A few months ago, I had a conversation with a woman at church. She had expressed a desire to feel closer to God. Before answering her concern, I decided to concisely share the Gospel. I explained, “Coming to Christ means confessing that you are a sinner. You are not good.” She immediately stopped me, “I am not a sinner. I am a good person. Everyone tells me that I am good, kind, and compassionate. I help people out. I am not a sinner.”
Upon hearing this blatant statement of human sinlessness, I had her read out loud from Romans 3:10-12: “‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Having read the universal truth of man’s depravity, I said, “Who is good?” She answered, “No one, but I am good.”
This is an example of “Except Me” theology. I define it as taking a promise or statement of God and inserting “except me” in order to remove yourself from its application. For this woman, Romans 3:10-12 said, “None is righteous [except me], no, not one [except me]; no one does good, not even one [except me].” She twisted the straightforward reading of the text to say the exact opposite.
Another text—which self-righteous individuals manipulate—is Ephesians 2:8-9. Since they are trusting in their good works, they distort the Bible to say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith [except me]. And this is not your own doing [except me]; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works [except me], so that no one may boast [except me].” When a person has a proud view of self, he has no need to run to Christ and hang on for dear life. Therefore, salvation to him is faith plus works and not faith alone.
For secularists, they change the Bible to deny a coming death and judgment. Many times, while preaching on campus, I have heard students laugh when I say, “You are going to die someday.” They wrongly assume that they will live forever. I will even quote to them Hebrews 9:27, but they only hear: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once [except me], and after that comes judgment [except me].” They boastfully proclaim that they are the exception to the rule. How many graveyards are filled with people who thought the same thing?
In addition to the previous examples, the convicted, depressed, and downcast can often repeat this error. For example, the man who is burdened with a heavy weight of guilt—like Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress—may not trust in God’s promise. John 3:16 becomes “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him [except me] should not perish [except me] but have eternal life [except me].” Out of prideful self-pity, he thinks, “I am outside of God’s reach. He cannot save me. I have sinned too grievously. I am forever doomed to hell.”
For the depressed man, he rejects Matthew 11:28-30 as applying to him: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [except me]. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls [except me]. 30 For my yoke is easy [except for me], and my burden is light.” The depressed man believes that Jesus can do nothing for him. He may be able to lift the heavy burdens of others, but his miseries are too heavy even for the Lord of Glory.
Finally, the downtrodden Christian is tempted to dismiss God’s sovereignty during trials. Romans 8:28-29 does not apply to him: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good [except me], for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son [except me], in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The downtrodden Christian believes that nothing good can come out of his trial. He goes into a “Woe is me” perpetual cycle. Instead, he should remember God’s sovereign control. Through his unbelief, he also rejects God’s purpose; He “predestined” all Christians “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses the trial as a means to shape a believer into Christ-likeness. As a result, all trials are for a Christian’s good since they contribute to his spiritual growth.
What error do all of the people in these examples make? They trust in their feelings and perceptions more than the Bible. In effect, they are calling God a liar. 1 John 5:10 says, “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar…”. Moreover, it is an attack on God’s omniscience. Those in unbelief think, “God clearly does not understand my situation. The Bible does not and cannot apply to me.” Therefore, God did not have the knowledge of all human situations before composing the text. Consequently, the Bible is not sufficient. It must be supplemented by roller coaster emotions and illogic from finite beings.
Friends, do not make the same mistake. Your situation is not special. Do not pretend that your circumstances deviate from Solomon’s teaching, “there is nothing new under the sun.” You are not the exception. On the contrary, you are the rule.
In today’s postmodern culture, the one point of orthodoxy is this: “There is no absolute truth.” Many people argue that absolute truth does not exist. Instead, morality and religion are simply preferences with no right or wrong. Therefore, everybody can be right even if their beliefs contradict one another.
Of course, postmodernism is self-defeating. When a person says, “there is no truth,” he is making an absolute truth statement. By asserting there is no right or wrong, he is making a moral judgment that all truth claims are wrong. As a result, the postmodernist’s argument is inconsistent.
We must understand the crumbling foundation of postmodernism, because Jesus makes absolute exclusive claims about the path to heaven. Without seeing that postmodernism makes absolute exclusive truth claims, a person may see Jesus’ words as being narrow minded and antiquated. However, everyone believes in absolute truth.
What does Jesus say? In John 14:6, Jesus responds to Thomas’ question about the way to heaven. Jesus had finished telling the disciples that he was going to leave. He told them that they knew the way to follow him. Despite Jesus’ statement, Thomas did not understand. After asking about the way to heaven, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The way to heaven is not through a path but a person. Thomas thought in terms of direction. Imagine taking your Garmin and putting “heaven” in the address bar for your destination. This is how Thomas viewed Jesus’ statement. On the contrary, Jesus meant that by trusting in him as the Son of God and the only means of forgiveness, then you will go to heaven. At the same time, Jesus is the way to truth. As God, his words are perfect. Therefore, he is trustworthy. If a person contradicts Jesus, then Jesus is right and that person is wrong.
Jesus is also the only way to life. Eternal life is a major theme throughout the Gospel of John. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” A sinner can only have forgiveness and everlasting life through Jesus Christ alone. John 3:36 continues by giving the opposite consequence, “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” By rejecting Jesus as the only way, a person will die in their sins. God as a good judge will declare the sinner, “Guilty!” Then, he will be sent to an eternal hell.
Back in John 14:6, Jesus stresses the point of exclusivity again. He says that “No one comes to the father except through me.” Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Therefore, the world has many paths to hell, but there is only one door to heaven. That door is Jesus Christ.
What are the implications? First, universalism is false. When a person dies, he will either go to heaven or hell. Unfortunately, many people will go to hell. Second, all religions of the world cannot be equally true. Jesus Christ makes an absolute truth claim which cannot be reconciled with the beliefs of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Hence, religious adherents from the various perspectives cannot join hands and pretend that our differences do not matter when the truth about eternity is at stake. Third, either Jesus is a liar or he is true. However, he cannot be one of many ways to heaven. His words demand absolute acceptance or outright rejection. What do you choose?
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he started out by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). Since this statement is Jesus’ first recorded words in the Gospel, then it sets forth one of the main themes of his ministry. Given its importance, what does Jesus mean by “repent and believe?”
The Louw Nida Greek lexicon defines the word, “repent,” as “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” Repentance is a new relationship with sin. Instead of embracing sinful thoughts and actions, a repentant individual now agrees with God that sin is lawbreaking. As a result, he desires to hate sin and to love God.
The New Testament uses the term in three ways. First, repentance is a description of those saved from God’s wrath. Jesus says “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). If sin is still your friend, then God is your enemy. Second, heaven rejoices when sinners repent. After telling the parable of the woman who found her lost coin, Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk. 15:10). Heaven erupts in celebration over one sinner who turns from his rebellion against God. Third, by God’s grace, a changed life produces the fruit of repentance. John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees to “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). A person may believe in God’s existence, but if he still loves, cherishes, and enjoys his pet sins, then God’s grace has not transformed him. Therefore, he is still lost.
If one side of the coin is repentance, then the other side is believing. The Greek lexicon defines it as “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.” Jesus uses this term in John 3:18. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” If a person does not trust in the Savior alone, then Jesus says that this person is already sentenced for hell.
When a person believes in the Lord, he trusts in Jesus’ truth claims. He believes that Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross for sinners, defeated the grave three days later, ascended to heaven, and will one-day return. However, believing is more than mental assent.
For example, if I build a wooden chair and allow you to inspect it, you may agree that it is well-built and can support your weight. Yet, you do not show that you trust in the chair until you bend your knees and set your entire weight upon it. At that moment, you personally trust that the chair will support you. In the same way, many people know that Jesus is God and agree that the gospel is true; however, they have not personally trusted in Jesus Christ alone for the removal of sins and everlasting life.
Do we only repent and believe once? No! Christians continually turn from sin and believe in Jesus. It is a fruit of being born again. Therefore, if you are a Christian, continue to flee from sin and run to Christ.
Last week, we examined the question, “Is Man Good?” After looking at the Biblical testimony, we concluded that man has been corrupted by sin. In fact, we have evil desires, motivations, thoughts, and actions. All of us are lawbreakers. Hence, we stand condemned before the perfect, good judge since we have rebelled against him. In these dire circumstances, is there any hope for forgiveness?
Yes, if we look to Christ crucified. At the cross, Jesus accomplished six things. First, he died for sinners. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Jesus physically felt the pain of nails going through his flesh. He agonized in misery before giving way to suffocation. As a result, Jesus died for those who transgressed his law. He took their place even though he is perfect so that sinners could have eternal life.
Second, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin. Since God is a good judge, he loves holiness and hates sin. Therefore, God rightly has a controlled wrath against our sin. When Jesus went to the cross, God placed him there “as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). Propitiation means to satisfy. With his sacrifice, Jesus paid the penalty for sinners through his perfect atonement. Being God, he had the quantity and the quality of payment to satisfy the Father. Since he is man, he had a human nature which could die as a sacrifice.
Third, Jesus’ death gives us his righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is the great exchange. Christ traded spots with sinners. He took the sins of his people and died a condemned man. Yet, condemned sinners receive the reward for Christ’s perfect life which is eternal life.
Fourth, for those who believe in Jesus, there is no fear of hell. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ’s sacrifice accomplish redemption once and for all. “It is finished” (John 20:30). Therefore, if you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus alone, then you have peace with God. Your sins will not be brought forward as evidence against you on the judgment day.
Fifth, Jesus’s sacrifice sets us free from the power of sin. Romans 6:6 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The cross broke the links in the chain of sin for Christians. We have been set free to serve the Lord.
Sixth, Jesus’ death on the cross reveals God’s love and glory. He sent his son to die for ungodly sinners. On the tree, Jesus shows the glory of God’s wisdom, power, and holiness for accomplishing his plan. However, this good news is not for everyone. The Bible does not teach universalism. Many people will perish in the fires of hell, because they reject the gospel. There are only two choices. Either Jesus bore your sin on the cross or you will bear your sin forever and ever in hell.
If you stopped someone on the street and asked, “Are you a good person?,” most people would answer in the affirmative. Generally, people think that if they are good citizens by contributing to society through working hard, paying their taxes, and staying out of jail, then they are good.
Who does Jesus say is good? In his conversation with the rich young man, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk. 10:19). This is a startling fact that no one is good according to Jesus.
How does the Bible justify this teaching? Jeremiah 17:9 explains the state of man’s heart, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” In Romans 3:11, Paul says that “no one does good, not even one.” Later in the chapter he writes “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…”(Rom. 3:23). In Titus 3:3, Paul describes Christians before God converted them as “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
If you are still not convinced, then please take this test. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen? Do you envy your neighbor’s possessions or spouse? Have you used God’s name as a curse word? Have you hated someone in your heart? Have you disobeyed your parents?
If you are honest, then you will admit to failing this test. These questions come from the Ten Commandments and reveal God’s character. He alone is good, because He does not sin. On the contrary, all individuals have broken God’s laws. We are not good, because we have not kept God’s law perfectly. As a result, we have failed to meet God’s standard for goodness. Therefore, you and I are not good. We are evil.
Why does this matter? Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Hebrews 12:14 also says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” If the standard for seeing the Lord in heaven is perfection and holiness, how are we who are lawbreakers supposed to become good? How can we go to heaven if we are unholy sinners? Next week, you will find out the answer.
Most faith traditions do not agree on Jesus’ identity. One religion says that Jesus is a prophet but not God. Another teaches that Jesus is one of many gods, and you can become a god like him. A third group claims that Jesus is the first being of all creation which means he is not eternal. Finally, many people think Jesus was a profound teacher, but he is not a prophet or God. What is the truth?
The Bible gives at least four reasons why Jesus is God. First, he performed miracles. In the Gospel of John, Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (Jn. 5:1-17), feed 5000 men with a boy’s lunch (Jn. 6:1-15), walked on water (Jn. 6:16-21), healed a blind man (Jn. 9), and raised a dead man from the grave (Jn. 11:38-44). By performing these miracles, Jesus proved that he had authority over nature, sickness, and death.
Second, the Pharisees tried to kill Jesus, because he claimed to be God. John 5:18 says, “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” Jesus did not respond by correcting them. The Jewish leaders received his message clearly. In fact, Jesus continued to claim deity by using the “I AM” statements. In Exodus 3:14, God called himself, “I AM WHO I AM.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus used seven “I AM” statements as a way to ascribe God’s name to himself. John 8:58 says, “before Abraham was, I am.”
Third, other writers in the New Testament state that Jesus is God. The Apostle Paul calls him “the Christ, who is God overall” (Rom. 9:5) and “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The writer to the Hebrews applies a quotation in Psalm 102:25-27 about Jehovah to Jesus in Hebrews 1:8, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Finally, Peter calls him, “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:1).
Fourth, Jesus received worship. In Revelation 5:14, God reveals a glimpse of the worship taking place in heaven. After mentioning the Father and the Lamb, John tells us that “the elders fell down and worshiped.” Who did they worship? They praised the Father and the Son. Additionally, Hebrews 1:6 says that the angels worshiped Jesus. In Philippians 2:10, Paul also writes that “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Unlike the angel in Revelation 19:10 who refused John’s worship, Jesus rightly accepts it, because he is not a creature. He is God.
Why does this matter? If Jesus is not God, then there is no hope for salvation. Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21) with his precious blood, “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). If Jesus were a man or an angel, he would not have the infinite value to pay for the sins of his people. An angel or man could not save one person from their sins. Therefore, Jesus as the infinite eternal God put on human flesh to die on the cross for sinners. By having the nature of man, he could die. By having the nature of God, his sacrifice brought forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in him.
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.