|And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. - 1 Corinthians 2:1-2|
Deep in our hearts we know that if we do good, good things will happen to us. Every religion, including Christianity, is based in this thought. Truly, the Bible says that for the righteous there is a reward (Psalm 18:24), that God does good things for those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6), that to enter the kingdom of Heaven all you have to be is better than your pastor (Matthew 5:20), and that to stand in God's holy place you just need a clean heart, body, and soul. (Psalm 24:3-4)
In other words, you have to be a good person. (Matthew 5:48) Would you consider yourself to be a good person? Better than most? Yes or no? Probably yes, right? In fact the Bible says that almost all of us will proclaim our own goodness or our own godlikeness (Proverbs 20:6), so you're not alone if you consider yourself to be a good person. Good is a relative term to most people, we often think it means we've done more good than bad, sort of like a scale. But God sees good as "righteous, blameless, and above reproach", or in other words, "perfect." He has given us just such a standard to see if we are holy, righteous, and good, let's take a look.
God has given us a law, it contains hundreds of commands and prohibitions, and in all of this, Jesus sums up the whole law like this,
Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. - Matthew 22:37-40Most people claim that they love people and help them when they are in need, which is good, and if so, then these two commandments are fulfilled. But unfortunately the Bible tells us that none of us has sought nor loved God (Romans 3:10-12), so just in the first sentence we see that we've failed miserably. Look inside of yourself, have you worshipped or sought anything to the exclusion of God? What about money, yourself, sex, food, or stuff? It has been said that the human heart is an idol-factory, fashioning and worshipping all sorts of things that are not God.
A definitive test to determine what our heart thinks of God is whether we've ever used his name in vain. Have you ever said, "Oh my God", or "Jesus Christ" without reverence? What about his other names? "Oh my Word" (John 1:1), "Good Lord", "Goodness Gracious", or any number of others? Have you ever wondered why we do that? Is it just cultural? People in India don't decry the name of Bhrama or Ghandi or Buddha, people in Southwest Asia don't scream Mohammed to express disgust. In using God's name in vain, we declare war on God (Psalm 139:20), we set our mouths against Heaven (Psalm 73:9); we take the only name blessed forever (Psalm 72:19) and turn it into a curse word.
Maybe, hopefully, we've done better at loving our neighbor. Have you ever lied to anyone? We're not talking discernment; have you ever told a bold-faced lie to someone? Was that very loving? How about stealing, have you ever stolen from someone? Was that very loving?
How about murder? It's not at all loving to murder someone, and Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22) Does that include you?
Along the same lines, it is not at all loving to commit adultery, to cheat on your spouse. Jesus expounds on that idea, "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) Think about it, when a man sins sexually with a woman in his mind, he sins against her, her husband or future husband, his wife or future wife, and most importantly he sins against God for breaking the law that says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)
The law promises life, but when we transgress it, it has very harsh consequences. In fact it says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. (Revelation 21:8) It says that no thief, no blasphemer (taking God's name in vain), no adulterer, no murderer has any inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
The law speaks to those under the law, which is us, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19) Having looked at the law, we hope that you see that you are actually in violation of the law, that in God's eyes you are not a good person, but as Jesus says,
The Bible says that we are actually the exact opposite of good, that our souls are desperately wicked and deceitful beyond all things (Jeremiah 17:9), and that the thoughts and intents of our imaginations are only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Do you agree? If not go back through the law and consider whether or not you would be at all happy if someone lied to you, stole from you, insulted and did violence to you, and had inappropriate thoughts about your spouse or someone dear to you. That is what we do to God continually.
In fact, the Bible says that God is angry with the wicked everyday. (Psalm 7:11) That is us, and he has metaphorically sharpened his sword and prepared weapons of destruction for the day in which we will meet him when his patience runs out. (Psalm 7:12-13, Hebrews 10:31)
The Great Exchange
Literally we were without hope, without God in the world, but God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Ephesians 2:12-13, John 3:16)
Remember that in order to earn Heaven you must be good, perfect? None of us can do that, and it was designed that way, so that God could prove himself to be both the just and the justifier. Two-thousand years ago God the Father sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, to be born of the virgin Mary, to grow up tempted in every way we've been tempted, yet without sin, and then to willingly give his life for the salvation of others. Jesus Christ, who is also called "God with us" and "God manifest in the flesh", is perfect because he is God, he has a perfectly pure soul, he is holy and blameless, he loves his Father with an everlasting love, and he loved his greatest enemies by giving his life for them. For no fault of his own, Jesus Christ went to a cross, crucified on the charge of claiming to be God. On the cross he was beaten and blasphemed by men, but the true suffering came at the hands of his Father. On the cross the Bible says Jesus became sin and bore our sin, that he was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, and it pleased his Father to crush him. (Isaiah 53:3-12) The full fury of God's anger was directed at Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of sin perfectly. Just before he died, he declared, "It is finished." (John 19:30) He offered himself as a sacrifice and in that one offering he has perfected for all time all of those who are being saved. (Hebrews 10:14)
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our sin so that we may receive the reward of his righteousness. God the Father can look at us as though we are perfectly good, totally blameless, and utterly deserving of Heaven, because of what Jesus Christ did when he loved us and gave himself for us.
Jesus Christ Vindicated
When Jesus died, it seemed that he was just one more in a long line of people who claimed to be God but was not; for how can God die? But Jesus had made such an audacious claim just days prior to his crucifixion,
I lay down my life that I may take it up again. - John 10:17Three days after his death, Jesus did just that, proving himself to be God, proving his sacrifice was accepted by his Father, and proving that he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
Because of his perfect obedience God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11) There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) He says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
The Call to Repentance
Jesus Christ has been appointed to judge the world in righteousness, this appointment was secured in his resurrection, and now he commands all people everywhere to repent, to turn from sin, to turn towards him, and to beg forgiveness. (Acts 17:31) He has proven himself to be the only God and Saviour, the only one righteous, the only one good; the converse is that we are not God, we cannot save ourselves, we are not righteous, and we are not good. The good news is that we may partake in his salvation, being found forgiven and righteous in him.
Jesus Christ says that no one may come to him unless his Father draws them, and he will lift them up on the last day. (John 6:44) This call comes through hearing and hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17), so as you hear this word today, do not harden your heart, but repent towards God and put your faith in Jesus Christ. We implore you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
If you are not convicted that this message is true, then we implore you to read this message again, to focus on your sin, to focus on the righteousness of Christ, to contemplate his death on a cross when he suffered for sins that were not his own, and think about the implications of the empty tomb where the Lord of Glory lay. Beg God to open your ears and eyes, that you may hear the call and look to Christ and be saved.
When he saves you, when you pass from death to life, then find a solid Bible believing church, and begin to fellowship with other believers, study his Word diligently and obey what you read, and proclaim his excellencies as the one who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light. If you are in the Acworth area, or if you have questions, then please contact us so that we may rejoice with you and magnify Christ our Saviour.