…men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Romans 1:18-19).
This classic sermon illustration explains it well:
During a flood, a man named Biff sought to find a way to save himself as water slowly came into his home, leaving him no way out. Biff franticly sought an escape, but he had waited too long and now it was too late. When Biff originally purchased his home, the realtor and city officials told him that he was in a floodplain, and they discouraged him from buying the home. But, Biff was insistent that the price was right and this was the home for him. They continued to warn Biff, but the realtor and city officials acquiesced and allowed him to still live there if he chose. They warned Biff of his coming peril; then, they gave him the instructions on what to do if it rained, and how to be saved when the flood came. They told Biff that if it rained more than one day, the ground would become saturated and waters would build and start to rush toward his home. If this came to pass, he needed to evacuate to the city shelter, because his home would be inundated and destroyed by the water and he could die. They further warned him that the city might not be able to send help if he waited too long because the road would wash out. He agreed to this. Then they gave Biff a special cell phone to call on if he could not get out, cautioning him that he needed to call before the road was flooded or they would not be able to get to him at all.
Now, it had been raining for three days straight and the waters slowly inched their way into Biff's home and property. The realtor came by on the second day to see if he could help, but Biff got mad at the realtor, telling him that the rain would stop, so to leave him alone. The realtor left. On the morning of the third day, the road was about to be washed out when the city sent an evacuation team to rescue the man. Biff again got mad and sent them away, declaring that it would soon stop raining. They told him that he had one hour, and if he changed his mind, he could use the special cell phone. However, he got mad and smashed the cell phone. At this time the road was washed-out and his yard was flooded, but Biff was determined not to leave his home and miss his favorite TV show. He did not want to be rescued from something he did not believe would happen. By this time, the waters had completely engulfed Biff's home, and he was on the roof. All of his neighbors had already been evacuated, but he did not want to go because he was sure the rain would stop. The rain did not stop, and Biff was stuck. By now, Biff was angry with the realtor for selling him the home and he was angry at the city for allowing the rain to wash out the road. However, he remained confident that he had made the right decision to stay-even as he drowned.
The rain represents the stresses and trials of life, and the flood, our final judgment. At one time, we had our chance, but we forsook God. Now, we must reap the consequences of our decision. Biff represents all of us as we refuse to see our situation, blame others, and remain in our sin. We do this even though we have so much information about our Lord. We still refuse to respond to Him. We do this when, even though the Spirit is there, we do not let Him in. We are confident, assured by our culture and our will that everything is OK, as the rains of life come and sweep us away. The root issue is our pride and our refusal to see our plight. That is why God intervened on our behalf-because we could not!
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 18:18
No one wants to admit his or her depravity or helplessness, so we come up with all kinds of ideas and ways that we do not need Christ. Just as the rains inched their way into Biff's home, sin and pride inch their way into our hearts and minds and eventually we see nothing but sin and that which we come to consider as good. We see our lives as OK and figure that we do not need God. The idea that we do not need Christ is not a new, twenty-first century phenomenon, but was stated by Christ Himself as he told this story. A certain ruler asked him, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good-except God alone (Luke 18:18-19). The ruler, who was some kind of leader, was flattering Jesus, and assumed his good deeds would bring him eternal life. Jesus quickly responded that goodness is found in God alone, and that his flattery was insincere. Even if we are sincere, we will be sincerely wrong. The leader failed to do what was required, and his good deeds amounted to nothing. Both pride and experiences blind those who do not know Him.
The rich man refused to see his sin or to repent. He was only able to see his needs and desires. These desires became the barrier to knowing and growing in Christ. We are never to think too highly of ourselves, lest pride would enter in to ruin us. Pride removes God from our equation of life and relationships. It removes honesty and sincerity. It literally destroys relationships and takes away joy. The irony is that pride is used to seek fulfillment for joy and self, but it only results in sheer despair. In the Luke passage, Jesus tells us never to allow money to stand in our way of Him. When we do, it blocks us from the true treasures and blessings He has for us. Money represents anything that takes the place of our Lord. If you fear you will lose out in happiness or lose out in what seems important, the fact is, you won't. Wealth in itself is not wrong, but it can be a very powerful, false god that subjugates us; Christ frees us and blesses us. Allow Jesus Christ to free you from the self-destruction of your pride.
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. Revelation 3:5
So, why do we call ourselves good? Why do we go through life with a mentality like a Frank Sinatra song, "I'll do it my way?" Did you know all the members of the "Rat Pack" (the nickname for America's greatest and most popular entertainers of the years between 1950 and 1970 such as Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Frank Sinatra) all died meaningless, lonely, and alcoholic lives? "Doing it my way" did not work for them; yet, they had the wealth, fame, looks, opportunities, connections, and power to make it work if it could have worked. They made others laugh, but they themselves had little laughter in their personal lives. The same pattern follows most celebrities and industrialists who seek their fulfillment in money, fame, and/or power. Yet, when the fame is gone, when the money runs out, and as they grow older, their entourage is gone, their prominence has fled, they list a string of ex-spouses, and their lives are without merit or meaning, virtually all of them ending up unhappy and destitute in both relationships and joy. Even when they are on top of their game, and their lives are filled with money and fame, what remains for them is loneliness, emptiness, and despair that overwhelms them to the point of depression, drugs, and even death. Fame and power as well as money are not the real, important tangible things that we think they are; thus they should not be our "possessions" to chase in life. They may be fun for a while, but soon those of us who put our trust in these possessions will find them fleeting and empty. They cause us to be a god unto ourselves, distant and separate from others in isolation and in purposelessness.
When we think we are gods unto ourselves, we have a greatly exaggerated view of ourselves. Even if one is a model citizen and spends a lifetime in helping others, no one will even be close to godhood. Jesus knew the leader lived for his possessions, and would miss the Kingdom of God as a result of his own efforts. It is the righteousness of Christ alone that gives us the hope of salvation; our only effort is the acceptance and trust of what was done on our behalf. Of course, if you happen to be perfect and you were born perfect, then you do not need to worry. However, no one has ever been perfect except for Christ. Too many people actually do think they are perfect, and boy, will they be surprised in the end. We all need help because we are not perfect. Fortunately for us, Christ was perfect on our behalf; He was our substitution. He is perfect, so all we need to do is respond in gratitude and be our best for His glory.
The bottom line is that most people do not want to be bothered by religious things or be under conviction; yet, the purpose of our existence is to be reconciled to Him. We have to come under conviction in order to receive His Grace. The Spirit is the One who convicts; it is our will that seeks to keep Him from that mission. The biggest problem is in recognizing that we are indeed in need, and that we must surrender ourselves to God's providence. If we dare to despise God and His offer, then we are damned-not a pleasant future-but it will be by our own design and desire, and our blame alone. If we choose ourselves over God, then we will lose everything!
Our Dwelling Place
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-2
This Psalm tells us that God is our home, and draws a contrast between God's eternal nature and our mortal humanity. It was possibly the only Psalm written by Moses, thus is perhaps the oldest in the book of Psalms. This Psalm answers the question from a child who asks who is God, and who made God? But we know from this Psalm, as well as many other Scriptures, that God has always existed. He directed His creation and provided a plan for us. God is eternal; He has always been and will always be, and we are not. There is one God and we are not He! Yes, I keep saying this because it is paramount for us to understand this as we begin our walk with Christ. Whenever we are fearful or in doubt, remember, God is always there and always cares!
He is our dwelling place, but many will not desire to reside there. Thus, people will seek to silence who Christ is. If an evangelist simply stated that Christ was a great, moral teacher, he would get no reprisal. If you were to witness to your neighbor boldly that Christ was a great philosopher, he or she would invite you to tea. If a billboard stated that Christ was a great example, the non-Christian would not complain. Christ is all of those, and yet, He is more. Our Lord is a great Example, Teacher, and Philosopher, but not just a great moral philosopher, teacher, and example. He does not stop there. He is also eternal and Lord over all. The world at large is greatly offended by the implication that Christ is God; thus, saying He is anything but God is okay. If Christ is God, then our self-directed destiny would be in error, and our will would need to be controlled by Him, and we just do not want to be lorded over. This is why people are so passionate to rid our courts of the Ten Commandments, get prayer out of the schools, and get God's name out of the Pledge of Allegiance and off our money. The world does not want God in their lives or to be reminded it is "in God we trust." American money is a great evangelistic illustration. Stamped on it is the saying "In God we Trust" which is next to "Liberty." Without God, there is no liberty.
Of course if the evangelist only proclaims the "niceties" without substance, conviction, or truth, the person who receives the message will not hear about the real, living, and loving Lord. He or she will not hear about personal sin or the real need for a Savior!
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. John 3:18-21
Passages to consider: Genesis 3; Psalm 14; Jeremiah 17:9; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Acts 17:26; Romans 1:18-19; 3:9; 19; 5:12-17; 21; 7:18; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Philippians 2:1-4
© 2006 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/
· Illustration: Isaiah 59:2; Romans 1:18-19; 3:9; 19; 5:12-17; 21; Genesis 3; Acts 17:26; 1 Corinthians 15:22
· Depravity: Luke 18:18-19; John 3:5, 30; Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 2:1-4; 1 Peter 5; Revelation 3:5
· Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 90:1-2; John 3:18-21; 8:24; 56-58