I have previously talked about what exactly the Gospel message is. Perhaps an equally important discussion involves understanding why we should care. So let’s tackle that question right now.
Most of us would probably feel pretty comfortable saying “I’m not that bad of a person.” We might even be able to verbalize an impressive list of good things we have done. Perhaps we have assisted a stranded motorist, given money to a local charity, helped a friend or family member with a difficult task, or served at a local homeless shelter. Or all of the above. And having such a resume behind us, we may be feeling pretty good about ourselves and we may be tempted to ask, “Why do I need the Gospel?”
On the other hand, none of us would describe ourselves as being perfect, and the Bible clearly agrees: “No one is righteous—not even one.” (Romans 3:10) So being unable to claim perfection, we are left comparing ourselves to others. We say things like, “I’m not a criminal” or “I’ve never killed anyone” or “I’m not as bad as (insert notoriously bad person’s name here)”. Undoubtedly, it is easy to find others who have a worse track record than we do. Clearly we’re not as bad as some others and our good deeds outweigh our bad, so the Gospel doesn’t really apply to us, right?
Not so fast. Isaiah 64:5-6 says: “You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
From a holy and perfect God’s perspective, even our good deeds are but “filthy rags”. So comparing ourselves to others, or thinking we can be good enough to earn our way to heaven, is a big mistake – one that too many people make. The Apostle Paul wrote: “…the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:19-20)
So with these verses in mind there is a simple test we can take to determine if we really need the Gospel or not. God gave us the Ten Commandments to teach us His law and, rather than comparing ourselves against other people who may seem worse than ourselves, we can compare ourselves to the Ten Commandments. So let’s run through just a few of the commandments. Be honest with yourself as you answer. We’ll start with commandment #3: “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
So, have you misused the name of the Lord? Shouldn’t we all be incredibly offended by the way the Lord’s name (and Jesus’) is used as a curse word, especially in today’s politically correct, be sensitive to others’ feelings, society? And aren’t most of us guilty of it at the same time? Be honest with yourself now!
And then there is #8: “You must not steal.” (Exodus 20:15).
So have you stolen something? Maybe it wasn’t a car or a TV or something of high value; but what about some office supplies from work? A few bucks from your parents’ wallet? Have you claimed all your tips on your taxes or exaggerated your deductions? If we are completely honest with ourselves about this, can’t almost all of us think of some small thing we have taken that didn’t belong to us?
Let’s look at just one more; number 9: “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
Have you ever told a lie? It doesn’t have to be a big one, it could be just something little. Maybe just a spicy bit of gossip you passed along or a little white lie. Big or small, a lie is a lie, but if you’re guilty of lying you’re certainly not alone, most of us have told a lie at some point in our lives. And the Bible says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).
As you can see, when we compare ourselves honestly against God’s law, we all fall short. And ignorance of the law is no excuse: “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” (Romans 2:14-15) Indeed, when we are completely honest with ourselves we all have regrets, we all have things we wished we haven’t done. We all feel the guilt of our sins.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Roman 6:23) And that is the good news of the Gospel. God made the law to show us our need for Him and He sent Jesus Christ to pay the price for our mistakes so that we can be with Him in eternity. And it gets even better than that! When we repent and place our trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God fills us with the Holy Spirit to help us in the here and now.
When we are honest with ourselves, really honest, we know that we have never known love such as that. Indeed, God is love. (1John 4:8)
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