Man’s natural response and disposition to sin is to look for dos and don’ts to justify or rectify his moral status. He can dismantle a sermon by deriving little implied though inconclusive commands-do this, do not do this. After he sits for the moral test that he himself has prepared and invigilated, he grades it as well with his perception of goodness as the marking scheme. In light of grand evils such as rape, racism, adultery, paedophilia and murder, he passes his own test and is rather pleased with himself. He even admits that he ought to be a stellar candidate for Heaven’s citizenship. The pesky conscience that implies his jealousy of his workmate’s new car or his lust for the wife of the man across the street is doused by the idea that nobody wouldn’t be culpable of such “human” impulses. His questionable sin test with an A grade passes the mind’s high court ruling. In no lengthy time, thanks to the constant self-justification, the man’s default definition of good is reduced to comparisons of evil. He may serve two sausages in the queue when it is required that each take one but he wouldn’t consider himself greedy with the backdrop of thieving politicians who rake in illegal millions. He may fantasize being in bed with that ravishing damsel he saw on the streets but he wouldn’t consider himself adulterous with the backdrop of his clandestine married workmate in an affair with the office secretary. He may lie to get ahead of the supermarket queue but he wouldn’t consider himself a liar with the backdrop of a Government that doesn’t keep its promises. The man’s goodness is contingent on the difference between him and the worst rottenness in society. As long as the moral distance is great, he considers himself safe in his standing with God and even by natural means, claims to be a Christian. Hell will host more men like this than the kind of Adolf Hitler.
Beloved, the best ways to avoid Jesus is to trust in one’s own goodness. You see, the opposite of goodness, licentiousness, is obvious sin and the sinner knows it. However the “good” person never realizes that he/she is in need of saving. Why? They strive so hard to be moral on their own effort and if they succeed they can become smug about it. They don’t cheat on their partner. They give to poor people. They don’t indulge in drugs etc. A form of religiosity will never show a person that they need a Saviour because they believe that they are good people. They can’t see how they of all people could deserve hell. They admit to be human but say God can’t allow them to perish in a place like hell because they are good. Beloved, goodness will perish more people than licentiousness. The heart of the gospel of Jesus is that even the Pope, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa put together is a holy record that is so filthy in comparison to God’s holiness. The heart of the gospel is not to do good deeds and live a holy life in order to be accepted by God but rather, since God accepts you through Christ on that cross, do good deeds and live a holy life. At the heart of the gospel, you don’t become a good person so that God can become good to you, rather, you become a good person because God was good to you first. For the radiant blinding holiness of Christ makes the most moral human being black as night. All of the most morally upright men and women combined and crushed in a mortar with an iron pestle could never ooze out a fraction of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Knowing our inadequacy, Jesus attained the righteous standard that man needed to achieve to be accepted into heaven and have right standing with God. And in the greatest act of love, compassion and mercy he gave us that moral record and took our own. That glorious exchange cost him his life. He endured your whips and endured your cross for the sake of the joy set before him- the joy of having you out of the reaches of Satan’s clutches and into the arms of your creator-man reconciled to God.
Let him who has ears hear. Imagine a mother frying some samosas in hot oil. Suddenly that mother’s child runs into the room and is heading for the boiling oil. What does the mother do? Her child is about to dive headlong into the arms of death or excruciating pain. The mother instantly commands the child “STOP!” The imperative from the mother is a command of love. Christ is like that mother and we are like that impulsive child. We are running into hot oil everyday and ultimately into hot oil eternally. God’s command in the Bible to STOP is one of love. The impulsive child that sees the command as a restraint to their freedom will eventually pay the full price of disobedience. If God’s commands are seen as obstacles to our liberties, even the barricading arms of the mother won’t stop us from the danger ahead. On account of our rebellious and sinful lives, we will push the mother aside and keep running towards the hot oil.
That if we understand our inadequacy and our undeserving nature of God’s goodness, confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways in repentant response to his love, we will be saved. Our deadness in our transgressions will be transformed to a miraculous life with the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We will be sealed with that same reviving Holy Spirit as children of the Creator. And that very spirit will strengthen us to walk in his standards. He will give each man and woman a distaste for darkness and arouse a new taste for righteousness. The old will be gone and the new will come. On occasion we will sin, though not out of our new nature but rather out of the conflict between the new life and the physically alive sinful flesh. Our purpose, therefore, until the sinful flesh breathes its last is to amplify the new life with His Word and dependence on the Holy Spirit in us. And on that glorious day when we are caught up in the heavens with Him, we will receive new bodies with new appetites and no knowledge of or desire for the sinful cravings we now put to die daily. The slums of Heaven, if there is such a thing, outmatch the splendours or earthly royalty by leaps and bounds, beyond human comprehension. Live successfully on this earth but refrain from attaching your soul to the fading treasures that God grants you to enjoy. Set your eyes on things above and be generous to the point of your own hurt. Lose not everlasting treasure for an affection of worldly pleasure. For if the slums of heaven outweigh our earthly pleasures, how much more the treasures of Christ’s eternity?
Verses to read and study: Isaiah 59:1-2, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ist Timothy 2:5-6, 1st Peter 3:18, John 5:24, John 1:12