As a follow-up to my last column on the claims of Jesus and how they are in stark contrast to the common belief that all paths lead to God, it becomes necessary to elaborate upon why Jesus had to die a criminal’s death in order to pave the way for mankind to be reconciled to God.
Just as much of our culture is now embracing the belief that a person can cherry-pick different beliefs from a hodgepodge of religious philosophies, it is also popular to believe that mankind is inherently good for the most part, and only the worst sorts of people such as murderers and rapists will invoke the wrath of God.
This allows people to exonerate themselves from their own self-serving and
King David wrote perceptively, “There is an oracle within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked. There is no fear of God before his eyes, for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to hate or detect his sin.” (Psalm 36:1-3)
Thus, the all-paths-lead-to-God philosophy is a convenient way to never truly face one’s sin nature.
To demonstrate the truth that we were all born into sin and are bent toward rebellion, consider the nature of little children. Any truthful parent would admit that sin comes naturally to a child, whereas virtue does not.
You do not have to teach a child to lie, cheat, be selfish or explode in fits of rage. Those things come naturally to a child, and the child must be trained and retrained over and over to be gentle, exercise self-control, be honest, share and be respectful of others. And even with good parental training, most often people still turn out as self-serving.
If we were all inherently good, why doesn’t virtue come naturally to a child rather than having to be trained to be virtuous? And why do sins of selfishness come so naturally?
No one ever had to sit little Johnny down and teach him how to lie. He already knows how to do that, passed down to him by mankind’s first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God and introduced sin into the world and infected the whole human race with its poison.
The fact is, the Scriptures tell us: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away … there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) And, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Even on our best day of good behavior, all our good deeds are still tainted with selfish motives and hidden sin. And because James 2:10 tells us that if we break even one of God’s laws we are guilty of breaking all of them, we all therefore stand before God as guilty.
Thus, we cannot make up for our evil just by trying to be good. We are already guilty, and just like an earthly judge would not let a guilty murderer go free on the promise of better behavior, nor will God overlook our sins just because we think we do some nice things now and then.
Justice must be upheld, and God is a God of perfect justice. He will not turn a blind eye. That’s why we need a mediator, someone to plead our case, someone to take away our guilt.
And that’s why Jesus is different from any other religious figure in history.
If we could all just decide to be good enough, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to die, because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight through the works of the law (good deeds).” (Romans 3:20) If you have any remaining doubt about your sinful, rebellious nature, Jesus likened sexual lust to adultery, and hatred and unjust anger to murder. (See Matthew 5.) In other words, people cannot exonerate themselves because they have never killed anyone or committed adultery, because lust and hatred exist in the heart of every person.
We have all blasphemed God’s holy name, lied, cheated, stolen and fashioned gods of our own making. We are like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time whose character he laid bare by saying they like to wash the outside of the bowl while the inside is full of filth and corruption.
But while we cannot cure our own hearts, there is one who can. It is the one who took upon himself the punishment for our sins that we deserved when he suffered on a Roman cross of execution. He became our scapegoat. The sinless son of God took our sins upon himself so that by placing our faith in him alone as our savior, we can be pronounced “not guilty” at the judgment.
And that’s why there is only one way to be saved. As 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is only one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity — the man Christ Jesus.”
Edinburgh’s Andy Robbins is pastor of Columbus’ Blessed Life Fellowship. He can be reached at AndrewRobbinsMinistries.org or blessedlifefellowship.org.