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Entries in Guilt (1)


Understanding the Gospel

Do you truly understand the Gospel?  Perhaps you do.  But, today I want to spend some time going through the Gospel and what about it is good news.  Let’s start by using a hypothetical situation.  One day you get a letter from the court stating that someone has paid $1 million towards your traffic fines.  However, let’s say that you don’t have any outstanding traffic tickets.  How would you respond to this news?  Obviously you would see if there was any way you could get the money, but then you find out that the money can only go towards traffic fines.  The “good news” isn’t as great as it would first seem.  However, what if the letter said something different?  Now you are told that you were recently clocked going 60 mph in a school zone.  But this wasn’t just any school zone.  It was a school for blind, deaf kids.  On top of this there was construction happening on this road and you drove past 3 different signs clearly marking the school zone and construction.  You are told to turn yourself in to the authorities and the least you will be punished is a $500,000 fine, which is doubled to $1 million due to the construction.  But, someone has stepped in and paid the fine for you.  All you have to do is present yourself before a judge and repent for your careless actions.  Now, how do you think the “good news” would be received?

Often when we share the Gospel with people, we can forget that the way in which we present it can affect how they respond.  We can pitch the Gospel as this, “God has died on a cross for you because he loves you so much!”  This good news isn’t such good news to a person who never asked God to die for them.  Why would He go and do a thing like that?  That seems a bit extreme.  However, if we take the time to help them see the guilt of their own sin then it might seem more like good news.

Even worse than then simply sharing Christ’s death on our behalf, without an understanding of our guilt, is when we turn the Gospel into a lottery winning.  “Congratulations, you’ve won the Gospel lottery!  If you put your faith in Jesus today you are going to have the best life ever!”

In the letter to the Romans, Paul takes time to first demonstrate the guilt of the Gentile nations (chapter 1) and then the guilt of the Jewish people (chapter 2).  When he gets to chapter 3, he then ties it together to show that we all need what Jesus has done.  Specifically, let’s look at Romans 3:19-23. 

Everyone In The World Is Guilty Before God

Few people truly understand their guilt before God.  Sure it is easy to feel bad over things we have done.  But there is a part within all of us that says, “But it wasn’t so bad that it deserves hell.”  We say that because we do not see the true depths to what is in our hearts and what we have done.  We can be like the person who will admit they were speeding, but are incensed that the officer pulled them over and that there are laws against speeding.  These are the kind of hearts that God is trying to reach.  He is not happy to just throw the book at us.  He really is trying to change us both in our thinking and our life.  Thus the Law of Moses was needed to help mankind see the true problem of a corrupted, sinful nature. Paul wraps up his arguments of Romans 1-2 in chapter 3 verse 9, “for we have already charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin.”

This is demonstrated in The Great Flood.  The Bible says in Genesis 6:5 that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Yet, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  Notice that Noah found “grace.”  This means that not even Noah could stand on his own righteousness.  God saves him, not because he has to, but because Noah put his faith in God.  Thus God gave him grace, a gift.  But imagine the depths to which mankind had fallen that every thought of every one was continually evil all the time.  Here we see that the guilt of mankind had become so great that God would bring judgment upon everyone all at once.  Yet in the midst of it we see His desire to give grace.

This is also demonstrated through the nation of Israel.  Though God had given Israel laws that he had drawn up for them, they constantly failed to follow them and eventually had corrupted the Truth that he had given them to be a means of power and pleasing of self.  Israel is seen as a people who not only failed to follow God as they should, but also put Him to death when He came to them in the flesh.  They refused to let go of their self-righteousness and the justifications that went along with it.  Their problem was not having good enough laws.  Today people like to try and paint the laws of Israel as not good, and even some of them as evil.  However, the testimony of Scripture is that they are of divine origin.  The problem of Israel was not their laws, but their hearts.  It would help the United States of America to view this example because we have the same problem as Israel.  Our laws are not divine, so we can fool ourselves into believing that if we just passed enough laws and perfected them then we could have Utopia.  However, we are only fooling ourselves.  The more perfect our laws become the more our evil hearts will stick out like a sore thumb and the more evil men will “perfect” their wickedness in order to continue.  We must recognize the evil in our own hearts and our need for mercy.  We are guilty before God.  More importantly, I personally am guilty before God.  He would be righteous to judge me and take away the life that I have taken for granted.

This is something we do not like to accept.  Great thinkers and philosophers try to posit in the modern era that man is basically good.  But all of their reasoning is mere mental gymnastics, as they try to avoid the inevitable conclusion that everyone in the world is guilty before God.  We humans have a heart problem that desires things that are not good.

The Law Shuts Our Mouths

In Romans 3:19 Paul says that the purpose of the law was not to fix the world, but rather to shut our mouths.  Have you ever seen a guilty person in front of a judge who would rail on and on about how they shouldn’t be judged and this is unfair, and they haven’t done anything wrong?  All of us have the desire to self-justify, opening our mouths and decrying our judgment.  Instead of listening to the righteous judge we continue braying like some senseless donkey.  So God sends the law to shut the mouths of people who think they are so good.  The proud who think they should be acceptable to God are both irreligious and religious.  The Jews would have been in total agreement with Paul’s argument in chapter one.  But chapter two would have set many a mouth to yapping.  Whether our mouths are shut in this life or not, we will stand before God one day and at the judgment our sin will be completely evident.

The Law proves once and for all that none of us are righteous.  If God did not provide a way of forgiveness we would all die under the system of Law.  In fact the law convicts even the “best” keepers of the law as mere performers.  By ourselves our best can only be a restrained evil.  Think of it this way, you may never have been “unfaithful” to your spouse in the sense of having sex with someone else after your marriage.  However, unfaithfulness is not just an act.  No one can stand before God (who knows every thought in our heart) and say I have had no unfaithfulness to my spouse, ever, in my heart.  We would be lying.  In fact outward faithfulness is more remarkable because of what we all know is in our hearts.  We would all be unfaithful to one another if we simply followed our hearts.  Like wild horses wanting to run free in any direction, a “faithful spouse” learns to “break” those horses and train them for a more useful function.

The law makes the ignorant aware of their true condition.  In fact, the more we listen to it the more helpless we become.  We realize that we truly are in a prison that no law can deliver us from.  We might even be tempted to despise the law and promote anarchy.  But anarchy leads to death.  Gentiles were ignorant of God’s laws so it is understandable that they would break the laws of God.  But for Israel to break God’s laws was to reveal a deeper problem of which we dare not be ignorant: even when I know the Truth I don’t always want to follow it.

The Law Shows Us The Need For Another Way

After Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, God blocked their way back by placing a guard of Cherubs (not the cute little baby angels, either!) and a flashing darting sword.  The law can be pictured like this.  It stands at the gate of righteousness and cuts down anyone who tries to approach God through their own acts.  It is a clear message that says access denied (and if you try again you’ll be killed).  We have to find another way.

We can’t do enough to dress up our corrupted creation.  We have taken a perfect thing that God has given us and we have ruined it.  We need God to “recreate us” in order to be righteous.

Thus we need to recognize the problem and ask God for His grace and mercy.  Without His mercy and help we are hopeless. 

Final Thoughts

There is a certain freedom that comes from accepting the fact that we are all sinners and in need of God to make another way for us.  I don’t have to compare myself with others and worry about how I look.  I don’t have to prove I am good enough because none of us are good enough.  Yet, even those who embrace the Gospel are warned about forgetting what it means.  In James 2:13, we read, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy, but mercy triumphs over judgment.”  James was warning them that if they accept God’s mercy and then turn around and show favoritism to people that they will be judged.  Why?  Salvation is not about saying the “magic words.”  It is about embracing the Truth of God.  To show favoritism is to deny the very essence of the gospel.  God gives grace to the humble, but Law to the proud.  What are you today?  Are you a proud atheist?  Beware, God’s law will cut you down.  Are you a professed Christian who is proud?  Beware, God’s law stands as a prophet of doom everyday convicting you of such actions.  Flee to Jesus away from your sin and be saved today!

Understanding the Gospel audio