The World’s Trouble

  • The World’s Trouble: Introduction
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Introduction

    You are in trouble. You may know that, or feel it. You may have come to this book sensing that something is wrong. The truth is: something is wrong with the world and something is wrong with you. You see things. You hear things. You know there is groaning and suffering. You are not the only one.

    Maybe you came here thinking everything is fine. Sure you have had discomforts and inconveniences, but it all works out and it will be okay in the end. You have heard of some who have a hard time but they are in faraway places, and things will pick up for them. You are enjoying life. You are not the only one.

    Whether you think you are in trouble or not, you are likely wrong on both counts. If you think you are in trouble, you do not know the half of it. If you think you are not in trouble, you are deceiving yourself into false security.

    Those are strong, direct statements. You may think I am rude, harsh, or even unloving in making them. You may think I am arrogant and judgmental. I don’t even know you so how could I say such things about you? It would be unloving and judgmental if I were saying that about everyone else but me. The trouble I am talking about is the world’s trouble and I am in trouble as much as everyone else. At least, I was. There is one, and only one, way out of trouble and I am writing to tell you about it.

    What is the trouble? Before I answer that question, let me ask another one. What is wrong with the world? You can offer several good answers to that question—crime, war, poverty, wealth, religion. All those things contribute in some way, but all the answers to that question can be bundled into one answer—sin. Sin is what is wrong with the world. You can look out around you today and see it. You can look back through history and see it. Sin is the problem.

    You are probably thinking: Okay, here we go with the fundamentalist rant about cussin’, drinkin’, dancin’, and smokin’. It might surprise you to hear that those types of things are not the real problem. We could stop all that tomorrow and the world would not be out of trouble.

    Sin is what is wrong with the world, but that is not the whole picture. You can point to sin to account for human atrocities and evil deeds in the past, present, and the future, but the world’s trouble is after that. The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, wrote of a future time known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). The trouble he referred to is a time of judgment on the nation of Israel. The world’s trouble I am referring to is the future, final judgment that all men will face.

    The biblical record is clear that this life is not all there is. If this present life was all there is, then sin would still be a problem, but at least death would end it. Sympathies to all those dealt a losing hand, but at least it is over. But, this life is not all there is and the grave neither ends nor solves the problem.

    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment
    – Hebrews 9:27

    The judgment that is the world’s trouble is a judgment where every violation of God’s law will receive a just punishment (Hebrews 2:2). Jesus warned that everything will be judged, even the idle words we speak (Matthew 12:36). That’s the judgment the world is going to and that’s the trouble the entire world is in.

    I did mention there is one way, and only one way, out of this trouble. I am writing to tell you about this way. No one is excluded from this way because of their gender, ethnicity, or social class. No one is excluded from this way because of the mountain of sins casting a shadow over their life and darkening their quiet times. This way is good news and our only hope.

    I invite you now to think about sin, what it is and why it is a problem. You will see how, from the greatest to the smallest, the whole world is guilty before God. You will learn about the way of escape God has made and how to distinguish the one true way from all other ways that promise deliverance. By the end, you will know how this way was made in the wisdom, mercy, and grace of God. You will know what it cost and what it is worth.

    If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, this is what I would want to say to you.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 1
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 1

    Do you remember where you were and what you were doing Monday morning, May 2, 2011? Probably not right off. Unless you were quite young, you do remember where you were and what you were doing Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

    Those two dates are connected. September 11, 2001 was the day of the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D. C. May 2, 2011 was the morning we received news that Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had been killed by the U. S. Navy Seal Team Six as a result of an infiltration of Bin Laden’s compound outside Islamabad in Pakistan.

    Bin Laden was Public Enemy No. 1, and many rejoiced at the news of his execution. This news and the reaction to it was the topic of public discussion in print, online, on the radio, and on television news. It fascinated me that the Bible was being read and its meaning openly debated on the public airways of this country, even if only for a short time.

    Inevitably, the discussion raised the question of whether Osama Bin Laden was evil and deserved to be killed. Generally speaking, the atheists, agnostics, humanists, and secularists did not have a hard time saying Bin Laden was evil. People who do not believe in God or the Bible can hear of a man kicking open the door of an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and shooting ten schoolgirls and call that evil.

    People generally have no problem denouncing the Bin Ladens, Hitlers, and Stalins of the world as evil. Their transgressions are grand-scale and obvious. Non-Christians and Christians alike denounce them as evil and deserving of punishment. It is reasonable to assert they are guilty before God and will be judged by Him.

    The evil we tend not to see is in our own heart and life. It is hard for us to think that the whole world is guilty before God when so few, relatively speaking, have sinned on the order of Bin Laden or Hitler. Could it be true? Is the whole world guilty before God, or are only the truly bad ones destined for judgment? To answer these questions, we have to find out what the Bible actually teaches about sin and how the Bible identifies evil.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 2
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 2

    You and I breathe the air of relativism daily. That is a fancy term that basically means there is no universal standard of right and wrong. Morality is discussed this way in the classroom, textbooks, news editorials, and talk shows. It sounds intellectual and informed to talk this way, but you really cannot live this way.

    You believe in fixed meaning and right and wrong when it comes to your bank account. You believe in fixed meaning and right and wrong when you sign a contract to buy or sell a house. You also believe in right and wrong and fixed meaning when it comes to whether or not your spouse cheated on you. At best we are perpetrating a double standard when we philosophize about moral relativity but demand the bank teller put the exact amount deposited into our account and not keep some or all for himself.

    We do live our lives in terms of right and wrong, but we are often arbitrary and inconsistent in applying a standard of right and wrong. The Bible reveals a fixed standard of right and wrong that is the timeless revelation of God’s will. The world will be judged by God’s fixed standard.

    And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
    – Revelation 20:12

    A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
    – Daniel 7:10

    There is standard of measure for our lives and we need to know what God says about sin. First we want to consider sin by definition, or technically. Our English Bible uses several different words, e.g. sin, transgress, trespass, fault, etc. These words have a range of meaning and are used to translate the various words from the Hebrew or Greek. The most common word for sin though is a word that means to miss the mark. It assumes a target or a standard that is missed.

    The standard is God’s law as revealed in the Bible so that sin can be defined as breaking God’s law. If the law says, “Don’t do this,” and we do it, it is sin. If the law says, “Do this,” and we don’t do it, it is sin. If we took a poll of a group of people and asked them what the Bible taught sin was, they would probably say things like murder, adultery, theft, and lying.

    The Bible makes a number of broad statements about sin, which all assume a standard that is violated.

    All unrighteousness is sin
    – 1 John 5:17a

    And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
    – Romans 14:23

    Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
    – James 4:17

    The thought of foolishness is sin
    – Proverbs 24:9a

    An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
    – Proverbs 21:4

    Sin mentioned in some of those verses seems obviously defined but not as much so in the others. For instance, unrighteousness and not doing known good are easily seen as sin. But what about eating in doubt, or foolishness, or plowing? How are those things sin? To answer that question, we must move beyond a technical definition for sin and look at it more ultimately.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 3
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 3

    There is no human consensus on sin. Throughout history different civilizations have viewed right and wrong differently. Today we hold very loosely to the collective idea of defining right and wrong. We’ve evolved beyond a majority decision to a much more individual decision. What’s right and wrong for you may not be right and wrong for me. Such philosophy has disastrous effects for society, but my purpose in this book is not confined to life on earth. I am concerned about that future judgment, which will not be based on any human definitions of sin, but will be measured against the holy righteousness of God.

    For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
    – Romans 3:23

    We looked at some biblical definitions of sin. Theft, adultery, and murder are straightforward violations of God’s law. But we also noticed that something more is going on. Proverbs 21:4 states that the pride and plowing of the wicked is sin and Proverbs 24:9 states the thought of foolishness is sin. There doesn’t seem to be a straight line between those things and a particular law—Thou shalt not. This is where we need to look beyond a strict, technical definition for sin and look at the bigger picture.

    When we think of sin, we think of the “bad stuff” that “bad people” do. Romans 14:23 presents a different picture, stating: “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Faith refers to saving trust in Jesus Christ and therefore everything unbelievers do is sin. Everything a person who does not believe and trust in Jesus Christ does is sin. This means not only the bad things like murder are sin, but everything like plowing their field is sin.

    That’s a sweeping statement. Can it be true? Not only does the Bible define sin, it also defines good. God’s survey of every human being in their natural-born condition is that none are good nor do good.

    As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
    There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
    They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
    Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
    Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
    Their feet are swift to shed blood:
    Destruction and misery are in their ways:
    And the way of peace have they not known:
    There is no fear of God before their eyes.
    – Romans 3:10-18

    There is nothing an unbeliever does that comes from faith, and therefore they do no good. Romans 14:23 said, “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” An unbeliever is a person who does not have biblical faith in Jesus Christ. Not having faith constrains them in different ways according to the Bible.

    • Without faith it is impossible to do anything good or acceptable to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for the that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

    • All the works of an unbeliever are judged as sin. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).

    • All sins of the unbeliever will stand against them in the judgment because they have not believed in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

    This all seems a bit thick. How could everything a person does be considered or counted as sin? You might accuse me of only focusing on bad things and ignoring the good things that people do, such as helping the poor, loving their family, or being honest in business. It is good to help the poor and suffering. It is good to love your family and to be honest in business. Those things are good and so are a thousand other things we could suggest.

    You probably do those things and many more. I am not suggesting that you’re insincere in doing them. I’m comparing against God’s standard in the Bible and see that even the best works an unbeliever does fall short of that standard. But how do they fall short? It is easy to see that if you steal from your neighbor it is sin, but how is it also sin if you give to your neighbor out of kindness? Remember that God’s righteousness is the standard of measure and let me give you three ways the good works of an unbeliever, person without faith, falls short.

    1. A person without faith in God does not have an eye to God’s glory in everything they do. Sometimes we talk about a person’s conscience or internal moral compass. They have an intuitive sense of good and bad and most generally follow it. That conscience is the remnant of the stamp of God’s image from creation (Romans 2:13-15) but it is defiled and falls short. We are commanded, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Without faith we do good as prompted by our inner sense of good, but we never do good to glorify God, and therefore fall short.

    2. A person without faith does not love God and does not act out of love for God. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of the law is, He responded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). When a person does a good deed, they may be acting selflessly but their actions are not motivated by love for God. So in everything an unbeliever does, they break the first and greatest commandment of the law and are sinning.

    3. A person without faith does not believe on Jesus Christ, and regardless of what they do or don’t do, they are already under condemnation. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). There is no good deed that we can do to get out from under that condemnation (Romans 3:20; John 3:36), and therefore everything an unbeliever does is sin because it is not of faith (Romans 14:23).

    What happens next? If everything an unbeliever does is counted as sin against them, what is the consequence?

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 4
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 4

    On June 1, 1962, Adolf Eichmann was hanged to carry out the sentence against him from his 1961 trial by the state of Israel. Eichmann was a lieutenant serving Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany until their fall in World War II. He disguised himself and fled the country until he was later found and arrested in Argentina in 1960. Eichmann was credited, and took credit himself, as the chief designer of “The Final Solution,” the plan for ridding Europe of all Jews that resulted in the torture and death of over six million Jews in the 1930’s and 40’s. He was tried, found guilty, and executed as a murderer of millions of Jewish people.

    A few days before his execution, Eichmann made an appeal for pardon to Israeli president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi via a hand-written letter in German. He based his appeal on different rationale. He asserted that the Jewish court could not possibly be sympathetic or understanding to the time and place he was in during the holocaust. He claimed that differences in judgment should be made between responsible leaders and underlings who were merely carrying out orders. His self-assessment concluded in this chilling sentence: “I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”

    Though Eichmann had an objective, historical record against him in the deaths of millions of Jews, He still did not think himself to be guilty, or worthy of death. He referred to outside forces influencing his actions. He claimed to be just doing his job as though one could not be morally responsible for obeying orders to commit abominable acts. Finally, as he thought on what many others had done, which was worse in his estimation, he did not feel himself to be guilty. History has proven Eichmann to be a poor judge of himself, and the Bible proves him a poorer judge still along with each of us.

    We are all heading for a great judgment before God’s throne (Revelation 21:11-15). Eichmann’s appeal simply revealed the human nature that is in all of us and the tendency we have to rationalize and justify our sins until we are not guilty, or worthy of just punishment no matter what we have done. Even if we were allowed to stand before God and sort out all our works so that we cast out what we thought was bad and only presented what we thought was good to God, we would still be guilty. We’ve seen in the previous chapter how we would mess this up. Without faith, even our good works stand against us and are enough to condemn us (Isaiah 64:6).

    The other problem here is that we do not get to judge ourselves. God is the judge. We will stand before Him. The books will be opened and we will be judged out of them. Everyone who stands before Him without faith will be condemned to everlasting punishment. When we die in unbelief, our sins stand against us before God (John 8:24). So it doesn’t matter whether or not you feel yourself to be a good person and not guilty.

    Death does not end our problems, even an earthly execution. We will all be called from the grave one day to be judged by God.

    Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
    – John 5:28-29

    Whether we go into damnation or into everlasting life is the judgment of God and He has given us revelation about this in His word. Damnation is also described as eternal torment in the lake of fire, or punishment with everlasting fire.

    And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
    – Revelation 20:15

    Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering vengeance of eternal fire.
    – Jude 1:7

    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels
    – Matthew 25:41

    Damnation is called the second death (Revelation 21:8) and there is no escape from it. It is the result of unpardoned sin. Remember, the essence of sin is falling short of God’s glory. It’s not just about whether or not you’ve told a lie. It is an issue of whether or not you’ve lived on God’s earth and breathed His air without faith and without glorifying Him and therefore have fallen short and sinned against Him. The issue of judgment is not about judging against others to determine better or worse. The issue in judgment is whom your sin is against (James 2:10; 4:12).

    There is a greater day of reckoning coming than even what Eichmann faced in the early 1960’s. Sin has consequences and our case is desperate if even our good works are going to count against us. Surely there must be a solution. Surely there must be some way out.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 5
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 5

    Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). This speaks of the internal corruption of our hearts and minds. It points to where sin comes from within us. Jesus taught that we are defiled from inside out and not outside in (Matthew 15:11). It’s not our environment or outside influences that make us sin. Jesus taught that sin starts in and proceeds out from our own hearts (Matthew 15:19-20). Sin begins in our hearts where evil thoughts, lies, and lusts are. We sin as those things work out from within and that is what makes us sinners all. This is our inherent natural condition.

    The Bible teaches:

    • Every man and woman is a sinner from their conception in the womb (Romans 3:9-10; Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Colossians 2:13). No one is excluded nor are there exceptions to this (Romans 3:23; 1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8).
    • Every one of us are incapable of ourselves of exercising faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:11). Of ourselves we cannot hear with faith (1 Corinthians 2:14; John 10:26), nor can we come to Christ in faith (John 6:44, 64-65; 3:19-20).
    • Everyone of us naturally rebels against God and cannot do good (Romans 3:12-18). As we have previously seen, everything a person does apart from God is sin (Romans 14:23) because we naturally do not love God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37), believe God (John 3:18), or glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
    • Therefore, every man and woman of themselves deserve the condemnation of eternal punishment (Romans 3:19-20). Man by nature only merits death (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

    This is what is meant by a natural state of sinfulness. This is our native condition before God. Our hearts and consciences are defiled by sin. This is also why we are such bad judges of ourselves and our sinfulness. After the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, then president, Bill Clinton, referred to the act as evil. He didn’t mince words in denouncing Timothy McVeigh. However, three years later in his impeachment hearings when he was faced with the reality of some of his own sins, he justified himself by quibbling over technicalities, asserting a major difference between public and private life, and even questioning the definition of the word is. He was quick to denounce McVeigh’s actions as evil but just as quick to parse his own actions very carefully and refuse any admission of guilt.

    This common human hypocrisy comes from within our deceitful hearts. We readily see the wrong in others but have a thousand reasons for the same or worse in ourselves. This internal deceit gives an important clue in finding the solution to the trouble, the judgment, we’ve been thinking about. We will one day face an objective and just judgment of our every thought, word, and deed and the solution, or escape, obviously cannot come from within us. We need to be delivered from sin, from ourselves and we need a deliverer.

    I must begin with a warning though. There are numerous false solutions presented to us daily. Paul warned the Colossian church against such in his letter to them.

    Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    – Colossians 2:8

    He called them to beware, or be aware. He urged them to look carefully after their way unless they would end up being spoiled. Spoil means to carry off as in a spoil of war. He was concerned that they might be carried away or taken captive by false philosophy. Philosophy itself refers to the love and pursuit of wisdom and can refer to truth or falsehood. Paul is not condemning knowledge, thinking, or pursuing truth. His concern is the center and ground of the philosophy.

    He paired philosophy with a vain deceit. Deceit means a trick and vain means empty. The emptiness is the key because that is where the trick lies. The deceit promises a way to God but is an empty trick because it cannot deliver what it offers.

    Paul points to two false grounds of philosophy—tradition of men and rudiments of the world. Tradition refers to something given over or passed on, like something handed from person to person, or generation to generation. Rudiments are elements of teaching, or things in a row, i.e. a series. Paul means systems of instruction more rigorous than tradition. He warns against both and they are identified as false if they are “not after Christ.” Any tradition or teaching that does not teach the one way Jesus Christ taught and is not centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ is a false way.

    We encounter both forms that Paul warned against in the world around us all the time. We encounter traditions in common thoughts about life that are perpetuated from generation to generation and we encounter rigorous systems of teaching that may be presented as a religion or presented as something else. Regardless of popular support, any notion or teaching that would intend to get men reconciled to God that is not after the teaching of Jesus Christ and is not founded on His work, is false.

    Before we proceed, I want to take the next chapter to consider some common ways people believe will get them to God. Will they hold up to the test Paul gave the Colossians? Are they after the tradition of men and the rudiments of the world? Or, are they after Christ?

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 6
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 6

    If you’ve read this far, then you have considered some things that many people don’t want to think about. The real issues of life and death and the state of a person’s soul are serious matters. Many want to put it off until someday later. Many are flippant and not concerned. Some are serious and want help, so they turn to the world around them and find many answers to their questions and many ways are put before them.

    In the last chapter we looked at Paul’s warning to the Colossians concerning false philosophies and vain deceits. Though people will acknowledge that deception is possible, most think they’re not deceived and that they can’t be deceived. Before we move on from the false solutions, I want to consider some of the most common deceptions I’ve encountered.

    How do people solve the problem of sin, guilt, death, and judgment? Some try to ignore the problem and others try to reason the problem away. To ignore these serious issues, many give themselves over to something to occupy them. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb themselves. They may pursue adrenaline or pour themselves into their work. These things can keep the mind and body busy but they don’t solve the problem. They are what Solomon referred to as a “vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14), which means a grasping of wind.

    Many others take a different track with this problem. They want to reason the problem away. Rather than solve the problem, they seek to remove it. Reasoning there is no God and that we humans are merely one iteration in an evolutionary process makes life meaningless. If this were true, there would be no such thing as sin or judgment. Of course, this still doesn’t explain guilt or death. This kind of thinking is identified in the Bible as the thoughts of a fool (Psalm 14:1) and one flattering himself that he is not a sinner (Psalm 36:1-4).

    You can deceive yourself into playing or working your life away. You can drink or think your life away, but you cannot change the reality. You cannot assuage your guilt. You cannot avoid death. Death came into the world because of sin.

    Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
    – Romans 5:12

    Sin and death are ours by inheritance. There is no escaping it. After death comes judgment: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We can deceive ourselves that this isn’t real, but it is and we will find out one day. We know these solutions are not true because they are “not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). They are not after the way that Jesus Christ taught and they are not centered and grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

    Some more readily acknowledge sin and guilt. They live with misery, but they seek to deal with it through pain. There is a masochistic element in the world that seeks atonement through afflicting pain and suffering on themselves. This is the dark, grim root of the body modification movement—multiplied piercings, coverings of tattoos, self-tortures, surgical alterations, drugs, etc. They are deceived into thinking they can redeem themselves if only they can suffer the right amount of pain. No doubt, this has played a part in some of the human sacrificing throughout history.

    This is also a “vain deceit” that is “not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Jesus taught about a man who died and went to hell in Luke 16:19-31. When the man died, he immediately opened his eyes in hell and was in torment by the flames. His pain was so great he requested only a drop of water for his tongue, which he could not and will never get. This man suffers in an infinitely greater way than we can ever inflict on ourselves, and yet that suffering does not make atonement for his soul. He hates the consequences of his sin but does not hate his sin as a transgression of God’s law and an offense against God’s holiness. You will notice from the account that his suffering will never make him love God and he will never be reconciled to God but will suffer just punishment eternally because he died without faith in Jesus Christ (John 8:21, 24).

    Perhaps the most popular false solution is religion—a devotion to religious rituals and morals. It’s a common thought that people can ultimately be saved by being sincere in their religion, whatever that religion may be. I’ve heard two popular illustrations of this thought. First, some say it is as though God sits atop a mountain and the world is at the bottom around the mountain. Various religions are the various paths up the mountain. Some are steep. Some are rocky. Some are straight and some are winding. But all paths lead, one way or another, to the same place: God at the peak. Second, some say it as though God sits in the center of a large house with many different doors and windows in its exterior. The world is outside around the house and the different openings are the different religions. Some are tall ways. Some are narrow. Some are high and some are low. But again, all ways lead into the house and ultimately to God.

    Perhaps you have heard or even thought this way yourself. It’s appealing to us to think that as long as a religion teaches love and acceptance and results in good that it should be sufficient to justify us before God. When Paul was at Athens in the first century, he encountered a society of people that were extremely religious. In fact, Acts tells us the “city” was “wholly given” to religion (Acts 17:16). They were so religious they tried to pay homage to all religions. They had multiplied shrines and temples and even devoted an altar “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). Paul did not console them and congratulate them for their sincerity. He did not assure them that everything would be all right because they were devoted. Rather he told them they were “too superstitious” and they worshiped ignorantly (Acts 17:22-23). He told them they should repent of their religion (Acts 17:30) because a day of judgment is coming (Acts 17:31).

    Conversely, Paul did console and comfort the Thessalonians because they had repented of their religion and turned to serve God alone.

    For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
    – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

    False religion is “not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8), and is no way to God.

    The last way I want to write you about is akin to the previous one. The most prevalent philosophy I’ve encountered is the hope that good works will get a person reconciled to God. I said it was akin to the previous one because sometimes it’s motivated by religion but it can also be completely detached from any religion. The basic philosophy is to do enough good works to outweigh your bad works so that you gain entrance to heaven.

    We have already considered the teaching of Christ that shows this is a false philosophy. Everything we do without faith in Christ is counted as sin against us. There is no work good enough or amount of good works enough to substitute for complete trust in Jesus Christ and His work to save us. The Bible teaches that “every one” is ready to proclaim his own goodness (Proverbs 20:6), but we’ve already seen that we are not competent judges of ourselves or our works.

    There is also a logical hole in this philosophy. It we are counting on our good works to outweigh our bad works, we have two problems that cannot be overcome logically. The first is that we never know the score. If you are really trusting the eternity of your soul to doing more good works than bad, how can you ever know where you are in the tally? The second problem is close to the first. What is the standard determining good from bad? Most everyone thinks they are a good person but each one has a different definition of what being good is. If we go to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) in the Bible and walk through them, no one has kept them. There is not one of us that can truthfully say we have kept them.

    We know this is a false philosophy “not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Jesus never taught to do the best you can and try to do more good than bad. He did teach us to repent of all our works and believe in Him alone (Mark 1:15).

    We cannot possibly cover every false way. I don’t have space, time, or knowledge enough to point out every single false way in existence. What we need is a test, a standard of measure by which we judge every way we encounter. That is what we will consider in the next chapter.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 7
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 7

    Have you ever wondered why there are so many ways, so many religions, and even so many denominations claiming to be Christian? Many claim to be the one and only way while others merely claim to be a way. I have heard some say all religions are equally valid or invalid. Some take the proliferation of religions and denominations to be a sure sign that God doesn’t exist. That would be like going to an open-air market in Mexico and seeing many different vendors selling Louis Vuitton knock-offs for cheap and concluding that Louis Vuitton doesn’t exist or there is no such thing as a genuine handbag.

    Famous designers of jewelry, bags, clothes, and shoes have their products counterfeited all the time. The existence and availability of these counterfeits in no way disproves the existence or value of the genuine. Why do people counterfeit Saddleback leather bags yet no one counterfeits brown plastic Kroger grocery bags? I have yet to see someone selling knock-off plastic grocery bags out of the trunk of their car. You have to have three basic realities for counterfeits to exist.

    1. The genuine original has to exist to be copied.
    2. The genuine original has to have value.
    3. There has to be a market. In other words, people have to want or need it.

    While Kroger bags satisfy the first, they fail miserably on the latter two. From this we can supply a couple of answers to the question of why so many religions/denominations exist. First, God exists and there is a true way to Him but many find something objectionable so they seek counterfeits. Why do people buy knock-off Rolex watches? Because they want the look, feel, and brand recognition but they don’t want to pay the cost for the genuine. Of course, they ultimately find out they get what they pay for when the fake doesn’t work as well or last as long.

    Second, the proliferation of religions illustrate that people want something more. People find that earthly things don’t provide lasting satisfaction and they want something more. People want some way to assuage their guilt and have peace of mind. People have some sense of eternity or their soul and are concerned about the afterlife. Thus, there is an abundant market for false religions and denominations. Rather than disproving the existence of the genuine, they point to the fact there really is a way but people find something about God or His way objectionable. We need a test. We need a method for finding the true way.

    When agents are trained to detect counterfeit currency, they spend time studying the counterfeits, but they spend more time studying the genuine. They are always comparing against the genuine to see if they have a false bill. They do spend time with counterfeits, learning to recognize common faults in them. No one agent is ever going to encounter every possible counterfeit bill, but he doesn’t have to because he always has the genuine to compare against.

    Likewise, we can’t examine every possible false way. I have tried to acquaint you with some common ones but we are far from looking at all of them. It’s more important for us to have the true way as a standard of measure for all ways we encounter. In Chapter 5, I brought up Colossians 2:8

    Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    – Colossians 2:8

    Paul warned about false philosophies they would encounter and gave “after Christ” as the standard of measure. So all ways should be tested against the way Christ taught. If they do not align, then they are to be rejected. Christ is the genuine. He must be the center and ground of the way or it is false. The problem with all other ways is that they are Christless. They may present a false christ but a false christ is no christ at all. Any message, philosophy, or way that claims salvation without Jesus Christ alone is false. Do not be deceived by it. Do not follow it. Do not be taken away by it. That is what Paul was saying.

    The Bible is plain: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Shedding of blood means the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in the place of sinners. It’s simple, but it’s foolishness to some and offensive to others (1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s easy to see then how there would be counterfeits made. People want to go to Heaven but they don’t want to humble themselves, repent of their sins, and leave off everything to trust completely in Christ alone to save them (Acts 4:10-12).

    Naaman the Syrian was a leper, and there was no cure for leprosy. He came to Samaria to see Elisha, the prophet of God. Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman was furious with Elisha’s message. He thought it too simple, too mundane. He expected some great happenings and showings. Finally, his servant persuaded him that if he was willing to do some great thing had Elisha requested it, why should he not rather be willing to do so simple a thing as washing in the Jordan. Naaman listened and was healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-15).

    If Naaman had found a false prophet, he would have been told to participate in some elaborate ritual or ceremony. Naaman would have been very glad with such a word and would have followed it straightaway. But what would have been the problem with this? It would not have healed his leprosy. In the end, the only effectual cure was the way God spoke through His prophet. Likewise, the only way of salvation is what God has provided through His Son (John 3:16-21; Acts 4:12).

    From this perspective, it’s easy to see how false ways proliferate. In the rest of this book though, I want to focus on that one, true way, Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus have to die? How does His death do anything to affect our standing before God?

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 8
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 8

    When I mention the way of salvation, you rightly infer a need for salvation. But, what is salvation? To answer that, we need to look back over the ground we’ve already covered. All men and women are guilty sinners before God. In chapters 2 and 3, we considered what sin is and concluded that everything we do in unbelief is sin against God.

    And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
    – Romans 14:23

    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
    – Hebrews 11:6

    Sin is sin because of who God is and we, being made in his image, fail to live up to God’s standard of holiness.

    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;
    – Romans 3:23

    In chapter 4 we considered the consequences of sin being condemnation before God and eternal punishment in a lake of fire. We will not fail to stand before God and be judged by him. If we stand there in our sin, we will be sentenced to eternal punishment.

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    – Romans 6:23

    We need to be saved from the presence, power, and penalty of sin. Salvation in the most general sense means deliverance. Salvation is a rescue. We need to be rescued from the wrath of God and delivered to the joy of God. We need to be rescued from the sentence of death and delivered to the gift of everlasting life. The salvation we are talking about is the whole rescue and deliverance of man from sin unto life.

    All human beings are born in sin (Romans 5:12), but the Bible tells of some who are saved from it. There are some who gain everlasting life in abundance (John 10:10, 27-28). Some pass from death unto life.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
    – John 5:24

    How are some delivered from death? How can God avert their just condemnation and make them fit for his family? How does God put away sin? There is a problem to be overcome here that, perhaps, you don’t see the difficulty of. If God is holy, righteous, and just, how can he forgive sin?

    Let me illustrate the problem to see if it becomes clearer. Imagine there is a small town. It’s the sort of small town where everyone knows everyone else and everything everyone is doing. Maybe you’re from such a place, but whether you are or not, you can imagine it. Imagine in this small town that two prominent men got into an argument and one murdered the other. This took place at noon in the town square where dozens of witnesses saw it all and beside this, security cameras captured footage of the whole thing. Furthermore, all forensic evidence and the police investigations proved the man was guilty of murdering his neighbor. The man was put on trial before the judge and a jury of his peers. The prosecuting attorney presented an air-tight case that the man was guilty. The jury needed little deliberation and returned a guilty verdict promptly. Then imagine the judge considers all these factors and pronounces the man, “Not guilty,” and tells him he may go free.

    What would happen in such a case? There would be a huge public outcry. The family of the murdered man would probably seek to sue in a higher court. At the least, the people would want that judge removed from the bench. Why? Because he was an unjust judge. He failed to uphold the law. The law states that when a person is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they are to be sentenced according to their crime.

    Now think about what is at stake in God forgiving sin. We defined sin essentially as a falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The concept of sin is wrapped up in the very nature of God. The magnitude of sin is determined not by the nature of the act done but rather the dignity of the one sinned against (1 John 1:5; 1 Timothy 6:16). The very nature of God is why sin is sin and is also why God cannot simply pass over sin. How can God be just and justify a sinner?

    To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
    – Romans 3:26

    Justify means to declare just, or righteous. It is a legal term meaning to be cleared of guilt. Paul sees a problem in God justifying sinners because God is just himself. If God declares righteous one who is not righteous, then God lies. If God lies, he denies himself and would not be God (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). If God passes over, or overlooks sin and declares the sinner righteous, God himself is unrighteous. God cannot and will not pervert judgment (2 Chronicles 19:7; Nahum 1:3). But Paul is referring to the fact that God has made such a way of salvation that God “might be just,” and at the same time “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

    What we have come to is that the nature of God demands that sin be dealt with. Sin cannot stand before him apart from condemnation. By law, “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward” (Hebrews 2:2), which just recompense is the sentence of death. In order to pass from death to life, something has to happen to our sin. It must be dealt with in such a way that God remains just and also the justifier of the believer.

    In the next chapter, we want to begin considering how God takes away our sin so that we bear it no more and he remains just and righteous.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

    If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.

  • The World’s Trouble: Chapter 9
    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

    And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    – Hebrews 9:27

    Chapter 9

    By our sins we are guilty before God and we need our sins to be covered. We don’t need the kind of covering that a child uses when they’re supposed to clean their room and instead they cover their toys with a rug. To the child the room may look clean, but a more discerning eye sees the problem has not been dealt with. We need the kind of covering for our sin that is a doing away with our sins permanently. We need them covered and remembered no more.

    In the Bible we are taught about such a covering called atonement. Atone generally means to cover and is used in the Bible to describe the complete putting away of our sin and reconciling us to God. Because of our sins there is a breech between us and God that cannot be mended without doing away with our sins. In the atonement God provides, our sins are done away and we are reconciled to him.

    The Bible teaches the atonement in a few different ways to reveal a fuller picture of what it means to receive atonement for our sins. There are two main categories of teaching on the atonement in the Old Testament—types, or figures, and prophecies. These teach us about the nature of the atonement and what it does.

    Types in the Bible are figures or representations where one thing is a picture of something else. For instance, if you’re familiar with the life of David at all then you’ve seen David as a type of Christ. Certain events or even certain conditions in David’s life are representative and teach us about Jesus Christ, the Savior. Likewise, there are figures for the atonement.

    The first type of the atonement we meet with in the Bible is in Genesis 3:21 where God took “coats of skins” and clothed Adam and Eve.

    Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
    – Genesis 3:21

    God had created Adam first and then created Eve from Adam. God brought them together as husband and wife and placed them in the Garden of Eden. They were created in a sinless state and, as husband and wife, they had no clothes or coverings on their bodies and they were “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Their nakedness represented their sinless state, intimacy of relationship, and vulnerability before God. They had nothing to hide. However, Eve sinned when she took and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She also gave to Adam and he ate after her.

    Upon eating the fruit, their eyes were opened, i.e. they gained the knowledge/experience of sin they previously lacked. They were no longer sinless and they immediately tried to cover their bodies because they were now ashamed.

    And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
    – Genesis 3:7

    They made themselves small coverings of fig leaves, but these were not adequate. After pronouncing the curses because of sin, God slew the animals and made clothes out of their hides to cover Adam and Eve.

    This type teaches the need for a covering. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves because of the shame of sin, but man cannot cover his own sin no matter how hard he tries. His covering is not acceptable. God mercifully covered them with an acceptable covering as a picture of the covering they needed.

    The next major type of the atonement is in the blood of the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:1-30. God was going to bring a plague of the death of the firstborn on Egypt. He had Moses warn the Israelites that this plague was coming and he gave them instructions to be delivered from it. Each house was instructed to take a first-year, unblemished lamb for their house. They were to kill the lamb and eat it in a certain way. They also had to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on the door posts and lintel of the door of their house. God sent his angel throughout the land of Egypt that night, and every house that did not have the covering of blood experienced the death of the firstborn of the house.

    Israel was taught that a covering of blood was required to save life. The instructions were specific about the lamb and what was done with it. Just any covering would not do and they were not free to come up with their own plan. When the covering God provided was on the house, the angel passed over that house and life was saved. They learned that the covering protected them from the judgment of death.

    The next types of the atonement are found in the law of the offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7. These were the animal sacrifices required by the law to cover sin, restore fellowship, and to make clean what had been defiled. The law contained detailed directions for what animals could be offered in different situations. They specified how the sacrifices were to be killed and the steps for burning on the altar. When these were done properly, the sinner was told it was accepted and atonement was made for him. His sins were covered.

    These sacrifices were a type of the atonement because they were not the actual atonement but only pointed to it. In other words, these sacrifices weren’t actually effectual at covering sin.

    For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
    For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
    But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
    For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
    Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
    In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
    – Hebrews 10:1-6

    These animal sacrifices taught that sin required the shedding of blood for remission (Hebrews 9:22). The fact that they had to be repeated continually showed they weren’t an adequate covering but that a better covering was needed.

    Another type of the atonement covering was figured in the Day of Atonement when the high priest would go into the holy of holies in the tabernacle annually to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:1-34). The holy of holies was separated by a thick curtain and no one was ever allowed to go behind that curtain except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. In order for him to enter, which is a type of coming into the presence of God, he had to have a covering of blood and the smoke of the incense. We could plunge deep into all the details of this, but it suffices our purpose here to recognize that once again we are taught that we must have a covering to come into God’s presence and not die in judgment.

    Types are figures that point us to the antitype, or the reality. This quick survey of some types of the atonement teaches us the need for a real covering. The one covering we need and the one covering that is acceptable is not anything we can make or contrive ourselves. Beside types, the Bible also teaches us about the atonement through prophecies and that’s what we want to consider in the next chapter.

    This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

    If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.