Speaking humanly –
We all know that it is better to do right than to do wrong. We all know that it is better to help someone than to hurt them. We all know that there are ways that we can all work together for the common good of a community.
But why do we on one hand know these truths, if on the other hand we say it is all about serving self and having the right to decide what is right for ourselves? How foolish is it for us to ignore central, unchanging truths about how life is best lived? How foolish is it for us to decide that “I know better”, “This won’t hurt me”, and “I can do what I want”. Are we so blind to the warnings of others, of history, of laws that we are simply fools to the consequences we are lining up for ourselves and others through our poor decision making and lack of self control and discipline? Or are we inviting destruction into our lives like a kamikaze pilot?
So, still speaking within the bounds of our humanly understanding, we should all be able to understand that there are bad paths with negative consequences, and that there are good paths with positive rewards. And yes, we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off some small, immediate gratification at the cost of a later, higher cost – which is attractive to the foolish. And we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off a small pleasure or treasure for ourselves at the cost of hurting, oppressing, or denying someone else – which is attractive to the selfish.
We could go on all day agreeing to what is good and what is bad, and building laws around these things to remind men of what they already know. And we could build prisons and lay out punishments for them, if they are just foolish and need to learn the truth that they are making decisions that are hurting themselves and others.
But through law and punishment alone, we cannot change the hearts and desires of those who are selfish, prideful, deceitful, hateful, gossipers, slanderers, adulterers, lustful, addicts, etc. Because the law doesn’t make any change to the inside, it just strives to force people to conform on the outside, leaving the underlying urges of people’s hearts to do things that are not right or good. The law doesn’t create obedience on the inside, it hides inward disobedience under the mask of compliance.
In fact, the law on its own then serves as a catalyst for those to argue, “But if I am born with this urge in my heart, then who are you to deny me” as they strive for the very lawlessness and destruction that their hearts desire. And can’t we, see this is true when we look at the eradication of our communities which were once vibrant and interactive and alive – but that have been traded for isolation and fear and all kinds of, wickedness rising up around us?
Yes, this world when left in the hands of men is headed on a collision course with disaster. Because men are either foolish, or they are selfish, or they are both. And there is no other kind of man. You yourself that is reading this, have you devoted much time to helping your neighbor this week? Have you clothed and fed the homeless? Have you treated your friends with kindness? How about your enemies, have you treated them with loving kindness? Have you loved and praised God like He deserves?
And some of you will jump at that with a startled reaction, and say “But I thought that we were talking humanly, why did you have to bring God into this?” And yes, that is the reaction of proud men who want to solve this predicament on their own. We do not want to admit that we are not in control and that we are unable to build our own stairway to heaven. Isn’t that the struggle? That we want to do it our way so that we can get some credit for ourselves?
And yes, there is one path that many choose where they can take credit for their own choices, their own decisions, their own works. And they can choose to lay the evidence of their life’s works on the table and be judged by a righteous and perfect God, and they will get what they deserve – the pit of eternal flames. Because each and every one of us deserves that if we are only under the law, right? How many times have you worn clothes of different types of fabric? How many times have you looked at someone other than your spouse with lust and committed adultery in your heart? How many times have you seen something that wasn’t yours and longed for it in envy and jealousy instead of being satisfied and content with the many blessings the Lord has already given you? How many times have you done things in the dark and alone and in secret that you don’t want the world to know about? How many times have you forgotten God’s way and done it your own way?
Do you not know that you are a wicked, foolish person far from the perfect ways of a just God who will judge with righteousness and uprightness? Do you not know your need to be changed on the inside – not by religious adherence to traditions of men, but by the transforming power of something greater than you that can change your very heart, nature, and desires?
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:15-18 ESV
I’m not asking you if you’ve received the baptism of John where you promise with your mouth to repent and interact with some water from this world, friend. I’m asking if you’ve come in contact with the living waters of the baptism of the Holy Spirit coming into your life and changing you from the inside out. Is there any breath of His abundant life in your lungs? Is there any fire in your bones for sharing the Good News with the nations? Is there a transplant for your cold, hard heart so that you now go out to serve and love your neighbors, the needy, the afflicted, the imprisoned, even your enemies?
And do you realize that none of YOUR works are pure, perfect, and good? But do you realize that if you allow Him to use you, He can do amazing works through you? If you realize this in your mind, I ask you, are you allowing it to take place in your heart?
And humanly speaking, if we all lived like Jesus. If we followed His example and His teachings, wouldn’t it be a better world? Are there some things that each of us must give up that our hearts desire and long for by nature, yes. But there is something much greater than desire, than pleasure, than lawlessness – and it is love for God and for others – and the payoff isn’t “someday when I get to heaven”. The payoff is now, both for you and for those around you.
Every good and perfect gift is from God, and His gifts don’t come with hidden consequences and destruction for you and those around you. But how many times have we accepted curses from that genie whose gifts always come at a cost because they come quick and easy – instead of living in the blessing of an abundant life filled with God’s presence.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 ESV