For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Problem

For the last couple of centuries, western society has by in large been built on the premise that every person is equal and valuable. It hasn't always lived up to that ideal. In fact, Nazi Germany shows that the ideal of the equality and value of each person has been sometimes tossed out the window. But the overwhelming consensus that the mass killings by ruthless regimes is wrong is an indication of the underlying assumption that the ideal of people being equal and valuable still holds firm.
There is, however, another assumption that needs to be examined: are we good?

Are We Good?

That depends on what the definition of "good" is and what standard of "goodness" is applied.
For example, we can define "good" as being adept at a particular skill. A person may study and learn a foreign language. We might say that they are good at Italian, for example. In this sense, people can be good. But if that person travels to Italy, they will probably discover that they are not very good at Italian after all!
It depends on the standard being applied.
Sometimes we will say that someone is a "good person". We mean that the person is honest, kind, and reliable. In comparison to other people, he is "good". But does being "gooder than" mean a person really is good? What standard is used to measure goodness?
The Bible takes an additional view of goodness. To be good is to be morally blameless. It is much like holiness. A good person is one who is good all the time and to everyone. And when that standard is applied to our lives a very different picture emerges. We are not good. We are bad. We prefer to be in the darkness, where the "flaws" of our lives remain hidden. It makes us uncomfortable to have our evil hearts exposed by a true standard of goodness.
We would all acknowledge that a lying, deceptive person is not good. When a trusted public figure is exposed as a liar we are disappointed and our opinion of them changes drastically. We shake our heads in disgust pretending that we are "better" than them. Yet the simple question: "Have you ever told a lie?" exposes us for what we are: A liar. Are liars "good people"? No.
We would also all acknowledge that a crook is not good. Yet if the videotape of our lives were to be played, we have all taken something that did not belong to us. We may have taken a few things from our employer, slipped something into our pocket at the store, borrowed something and never returned it, or not reported our income to the government. Our evil deeds expose us for what we are.
The Bible calls this evilness "sin". Sin is a failure to conform to the moral standard in thought, word or deed. We are all sinners. Even our best deeds are like filthy clothes in the light of a true standard of goodness.
We are not good. We are guilty.
We have done wrong. We have decided to wrong God. We have decided to wrong those created in his image.
We do not often like to think about the depth of guilt we have before God.
We prefer to compare ourselves to one another and we can always find someone that seems more wicked than ourselves. We hope that there is enough goodness in us to make us okay with God.
This is a false hope. Those who would find salvation must allow the blinding light of God's Word to penetrate through their excuses and their rationalisations for their sin.
Only then will we see and understand the cross. Only then will it be possible for us to repent and believe the gospel. Only then will cross have effect in our lives.
That is why we must include the issue of sin when we present the gospel. Salvation from sin and its consequences must be at the core of what we are about as a church and as followers of Christ. Yes, we will be known by our love and we will love one another and even our enemies. But love that ignores the fundamental issues of sin and salvation is not really love at all.

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