“Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:1-3).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (2 Tim. 3:1).
Richard Owen Roberts is a minister of the gospel. For many, many years now he has been used of God in a wonderful way to promote a spirit of revival here in America. In 1985, Mr. Roberts spoke at a pastor’s convention and shared with them some of the trials and tribulations of his ministry. Then he came to a very interesting event.
Mr. Roberts had gone to a doctor and discovered he had a brain tumor. He thought he was going to die soon. One day he took out a piece of paper to list what he wanted to accomplish and he wrote down a number 1, “I want to know what it is like to be before I die.” In a moment of total honesty, Richard Owen Roberts was confessing that there was still a fundamental flaw in his character. To others he was already quite good.
Here was a man who has spent years studying the single subject of revival in church history. He had amassed a library of over 10,000 volumes on the subject. He had lectured widely, yet as he confessed to the ministers at the convention, “I was in some ways a hypocrite. The subject had become purely intellectual. There was no heartbeat for heaven. I had sunk so low I could no longer see bottom for I was on the bottom of my spiritual life. I even was willing to curse God and die.”
It was at that time period that Richard Roberts said, “I want to know what it is like to be good.” Perhaps some have had the same desire, but something always gets in the way. “Why is it so difficult to be good?”
There are a few who teach it is not difficult at all. Some others would have us to believe that all people are basically good already. If it is true that most people are basically good, then why do we have these staggering statistics. Consider these facts limited to the U.S. alone.
Despite these realistic figures, the myth still prevails that self is basically good, the rest of the world is just wrong. Surely, Jeremiah the prophet was correct when he proclaimed that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
Our heart deceives us into thinking more highly of self than is proper. Very few are as honest as Augustine. Augustine was one of the greatest theologians who ever lived. But he was a wicked young man before his conversion and he knew it. His besetting sin was lust. When he was first convicted of sin, Augustine prayed, “O Lord, make me pure, but not now.”
That is how many people are. They are addicted to some sin. They love their illicit behavior, though they do not always enjoy the end result. The drinker still drinks because there is a fundamental love for the taste of liquor. The lustful person enjoys the stimulation of sexual encounters. When one thing becomes boring, something bolder, more daring is tried. The angry person enjoys the moment of rage and the pleasure of conquest when one will dominate another. The thief loves to steal. “Why is it so difficult to be good?” Because of the deceitfulness of the heart that persuades self is not so bad and because of a fundamental love for particular sins. We need to stop kidding each other that there is no pleasure in sin. Hebrews 11:25 speaks of the pleasures of sin.
Ask the young people of America. They will tell you there is pleasure in sin. And everything in the youth culture is there to reinforce the concept. Marriage is mocked. Casual relationships are encouraged. Much of rock music exalts the obscene. Trying to cope with their sexuality, teenagers ask in defiance, Why wait? Many do not. Of course, the pleasure of sin never lasts. There are consequences. Consider these facts.
Each generation learns for itself that sin has its own inherit nature of destructiveness but the bitterness of sin is always covered by glamour. It is important to press the point of the deceitfulness of the human heart, the love that self has for particular sins, and the appealing nature of sin in order to appreciate the so great salvation given by God. It is important to fully comprehend the all pervasiveness of sin in order to appreciate the tremendous price that was paid by Christ in order to redeem lost souls.
A little sin needs only a little salvation. A little sinner needs only a little Savior. But a great sinner needs a great Savior. I am afraid most people in the world think of themselves as just little sinners, if they think of themselves in this way at all. Therefore, salvation is nothing less than a minor adjustment in the soul to correct some erroneous beliefs. Many years ago, J. B. Philips wrote a book entitled, “Your God is too Small.”
That is the problem with so many religious minded people in America. Their God is too small. Their Savior is rather insignificant. He died a terrible death for a rather small thing called sin, according to the modern perception. Sin is no big deal.
Our passage in Hebrews shatters forever this myth. Salvation is great, which means that sin is great. People are born physically alive, and spiritually dead. Therefore, said the Psalmist, man goeth forth from the womb lying. The statistics cited witness that souls are indeed great sinners. We are like the days of Noah. Two more witnesses are now called upon to give further testimony. The next witness is sin itself. If we could personify sin for the moment, if we could but put sin as a person on the witness stand, we would notice several things.
First, sin is a moral evil. Sin is not a calamity that came upon man without his knowledge, poisoned his life, and ruined his happiness. Sin is not some disease foreign to man’s inner nature. Rather, sin is man’s nature. It is an evil course which man has deliberately chosen to follow. Years ago there was a comedian named Flip Wilson. Flip used to poke fun of sinning by doing wrong and saying, “The Devil made me do it.”
When a person sins it is not because the devil makes them do it, but because sin in the soul is a moral evil that chooses that which is consistent with its own will, despite the desires of God or anyone else. Fundamentally, sin is not something passive, such as a weakness or a fault for which we cannot be held responsible. Sin is an active opposition to God, and a positive transgression of His law. Sin is the result of a free, but evil choice of man.
Why is it that so many people you and I know live without apology contrary to the revelation of God’s will contained in the Bible? There is but one answer. They are living consistent with their will, and the natural heart that is refusing to submit to rightful authority even the Lord Jesus Christ. No disease, no devil, keeps anyone from obeying the Lord God, only the moral evil of sin itself in the soul.
Notice how sin is squirming a little on the witness stand. The truth is being told. Sin has a nature all its own, and it is a nature that delights in a positive transgression of the law and a breaking of the covenant.
Againd see that sin has an absolute character. There is not a neutral condition between good and evil. There is no neutral condition between good and evil. Sin is not a lesser degree of goodness but a positive evil. This is plainly taught in the Bible. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30). “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Scripture knows of no position of neutrality. The poor souls that believe they are saved because they once went to church, once made a profession of faith, once were baptized, once were singing religious songs, but now act contrary to all that need to hear Jesus say again, “Who do you call me Lord and not obey me.”
There is a third thing to observe about sin and that is where sin dwells. Sin resides in the heart which, in Scriptural terminology, is the central organ of the soul, out of which are the issues of life. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
Fourth, sin does not consist exclusively in overt acts. Sin includes sinful habits, sinful thoughts, and sinful desires. “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:22).
A word of warning must be said about unjustified anger. Quite frankly, anger is one of the most self-destructive transgressions I have witnessed. Over the years, I have witnessed specific individuals self-destruct due to unjustified anger. The same pattern is now familiar to me, so I try to stay out of the way of the angry person. I know what will happen to them, and to others around them, and it is not enjoyable to watch.
Here then is the Scriptural idea of sin.
Sin is a moral evil. Sin has an absolute character. Sin dwells in the heart of the soul. Sin includes thoughts and emotions as well as overt acts. But there is even more for sin includes both guilt and pollution. By a moral choice of evil, by a willingness to transgress the Law of God man became guilty. Intellectually and emotionally man also became polluted which means that the soul has now an inherent corruption.
“Why is it so difficult to be good?” Because of the tremendous alteration that sin has made in the soul. Here is the bottom line, “They who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
In Scriptural terminology, the flesh refers to man before he hears the gospel, before he knows about Christ, before he believes on the Lord Jesus. Man walks in the flesh before God worked a work of grace in his soul. A child is born. That child is of the flesh. It has a nature, but it is a fallen nature. Sin now dominates the nature, not righteousness. That is why no one ever has to teach a child to lie, to steal, to cheat, to be selfish, to throw a temper tantrum. No one had to teach you or me to be bad. Why? Because sin had already touched our soul. The guilt and pollution is inborn. Society is not responsible for the moral evil. Self is in as far as self contributes to it.
Because this is true man is absolutely incapable of changing himself. Not only that, but he does not want to change. Job 14: 4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4) No one.
So, there we have it. The witness can step down. The Second witness, the Word of God, can be closed. The natural man stands before the bar of Divine Justice. It is obvious to all. The Law of God has been violated. Not once, not twice, but many times.
There is a defiant look in the accuser’s eye, and the Just Judge knows that the transgression of the Holy Law was willful, found sin emotionally stimulating, and intellectually challenging. Now here is the amazing thing.
Instead of blasting into eternal judgment every soul that has transgressed the will of God, God in grace, has found a way to redeem the soul. Sin could not be dismissed. The penalty for sin had to be paid.
In Matchless grace it was decreed that Jesus Christ should die for the sins of the world. In the fullness of time, Christ was born. He grew to manhood. He gave Himself up for a substitutionary death. He stretched out His arms in love and died. How great is our salvation? So great that the very Son of God was willing to reach to the depths of sins in the soul. The defiant soul, the willful soul, the illicit passion saturated soul, the soul that is offensive to a holy God, your soul and mine in its natural condition.
Sometimes we hear of unusual conversions. A robber, a murder, a thug is converted. Years ago, from the hills of PA a young preacher went to New York City to work with the young gangs. One leader was named Nicky Cruz. He was indeed manifesting his wicked heart. But the love of God reached down to touch Nicky Cruz through Dave Wilkerson, and then Nicky, in turn began to help others.
Such stories are thrilling. But now you know the truth. My heart, and your heart, was once like that of Nicky Cruz, until God intervened and saved us. In salvation God Almighty changes the soul.
How great is our salvation? It is so great that it reaches down to the depths of humanity depravity and lifts the heart out of the mirey clay of sin and death. And that, is grace.