Friday, July 03, 2015

The Law of the Lord

"I just don't know how God could condemn him. He's such a good person."

"He is kind and helps others. He gives money to the homeless and volunteers at the soup kitchen."

"She has been to other countries to help orphanages."


I am sure you have heard many similar platitudes describing people you know. I have heard these types of statements made about people who do these nice things for others but aren't Christians. In fact I have heard these things said about people who are outright pagans and mock Christ and those that believe in God's Word, His church, and believe it is all true.

Even in our own circles of Christian friends I know many people who believe God is saving every "good" person simply because they do nice things for others. For example, Ellen DeGeneres is lauded for the nice things she does for people. As a celebrity with a network television budget, she is able to frequently give away gobs of money and, taking after Oprah, every Christmas spends time giving the whole audience presents. I've seen countless times when someone is sick or has a life problem, Ellen will hear about it and surprise them with monetary help. Many Christians I know believe Ellen will one day occupy heaven because she does nice things for so many people.

So, what about it? Are there really non-Christians, people who do not hold to the teaching in Scripture, who are kind, helpful, good, and nice who will be in heaven with those who lived their lives following Christ, His teaching, believing in Him, having faith, struggling with sin, striving to overcome it, and persevering to be what Scripture has called us to be?

Unfortunately, I don't believe that is true (and I'm not just talking about Ellen or homosexuality). In fact Scripture explains this dichotomy really well.

When Moses brought back the commandments of God, he also reported to the Israelites that God had heard their cries. He wanted to help them. It is why they were rescued from Egypt. God also longed for His people to remember always their love for Him.

"Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!" -- Deuteronomy 5:29 [ESV]

Our God said yes! He would free them! But, He also wanted them to remember how much they loved and want to obey Him. He knew they would forget. So, He had Moses there and spoke more to him about what was next and Moses reported:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." -- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [ESV]

God knew His people would forget. But, these were things that were natural, perfect laws. They are just, right, and good. God wrote these laws on our hearts. Even still, He commanded His people to write these commands everywhere so that they would see them all the time and be reminded. [At this time, I am brought to mind that in this country, we are removing these commands as monuments from our city and county squares because people don't want to see it...irony of ironies.] God also commanded that these be taught diligently to our children and we should speak of them all times of the day so that their entire families will be familiar and knowledgeable about His commands.

The author of Hebrews (in chapter 8) reminds his readers that God's commands are written on all our hearts. It was God's covenant. For those who are arguing that this was the old covenant and it no longer applies, I appeal to Paul's words to the Greeks at Corinth. He spoke of the old covenant written on stone, but that the new covenant, spoken with words from flesh and bone, written by the Spirit, is also written on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

He also writes to the Roman church that God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

God's commands; His law, is written on our hearts.

When Paul writes to the Roman church:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. -- Romans 1:20-21 [ESV]

he is reminding them that God has written His will on our hearts including those who do not obey Him. So, what about the good, kind, and helpful people who do not follow or obey God? What does this have to do with them?

Those "good people" do good things because deep down, they know what is good and will do some good things. It is written on their hearts. It is only natural. Even the most despicable people have done good, kind, and nice things for others. You'll often hear of someone who does something really horrible and the news reporters ask their neighbors if they ever saw anything. Their neighbors usually say something to the effect of, "No, they were really quiet, but nice to me every time I saw them." "Good people" also do bad things. Some do very bad things and are unrepentant for it. They think their good will outweigh their bad. Thus, they have no need for a Savior. They will do life on their own.

God's people embody and reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Not just some of the fruit. All of the fruit. It comes from a life living for Him and a life that is daily being saved by Him. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I have yet to meet someone who lives all nine of these attributes who does not follow Christ. Believers do. And when they fall short, they repent.

Are those people really good? Even Jesus did not call himself good. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus:

"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." -- Luke 18:18-19 [ESV]

Jesus wasn't trying to ask a trick question. He was serious. Why are you calling someone good simply because they do good, kind, helpful things for people? Our works do not make us good. They are a reflection of the Spirit living in us; the fruit of the Spirit. An unbeliever cannot reflect the fruit of a Spirit they ignore.

Finally, Paul's words to the Romans about "good people":

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. -- Romans 3:10-20 [ESV]

We all sin. We all have faults. We all need Jesus. It is only in Him that we find eternal life. Our friends who are unrepentant in sinning are not saved simply because they are nice people, tell funny jokes, like the same music as us, watch the same television shows, are fans of the same sports teams, and might some day perform a grand gesture to someone that might make a Christian look foolish in comparison.

Lying, gossip, sexual immorality, stealing, murder, disobeying our parents, homosexuality, filthy language, envy, slander, and a host of other sins are all wrong and God will be the only one who will decide our sentence. But if we don't care and don't repent, we won't be saved. Telling people we accept them as they are and never telling them they are wrong is not kind. It is not good. It is not helpful. We are just as guilty when we "tolerate" sinful behavior. We should always be gentle. Always be loving. Always be kind. Our gentleness, love, and kindness (fruit of the Spirit) must be tempered with faithfulness, patience, and self-control along the truth of God's Word. We speak in Spirit (from fruit) and in truth. (John 4:24)

People are in our lives for us to share the Good News of Jesus' saving grace. Unless we do, they will not spend eternity with us nor with Christ. Share the Gospel with every person you meet.

__