The Law and the Gospel
This morning I want to share what I am most passionate about in life. God has revolutionized my life the past couple years and I will never be the same again. Some of what I share may be difficult to accept. I know it was for me. It took several years for God to penetrate my hardened heart. My prayer is that you would search God’s Word and pray before you immediately dismiss it. I also am not saying I have all the answers or that I have arrived. I am simply a sinner saved by grace who hopes to spend the rest of his life telling others about Christ. So this is basically my life’s story. These are things that God has convicted me about in my own life.
I would like to begin with my testimony - some which is in the letter I put in your box. I first put my trust in Christ at a Good News Club that my mom held in our home. It was a club after school where she shared Bible stories with neighborhood kids. I put my trust in Christ at the age of 7 after one of those meetings. I pretty much led a good life and tried to serve Christ to the best of my abilities. However, I never had confidence in my decision to trust Christ because I fell short so often and never had a passion for the Bible or to share my faith.
I continued serving in churches, doing Bible studies, and all the good things a Christian is supposed to do. But at times I felt listless and sometimes distant from God. I held some bitterness towards God because of the health issues I had to go through. But it is not about my health. I also struggled with some of the things that have happened in the church over the past several years. But again, it is not about this church. A few years ago I reached I crisis of faith. I still believed in God and knew Christ died for me, but I simply lacked a passion for the things of God. I did not read my Bible, my prayer life was dormant, and I did not know what to do other than to ask God to reveal Himself to me. I struggled being involved in youth group, because I saw so many kids claim to come to Christ, only to walk away in high school or college. I felt like I was not making any difference and to be honest, I did not know what difference God made in my life. My trying to be good was just that, me trying to be good. After all, I really had never done anything really bad in my life.
Then about 3 years ago, an acquaintance mentioned a book that he had read by Mark Cahill called “The One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven”. It is referring to the fact that we can not witness in heaven or bring anyone with us. After reading it, the Holy Spirit convicted me about my lack of sharing the Gospel. Then, I heard a message by Ray Comfort on Hell's Best Kept Secret and I realized that I was not the good person I felt I was. I deserved hell because of my sinful nature. I violated every one of God's Law, the 10 Commandments, at least in my heart or thoughts.
If I was judged by God by his Law, I would be found guilty, and would deserve hell. God is loving, but He is also just and Holy. He can not allow sin in His presence. My only hope is Christ - He came to earth to not only die but to endure the wrath of God that I deserve. It says in Isaiah 53:10 that it “It pleased YAHWEH to crush His Son” Can you understand what that means. I did the crime, but Christ paid my fine. Because Christ became sin for us, God the Father could not look at His own Son. That is why He cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" We watched “The Gospel Journey Maui” this past spring in youth group. One of the last videos was entitled “Who is Jesus?”. Greg Stier, the preacher, talked about this fact - how when Christ cried out on the cross - for the first time in eternity, the Son was separated from the Father as He bore our sin upon Himself. How that happened, I cannot explain, but it is incredible that God would do that for us.
Christ took the punishment I deserve, defeated death, and rose again. Because of His death, I can live. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states it this way: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ took on my sin, and I received Christ's righteousness. My response to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is simply to repent and believe the gospel and keep on repenting and believing. Mark 1:15 quotes Christ’s first words as “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” It is in the present tense which means to keep on repenting and believing.
Since that time my whole goal in life is to share the gospel. That is my passion. I try to tell everyone I can. I read my Bible because I want to hear from God and want to know more how to share with others, not because I feel I have to. I am more excited about Christ that I thought possible. Some say I have the gift of evangelism, but I am not so sure. I am shy and would prefer to sit quietly and not make a scene. But I just know that if Christ means everything to me, I must share the gospel with others. Charles Spurgeon says "Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." Now that may seem kind of harsh, and I know it struck a nerve in me when I first read that. Obviously, that is not always the case, but it made me think.
97.4% That is the going rate these days for how many churchgoers in one evangelical denomination will die without once - not once - telling another person how he or she can be saved through Christ Jesus. And yet many, if not most, if not all of the people in those congregations would probably say that their relationship with Jesus is the single greatest priority in their lives. How can this be? Evangelism is the responsibility of everyone. Not just the pastors, not just the full-time missionaries, but everyone. Paul tells Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Bill Fay in his booklet “The Sin of Silence” says, “End all doubt about your salvation. There are many in the church who have never truly bowed their knee to Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins, receiving His forgiveness by faith, and confessing Him as Lord. Believe it or not, that is just the facts. And if the sin of silence regarding sharing your faith is something you never intend to repent of - like any other sin that may have invaded your heart and life - I believe it’s fair to ask why you choose Christ and not care if anyone else does. The painful truth for why many people struggle with the sin of silence - why they don’t share the good news of Jesus with those they know and those they meet - is that a person can’t give away what he doesn’t have.”
Athiest Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller, says this in an YouTube video - “If you believe there is a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell, or not get eternal life, and you think it is not really worth telling them this, because it would make it socially awkward ... how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
I know that for much of my life my assurance of salvation was based on a decision that I made, not on the finished work of Christ. It was the sincerity of my words. How is that different from those that base their salvation on baptism, on communion, or any other good works? The Sinner’s Prayer has become just another good work. The verse that is usually used to support the sinner’s prayer is Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Yet people do not look at the context. They were not in America, they were in a culture where confessing Jesus as Lord, could get them killed. It also means to make Jesus Lord, not just intellectual assent. Now I realize that many people do come to Christ through just such a prayer, but it is in spite of it not because of it. Pastor Chitwood used to say that many people will be surprised in heaven to find out when they really became born again. I have a sentence in my Bible that summarizes faith for me - “Father, I am going to trust only in what you have done for me in your son Jesus Christ and if that work is not strong enough to save me, then I am going to hell because I refuse to believe in any other thing.”
Why is there so little evidence of Christ in the lives of so many so-called Christians? Is it because they are basing their salvation on a decision that they made, on something THEY did, not on Christ and what He did? They think it is all about doing something to earn salvation.
Do you think that you are covered because you prayed a prayer as a child or youth, so now you are free to ignore Him and live life for yourself. The evidence of whether you are saved, is if you continue to repent and believe. Do you have to live a sinless life? Of course not. But if you have no desire to live for Christ, then you must examine your life. Question: Do you love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates? Are you willing to give up something that you have the liberty to do, but will affect your testimony to a dead and dying world?
2 Corinthians 13:5 says to "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" This verse is what really made me examine my life and consider God’s call in my life. 2 Peter 1:10 also says “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.”
Mark Cahill notes in his book that, when witnessing to the lost,“if there is no desire to walk away from sin, the person is not really making a true heart commitment to the Savior. In John 6:44 Jesus says,‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.’ If God is drawing someone to Him, He would also be drawing the person away from his sin.”
So why do so many kids walk away from the faith or why do so many so-called Christians show no evidence in their lives of the transforming power of the gospel. I believe it is because we no longer talk about sin. Growing up in the church, I heard all about Jesus dying on the cross, but it never really registered why I need Christ. After all, I was basically a good person, wasn’t I? But without understanding the depth of my sin, I can not truly understand the sacrifice that Christ made for me. John MacArthur says “Remove the reality of sin and you take away the possibility of repentance. Abolish the doctrine of human depravity and you void the divine plan of salvation. Erase the notion of personal guilt and you eliminate the need for a Savior”
In the early 1970’s Karl Menniger wrote a small book with the provocative title, “ Whatever Became of Sin?” In it he observed that the word “sin” and the concept it represented began to disappear from our culture around the middle of the twentieth century. However, he views sin on an entirely horizontal level, the sin of one person against another or perhaps against oneself. To fully comprehend the nature of sin, though, we must recognize its vertical dimension: sin is primarily an offense toward God.
David recognized this when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. He says in Psalms 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”
If you are like me, you want to say that you really are not that bad. I don’t do anything seriously wrong. We all tell lies. But consider this. It is not what you do, but WHO you do it to. If I tell a lie to a 5 year old, there is not really much they can do about it. If I tell a lie to my wife, I may end up sleeping on the couch. If I tell a lie to the government I will end up in prison. If I tell a lie to God, and ultimately all lies are against God, then I deserve hell. J.I. Packer says it this way, “There can be no small sins against a great God.”
But what is Sin? Growing up in the church I was taught not to gamble, smoke, drink, dance, or go to movies. While some of those things may not be beneficial to us, they do not reveal the true nature of our sin. I felt if I followed those rules and avoided those things, that I was okay. But sin is transgression of the Law of God. I John 3:4 says “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
God Law is found in the 10 Commandments. They have basically been removed from society today, so I am going to quickly review them. I have included a picture and statement about the picture to make it easier to memorize them.
The First Commandment is “You shall have no other Gods before me”. (Exodus 20:2,3) Mark 12:29-30 says: “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” Do we truly love Him with our whole being? We say He is lord, but do our lives reveal it?
God should always be Number One.
The Second Commandment is “You shall not make for yourself any graven image.” (Exodus 20:4-6) Idolatry is perhaps the greatest of all sins because it opens the door to unrestrained evil. It gives sinners license not only to tolerate sin, but to sanction it. If you can make a god in your own image, you can create your own moral standards to go along with him or her. You make a god to suit yourself, one that does not talk about sin, righteousness, and judgment. Just make sure he or she likes the things you like and hates the things you hate. If you like lust, so will your god. If your god doesn’t mind lying and stealing, then you can lie, steal, and lust to your heart’s content. Your god will fill your heart with joy...right up until Judgment Day.
Don’t bow to anything but God
The Third Commandment is “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD your God will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). To slur someone’s name is to insult the very person.
Don’t use your lips to dishonor God.
The Fourth Commandment is “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The Sabbath was given as a sign to Israel (Exodus 31:13–17); nowhere is it given as a sign to the church. Romans 14:5–10 tells us that one man esteems one day of the week above another; another esteems every day alike. We are not to judge each other regarding the day on which we worship.
Don’t neglect the things of God.
The Fifth Commandment is “Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you”(Exodus 20:12). To honor our parents is to esteem them, show them respect, and obey them.
It’s a “5” shaped like a Dad and Mom.
The Sixth Commandment is “You shall not murder”(Exodus 20:13). Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say to you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”(Matthew 5:21,22).
It’s a bomb shaped like a “6”
The Seventh Commandment is “You shall not commit adultery”(Exodus 20:14). However, Jesus explained that God judges even the thought-life. He said,“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: But I say to you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart”(Matthew 5:27,28)
Adultery leaves a heart broken.
The Eighth Commandment is “You shall not steal”(Exodus 20:15).
Most people don’t think that God considers theft to be theft until the value of what is taken impresses Him. However, if I open your wallet and take just one dollar, I’m a thief, and the Bible says that thieves will not enter the kingdom of God. Jesus asked,“What does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”(Matthew 16:26).
The thief’s mask looks like an “8”
The Ninth Commandment is “You shall not lie or bear false witness against your neighbor”(Exodus 20:16). Lying in order to cause harm to another, or to avoid the consequences of our own wrong behavior, is never acceptable to a holy God who knows our motive.
This number “9” is lying down.
The Tenth Commandment is: “You shall not covet...anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). Covetousness is the spark that sets off the fuse of sin. It is a sin that lies close to the surface of every human being.
The door and ring together look like a “10”.
So what does this mean? Why did I go through the Ten Commandments? Am I trying to say that we must keep the Law to be saved or to gain God’s forgiveness. Absolutely not. It is only by the grace of God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So what is the purpose of the Law of God?
Galatians 3:24 says “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Law does doesn’t help us; it just leaves us helpless. It doesn’t justify us; it just leaves us guilty before the judgment bar of a holy God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.”
If I approach an unrepentant sinner and say, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins,”it will be foolishness and offensive to him. It will be foolishness because it won’t make sense. The Bible says that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness”(1 Corinthians 1:18). And it will be offensive because I’m implying he’s a sinner when he doesn’t think he is. As far as he’s concerned, there are a lot of people far worse than him. But if I take the time to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it may make more sense. If I open up the divine Law, and show the sinner precisely what he’s done wrong — that he has offended God by violating His Law—then the good news of the fine being paid will not be foolishness. It will not be offensive. It will be “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
Romans 3:19 says,“Now we know that whatsoever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.” So one function of God’s Law is to stop the mouth, to keep sinners from justifying themselves by saying,“There are plenty of people worse than me. I’m not a bad person, really. ”No, the law stops the mouth of justification and leaves, not just the Jews, but the whole world guilty before God.
Charles Spurgeon, stated,“I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law. The Law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the Law to make way for it.”
We can see the work of God’s Law illustrated in civil law. For example, many people often drive over the speed limit, especially in large cities where everyone is going over the speed limit. Apparently each speeder says to himself that the law has forgotten to patrol his part of the freeway. After all he is violating the law by only 15 mph, and besides, he isn’t the only one doing it. However, notice what happens when the law enters with red lights flashing. The speeder’s heart misses a beat. He is no longer secure in the fact that other motorists are also speeding. He knows that he is personally as guilty as the next guy, and he could be the one the law pulls over. The fact that there are other people doing it is irrelevant. Suddenly, his “mere” 15 mph transgression doesn’t seem such a small thing after all; it seems to abound.
Now watch the Law of God enter with red lights flashing. The sinner’s heart skips a beat. He lays his hand upon his mouth. He examines the speedometer of his conscience. Suddenly, it shows him the measure of his guilt in a new light—the light of the Law. His sense of security in the fact that there are multitudes doing the same thing becomes irrelevant, because every man will give an account of himself to God. Sin not only becomes personal, it seems to “abound.” His mere lust becomes adultery of the heart; his white lie, false witness; his own way becomes rebellion; and his hatred, murder.
Charles Spurgeon said, “(Sinners) will never accept grace, until they tremble before a just and holy Law.” The Law makes grace abound, in the same way that darkness makes light shine. John Wesley advised a young evangelist, for effective evangelism, preach 90 percent Law and 10 percent grace.
So where does this leave us? We are not good. Psalm 14:3 says,“They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” Each of us have broken God’s Law repeatedly. I have thought about this lately in regard to the alleged Craigslist killer, Philip Markoff. Here is a young man, 22 years old, in medical school, engaged to be married, who killed a young model. His fiancee, Megan McAllister, said that he would not hurt a fly. How many times do we hear that about a murderer? We all want to think that we would never do that, but the reality is that we are all capable of that. We have all done that in our heart at some point, by hating our brother.
If we stood before God and He judged us according to His Law we would be found guilty. You and Me. If we are guilty that would mean an eternity in hell. C. S. Lewis summed up all the terrors of hell when he said,“There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than the doctrine of hell, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by the Christian Church, and it has the support of reason.” We would know very little about hell were it not the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.
At this point most people will agree that they are not a good person, but they don’t think a loving God will send them to hell. But what they have done is idolatry. They have made a god to suit themselves, someone they can accept. It is true that God is love, but He is also holy, righteous, and just.
This is a scenario that I often use when witnessing. Suppose that you have committed a horrible crime and the punishment for that crime was $1,000,000 or life in prison. If the judge is a good judge he must punish you for your crime. If someone murdered your parents and then let the killer go free, you would not call the judge good. So the judge must punish you. As you are being led off to jail, someone you don’t know, steps forward, and hands the judge the $1,000,000. He sold everything he had so that your fine could be paid. Now the judge can legally dismiss your case and still be just. That is a what Christ for you and for me upon the cross. Only in this case it was a death sentence that He took in our place, and He is not an unknown person, but the judge Himself.
That is the Good News - the Great News. The Gospel. The Cross of Christ
Once we understand our sinfulness, our depravity, the cross because so precious. That is whu I love to sing about the cross, about His sacrifice, about Christ’s blood shed for us. My mom has said that for years, and I am just finally beginning to get it - to really understand the depth of God’s love for a sinner like me. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Christ took the wrath of God that I deserve upon Himself. In that moment in time, Jesus Christ, was separated from the Father as He became sin on our behalf. There was a cosmic shock wave throughout the universe as the Father turned His back on the Son. Isn’t that amazing! If you understand this in this depth of your heart, it will change you forever.
I would like to read a passage by R.C. Sproul from the book, “Preaching the Cross.” In in he says, “We are not justified by the doctrine of justification by faith. We can believe this doctrine, give intellectual assent to its truth, and even contend for it with our all without ever having the faith that alone will justify us. Our justification is not accomplished by a profession of faith. The evangelical world has never fully grasped that nobody is justified by a simple profession of faith. Professions of faith are good things, and those who believe are supposed to profess what they believe, but it’s the “possession” of faith - not its “profession” - that translates a person from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. For that reason we who are preachers must be very careful how we preach the gospel, to guard against giving people a false sense of security, saying, “If you raise your hand ... if you come to the altar ... if you sign the card ... you’re going to get into the kingdom of God.” We wind up constructing all kinds of distorted theology to account for false professions of faith. We must remember that it is not the doctrine that saves anybody; the doctrine simply describes what brings us into a state of justification. When I became a Christian on September 13, 1957, at 11:00 p.m., I had never heard the word justification. I didn’t know what it was. I had never read the Bible, although I’d heard about Jesus. The night I became a Christian, a man sat me down and told me about Christ. He quoted from the book of Ecclesiastes: If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.” (Eccl. 11:3) That Scripture verse was illuminated by the Holy Ghost, and I saw myself as that fallen tree in the middle of the forest, lying there and rotting away. I am perhaps the only person in the history of the church who has been converted by that verse. That night I went back to my room overwhelmed by a sense of my sin and by the conviction that my only hope in life and death was the atoning work of my Savior. Beside my bed I fell on my knees. I didn’t recite the catechism; I simply said, “O God, forgive me for my sins.” I arose justified.”
Often we think that the Gospel is only for unbelievers. But it truly it is for all of us. Jerry Bridges says to preach the gospel to yourself daily. Not to save us again, because if we have been truly born again, nothing can snatch us from the Father’s hand. But we must be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice daily. If we begin each morning meditating on the Gospel, we will strive to glorify Christ with our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. We will begin to see what is important in life - sharing the Gospel with others, helping the poor. Not making more money, buying more stuff, or entertaining ourselves to death.
The first evidence that we are born again is that we will repent and put trust in Christ. Repentance is more than just sorrow for sin, it means to confess sin and forsake it - to agree with God that it is wrong and to turn and go in the opposite direction. We must turn from sin to the Savior. This is why Paul preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)
To be honest, repentance is an issue that I disagreed with for years but recently God has changed my own heart. I have searched Scripture and I can come to no other conclusion. However, I need to clarify one point. Even our ability to repent and put our trust in Christ does not come from us. It is God in His sovereignty that is drawing us to Him. Not only do we as sinners lack any spiritual good in ourselves, but we also lack the ability to come to God in our own strength. Paul says that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8)
The application to our lives is this: If God gives anyone a desire to repent and trust in Christ, he should not delay and should not harden his heart. This ability to repent and desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and it will not last forever. “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15)
In closing I ask 4 things:
1. Examine your life - allow God to show you the depth of your sin. If you are not sure you are truly born again, repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. Do it today.
As I have read through the Gospels I have found two phrases that seem to sum up what we may hear when we die or Christ returns. The first is found in Matthew 25:21 where the master says “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
The second is at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21 where Jesus says,"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
2. Preach the cross to yourself daily. Meditate on what Christ did for you and me on the cross, taking our sin upon Himself.
3. Read God’s Word daily. The Bible is God’s love letters to us. How would you feel if your spouse never read 66 letters that you had written to him/her. I have begun reading through the Bible where I read ten chapters a day, from ten different places in the Bible. If you want more information on it, go to my blog - it is on the letter in your box.
4. Share your faith wherever you go - take advantage of every opportunity to share Christ. If you don’t know how, ask me. I would love to talk to you, and if there is enough interest, I would love to do a class on evangelism. But begin somewhere: pass out tracts without saying anything, then get comfortable talking to strangers about everyday events, and finally tell people about the hope that you have in Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:24 says “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”