It could reasonably be said that doing good works is the most common standard held by people around the world for access to their perceived eternity. There are, however, a couple inherent problems with this misconception. In order to briefly examine them, let’s first keep in mind that to measure what is actually good, there must be a standard, and regardless, all standards have a built-in expectation of keeping those standards perfectly.
Standards are essentially laws and laws always require that they are kept one hundred percent of the time. Herein is the first problem. Although standards (laws) can tell people what is expected, they have absolutely NO power to help people continually and perfectly obey them. If they did, we would eventually cease from needing laws. Although there are many moral laws, none of them can change the internal immoral condition of the human heart. After all, it is the heart that is wicked, otherwise we wouldn’t have needed laws to begin with.
Although mankind recognizes the need to be good and have laws, he has repeatedly and foolishly bet on the wrong “horse”. For some unexplained reason, we have consistently and continually assumed, regardless of our constant need for moral laws, that somehow mankind is intrinsically capable of eventually meeting those standards. In other words, most believe mankind is basically and internally good enough to eventually become good enough. This is problem number two.
Even though many people recognize the importance of being good, we neither have the capacity nor the deep desire to live perfectly moral and good lives. And in truth, the law is completely powerless to change a man to do so. So we are really left with this grandiose ideal, yet continually reminded of its insufficiency. When faced with this dilemma, we have a couple options. We can either wear ourselves out in an attempt to be good, which of course will never be good enough because the perfect standard will never be met. The other option involves simply lowering the standard from perfect adherence to living a “pretty good” life in hopes of staying distracted long enough to prevent the nagging notion of unattainable perfection from driving us crazy. Neither of these options are very hopeful to say the least.
Perhaps that is why so many around the world are clamoring after almost anything for a momentary distraction. Perhaps that is why so many have such a deep sense of hopelessness. Deep down many perhaps recognize the need for and goodness of an adherence to a moral and perfect standard, yet also know how utterly impossible the task really is.
Although the law is powerless to convert the wicked heart of mankind, it does contain the answer to the entire problem. Yet, in order to discover the truth of the matter we must look past the law to the lawgiver. It is only reasonable to conclude that every law has a lawgiver and only by carefully considering the character of the lawgiver are we given the only satisfactory and sufficient answer to this unsolvable issue.
First of all, we must carefully consider the very necessity of a lawgiver. All laws must have an inventor, someone who saw fit to give us the rules needed to conduct our lives safely and morally. The answer of why laws are given is simple. Earthly speaking, laws have been given because mankind is inherently rebellious and self-centered, unwilling to do by nature what is expected of him by his very own conscience. Laws protect others and even the very person desiring to perform an evil deed. Every household has rules simply said because they are necessary. Children do not naturally and perfectly do what is right and good otherwise there would be no market for the thousands of child rearing books produced and sold every year on how to productively raise our kids. Laws are necessary because our hearts are by very nature rebellious.
Even though it is quite observable that humans make laws, there is still this question which lies beyond humanity, beyond this planet, and beyond this universe. Is there an ultimate and moral lawgiver that is above everything and everyone? Again, the answer is quite logical and simple. Yes. If there was no ultimate lawgiver, then that would mean the physical universe is all there is. If that were true, then there would be no morality and definitely no concept of immorality. There would be no notions of anything immaterial such as love, truth, justice, mercy, etc. It is crucial to understand that something physical, i.e. a solid, liquid, gas, can NEVER produce nonphysical concepts such as those mentioned above.
If the physical universe is all there is, then the very notion of morality could not exist. The universe cares nothing of right and wrong, nor can it. The universe is physical. There are no moral storms or immoral rocks. And regardless of time, people would never be able to conjure up these concepts because it is literally impossible to think up something that has absolutely no existence. It would be like trying to make sand from nothing. It is an impossibility. In fact, this very article proves the existence of an immaterial, ultimate lawgiver by the very concepts it is examining.
Simply stated, without an ultimate, immaterial, all moral being, there would be no ability for anything to be anything other than material and amoral and since that is not the case, we must reasonably and logically conclude the this immaterial being exists. There must be a moral originator to the moral laws that so often chase our consciences throughout our lives.
This ultimate, perfectly moral One who gave us our moral laws was sure to write His laws upon our hearts so we can at least recognize the importance of following good laws. We call this our conscience. Granted, we can harden our hearts and sear our consciences, making it difficult to hear the truth, however even a seared conscience struggles with the reality of his inability to measure up to the perfect standard set by God. Regardless of our unwavering unwillingness to admit our need for the perfectly moral Creator, He graciously still reaches out, revealing to us both our desperate need and His perfect provision.
God has given us His perfect and moral law as a standard for mankind. His standard, just as with any earthly law, requires perfection. Contrary to what our selfishness might say, God has not given us His laws to keep us from having fun. Nor has He given us His laws as some sort of cruel cosmic joke. The expectation of keeping the law perfectly is simply for our good and His glory. Since His law emanates from His holy, perfect character, we must conclude the laws He gives mankind are not bad, nor do they keep us from the most important joys of life.
Mankind’s unwillingness to keep God’s law and the law’s inability to change men’s hearts are indeed two terrible tragedies, however there is an even bigger issue, one that has an eternal consequence. Our desire to do our own thing and the inability of the law to change our selfish nature are not simply temporal problems. When someone breaks a law on this planet, we are required to pay the fine established by the one who made the law. The same is true for God. The difference in breaking God’s laws is duration and extent of the penalty. Again, just as God’s laws are not designed for our harm, God’s justice is not exacted based on Him being some sort of attention seeking, insecure, power hungry Creator.
In reality, there is only One true God and one true Heaven. Sadly, most of mankind would prefer to pretend that they are their own gods, seeking to go to some other kind of eternity other than the one which already exists. So if we do not want to follow the true God and go to His Heaven, there is no other place for us other than an eternity away from God in a place He created for the rebellious devil and his angels. God calls this place Hell and unfortunately for many, it will be a horrifically rude awakening when they realize that their fantasy afterlife was just that, a fictional fantasy that dissolved upon death. God is not looking to send people to eternal damnation. Rather He desires to rescue us, offering us the way out from this temporal torture and eternal torment. (John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9) But the truth is it can’t be done without Him. Yes, we actually NEED God!
Originally mankind’s purpose was to reflect God’s character, making God’s laws a natural outflow of our lives. Yet, sadly, the first two people rebelled against their Creator, closing the door on Him and opening it up instead to self, sin, and Satan. No longer were God’s laws being lived out from the inside. Now man’s heart was filled with pride and self, desirous of making his own standard of living. Now, at least for a time, God’s moral laws would need to be applied from the outside, never able to reach the depths of mankind’s heart. Why? Because the Lawgiver was asked to leave the throne room within the heart of every man. And since the laws of God were never designed to be injected from the outside in, we are constantly left with an insufficient system for governing our hearts and minds.
Praise God that’s not the final chapter! If that was the end of the story, mankind would be most assuredly left to his our futile devices, hopelessly and helplessly running and working until we die. We would be left bound eternally in our sin, chained in our fleshly prisons by our sin, self, and Satan. But the Lord, rich in mercy and abundant in grace, chose to provide the perfect and precious plan to solve the sin separation plaguing each and every generation. How amazing indeed that God would choose to lovingly offer a way to live within the very ones who have stubbornly and willingly rebelled against Him! But because of His perfect integrity and justice, the Lord cannot simply enter back into men, even those desiring for Him to take up residence. The penalty for our rebellion, for breaking His laws, must be dealt with, not only so we can be with Him someday in Heaven, but so He can dwell in us now on earth.
THE TWOFOLD PLANNED UNFOLDED AND FULFILLED
The Heavenly Father had a twofold plan, one that would both pay for the penalty of our sinful rebellion and make the perfect way for the Lord to once again sit upon the throne of willing human hearts. The plan would consist of His Son, a Roman cross, and death itself.To think that the very curse upon mankind (due to their own wickedness and rebellion) would be the very thing God would use to set men free. How truly amazing. How horrifically humbling!
The all-knowing, perfectly moral Creator lovingly chose to send His Son to become a man, yet He never stopped being God. He was to be the only God-man. Some 2,000 years ago, at the perfectly appointed time, just as the Scriptures foretold, He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Luke 2:12). His name was to be called Jesus and He came to save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21). Jesus walked a perfect life. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed thousands, even raised the dead and forgave sins, just as the Scriptures prophesied. (Isaiah 35:5-6). He always spoke the truth in love, pointing people to the Heavenly Father and was then rejected and crucified. Praise God, death had no power over the Prince (Captain) of life! (Acts 3:15). Just as He had promised, He rose from the grave three days later, never to die again. (John 2:19-21). Second Corinthians reminds us that He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21). It says in Hebrews that it was by God’s grace that Jesus tasted death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9).
To think that the God of Life chose to use death, the great enemy brought in by of sin, to bring mankind eternal life! How absolutely amazing! Death is a stamp of finality, reminding us daily of our lack of power and control. How much more so the stamp of the cross in the spiritual realm. Upon that old rugged cross, Jesus became sin for us, willing to allow the Heavenly Father to pour out all of His wrath upon Him instead of us, laying His life down freely (John 10:18) even unto death on the cross. (Philippians 2:8). This death, His death, fulfilled both folds of God’s perfect plan and precious provision.
Not only did Jesus satisfy God’s justice for our sinful rebellion; He also tore the veil, opening the new and living way for the Lord to once again sit upon the throne of broken, humble, repentant hearts. He legally paid for the price of our sin, but also legally provided the only way for man to truly be separated (in a sense, divorced eternally) from self, sin, and Satan.
Here in lies the great grace of God! Jesus both offers fully and freely the forgiveness of our sins, plus He provides the only way for Himself to at last and eternally enter humanity, sealing those who believe on Him by the power of His Holy Spirit. “In whom [Jesus] you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14.
Now man can finally abide in Him and He can finally abide in us! Once this transaction takes place, we no longer seek to cover our sins in an attempt to keep the moral law. Now we simply desire the Lawgiver Himself. Only after the Lawgiver is living within our hearts and minds will His law be joyfully and correctly lived in us and through us. After all, we weren’t designed to have a relationship with the law of the Lord, rather the Lord of the law.
“Forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” 1 Corinthians 3:3-6
“I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5