… during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
- Luke 3:2-9
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is 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.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
- Romans 3:13-20
I am still writing about little things that I noticed on our trip to Tennessee and then Texas and then back to Tennessee, but first a bit of a back story.
Just before we left on the trip, I watched one of my favorite television shows. I have mentioned it many times, but I never gave the name. It is on Cornerstone TV Network and the show is Hard Questions. It is comprised of four panelists and a moderator, but all five are pastors. The moderator provides the questions, mostly questions that have been called in, e-mailed, mailed, or fed through the network’s prayer line.
If I were into television production, I would be amazed at how these pastors can give thorough answers to the Hard Questions and the show always seems to end perfectly on time, with no seeming answer cut off in the middle. But on this occasion, they finished with time left. The moderator then asked a question to fill in the remaining time, “In this present age, what are Satan’s greatest deceptions?”
The four panelists built upon each other’s answers, but the two biggest deceptions are that the church is preaching that there is no suffering for those who love the Lord. And one of the others was that we are, for the most part, really good inside. They each quoted Scriptures to state that these are lies told by the Master of Lies, Satan, and the church, maybe not your church, is repeating the lies. The moderator then added his own deception, that we should rely on our elected government officials, seemingly instead of God, as the day after election day is either a day to celebrate or mourn. That being a deception in that we should rely on God alone.
The strange thing is that this added bit to the end of the television time to avoid finishing early played out on our two-week long trip.
The Catholic Priest insisted that the family not do any eulogies or music (a very musical family) during the memorial service. He gave the eulogy himself. In a way, he knew the adult, nearly 67 years old when he died, brother better than the family did, but probably not, and, more importantly, he could control what he said. He talked about a man who had a servant’s heart. He stayed by his brother’s side until he died ten years ago. He then became his mother’s caregiver and stayed by her side until she died five years ago. That was his basic theme, but he started down what I thought was a wrong track.
He started by saying that mankind is basically good. The good may be buried deeply, but we are all, all of us, good inside.
I was thinking that this was starting off really bad and how can this get worse? I quickly learned, which became the theme of the eulogy.
The priest said that we are good inside, but unless we exercise that goodness, it might never surface, and my wife’s brother should be a model to all of us on how to exercise that inner goodness.
Okay, now I understood what his point was, salvation by works. His idea was that we are really good, but we have to exercise that goodness muscle in order to “be” good.
Only problem is that the Apostle Paul states that we are saved by Grace through faith, and not of works.
In the documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone, the poster child for adding something to faith in Christ alone is the Roman Catholic church. The documentary, at least the full-length version, lists many other denominations. I will not belabor that point and the documentary is on YouTube. Actually, the YouTube version is edited to be shorter, taking out the things I did not like in the full-length documentary, what I thought distracting, not that they listened to me. I highly recommend either version.
But it is a deception that traps people in every denomination. I had someone in my Sunday school class, over ten years ago, who lamented that he did not know if he had done enough to get into heaven. The class, almost everyone, voiced the error of his thinking and that he had to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus, and no amount of good works would ever qualify as enough for salvation.
The first Scripture above has John the Baptist (or Baptizer) calling everyone for repentance and calling the highly officious and religious among them a brood of vipers. It is almost as if John is saying the more religious, we get in doing good stuff, the further we stray from what God wants.
In a way, that is sort of true. If we are highly religious without God in our heart, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are good enough. Yet, we are commanded to do good works.
The second Scripture talks about how, both Jew and Gentile are depraved. All have sinned. And only Jesus can wash away that sin.
Once the priest got past that major issue, he gave a very good eulogy for a man that I knew who had a servant’s heart.
But let’s not muddy the waters. There is nothing that we can do to deserve salvation. We need Grace and Mercy. We must believe and trust in Jesus with every fiber of our being. For Jesus is the only Way.
Note: In a couple of days, I will talk about the other deception that we experienced.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.