God ’s Standards
I don’t know about you, but I can no longer count the number of times I’ve heard people exclaim that they will be in Heaven because they are “good” people. When pressed to explain their notion of “good,” few can do so. The general premise is that they haven’t killed anyone, burned down homes or cheated on their spouse. They tend to be patriotic, obey the laws of the land and may give generously to various causes that help others less fortunate. Compared to murderers, rapists, thieves and blackmailers, they are certainly citizens in good standing with the culture. But therein lies the problem.
The means for judging “goodness” lies in their comparison with the CULTURE, specifically all of the other people in the culture. There seems to be the assumption that there is no OTHER standard, such as GOD’S.
Although apostate beliefs have long been around, the last 60 years have seen an exponential growth in the apostasy of belief in the inerrant, inspired word of God. Even among those who still value God’s word, there is significant Biblical illiteracy. For fear of “offending,” few churches and pastors are teaching the basic premise of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:10 (KJV) elaborates a little further: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 (ESV) states: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Emphasis mine.)
The point is, that even the best of us does not do good ALWAYS – EVERYDAY. At some point, we all succumb to our “bad side” which we excuse as fatigue, illness, stress and so on. My personal favorite is the claim to “just being human.” Often without realizing it, that is EXACTLY the issue at hand!
As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:18, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Emphasis mine.)
The culture would have us believe that we can make any necessary changes to our lives with just a little effort and the right resources. Secular humanism has made its way into the thinking of so many, prompting the movement away from God and trusting in Him, to elevating man to a godlike stature with all power to run his life and determine his future. But none of this changes the fact that God lives and rules in the affairs of men.
After all is said and done, it is only God’s standards that will count. That said, God has clearly established HIS standard for righteousness as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. Sadly, so many in the church don’t know what they are. So let’s review as found in Deuteronomy 5: 7-22:
- “You shall have no other gods before me.” (vs. 7)
- “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.” (vs. 8)
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (vs. 11)
- “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God, You shall do no work…” (vs. 12-14a).
- “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (vs. 16).
- “You shall not commit murder.” (vs. 17)
- “You shall not commit adultery.” (vs. 18)
- “You shall not steal.” (vs. 19)
- “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (vs. 20).
- “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; …his house…his field….his servants…or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (vs. 21).
Add to this the teaching of James 2:10 which states that whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Most people would not consider a traffic ticket to be the breaking of the whole law, but if you look at lawfulness vs. lawlessness in their totality, to offend in just one of the laws under which we live violates the totality of lawfulness. The law then becomes the terrible burden of a bar set too high.
I remember a friend of my mother’s complaining that she could not keep the 10 commandments; and as a result, she dismissed Christianity. I tried to tell her that there was another option to rejection.
In Galatians 3:24, the Apostle Paul explains that the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. In other words, we are not capable of keeping the law because our fleshly natures are at war with God’s spirit. He describes the law as a mirror that reflects back our image, and as a tutor designed to encourage us to look for redemption somewhere other than ourselves.
The law was not provided to justify us, but to show us how bad we are and how good God is! The law brings death, but the good news is that God knew this well in advance. He knew that we were not capable of our own redemption (not that this has stopped every religion from the beginning of time). So, unlike other “religions,” He provided a way FOR us. Jesus tells us who/what that “way” is. In John 14:6 He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)
The doorway to redemption/salvation is none other than Jesus Himself. God had to make a provision for dealing with our sin before He could reconcile us to Himself. In Leviticus 17:11 God tells us, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”
In the Old Testament, the blood of bulls and goats was offered on the altar repeatedly for the sins of the people. This was a foreshadowing of the cross where the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus, would be shed for sin, once and for all. Jesus died on the cross and took upon Himself all the penalty for sin…OUR sin. The good news is that He died in our place, knowing we could not save ourselves.
The greatest stumbling block to our pride is recognizing that admitting our sin and inviting Christ into our lives is all that it takes to begin a journey of real faith. It’s too simple to be relevant…. right? The insistence that we are “good” people reveals the war within us that will not bow the knee in submission to anything/anyone outside ourselves. Our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior is by grace through faith in Christ. It is not by feelings, emotions or any form of personal effort, but through only faith or trust in Christ.
Jesus states in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.”
This is an interesting reference to sharing a meal. It implies a time of intimate communication as a family and friends around the table laughing, joking, crying, and talking during the course of a meal. In this setting, there is a closeness and depth of relationship that goes well beyond the superficial associations we encounter every day. Not everyone is invited home to dinner.
For those who choose to open that door, there is forgiveness of sin that can only be understood by those who experience it. The Bible is clear about what takes place in that “conversion moment” (my words), also known as the new birth. That “conversion moment” is what Christians refer to as being “born again,” the expression Jesus used with Nicodemus when He told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3-7).
The new birth brings new life, not new religion. In fact, Satan loves religion because it has no power to change a life. The words of Jesus to Nicodemus clearly convey this. The new birth is supernatural. It involves the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the new believer’s life.
The Bible says many things happen to a person when they are born again. First and foremost, the new believer becomes a child of God. That person is delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:13). The believer is no longer condemned but is passed from death into life.
John 5:24 says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
The believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believe, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”
Included in this sealing is the promise of eternal life, never perishing.
John 10:28 states, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Being held firmly in God’s hand, the believer is kept by the power of God.
Peter 1:5 states, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
In addition to eternal life, all of the new believers’ sins are forgiven – past, present and future (Romans 8:1). He or she is now a member of God’s family and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
For those who closely watch the events of the world and how they relate to the prophetic timeline, it is clear that we are living in the “latter days” that Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 when He explained to His disciples the signs that would be evident before his Second Coming. That said, there isn’t much time to decide what you will do with Jesus Christ. Choose life.