What makes you different from a really bad person? Granted, the definition of who is a “really bad person” changes from generation to generation, but presently, most of us would still agree that a murderer or child molester would fall into that category, so for argument’s sake–what makes you different from a murderer or child molester? Or anyone else who indulges a sin that seems particularly odious to you?
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5 )
When asked this question, most people would say, “What makes me different?!! The fact that I don’t do that–that I’m not like that!” And while it may be true that you may not do that particular vice, you possess the same sin nature he or she does. The difference is HOW and TO WHAT DEGREE your sin nature expresses itself, not whether you possess a sin nature or not.
This is not to say that we will all end up committing the same sins, because we are all different and are confronted by different temptations. Neither does it mean that we are all equally profligate. Some people–because of whatever reasons–allow themselves to be more selfish, do more evil, cause more harm; others fight their inclinations and try to be better people. Yet we are all infected. So, what then is the real difference between me and a “bad person?”
The difference is whether I have the Holy Spirit or not, because that is the only redeeming element present in any human being–it is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” Without Him, as today’s verse indicates, “every intent of the thoughts of our heart are only evil continually.” Why is this?
The answer can be found at length in Romans chapters 5-6 and further, but it is because without the redeeming power of Christ, I am spiritually dead. My thoughts, hopes, ambitions and desires are sin-tainted and messed up, and I don’t even have a clue as to what is really right and good. I can sense it, somehow, perhaps; I can see kindness, love and goodness in others and even try to practice it myself; yet I don’t really get it, and even my good intentions frequently go wrong.
Only when I come to Jesus–when I recognize Him as the holy Son of God with the power to forgive me and give me a new birth and real life–that I can start doing things that will matter for eternity, that have real lasting value.
When I trust in Jesus and receive His Holy Spirit, He leads me to work for the things that bring genuine good and real value. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)
Just before that He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) The way we “abide in Jesus” is through His Word, the Bible–by reading it, thinking about it, memorizing it, discussing it, studying it. And, remaining in Jesus–through His Holy Spirit in us–is how we accomplish anything of any genuine and lasting value in this life!
So what is the difference between me and a “bad” person? The way God divides humankind into good and bad, into “sheep versus goats,” is by whether we have trusted in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation or not, whether we have been born again and are filled with His Spirit, or not.
Help me abide in You, because without You I can do nothing of any lasting value. Amen.