Tag Archives: goodness
Friends: As you know, my most recent book is Unlike Jesus! Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. I’m convinced many of us believers meet only with other Christians, watch only Christian movies, and eat only Christian casseroles. We make lousy friends because we’re not sure we’re supposed to be a friend of sinners!
In the next few posts, I’m going to hammer pretty hard on this idea of being a friend of sinners — like Jesus was! I have one goal in mind — to get you (and me) much more serious about the unbelievers we know and to challenge us to develop deep, committed friendships with them.
Just so you know, I’ve developed three videos which cover the basics of my book and can be used in a Zoom kind of church study. I would gladly lead the discussion (live) after your church group watches each video. All we have to do is schedule the meetings.
We’ve looked at the first two videos and a couple of short pitches for the book. Let’s look at a fourth pitch about . . . goodness!
Okay. I admit. I have a lot of admiration for good commercial-makers! And how about those lines?
“I secret Santa-ed myself!”
“I shouldn’t have. I have been very good this year!”
Aren’t you glad God thought of US when He sent His Son! ‘Cause we aren’t good. Have a great day!
My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 4
In a few days I’ll be presenting several workshops at Emmaus Bible College’s leadership conference “Iron Sharpens Iron.” Registration (it’s not too late!) for the conference can be found here. We’ve been thinking about my first workshop entitled —
“Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”
The first certainty we’ve noticed is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil. We’ve also seen the second certainty which is: God is holy and will judge rightly. In our last post we focused on the fact that we must preach and teach that this life is brief– one must be ready to meet God!
The fourth certainty we must keep a grip on is that man is still made in the image of God and is capable of incredible acts of kindness and heroism. In several of the school shootings teachers lost their lives by standing between their students and the shooter.
Biblically, we would say that, although sin has infected man’s being made in the image of God, it has not obliterated it. Man is still able to do good things, but none of those good deeds can bring him salvation.
Sometimes Christians confuse the concepts of total depravity and utter depravity. Total depravity means that every aspect of the human being has been affected by sin. However, the human person is still made in the image of God and can do good, even heroic, things. Utter depravity is the concept that man can only sin, that the image has somehow been completely lost, that unsaved people are incapable of doing anything good.
But the Bible doesn’t teach that unsaved people are incapable of doing anything good. Jesus says, for example, in Luke 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
We can (and should) compliment our unsaved friends when they are good parents, good neighbors, good friends. But salvation is not a matter of our goodness, is it? And that’s why they need Jesus. As we did.
For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.”
1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
2 You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
3 You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
4 You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!
5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
6 The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
7 “Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”
8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.
3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.
4 Lord, do good to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
5 But those who turn to crooked ways
the Lord will banish with the evildoers.
65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
And that’s the gospel. We give Him our sins — and He gives us His righteousness. And that is GOOD NEWS!
I preached this morning at our church in Columbia, South Carolina, on the rich young ruler in Mark, chapter 10. What a fascinating story. I’ll probably post the 22-minute audio of that sermon in the next few days.
What impressed me the most in that passage was the fact that Jesus allowed this young ruler, who was really into being good, to claim that he had kept God’s commands. He had come to Jesus to ask, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Amazingly, Jesus told him to keep the commandments, specifically commandments #6, 7, 8, 9, and 5. Those commandments were: don’t commit murder or adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, and honor your parents.
Jesus then commanded this man to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow Him. Some have misunderstand this passage to suggest that the man could earn his salvation this way.
Jesus then said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. With God all things are possible.”
Only God can save. We can’t be good enough to please a thoroughly holy God. He offers salvation to all who give up on their own righteousness, confess their sins, and trust Christ as their Savior. There is no greater deal.
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
So far we have noticed —
I. A Young Man’s Urgent Question (v. 17)
Running up to Jesus, falling before Him to ask this question, this man’s sincerity is unquestionable. He wants, he needs an answer to his question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We then discussed —
II. Jesus’ Surprising Answer (v. 18)
Jesus does not answer this man’s question directly, but first challenges his greeting. To the man’s salutation, “Good teacher,” Jesus responds, ““Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” We suggested that Jesus is indicating His own deity by this statement. Let’s now examine —
III. Jesus’ Shocking Challenge (vv. 19-20)
To this young ruler’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus not only challenges his view of goodness, but He then selectively lists some of the Ten Commandments. Jesus says, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
The Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, are first given to Moses in Exodus 20. There we read:
And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Jesus chooses five of the ten commandments for this young man. He selects commandments #6-9 and then commandment #5. These commandments relate to how we treat our fellowman. Anyone wanting to be “good” had better not murder, commit adultery against, steal from, or give false witness about another human being. That person wanting to be “good” must honor his father and his mother.
Why did the Lord Jesus choose these commandments? The first four pertain to one’s relationship to God: 1. Have no other gods before me. 2. Don’t make any graven images of Me. 3. Don’t take My name in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
It appears that Jesus chooses these five commandments because they are readily testable. What is fascinating is that Jesus does not list the tenth commandment which is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This young ruler’s response to Jesus’ selective list of some of the Ten Commandments is: “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (verse 20). If we give this man the benefit of the doubt, we could conclude that no, he had never murdered anyone. He had never committed adultery with anyone. He had led an honorable life, not taking what was not his. He had been honest in his dealings with others, neither giving false witness nor defrauding others. And he perhaps had an exemplary track record of honoring his parents.
It is fascinating that Jesus does not correct him when he says, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Based on Jesus’ expansion of the Law, Jesus could have said to him, “If you have ever hated someone in your heart, you are guilty of murder. If you have ever lusted after a woman, you are guilty of adultery. If you have even once taken the credit due to someone else, you have acted as a thief. And your parents — if we were to interview them — would they say that you have honored them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, since you were a child? I don’t think so!”
Jesus does not challenge this man’s claim. But what Jesus does do is amazing, and that we will look at in our next installment. (to be continued)