by Bill Nugent
A wise man from Wales named Arthur Burt once said “You’ve got to own it before you can disown it.” One of the major things that distinguishes Christianity from manmade religion is that Christianity maintains that all people are born sinners. This puts Christianity out of step with our postmodern ‘feel good about yourself,’ high self-esteem world. Christianity’s insistence that all people are sinners enables us to disown our sins, to turn from sin in a real way and receive salvation through Christ. The worldly religions deny that people are sinners and therefore don’t really enable people to make genuine and lasting repentance from sin.
Let me shock you with some words of Jesus that most people find hard to accept.“God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 NASB.) The foregoing words spoken by Jesus clearly indicate that God and humanity have two completely different value systems. The Bible is both blunt and clear when it describes how far human beings fall short of God’s standard of right and wrong. In the Old Testament, Isaiah described it this way: “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6.) If our good works (righteousnesses) are as filthy rags what would describe our bad works?
Someone may object and say “How can anyone please God! Why is God so demanding? Is it futile to even try to do good works?”
Good works are very important. The Bible is full of commands to do good works. What is being emphasized in the Bible verses quoted above is that human works, no matter how good and noble, fall short of God’s holy perfection. Keep doing good works but always remember that good works can never buy heaven.
Our good deeds, no matter how virtuous, are laced with subtle selfish motives deep down in our hearts. The Bible goes to great lengths to make this clear. Many Bible passages teach this difficult truth. It is a truth that we humans don’t like to face. We don’t like to be confronted with our own imperfection. It is because of this imperfection, this sinfulness in the soul of each one of us, that means we need a Savior.
I have heard it said by an evangelist that if he had only one hour to speak to a dying person about salvation he would spend the first 55 minutes of that hour convincing that person that he or she is a sinner. It would take only the remaining five minutes to explain the salvation message and lead the dying person in the prayer of repentance.
It is easy to convince a person in a superficial way. Almost anyone will say “OK, I admit that nobody’s perfect, I guess I’m a sinner, so what!” Such a person may even ask God for forgiveness but in such a superficial way as to have no real meaning.
In the Old Testament, in Isaiah 6:3 the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” The New Testament, in Revelation 4:8, also contains a threefold repetition of the word “holy” in reference to God. The threefold repetition of the word “holy” is called the “thrice hagion” by theologians. When the ancient Hebrews wished to emphasize something they did so by repetition. The threefold repetition emphasizes God’s holiness above every other attribute. First John 4:8 says that “God is love.”It doesn’t say God is “love, love, love.” Hebrews 12:29 says that“God is a consuming fire.” Fire is stated only once.
The point is that people fall short of God’s holiness. Jesus taught the very difficult truth that if a person dies in their sins they enter hell in the afterlife. Jesus taught more about hell than anyone else quoted in the Bible. Jesus taught about hell because He came to go through hell for each one of us by dying for our sins. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24 NAS.) Jesus suffered the pain of hell as He suffered and died on the cross. He did it for us so that we can receive forgiveness by turning from our sins and asking for forgiveness on the basis of his death and resurrection.
Jesus also spoke the saddest words in the Bible when he said“Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14.) Don’t be among the many who flippantly say “I’m not perfect but I’m no sinner. I’ll walk straight into heaven because I lived a decent moral life.” Be warned that “a decent moral life” may impress your neighbors but will not give you entrance into the presence of the thrice holy God. All of us need Jesus who died for our sins!