How does God’s law work? Hint! The law was never intended by God to make a bad person good or a good person better. The reason? “There are none who does good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12). Why? “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The only payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). “The soul who sins shall die” (Eze. 18:20a). Every sinner will stand before God to give an account for his or her own sin. No one can opt out and no one can shift the blame. “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze. 18:20b).
How can we know for sure that we are all sinners and guilty before God? What if I told you that God has provided a spoon to stir up sin in order that we may know its character? You would probably silently chuckle. “The law entered that sin might abound” (Rom. 5:20a). A period follows this statement because it is a truth that stands alone. The word “entered” is translated from a word that was often used in a script for a Greek play to indicate the entrance of an actor onto the stage to play a supporting role. The Law of Moses entered onto the stage of God’s plan of grace to play a part. The part played by the law was to cause sin within us to abound, to be stirred up, to be known.
There is the illustration of a small jar filled with water retrieved from a drainage ditch. One sets it on a shelf for a while, and the trash will then settle to the bottom. The water gives the appearance of being clear and pure. However, if a spoon were used to stir the water, the trash on the bottom would be stirred up and become visible, and the true character of the water would be evident. In like manner, the spoon of the Mosaic Law stirs up and reveals the real character of sin within man. The law is given that sin might be stirred up so that our silent, unknowable sin can become known.
If we are honest before God, we know that we have not kept His law. In fact, we have broken it many times. We are, therefore, rendered sinners before God and in need of His grace. The law gives sin its strength. “The strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56b). Without the law, the death nature within us has no strength. God uses the law to mysteriously set in motion the hidden impulses of sin that are born within. These sinful impulses were already there but were aroused by the law. The law, as the strength of sin, gives sin a little nudge. “For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death” (Rom. 7:5).
Young Johnny had come into the kitchen with his mom many times. One day, however, she said to him, “Sweetheart, do you see that big jar up there on the top shelf?” “Yes, mommy,” he replied. “Well, dear, there is something in that jar that mother does not want you to see, so please do not ever look in it, okay?” “Sure, Mom,” was his reply. But now the hidden impulses of Adam’s sin that were always within began to vibrate like a tuning fork struck by a mallet. These vibrations nudged him to take just one peek into the jar. Because of sin within, his ability to disobey his mom was always there, but the command stirred the sin. Why? Because the strength of sin is the law!
The law provides the muscle that Adam’s death nature within us needs to express itself. God was gracious in providing this spiritual aspect of the law to expose our sinful condition, and to give us a thirst for His wonderful grace. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). The law of God is a single unit. It must be kept as such. But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “The just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith but the man who does them shall live by them” (Gal. 3:11-12).
God’s law is not like a religious cafeteria where we can pick and choose the rules that we want to keep or the ones that we want to break. The law is one document that demands perfect obedience. The Jew could never receive the righteousness demanded by the law by just having faith in the law, or even having faith in their own ability to keep the law. One could never keep part of the law all the time or all of it some of the time. It must be kept perfectly all the time. “Keep the law perfectly and live,” it shouted to them. But if just one law is broken, and only one time, then the lawbreaker would have broken the whole unit of the law and must suffer the penalty. “For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). When just one law is broken or one small portion of the law, it tells me that I am dead and in need of life. It tells me that I am a sinner and in need of a Savior. The law then brings the guilty to Jesus Christ – that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). Blessings!
Happy Independence Day! We have all heard the saying. Weightlifters know it! “No Pain, No Gain.” “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those that are perishing, in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Unbelievers are under a spiritual trance, inflicted by the god of this age; the very same god who said to Eve in the garden, “You shall not surely die!” This god “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). This deception is to convince the world that there are no such things as sin and death.
Sigmund Freud said that we all have a touch of mental illness and just need to get well. Our sickness can be cured if we see our local shrink, limit our bad habits, and seek some higher power. The deceiver’s false logic for humanity goes something like this: “We are all ultimately destined to go to heaven, each in his own way. After all, we are not all that bad, and there is at least a spark of good in the worst of us.” If we can just provide the right environment and some outside positive influence, we can all get better and make our world a better place for everyone. All our society needs is just a good cleaning up. Did not Jesus come to motivate us to love one another, and didn’t He tell us to follow His example, and make this a better world?
This is exactly what the god of this age wants Adam’s fallen race to believe. If we never knew our true condition before God, why would we desire to flee to Him? If we never knew what it really means to be wrong, why would we ever want to be right? If we never knew what it was to be in darkness, why would we seek to come to the light? If we never knew that we were spiritually blind, why would we ever want to see? If we never knew the tremendous horror of being spiritually dead in Adam, why would we ever desire life?
The Bible does not say that we are spiritually sick; the Bible says that we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Jesus said it! Explaining the perils that lay in store for those who chose to follow Him, a young potential disciple asked Jesus to allow him to first go and bury his father. Our Lord’s response is jaw dropping. He said, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22). How do dead people bury dead people? Think a moment about the result of being spiritually dead and at the same time blind to that fact. A spiritually dead man does not “feel” his death any more than a physically dead person would feel a 400-pound weight on his chest. If we felt spiritually separated from God, realizing that we might die in that condition and spend an eternity separated from Him in hell, then there might be a sense of extreme urgency to do something about it. But because of Satan’s veil of blindness, we do not feel dead, nor do we feel any sense of urgency to receive life. Instead, this death in us is like the pain being inflicted by a dentist on our gums that have been deadened by an anesthesia. In the case of the dental profession, anesthesia is good because it deadens the feeling of pain in the gums, and the dentist is free to do his work. A few hours after the procedure, however, this anesthesia wears off, and only then is the pain felt, even though it had been there all the time. The pain of the second death that is born in us is likewise being spiritually anesthetized from our mind.
Little Beverly Smith, born in Akron, Ohio, almost never cried. She never cried when she fell down; she never cried when she bumped her head; she didn’t even cry when she touched her hand on a hot stove. She cried only when she was hungry or sleepy or angry. The doctors discovered that she had a very rare defect of the central nervous system for which there is no cure. She was born with the inability to feel pain. The doctors told her mother that she had to be watched constantly because little Beverly could break a bone and not know it, or she could develop appendicitis and not know it. This is what it must be like to be spiritually dead and not know it.
Tragically, it will take passing through the valley of the shadow of death for many to awaken from this spiritual swoon to the pain of eternal separation from God in hell, but it will be forever too late. Left to ourselves we do not feel threatened, nor do we sense any desire for God’s life because we are spiritually dead. Without God personally scraping the scales of blindness from our eyes, we will remain dead and insensitive to the truth about who we really are (Jn. 6:44;65). We will remain oblivious to His gracious provision in Jesus Christ. God was gracious to provide His law in order for us to understand our spiritual condition before Him, to feel the pain of sin and death, and to be pointed to God’s provision of life in Jesus Christ. Just how does God’s Spirit use His law to remove these scales of blindness from our eyes? More tomorrow. Blessings!
God told the Jews that their sin would always find them out (Numbers 32:23). Because of Achan’s secret sin, the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1). They began to lose battles. Joshua was confused and began to whine and complain. God’s response was quick and decisive. He said to Joshua: “Get up! Why are you lying on your face? Israel has sinned. For they have even taken some of the accursed things and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff” (Joshua 7:10–11).
One can just hear the rationalization today: But God, is that so horrible a sin? No sin is ever small to a holy God. His righteousness must always be in perfect balance with His justice – always! “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14).
Achan confessed that he had stolen property (Joshua 7:18–20). Achan was guilty, and he confessed, but sin always has its consequences (Romans 6:23). Achan and his entire family were killed. This seems to be severe punishment for such a seemingly small crime. God’s judgment always fits the crime. This message is now penned in the Bible for a thousand generations to read and heed.
As a young man, David had a heart for God. So much so that God selected this simple shepherd boy to be the king of all Israel. His family produced the line from which the Messiah would come. His throne is the throne upon which our Lord will one day reign. Yet David became a tremendous example of how believers can and do sin and how God disciplines those whom He loves.
There came a time in Israel’s history when all the soldiers went off to war, but David, the warrior king, stayed home. This was not good. One morning he got up early, walked out on his roof, looked across the way, and saw a woman bathing. She was very beautiful. David was overcome with lust. He found out that her name was Bathsheba and that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite – one of his best soldiers.
David had the woman brought to him. She bowed before his wishes because he was the king. When she informed him later that she was pregnant with his child, David sent to the battleﬁeld for Uriah. David hoped that her husband would go in to his wife so that Uriah would think that the child was his. Uriah refused, saying that he would not enjoy his home life while his men were fighting.
David was frantic. At his command, Uriah was shipped to the front line of battle where he was killed. Like Achan, David tried everything to cover his sin, but he could not (2 Samuel 11:27).
God sent Nathan the prophet to give David a house call. Nathan gave David this illustration. He said that there was this very wealthy man who had thousands of sheep, but this neighbor had one little lamb that had grown up with his children. A guest came to eat with the rich man, and the rich man stole the little lamb from the poor man to feed his guest. David was furious and lashed out. How dare that man do that! “He shall repay fourfold for the lamb, because he had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:6).
There was probably a long, deafening silence. Nathan said simply and probably quietly, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s sin had found him out. It always does. David’s confession was simple and sincere. “Against You (God) and You alone have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4a). Did he not sin against Bathsheba? Yes! Did he not sin against Uriah? Yes! Did he not sin against the entire nation of Israel as their king? Yes! David realized, however, that his sin was against God. He had rebelled against Him, and that led to the domino effect that touched all the other lives. David asked God to purge him from the guilt of his sin, to wash him and make him as white as snow. David cast himself entirely upon God’s grace. There was no arrogance and no prideful attitude. He did not blame others. He took full responsibility. He brought out all the details. He cried out to God for forgiveness (Psalm 51:1-12). David’s greatest desire was for God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. David had not lost his relationship with God, but He had lost his personal fellowship. After his confession, he was forgiven. Forgiven! That is one of the sweetest words in any language. David’s joy returned (Psalm 32:1–6). Stay safe and stay tuned.
Cain and Abel launched the human race into a fallen world created by the sin of Adam. Their characters were symbolized by their offerings. They were the product of the same home, brothers made in God’s image. They both sensed the value of bringing a sacrifice to God. They were, no doubt, taught to do this by their parents, and they had certainly heard the story many times of how their fallen parents covered themselves with fig leaves, but God had clothed them with animal skins. His requirement is a blood sacrifice. They understood the meaning and clearly knew what God required. But the two men were very different.
When the time came, Cain rebelled! It’s that simple. He brought the works of his own hands as an offering to God. He brought “fig leaves.” It was as though he was saying in a quiet way, “I remember that you, God, covered my parents with animal skins. You demanded a blood sacrifice, but I’ll come to you my way. I’ll bring my own offering.” Satan’s venom was pulsating through his veins. His offering was a product of his pride. It’s as though he was saying, “Look what I have grown myself.”
Abel, on the other hand, was different. By faith, he brought a blood sacrifice to God. He knew that God required death, which was symbolized by the shedding of blood. He had a spiritual nature, a spiritually fertile mind, that Cain did not have. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s (Hebrews 11:4). No surprise!
Cain became furious. God gave him every opportunity to make things right, to bring the right sacrifice. At this point Cain knew precisely what God required. God told Cain that sin was waiting at the door to devour him, but it was not too late to offer the right sacrifice. Cain had no excuse at all. However, he wanted to do things his way. His rebellion ultimately led to murder. Rebellion and murder were already in his heart.
John pulled off Cain’s mask and revealed his true identity. Cain rebelled against God and killed his brother because he was of the evil one (1 John 3:12, NASB). John’s words are clear, powerful, and cannot be misunderstood. John clearly spelled out the major difference between true brothers. In fact, Jesus called Abel “a prophet.”
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:34-35)
A prophet is one who speaks for God. What did Abel say? Nowhere in Scripture do we find any words ever spoken by Abel. He spoke with his actions. He brought the right sacrifice. Cain was from the source of Satan, the seed of Satan, and Abel was of God. Jesus confirmed the truth that Satan’s seed is alive and well on this planet. He spoke these powerful words to the Pharisees.
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. (John 8:44)
As amazing as this must sound, every human being comes into this world under the power of darkness.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79)
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:16-18)
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
God must remove Satan’s blindness and allow the gospel to penetrate the mind. Satan’s world is in rebellion against God (Romans 3:10-18). The entire human race is spiritually dead and yet blind to this fact. God is in the process of calling some, like Adam and Eve and Abel, to Himself. If He did not, none would come (1 Corinthians 2:14; John 6:44, 65). Salvation is of God!
Cain’s rebellion led to the murder of his brother and the retributive judgment of God. Cain went out from God’s presence (Genesis 4:16). This is an ill-omened statement. It becomes the seed truth for life without God, the root of secular humanism. Secular means “not religious,” and humanism is the belief that man has the answers to his own destiny.
This entire scene points clearly to the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only means of forgiveness. Just as Cain clearly knew, so do we. No one can ever receive forgiveness before God except through the offering made by Jesus Christ (John 14:6).