Agonizomai: Romans Chapter 2<br>Excuse #6 - I Try To Be Good

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Romans Chapter 2
Excuse #6 - I Try To Be Good
Response: God’s judgment reaches the secrets of the heart.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

And here is the real coup de grace - that God looks upon the heart and not the externals when He judges. He sees right into the very essence of what we are, and He is not fooled regarding our motives. In the end, we must agree that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Sinful deeds are merely the fruit of spiritually dead, willfully rebellious and depraved hearts.
And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." Mark 7:20-23
God is telling us that no righteousness can issue from anything in the natural man. We are "altogether gone out of the way". Left to ourselves, and apart from the gracious influences of God's Spirit, we are dead already, under condemnation and liable to the wrath of God, "having no hope and without God in the world", like the Ephesians had been. (Ephesians 2:12) We recall the pronouncement of God upon the ante-deluvian world which is unequivocal in its comprehensive indictment of the hearts of humanity:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. {Genesis 6:5}
Though not yet broached in Paul's argument to the Romans, it is plain that the condition of all men is a result of their very nature, and that it is the nature that must change in order for any righteousness to be even possible.

The cry that we are trying to be good betrays an unwillingness to admit that there is no goodness in us – nothing that can withstand the unapproachable light of God’s holy countenance. Not anything that is unalloyed with sin. Yet the only standard of righteousness by which anyone will ever be measured is God’s righteousness. Sinners must be brought, through the preaching of the truth but by the Holy Spirit, to the admission of this fact in their own hearts. Mere human argument cannot achieve it. There is no persuasion that can be brought to bear by one man upon another. There can be no reliance upon the flesh in the preacher, just as there must come an abandonment of the flesh by the hearer. Only the Spirit of God can do this.

In the modern church we utterly underestimate the lostness of humanity. And why not? How often do we hear it preached to its fullest? We assume first that a person is able, out of himself, to reach out and grab the dangling offer of a pleading God. Then we assume that we are able to so apply ourselves and our techniques that the right mood can be set, or the right moment manipulated, by us, for a person to be manhandled out of perdition into the glorious kingdom of God. No! The work of salvation is entirely God’s. It is beyond human power or understanding to comprehend or to imitate what God does:
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. {2Corinthians 4:6}
We in the church have to ask ourselves what our part is in the salvation of souls – both our own soul and those whom we evangelize. We have gradually moved away from, through faith and obedience, giving all power to God in our minds, to an attitude of heart where we think that we have to finagle the results. We fail to trust God’s “foolish” way – that of preaching the gospel and leaving the results to Him. It’s too simple for us. It doesn’t give us room to wangle, control, manage or finagle our way into the glory. Where’s the self-satisfaction in admitting it is all of God and all of grace?

We are carnal when we think that way and when we add to God’s perfect plan for building His church. We ourselves get caught trying to be something, trying to do what only God can do, just like the pagan who wants to find some vestige of righteousness in himself, to have just a little piece of his own justification before God. Surely the very means by which we were brought into the kingdom is the same as the means by which we will abide there and call upon others to enter it.


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