I am preparing to preach this Sunday morning at Good News church and as a tradition, I like to write out the sermon in article form so that I can think through what I want to communicate. After having a discussion with a person this past weekend, I felt the need to speak about this subject on Sunday morning. The person wanted to know about getting baptized in the church. During the discussion the person made an interesting statement. It goes something like this. We were discussing the meaning of repentance, what your life was like before Christ and how it has changed. The person explained how she had gone to church her entire life but “repented” or “accepted Christ” when she was an adult. During the discussion there was not much evidence on her part of a lifestyle change brought about after repenting. Her question was, “I do not know what you want to hear when you talk about lifestyle transformation? Do you want me to say that I was good before but now I am better because of Christ?” Did you catch the mistake? Many people think that they are “good” people without Christ. My question to them is, “good according to whose standards? yours? God’s? Hitler’s? etc”. The Bible claims that we are not good people without Christ. In fact, Romans 1 gives a great explanation of what a person is like without Christ so I want to focus on this passage to discover man’s need for salvation. Please take a moment and read verses 18-32.
Man’s lifestyle without Christ
God calls us ungodly and unrighteous and then goes on to explain what that looks like practically. An ungodly person suppresses the knowledge of the truth (the Gospel/Word of God/Bible). The word suppress means to push against. When faced with the truth of the Word of God, he pushes it away using some kind of lame excuse why he should not believe it. They know God is there but they do not want to accept Him so they act as if He is not, once again excusing themselves with things like, “if God is real then why . . .” or “you know that there are mistakes in the Bible don’t you? therefore we cannot accept it as the Truth”. They are pushing against the truth and they do not want others to hear It or accept It. Since they do not want to submit to God and His will they do not honor Him as their Creator. Because they do not honor God, they are not grateful to Him for the very life that they have been given. When you turn away from God, you naturally have to turn to something else. They turn to themselves and worship themselves rather than God. They sit in the driver’s seat living their lives the way that they want to instead of allowing God to lead. The result of this is futility. The word futile means “empty, vain, useless, worthless”. There is a clear pattern here, 1) reject God (having a good excuse of course) 2) embrace themselves and their own way of life 3) live a futile lifestyle
What does a futile lifestyle look like?
Claiming to be wise and boasting in your wisdom is the first manifestation. You think that you know better than everyone else, even God. I am going to do it my way because it is the best. When you live and think like this, God looks at you and calls you a fool. Why? Because of the choices that you make. The next obvious manifestation is your sexuality. God gave the gift of sexuality to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage. People who trust in themselves and worship themselves instead of God do not follow His plan for enjoying sexuality. It all starts in the mind. Those who do not know God have sex on the brain, acting out fantasies in their minds. These fantasies lead to actions. One example would be pornography. There are many men who addicted to pornography which is so destructive. These thoughts lead to actions and sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage brings about dire consequences. Once you start looking at porn or having sex outside of marriage you then become controlled by the lusts of your heart, you become a slave to those sins. Even if you feel bad about doing it and want to quit, you cannot because you are now a slave. There are other characteristics of a futile lifestyle and I would like to list them with a little explanation.
- greedy – always wanting more, never satisfied with what you have, (you get an iphone 4 and then the iphone 5 comes out and you no longer are content with the iphone 4, even though it is way better than no phone at all)
- evil – ill will, desire to hurt others verbally, physically, or emotionally
- envious – to corrupt or destroy from the inside out, greed is wanting more, envy is being jealous of what others have (since he got the new iphone 5, I hope he has it stolen because I do not have one)
- disobedient to authority – rebellion, insubordinate, impersuasible (you will not listen to anyone because you think that you know it all)
- strife – quarrels and fights both physical and verbal
- deceit – decoy, fool, trick, take advantage of (how many people deceive their bosses when at work, working on other things, like checking facebook, instead of actual work related activities, or being deceptive about hours on the job)
- malice – literally means bad natured, desire to harm others so you can raise yourself above them
- gossips – manifestation of malice, to pass on information that may or may not be true
- slanderers – to speak evil about someone, to speak information that is blatantly false or to share only half the truth with the idea of defaming the person, leading people to make false conclusions about someone (the best picture of this would be the political muck that we are all tired of)
- untrustworthy – faithless, one who does not keep his word, says yes and does no or says no and does yes
- unloving – lacking the natural affection of love for others, I say I love you if I can get what I want from you
- unmerciful – lacking compassion, having no desire to help someone who is suffering
A quick look at this list shows us that we are all sinners and not “good” people. If we have not accepted Christ then these are characteristics of our daily lives. If you want to see these characteristics manifested in people’s lives just get on facebook and look at the news feeds people post. So, what is the solution? I am so glad that you asked because God always shares the solution with us. He explains it in verses 14-17. The solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is for all people. It is God’s power that leads us to salvation (a changed life) and the key that opens the door is faith. The Bible teaches us about what (tells us what it is) and then calls us to live by it. Faith simply means taking God at His Word by living according to what He says. You believe that Jesus came to die in your place on the cross and resurrect in order to transform your character. The transformation is evident. Your former way of life is put to death. You no longer live like you once did. You put away all of the above mentioned sins. You do not change from being a good person to a better person. You change from being a sinner (maybe good in your own eyes according to your own standards) to a saint (a person who lives by God’s standards). In Galatians 5:22-25 we see a picture of the new person.
- Love – exact opposite of unloving
- Joy – exact opposite of envy, strife
- Peace – replaces strife and malice
- Patience – do not slander and gossip, you have patience with them
- Kindness – opposite of malice
- Goodness – opposite of evil
- Faithfulness – opposite of untrustworthy
- Gentleness – power under control, patient with others, helping others instead of using them
- Self-control – curbed desires, no longer controlled by desire but instead in control of natural desires
So, of the two above descriptions, which one best describes your way of life? Do you see yourself as a good person yet find yourself being described by the first list? If so, you do not need to become a better person. You need to give control of your life over to Jesus Christ and allow Him to transform your character. This process is known as being born again. Because of the above described situation, Jesus tells His followers . . .
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15)