a good level . . . but we can’t meet that standard. So what?

Well, according to the Bible, these people won’t go to heaven:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [whose words are used as weapons to abuse, insult, humiliate, intimidate, or slander], nor swindlers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10, AMP)

Well, at that point, you might say, “Well I don’t do any of those things!” Well, that’s good. It’s still better to not be like that than to be like that. But, did you ever do any of those things? To any degree? Remember, a little white lie is still a lie! Have you ever been greedy? Have you ever been verbally abusive to someone? The point is, we have all done at least one of these things at least one time in our lives, if not multiple times, if not every day! And even if you don’t believe you have, the list gets longer.

So, we must concede that all of us have done at least one of these things, at least once in our lives, if not multiple of them all the time!

Well, at this point one might say, “I can’t help it! It’s in my nature. God will just have to accept that. I’m trying.”

Well, if you are one to say that, you are right about one thing. It is in your nature. It’s in mine too! But, I have bad news. He won’t “just accept that”. We’ll talk more about that later also, but remember that God requires His standard from each of us. Yet, we’re stuck with this awful state that we’re in.

This is why, we need a Savior. We can’t save ourselves from eternal darkness, eternal separation, eternal damnation – any of it! We can try our best but it simply isn’t good enough to meet God’s incredible standard.

See, we deserve a terrible punishment. We don’t always think that we do, but that’s because we are always prone to compare ourselves to other people. We have to compare ourselves to the standard of God, and then we realize just how badly we fall short. Also remember that not all sins are against other people, but all sins are against God. So even all the times when maybe we didn’t even know we were doing anything wrong, maybe we knew but we didn’t think it was that wrong, maybe we didn’t do anything but we had a defiant attitude… and even when we were younger, and we were disobedient or defiant to our parents! All of these are wrongdoings against God Himself.

However, there is one Person who meets that standard, fully. And, He already died in your place, and in my place. He chose to suffer a horrendous death on the cross for anyone who would choose to to their belief and faith in Him. Who is He? Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can satisfy the demands for God’s perfection because He Himself is not just fully man, but also fully God. He never committed a single sin, He never did anything wrong, in fact – He was perfect in every way. Yet, He humiliated Himself in every way (starting with taking on human nature!), and then suffered terribly in every way. He suffered humiliation, mockery, slander, betrayal, starvation, temptation, mental anguish, extreme stress, and excruciating physical pain – because He loves you and wants that badly for you to be with Him in eternity. 

Jesus Christ does not desire that anyone should spend eternity apart from Him. No one. Nada. Even the worst imaginable wrongdoings He is willing to forgive. Even if you’ve been sinning all your life, even if you’ve done some incredibly terrible things – Jesus will still forgive you, if you humbly ask Him to. If you admit that you’ve done some bad things – maybe a lot, maybe a little, maybe not even so much outwardly but you’ve had a lot of terrible thoughts – He is willing to forgive you of all of that if you will just confess it all to Him and ask for His forgiveness. The Bible clearly states how simple it is to have eternal life:

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40, NIV)

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)

Now that it is clear what we are facing, and now that it is clear how badly we miss the mark, and how ready and willing Christ is to accept you, there is only one question left to answer:

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Why Should We Worship?

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:2-6, NKJV)

Confession time. I had a very evil thought before. See, before I go on, Christ has been working with me a lot lately. And I’m at a point I’ve never been to, despite being a believer all my life. Although most people consider me “nice”, I’m actually one of the people that you could easily have said that I was not a “good Christian”. Now, I won’t say that such a thing truly exists (only God is truly good), but in human terms, the way we use it, you could have said that about me for a variety of reasons.

Because my heart was hard – a lot more so than I realized – I was a very “back-slidden” believer. At times, I feared I might be one of those who, at the end, Christ would say “‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” I am not saying that I ever feared losing my salvation – I know that’s not possible. My fear was that I had never truly been saved to begin with because I lacked sincerity many times. I recalled feeling sincere at some point, but I still worried.

Nevertheless, that was then (albeit not long enough ago), and this is now. I’m not worried about that anymore. Understand, I am not saying I will never fail again, or back-slide again, but I am confident now that I have sincerely been saved. I have new concerns, but not for my eternal salvation.

So anyway, given that framework, I must confess something evil I thought before. When you read it, you will likely be appalled and I am fully ashamed of having thought like this. Because I once thought like this, I occasionally still struggle but it’s lessening and lessening the more I turn to Christ.

So, without going into too much detail (not because I’m ashamed to admit it – though it’s highly shameful – but because I don’t want to incite anyone’s pride the way mine was), my problem was that I thought to myself, “Why should we worship God?”

I am hesitant even while writing this because I have issues with my thinking that God is still working on in me, so forgive me if I sound a bit nuts going back and forth like this.

But rather than continue to dwell on that, let’s move on to the answer. Well, logically and intellectually, it was and is obvious. He’s the Creator of the universe, He could strike me down at any minute if He so chose, etc. Obviously.

But, see, what my deeply prideful heart was thinking did not align with that. I knew intellectually some reasons, but I every time my pride would get in the way. Now, mind you, this wasn’t a conscious pride. This was subtle and hidden deep down.

That said, one night the Spirit opened my eyes to understand that we worship Him not only because He is the Almighty Creator God, not just because we know He could strike us down at any moment, not only because He loves us and gave Himself for us. . . But that is partly what we were created to do!

Here is where the huge difference comes in between my prideful ignorance and the truth. Now, granted, don’t think that I’m claiming to fully understand everything just yet because I’m not. Christ wants the best for us, right? He loves us dearly, right? He loves us in an unfathomable way, beyond our human understanding, right?

Well, that does not go hand in hand with the hard, cold, dictator nature that some portray God to have, and in my prideful ignorance I had likewise conjured up. My prideful mind had created an idea of God that I could privately rebel against. That’s really what was at the heart of it. By creating this distorted perception of God, because I didn’t know Him hardly at all yet, I was able to justify my pride and my rebellion to myself, so that I never thought much of it and never thought to question it.

What is sad is that, having been a believer all my life, I knew better. I intellectually, logically, biblically knew better. I knew better about God, but I didn’t know Christ well enough yet to say otherwise. I won’t make claims to “know Him fully” now, but I will say I am at least better acquainted.

In a debate with William Lane Craig, Peter Atkins (atheist) said (paraphrasing), “What if there isn’t a loving, just God? What if there is actually an anti-God out there instead (and that is why there is so much evil in the world)?” I think this line of thinking permeates other people’s minds, but I can only speak for myself and I have no excuse.

If you had this thought cross your mind at any time, let me assure you, we do not worship an evil dictator God.

We worship an awesome God!

The more I learn about Him and even about His creation, the more amazed I am. The more that it humbles me. Thinking about the amazing things He can do, He has done, and that He will do in the future – the joy of the day when “every knee will bow, and every tongue will proclaim Jesus is Lord“. How awesome will that be?!

Now, I’m saying “He’s awesome” right after admitting to having had a distorted view. You might say, “You lost me. This isn’t much of an explanation.” Let me expand for a moment.

As I mentioned previously, we were created in part to worship Christ. Why would so many people worship something or someone (even if they use the word flippantly, it’s often still the actual activity) if we weren’t created in part to worship? I have learned, and thankfully without having to spend 7 years eating grass like an animal (Daniel 4), that not only is Christ worthy of praise and worship for all the obvious reasons (He is Love, Mercy, Justice, Forgiveness, Grace, Life, Light, Wisdom, etc, and as such He showers us with all of His attributes, He sacrificed His life for ours though we are completely undeserving, He created an incredible creation with immense complexity, etc.) but it is also freeing to do so. It is actually in our best interest to worship Christ, in the same way that it is in our best interest to accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

Without my pride standing in the way, I am free to worship my Creator. I am free to give Him the praise He deserves. I am free to appreciate all the wonderful things He has done for me. Truly, Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Truth shall set you free.

The bondage of sin is not only that we are stuck with our sin nature – we’re still stuck with that unfortunately to death. But our sin also binds us away from our Creator. It separates us from Him and we are not free to worship Him until we connect with Christ because our sin gets in the way. Worshipping Jesus Christ is freeing because we can truly express our gratitude to Him. He deserves all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory.

So, if anyone else out there is feeling proud or for that matter, even resentful (I admittedly had that feeling also at times), please stop right now, and pray to Jesus to heal you. Pray that the Spirit would convict you and show you where you may have a grave misunderstanding, as I did.

We should be thankful and grateful that our God is truly an awesome, perfect, holy, infinitely wise and infinitely wonderful God who we can feel comfortable putting our faith and our trust in. He isn’t cracking the whip, but rather He loves us beyond even what we can fully comprehend and He deserves not just all of our praise and all of our worship, not just all of the honor and all of the glory, not just all of our mind and all of our heart, He deserves all of ourselves.

I know that it is a lifelong transformational process, and our sin nature sticks around to fight, but I can genuinely say that the Spirit has opened my eyes, and I can’t wait to even just lie at Jesus’ feet. That will be a glorious day, indeed.

The Story of Job – Do We Suffer Because God is Making Bets with Satan?

The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit. (Job 37:23-24, ESV)

One of my favorite books in the Bible is the Book of Job. It seems snuck in there out of nowhere because there’s no real lead up or aftermath. Job is referred to elsewhere in the Bible, but ultimately, the Book of Job seems very self-contained.

Job is a very popular book of the Bible for sermons and discussions on why we suffer. It’s actually an exquisitely perfect book for this purpose – perhaps why it’s in there!

If you’re never read the Book of Job, it’s a bit long but worth a read. The version I’ve linked to is the ESV and I’ll explain why in a moment.

The Book of Job starts by telling briefly about Job, how he is very wealthy and a very righteous man. Job is described as a “man [who] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. Then it goes on to tell how he has all sorts of wealth by way of servants, herds and flocks, plus a wife and 10 children. We’re told that Job is even proactive by offering sacrifices just in case his children had sinned. Again, “blameless and upright” in every sense.

The story then takes a very odd sounding turn, where Satan joins the “sons of God” who are presenting their selves before Him. God inquires where he came from and Satan says he was walking around earth. Then we see this verse:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8, NKJV)

Now, this seems really strange. It reads as though God is literally offering up Job to Satan. Which, Satan then basically replies, “Of course he fears you! You’ve given him all this wealth! You’ve blessed him and all he has – but take it away and he’ll curse you to your face!”

God replies to Satan basically saying, “Fine. Do what you want with everything he has, but don’t do any harm to him.”

Satan proceeds to send in people who either steal or kill his children, flocks, and servants. Job is deeply hurt but does not sin against God.

Then, a little later on, the same thing happens. Satan shows up again, saying he’s been roaming the earth. God now tells him:

“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3, NKJV)

Satan responds in a similar way, this time basically saying, “Yeah, sure, but that’s because he values his life more than anything. If you cause him physical suffering, he’ll curse you to your face!”

God now basically tells him, “Do what you will to him, but don’t kill him.”

Job is 42 chapters long, but at the point above, we’re only into chapter 2.

Satan inflicts painful boils from Job’s head to his feet – covering his whole body. His wife even tells him, “Do you still hold your integrity? Curse God and die!” and he reprimands her foolish words.

Verse 10 tells us that through all this, Job still didn’t sin.

In verse 11, 3 of Job’s friends come to visit him and mourn with him. Initially they don’t say anything but then they start to pipe up and the next 29 chapters are two of the friends and Job talking. However, there is evidently a 4th person who is younger and is pretty much biting his tongue until chapter 32. The younger friend reprimands Job and his two friends and sticks up for God through to chapter 38, when God “speaks out of a whirlwind” and rebukes Job Himself (and what a rebuke indeed)! In chapter 42, Job repents and God rebukes his 3 friends (not the younger friend) for speaking wrongly of Him and Job’s wealth and family is restored.

As I mentioned, it’s a very fascinating book. The problem is that it seems to be frequently misunderstood, or not understood at all. The theme that I tend to hear in regards to the Book of Job is, “We may not always understand why we suffer.” I don’t know if this is even consistently followed up with something such as, “but God is in control of all things.” Now, that’s true. But stay with me!

The other argument I hear is typically from skeptics and unbelievers and goes something like this, “So when I’m suffering, it means that God is making bets with the devil?” – said in a sarcastic tone, of course!

Well, I have something that I’d like to point out to you that God opened my eyes to! But first, let’s examine what Job’s 3 friends were saying.

When I first heard the entire Book of Job via audiobook, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to understand what God reprimanded them for. I could understand why He said what He said to Job, but I didn’t see what the friends did wrong.

Later on, one of my favorite speakers happened to mention the Book of Job and in the process, explained. Job’s friends were accusing Job of being punished for sin. They had the assumption wealth, health and happiness came from good behavior, and pain, loss or suffering came from bad behavior. Therefore, Job was clearly being punished meaning he must have done something bad and he had to ‘fess up! This is why I linked to the ESV – the headers over each part of the conversation are very clear as to what is going on – so you won’t miss it like I did!

Job, on the other hand, was kind of basically declaring that he was righteous and therefore how could God do this to him?

God comes back at him with a sweeping, awe-inspiring response that in essence is saying, “Since when did you become God?” It is well worth the time to read even only that portion!

So then, what is the meaning of it? What is the meaning of our suffering, or even the meaning of this book?

Well, there are many possible reasons for suffering. I don’t think Job’s friends were wrong to conclude that it could have been punishment for some un-repented sin (though, assuming they were well aware of Job’s character they should have not assumed that anyway). Remember though, they were declaring that it was always the case. We do know that sometimes God allows hardship as a means of discipline or judgment but that is not the rule!

We could say that the real message of Job is simply, “We don’t know.” We don’t know why God allows suffering. We might retrospectively come to realize a possible reason, or even one of perhaps several reasons, maybe even during suffering we might realize a potential reason for it. We may never know the reason that we suffered because it may not become clear until after we’re dead. But ultimately, we just don’t know. Who knows the mind of God?

While I do maintain that the message of Job is in one sense ultimately, “We don’t/can’t know (because we aren’t God)”, I don’t believe that’s the whole message. Sure, part of the message is, “We don’t know, but we have to trust God that He will bring us through it.” That’s one common thing that I’ve seen in relation to the story of Job as it pertains to human suffering.

However, I also think that a lot of people ultimately miss the deep-down message. Now, maybe I’m underestimating. Maybe a lot more people have realized this. But I haven’t seen it much so I figure I’d share what God showed me.

God actually blessed Job in allowing him to suffer. Now, I don’t mean this at the end where God gives him back all his things. That’s a nice ending for Job, but that doesn’t mean that we can consistently expect the same result – especially not if we spend all our time complaining about our suffering!

But, how could Job’s immense, long suffering have possibly been a blessing? Sounds positively absurd, right? Well, to understand this, we have to think from what we know of God’s perspective and from our current perspective rather than from Job’s.

Still with me? Here’s what I mean.

We have the Book of Job. Job is famous as a righteous man and his story has been used countless times to help others. We take it for granted that we have this book in our Bibles, but Job didn’t know that people full millenniums later would be benefiting from his story. Job didn’t realize how God was blessing him with this alone. Job probably died with absolutely no indication of what all that was for. He may have died utterly perplexed as to the ultimate reason God had for that long period of loss and suffering in his life. Could there have been other reasons that God had that aren’t mentioned in the Bible? Sure! But we don’t need to know those other possible reasons to understand the definite reasons.

We can still see that Job has received a great honor. God not only allowed him an entire book of the Bible, but also that his story has been told for generations upon generations. His story has helped many people to take comfort in their suffering knowing that God is in control of all things. In short, God gave Job the great honor of using him to fulfill a much greater purpose.

That is why, no matter what situation we are put in and no matter how grim it may seem, it doesn’t mean that suddenly God is no longer in control and it certainly doesn’t mean that God no longer loves us. It means we have to put our trust fully in Him that He will not only take us through our situation but also that He has a reason and purpose for it, regardless of whether we ever realize it or not.

Any time that God can use us, we should be grateful and consider it a huge honor and privilege. To suffer and even die for Christ would be the greatest honor. This flies in the face of secular logic, but we have to remember that the Lord does many things we don’t understand at the time they are happening. I’m writing that as much to myself as I am to anyone reading this right now! I think we all forget that far too often.

To illustrate this, even to myself, every time I think about suffering in the name of Jesus I think about Rachel Scott. I didn’t know her by name, in fact I had to look her name up just to type that. But she is the girl who was killed at Columbine when they asked her if she was Christian. She didn’t denounce her Lord and Savior, and she paid for it with her life. But, here I am – not having known her at all, having only heard about her via the news, thinking to myself of how incredible it was that she did that. Despite being stared down by death, she did not reject Christ. As is now also the case with the recent victims of the Oregon Umpqua Community College shooting.

One of the most powerful responses I’ve heard to the question of where God is in the midst of our suffering, was said to a woman who said that she had prayed for God to share His mind with her. After praying the prayer, she said her health and the health of her family began to decline, with her suffering from multiple sclerosis at the time of the questioning. She wanted to know why she experienced such decline after praying that prayer.

One of the speakers gave a response to her direct question. He then sat down and his response was followed up by this response, by Muslim-turned-Christian, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi:

 We so take it for granted that we wake up in the morning. What say do we have, that we wake up in the morning? We go to sleep and we wake up and it happens regularly, so we take it for granted, but there’s nothing we do to make that happen cognizantly. And we think about, momentarily, the malady that you mentioned that you have – the multiple sclerosis. We just act, so immediately we act. We see things, we can point to it, and it’s so natural to us. We don’t even think about what’s happening here. That your brain and your nerves function as electrical systems, and you have capacitors that allow your signal to go from your brain to your finger. And for your muscles to work at the very fast rate at which they do. And those capacitors, if they stop working, these myelin sheaths, you get multiple sclerosis. Just one small part of a very complex system can cause such devastating effects. And as painful as it is, I think one thing that you have probably learned is just how beautiful it is, and how much people take it for granted when this amazingly complex system works the way it ought to. Something we take for granted every single day. And I know when I pray, early on when I began to pray as a Christian. . . You know I was a Muslim, formerly, and part of my prayer was the 5 daily prayers. It was very scripted. Everything was scripted. The only thing I got to choose in my 5 daily prayers was which portion of the Qur’an to recite. So when I began to learn to pray as a Christian these improvisational prayers, I used to say, ‘What am I supposed to pray?’ And I’d look at my hands as I’m praying, and I said ‘I’ve got 10 things to pray about right here.’ Every single [looking at fingers]. . . What if I didn’t have these? My whole life would be absolutely different. And so, you have learned that message unlike many of the rest of us will ever be able to learn it. But the other thing that I learned in the process of transitioning from Islam to Christianity . . . was that God – according to Islam we don’t learn this – God did not stand apart from your suffering. He didn’t watch you suffer and say, ‘I want to see what she ultimately does. I want to see what way she finds for herself.’ God takes a look at our suffering, and says, ‘I cannot remain aloof from that suffering. I will enter into it.’ You know, Jesus could have come as a prince in the human sense. He could’ve come with power. He could’ve come at any time in human history. He chose to come at a very specific time when people had invented how to execute people the most painful way ever devised, the most humiliating way ever devised. God said, ‘That type of suffering which goes beyond all other suffering, that’s what I will choose to take on for myself.’ He entered into it. And why did He do that? Out of love for you. He didn’t watch you suffer and stand aloof. He took that suffering upon Himself so that He could show us what true love was all about. And you are learning this, in a way none of us the rest of us will. So, I praise the Lord for who He is, and I praise the Lord for who you are. You were designed before the creation of the world – this is also a Christian truth. You were designed before the creation of the world with every single aspect of you in mind. You are not incidental. You are not random. You are not an accident. You are a loved creation of God, and that is absolutely amazing. So, if I can encourage you with anything, it’s who He is, and who He’s made you to be.

My prayer tonight as I’m typing this, for myself as well as for you, is that we live our lives both in submission and in gratitude to Him. When we are facing tough times, it is easy to get dismayed. But we need not be dismayed knowing that we have Christ. He knows our suffering, no matter how big or how small, and His hand is over all things, and all things He’s worked towards His ultimate purpose. We can rest our faith in Him and trust Him in all things.

What is Sin, Anyway?

Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17, NASB)

We’ve all heard it, right? “You’re a sinner! Repent and be saved!” Now, there’s nothing explicitly wrong with that message, but I don’t think it really strikes the right chord in this modern day. I also don’t think it paints the whole picture.

The question all boils to what sin really is. Why should you repent? Why do you need to be saved?

I thought that this question would have been a generally well understood one, but I learned recently that I was wrong. My sister recently said of our father, “Dad’s never sinned, has he? When did he ever sin?” Now, note that she is technically old enough to be a grandmother (and is), and is old enough to be my mother if she’d had me young. My Dad and I were both pretty stunned hearing her say that.

She said that of our dad because he is one of the truest Christians I’ve ever known. He certainly “bears the fruit” and I don’t think there is anyone who knows him that could sincerely say otherwise. He is an amazing man and I’m not saying that only because he’s my dad.

Nevertheless, he’s not perfect. No one is, after all.

So then, we are back to the original question. What is sin?

According to Webster:

Definition of SIN
1
a : an offense against religious or moral law
b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible <it’s a sin to waste food>
c : an often serious shortcoming : fault
2
a : transgression of the law of God
b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Webster actually gets it pretty spot on!

In a nutshell, there are different types of sin. It is sin to go directly against a God-given command. It is sin to disobey civil law – this includes traffic laws (but excludes where civil law would be in contradiction to God’s law). It is sin to be jealous of what someone else has and want it for yourself. It is sin to tell be dishonest or deceptive (even to a small degree and even without malice). It is sin to lust after someone other than your spouse. There are many other examples, just as there are many other sins! Generally, we all recognize sins that are illegal and/or immoral.

But, OK. Let’s say that someone is morally upstanding and law-abiding. They just don’t do any of these things, and they don’t do any of the things that even could be considered bad or wrong, even if there wasn’t clear consensus on whether or not they were bad or wrong. They just seemingly did everything right. How could they be sinners?

This is where it takes a sudden turn. Lots of people, I think, understand sin as primarily meaning all these things to not do. Don’t do this bad thing, don’t do that bad thing, do this good thing, love your neighbor… and voila – not sinful! Right?

Here are a few sins that often go unnoticed by the very people who talk about all the things they don’t do. In fact, a couple of these things are even what Jesus was accusing the Pharisees of.

  • Being self-righteous is sin.
  • Complaining is sin.
  • Not loving God is sin.
  • Not believing God is sin.
  • Rejecting God is sin.
  • Pride is sin.

Well now, that just changed the whole game!

The problem isn’t that we are just terribly immoral. Many of us are, by all means! I’m certainly not declaring innocence for anyone, most of all not for myself! But what this means is that we can not do all these different things and we can also do morally upright things and we can still be sinful. One of the things that really shows our sin is when we don’t do all these bad things, and then we pat ourselves on the back and think about how much better we are for not doing them. For what reason do we do that?

In fact, this is one of the very things that Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing! If they were merely not doing bad things, that wouldn’t have made them good, but it would’ve been better than doing things considered bad, wrong, perverse, or otherwise immoral. One of their problems was that they avoided all these immoral things and then they patted themselves on the back for it. They considered themselves superior to others. They looked down on others, particularly on people who were publicly declared sinners. In short – they were self-righteous hypocrites. (Yes, I am aware that unfortunately many professing “Christians” of this day also fit that bill nicely!)

But that’s not the only thing that they did wrong, and that many people get wrong in this day. There are many people out there today who don’t act very different from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Sometimes, sadly, I’m one of them! It’s difficult at times to look at all the good things you do and the bad things you don’t and then look at someone else who does them, and think “I’m glad I’m not like that person!” I think this is especially true – in America – of addicts. We, as a society, have a tendency to look down on addicts of any type. I’ve been shamefully guilty of this myself!

Now, I am sure there are some people who aren’t like that. Maybe they’ve been around addicted people or people with other problems and they recognize and understand their plight better. Maybe they have a better grasp on humanity as a whole and truly treat everyone as equals. Then would they be sinning?

We could keep going like this, but here’s the bottom line. Sin isn’t just about immoral behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes.

Sin, at its core, is about independence from God. We are all born into sin because we are all separated from God by sin. People often tend to view sin as immorality, and clearly, that is one definite expression of it! But at the real heart of the matter remains independence, leading to rejection of His authority and hence, separation.

But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die. (Genesis 2:17, HCSB)

Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death”. God tells Adam and Eve they will die if they eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan lured them by saying that they would be like God. At face value, it looks like God isn’t telling the truth because Adam lived for some 900 years, so clearly he didn’t die in the garden that day! Yet, he did. Firstly, Adam suffered spiritual death. That is, he was separated from God on that day. Death is a form of separation. We could say “death is separation from life”, right? Obviously most people wouldn’t say that, because it states the obvious. However, if death is separation from life, and if God is the source of all life, then spiritual death means separation from the source of our spiritual life – God.

Secondly, as Dr. Jerry Benjamin has stated many times, God doesn’t specify whose death that has to be. He is freely able to provide a substitute. For Adam and Eve, note that once they were aware of their nudity, the first death recorded in Scripture was that of the animal God gave them to cover them. God substituted the death of the animal for the immediate deaths of Adam and Eve.

Now when we talk about being born into sin, in part it means that when we are born into the world, we are both physically and spiritually separated from God. When Adam and Eve took those first bites of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were committing what we often think of as sin by disobeying God’s direct command. They were guilty also of not trusting and believing God. They were guilty of taking Satan’s word over God’s.

Most of all, they were guilty of not submitting to God’s will, but acting independently by doing what they wanted to do. Yes, God gave them the free will to do what they chose, but that doesn’t make it any less sinful to separate from God by going off and doing what they were persuaded to do rather than as God commanded and willed. That is ultimately what it means to be born with a sin nature. We act independently and we try to do things without God. We are born with an undeniable spirit of independence. We want to do what we want, when we want, how we want, where we want. We want to live our lives apart from God. Even if we are willing to act morally, we aren’t willing to give up control over our lives to Him.

Ultimately, no matter how morally upstanding, no matter how humble we are in our incredible moral high ground, no matter all the immoral things we don’t do or how much better we might be than the next guy… It is still sin when we have our own independent, free wills but we don’t use them to submit to the will of God. I am extremely guilty of this, myself.

After Adam and Eve sinned, they also became imperfect and therefore, impure. We have to remember that God is perfect, pure and holy. Sin separates us from God, but it also separates us from purity and perfection. God doesn’t merely choose not to do wrong, He can’t. Once we consider that sin means separation from God and spiritual and eventual physical death, it is clear that this is contrary to God’s character. He’s completely pure and therefore He can’t sin. It’s actually a logical contradiction to claim otherwise! If He is the source of all life, it’s impossible for Him to die. He can’t separate from Himself and suddenly not be God. He can’t be the source of all good and then not be good. God is quite literally “too good for sin.” But, once the first man and woman used their free wills to act independently of the will and command of God, they were no longer pure and flawless themselves. When we consider that God is the eternal source not just of life but also of purity, perfection and holiness, we realize that He doesn’t just set a high standard – He is the standard, and we do not meet up.

Since it is impossible for us to meet His standard, that is also sin. In this case it’s not a statement of deliberate wrongdoing, it’s describing a flaw. We are flawed beings, desiring independence. With the act of separation from God and all His purity, holiness, and perfection, when we decided to act independently of God, we became tainted with sin. Think of it as a disease of the spirit, and we cannot cure ourselves of it.

The final point we will look at is this: the number one commandment of the ten commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) When Jesus sums up all of the commandments and laws of the Old Testament, He says this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-18, NIV)

Clearly, if we are not loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind; if He is not first and foremost above all else in our lives, if we have given anything or anyone a higher priority, and most of all if we are acting as our own god – we are sinning. We are born into sin, which means we are born into imperfection and separation from God. We are born with a sin nature, a disease we cannot cleanse ourselves of. We can’t help it, literally, which is why we need Jesus.

Does Being Christian Mean Giving Up Pastimes and Activities?

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24, NIV)

When I was younger, around high school age, I recall that one of the things that many of my peers said of why they did not want to become Christian, was fear of what they would have to “give up”. If they became Christian, they felt they would have to give up activities that they probably shouldn’t have been doing anyway at that age, as well as other things such as “not listening to rap or rock music”. This was interesting to me. I can’t say that I knew any better myself at that time, because I honestly can’t recall.

As I grew up though, and learned more, attended conferences and heard some wise speakers, I realized that my peers along with many adults, are potentially mistaken. Now, before I go on, I’m certainly not advocating any immoral, illegal, unethical, or even just unwise behaviors! These are broad statements and clearly there are some activities that no one ought to participate in, for their own good, regardless of their beliefs.

But going back to the original topic at hand, the idea that they had seemed, to me, to be that they would become Christian, then they’d have to stop doing all these things and that would be that. I’d like to say that only teens have this mindset, but I get the impression that many adults do, too. I think that there are many people out there who don’t come to God because they do all these “bad” things.

Now, there are a couple roads we could take from here, and there is a huge difference between the two. We’re at the fork in the road, and it’s between “can’t” and “won’t”.

The “can’t” road is, I think, where some people are fouled up with sincerity. They have problems, they have things wrong with them or with their thinking, and they recognize that they are wrong, but they don’t know how to fix them. They could have a drinking problem, or a drug addiction, a gambling problem, sex addiction, pornography addiction, you name it. Maybe it’s not an addiction or any ongoing problem, but they’ve done something really awful that they are deeply ashamed of. Perhaps, even so deeply ashamed that they’ve built up walls around themselves, walls so high and so thick that they feel protected from anyone ever finding out their deepest, darkest secret(s). I’m sure there are even people out there who perhaps sense God’s presence and His calling, but they’ve rejected it, they’ve squelched it day after day, month after month, year after year. Perhaps they’ve even resisted Him with a great deal of pride. I believe there are still people out there in this day who sincerely believe they can’t come to God because of what they do or have done.

Then there’s the “won’t” road. It’s quite possible, if not most likely, that my peers were expressing an attitude that is prevalent in many adults these days. That is, an attitude of “I’m going to do what I want to do, when and how I want to do it.” That is, after all, our right as we enter into adulthood, isn’t it? Once that 18th birthday rolls around, once we have our own income, once we are out of our parents’ homes – whatever the case may be, that’s when we finally become free, right? Free – to do what we want! This is the “won’t” road. It’s not that we feel we can’t, it’s that we won’t. We want to enjoy our freedom and we don’t want anyone telling us what we can and cannot do. Once no longer are under the watchful eye of parents, we’re not going to willfully put ourselves under the watchful eye of “some God”.

If you’re going on the “won’t” road, you might be open to a belief that God is out there, maybe you even recognize that God exists and have a general “belief in God”. But you don’t want to submit to His authority. If you’re on the won’t road, then I can’t help you here. I can pray for you, but I can’t help you. However, if you are truly on the “won’t” road, you may not even want help at this point and time. Then again, if you’re on the “won’t” road but you’re here reading this, maybe you do. 🙂

We’ll have more discussion about the “won’t” road in a moment because the sign for this road is not well lit and it’s easy to turn down the wrong path and even Bible-believing Christians can end up here almost unwittingly. (I speak from experience!) The “won’t” road definitely isn’t an ultimate end, though.

However, if you’re on the “can’t” road, then there is some very Good News for you! This is, in very short order, why I decided to make this site. So many people think they have to do all these things, they have to strive so hard. We’ll talk more about it, but I won’t keep you waiting until then!

You don’t have to give up anything to become Christian.

There, I said it! It might fly in the face of much of what you know or have heard, but trust me on it.

Becoming a Christian is not about what we give up, it’s not about what we stop doing, it’s not about how we have to start spending our Sundays. Becoming a Christian is not about a what, or a how, or a when, or a where, or a why – it’s about a Who. It’s about knowing Jesus and believing in Him.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. However, many people try to dilute or destroy the message by adding to it, taking from it, or changing it in some other way. In reality, the theme throughout the entire Bible, Old and New Testament, are “Believe in the Lord and you will be saved.” The message hasn’t really changed, but I think a lot of people unfortunately miss that. We’ll have to go more into that another time, too.

It’s clear from even this one above verse, which is in no uncertain terms, that it is sincere belief in and declaration (confession) of Jesus Christ as Lord that gets you saved. Nothing more or less. Nothing else. That is the Good News for everyone, but it is especially great for all the “can’t” folks. Remember that the apostles, when Christ first called them, were not men that everyone looked up to, but that everyone looked down on. If there is anything that is holding us back from coming to Christ, we can let it go. It doesn’t have to hold us back any longer. Christ loves us exactly as we are, right now, at this very moment. Even if we have treated Him terribly, He still loves us.

Now, one more word about the “won’t” road. Even this road has a couple forks. There are some people who are stuck in a particular bad behavior, addiction, or what-have-you and maybe they don’t want to give it up! Maybe this isn’t necessarily an attitude of not wanting to submit to another’s authority, but they just really like doing what they do.

That’s OK! Christ still will accept and love every one of us!

How can that be? That is the common teaching right – “Turn from your sin!” ? That’s especially common teaching in the hellfire, condemnation preaching (I generally do not like that sort of preaching at all). So am I just spouting nonsense with too much emphasis on the love and acceptance?

No.

We can come to Christ in any state that we are in. He wants us all to be with Him and to love Him, as He loves us. It isn’t about what, it is about Who. We can all come to Christ in our most sinful state. If we are sincere about our belief, that’s what matters most. If there is a problem that needs to be resolved, let Him work on that! He wants to! It may take lots of time, or it may be instantaneous. But when we come to Him, He will work on us. He will convict us so we recognize when we are doing wrong, but He will also take us through it. In other words, He doesn’t want you to “try really hard to stop”; He wants to be your strength to stop.

As I mentioned, there is another fork down the “won’t” road. That is when we want to do what we want to do, and it isn’t a behavior or an activity we don’t want to give up, it’s control. We don’t want to give up control of our lives. We don’t want to submit to His authority. Not just now, not just for this set of circumstances, but period. This is the part that no one can help with, except God Himself. If we are set in our ways, set in our wills, and we are opposed to Jesus telling us what to do in any situation, well… Only God can fix that. The scary thing is that we can become believers and still hold this attitude, sometimes without even realizing it! (Again, I speak from experience!)

But if you are willing to let Christ intervene in your life, if you are willing to let Him take control, He will gladly do it. He loves us more than we can ever know or understand. His love is unfathomably great for us. I do hope that whatever fork of the road you might be on right now, that you will pray and ask God to guide your path. He will be faithful.