Thursday, February 10, 2011
"... ruin and misery mark their ways." (NIV)
Wow. What a verse! Betcha' nobody ever told you to memorize THAT one! But, let's take it in context. To do so we need to quote Romans 3:10-18; these verses are written like poetry, different verses being parts of sentences or thoughts...
" There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands God. no one who seeks God.
All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.
The poison of vipers is on their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.
There is no fear of God before their eyes."
(Romans 3:10-18 NIV)
Sounds pretty dismal, doesn't it? And, it would be - if the story stopped right here. You see, this is the description of mankind without a Savior. No righteousness. No understanding. Just misery and ruin...
I promise we'll get to the solution later; but, first, let's take a good look at this unrighteousness of ours. Ever since Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden, mankind has not been capable of righteousness. Righteousness means "in right standing with God." Just think, until they fell into sin, Adam and Eve had one-on-one relationship with God, the Creator of the universe. He walked with them in the Garden. But, sin occurred, and it separated mankind from that one-on-one companionship. God is completely holy. Completely moral. Unable to tolerate sin. When we are addressing God, we can't rationalize our deeds and misdeeds the way we tend to when we talk to ourselves or our close friends: "Well, at least I'm not as bad as ol' John Doe down the street... he did such and such, and I only did so and so..." Should we try to give such a rationalization to God, His reply would be: "Quiet! YOU are still a sinner. I will not listen to your excuses." Because God is holy and incompatible with sin, He doesn't rate sin, on a scale of one to ten the way we humans tend to... We are ALL sinners. Period.
..... Here is a story within a story within a story...
In Luke 18:10-14, Jesus told the parable of two mens' prayers to God. I will paraphrase the parable: The first man stood in a prominent place in the temple and prayed loudly for all to hear: "Thank you, Lord, that I'm not like other men. I fast twice a week, and I blah-de-blah-blah-blah-blah..... AND, I don't do such and such or act like that tax collector over there....." The second man - the tax collector - stood towards the back of the temple, put his hand to his breast, and said, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." Jesus finished this parable by explaining that the tax collector went home in right-standing with God, while the first man didn't... because those who exalt themselves will be put down, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Recently I heard two women having a conversation in a business office. The conversation lasted about thirty minutes and consisted entirely of "Thank-the-Lord-we-ain't-like'so-and-so." It was a self-righteous tirade. These women were aware of my presence in the room. They didn't know me, but they knew I was easily within hearing distance. I suspect that they thought they were demonstrating "Christian" behavior, by loudly vocalizing all the things they didn't do... much like the first man in Jesus' parable. It made me sad. I wanted so badly to quote the parable to them... But then, the REAL Truth hit! The person who needed the parable was me! My attitude in wanting to quote the parable to those two ladies was the same as their long speeches about what great Christians they were... which was also the same as the first man saying, "Thank you, Lord, that I'm not like other men." All of us had certainly come short of the glory of God.
A story within a story within a story... No one righteous. Not one. But, here is the good news! When we continue on to verses 21 & 22 of Romans chapter three, we find The Solution:
"But now is righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
SO, the "law" points out for us what sin is, and our faith in Christ brings us into right-standing with God.
I would be remiss to write about the book of Romans without including a summary of "the Romans Road", a long-standing tool used in leading a person to Christ. If you want to lead someone to Jesus, or if you need to find your own way to Him, follow the Romans Road:
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 6"23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 10:9,10 "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and you are saved."
Romans 10:13 "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Jesus paid the price for us so that we CAN be righteous in God's eyes, after all!