Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I stopped going to church when I hit 16. You see, my parents wanted me in church until I was confirmed. Once that happened, they stopped taking me. Our church was about 2 miles away, and since they didn’t go anymore I had to walk if I wanted to go. I had always thought God must exist. I think the evidence of creation alone is enough to convince any open-minded person there must be a God. But back then, I had lost interest in knowing more about God because I didn’t see any need for Him in my life.
Picking up where we left off last week, that’s why I was so confused when, as a young man 12 years later, I heard that God offers eternal life as a free gift. How could I have gone to church as a teenager and never understood that? Well, first of all, my church didn’t teach the Bible. My church quoted a verse each week, then the priest told personal stories that had nothing to do with the Bible. I completely missed it. But that’s just an excuse for why I didn’t pay more attention to God. He is actively pursuing people, convicting them of His existence and our need for Him through their conscience, experiences, and the evidence He provides.
And that was the second part of my discussion with the man who visited us that Monday afternoon in 1987. I learned for the first time why I didn’t know how to answer either of the two questions he asked me (“Are you certain you would go to heaven if you died?” “One day you will stand before God when you die, and He will ask you ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ What are you going to say?”). Like everybody else, I lived my life on my own terms, defining what was right versus wrong for myself. I never thought that God had a standard I should be following. In fact, the Bible is full of descriptions of people in history who lived the same way. The last verse in the book of Judges says “In those days… everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That was me. And that is still what people do – we set our own standards for moral goodness.
The problem is that I had no clue whether my standards met God’s. I just hoped that one day, when I did stand before God, He would see I tried and that would be enough to get into heaven. But that is not what the Bible says: “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags… so You have hidden Your face from us, and have caused us to melt because of our sins.” (Isaiah 64:6-7). What I consider “righteous” behavior was filthy rags to God. I had a major need I never recognized – I needed to figure out His standard for good and conform to that, or else my sins separate me from Him.
Here’s the problem: no one is telling people they are sinners separated from God. With the exception of Judaism, all other worldviews do not believe people are born as sinners. Islam doesn’t acknowledge original sin. Hinduism views sin as an illusion. Buddhism, a form of atheism, rejects sin as violating any Supernatural Deity’s standard. And today’s American culture embraces Secular Humanism, where most people are relativists who reject absolute truth. It is the idea that truth is contained in the eye of the beholder. It is not uncommon to hear, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”
But the Bible clearly explains that it is our sin – our desire to live life on our own terms – that keeps us from knowing God. This is told to us in three ways. First, the Bible says everyone is a sinner – by their nature and by the choices they make (“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23). Second, the Bible says there isn’t any good work we can do to erase our sin and earn our way into heaven: “Not by any works of righteousness which we have done, but only by His mercy can He save us.” – Titus 3:5). That’s because God’s very character is morally perfect. And He’s not a democracy – He doesn’t grade moral goodness on a curve. Even at our best behavior, we are still sinful. And third, because we are sinners, and because there isn’t anything we can do to remove sin from us, the Bible says we deserve the death penalty and separation from God in hell (“The wages of your sin is death.” – Romans 6:23).
Dr. Stephen Meyer, founder of the Intelligent Design movement, explained how he, like all of us, came to recognize his need for God: “Why should God rule and I serve? Why should a condition of my happiness be submission to the will of God? But I sensed I couldn’t be happy without Him; I knew my bad lifestyle only brought misery. The intellectual rebellion the apostle Paul talks about is very true in my own life. Even in my Christian thinking today, I find a tendency to slide back into what Paul refers to as the natural mind. And here’s what the scientific evidence for God does for me: it realigns me. It helps me recognize that despite my natural tendency toward self-absorption, I can’t ignore God’s accomplishment in this world to let everyone know that He is real, that He is the Creator, and that we need to get right with Him.”
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #272
December 2, 2017