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.

Falling in One Foot at a Time

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12

    Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
    ~ Matthew 26:74-75

Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ, not once, but three times. This happened even after Jesus told him it would happen and Peter vehemently objected that it would happen. But it did.

If we look closely, we realize Peter’s failure was not an isolated act that happened suddenly in a moment. His denial was the culmination of a chain of events that were leading him to this point. Let’s follow the links of this chain.

  • At the Mount of Olives, Jesus prophesied that all His disciples would be offended that night and flee. Peter was boasting and self-confident.

    But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. ~ Mark 14:29

    But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. ~ Mark 14:31

  • In the garden, when he was supposed to be watching, he was sleeping.

    And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? ~ Mark 14:37

  • When Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, Peter followed them at a distance so to see what would happen but not be associated with Him.

    But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. ~ Matthew 26:58

  • At the high priest’s palace, Peter chose to hide in plain sight and sat down with the enemies of Jesus at the fire.

    And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. ~ John 18:18

  • Among these evil associates, Peter denied the Lord three times.

    And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept. ~ Mark 14:66-72

This is often the way it is with sin. A great failure is the capstone of a building of many small blocks of failure. Jesus taught that outward acts of sin start with inward sins in the heart.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:27-28

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. ~ Matthew 12:34-35

This is why we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh. This is why we are to war against sin, even the sins that seem small and of little significance. Little gains and little victories will help keep us from the big failures.

We are often like the little boy whose mother tells him not to get wet. He starts by walking up to the edge of the water. He tosses a couple of rocks in. He tests it with his toes. He stirs it with a stick. He drops the stick in and, of course, he must retrieve it. His mother returns to find him splashing and wet from head to toe. The look on her face is enough accusation and he pleads, “But Mommy, I just fell in.” And so he did—he fell in one foot at a time.

Sin is Short

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

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

Sin is a popular and pervasive practice, but it is not considered to be the appropriate topic of polite conversation. The world views sin subjectively and relatively. Scarcely can we find two agreed on what it is. Many believe the whole notion to be antiquated and irrelevant. This is why we do not hear of thoughts, words, or actions in terms of right or wrong, but rather appropriate or inappropriate. Everything is relative and who is really to say what is right or wrong?

God defines sin precisely and absolutely in His Word. He is the judge and it is His word that matters. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden for ultimately wanting the right to define sin for themselves. Defining sin is God’s right alone and He will not share it with any other being. He defines and describes sin in numerous ways in the Scripture.

  • All unrighteousness is sin ~ 1 John 5:7
  • Whatsoever is not of faith is sin ~ Romans 14:23
  • To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin ~ James 4:17
  • An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin ~ Proverbs 21:4
  • The thought of foolishness is sin ~ Proverbs 24:9

Romans 3:23 gives us a meaningful view of sin—it is falling short of God’s glory. God has a high mark and all sin always comes short of it. God measures all sin against the standard of His glorious, righteous, holiness, and all sin is short. God speaks to all men in Belshazzar: “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27).

Men fall short in three key areas in all their thoughts, words, and actions.

  1. They fail to do all they do to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  2. They fail to love God whole-heartedly. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
  3. They fail to believe God. “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but 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).

Sin is short—short of God’s glory, short of God’s love, and short of faith. Man’s best works come up short. Whether it is deemed polite or appropriate, we must faithfully preach against sin. If we do not preach against sin, we are trying to do something Christ never did—call the righteous to repentance (Luke 5:32).

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