Are you a good person? Do you obey the law and usually do what you’re supposed to? If so, you might feel that you stand a pretty good chance before God. But if you’ve never come to understand the nature of sin and exactly what we really look like in God’s eyes, you might be in for a big surprise someday because God says that apart from Jesus we are utterly repugnant.
“Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:3)
Each and every one of us is born with a sin nature we inherit by virtue of being human. It’s like being born with a particular eye color. It isn’t something we can do anything about ourselves, and for the most part we aren’t even aware of it. We do whatever seems right to us and it’s all wrong, but we can’t fix what we can’t even identify. Psalm 14:3 describes the situation, “They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt. There is none who does good, no, not one.” Because we do wrong—sin—we are under the righteous wrath of God.
But when we hear what God has to say—when we realize that we are messed up and can’t fix ourselves—and give in to God’s fix, Jesus death on the cross in our place, He gives us the ability to say, “no” to the sin in our lives. Instead of loving evil, we love good. Instead of wanting to do things that are wrong, He gives us a desire to please Him. This is called the new birth.
Yet, we have to be careful. I’m concerned that many people who believe they’re saved are, indeed, still damned. Salvation is a gift of God, but obedience is the evidence of our faith. God says that we must not only realize we’re sinful, but also turn away from our sinful lifestyle to a lifestyle of Christ-centered obedience until He takes us, but many times we change that truth into the easier message of “accepting Jesus.” Granted, we are to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but many people miss the Lord part and just desire the Savior part. He is not your Savior unless He is also your Lord. These two always go together.
Secondly, we’ve bought into the teaching that we don’t need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus. Yet there are multiple books of the Bible that clearly instruct us to grow in our knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Why is this? The reason is that you can’t follow something if you don’t know where it’s leading you. You need to read the Book in order to know what God wants you to do. Romans 10:14a, 17 puts it this way, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” No, you don’t need to know the entire Bible before submitting to the authority of God, but you do need to subsequently learn more and more of it so you understand what God wants you to do afterward. How can you say He is your Lord if you ignore His directives?
The last thing we need to keep in mind is that even after we’ve submitted to God’s authority in our lives, apart from Jesus, we’re still abominable. Yes, we have His Holy Spirit who causes us to desire the things of God, but it is entirely possible to deceive ourselves as to our true value in God’s eyes, especially if we’ve done anything we might be tempted to be prideful of. Jesus described just such a situation in Luke 18:10-14:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee [a respectable man; a ruler of the people] and the other a tax collector [of the lowest classes of people]. The Pharisee stood andprayed thus with himself [notice that he only thought he was praying with God!], ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbles, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The reason the tax collector went home justified was because he understood his true impoverished spiritual condition. He agreed with God’s assessment of his situation and God forgave him, while the Pharisee simply didn’t get it.
Let me ask you, when you drive, do you always adhere to the speed limit—even in busy cities where the slowest vehicles are moving at least ten mile over the limit? Whether the speed limit makes any rational sense or not, God commands, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1) Do you treat those who aren’t important and who can’t, for whatever reason, do anything about it with the courtesy and genuine consideration you would treat them with if they were Jesus Himself? “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40b) Each of us is different, and our weaknesses will differ, but if you are honest you will see that while God is conforming us to the image of Christ if we submit to Him, there are areas of our lives that might still need work.
Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 7:21-23 demands a sobering self-examination as to how we are really conducting ourselves during our short stay here in this life:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
We must not put our faith in anything but the finished work of Christ, but we must also not be among those who appear to work for God’s kingdom yet privately practice lives of sin, because this is trying to fool the One who cannot be fooled.
Please let me not be deceived as to my spiritual condition. Help me not only accept You as my Savior, but also as the Master of my entire existence. Amen.