I assume that because you are here this morning that you believe in God. If you didn't believe there was a God, there wouldn't be much sense in going to church. So, since you do believe in God, what do you believe about Him? What is He like? Apart from an objective standard, we can make God to be anything we want. And most people believe in a God of their own invention. They have made up a god that they are comfortable with. But God has not left us without a revelation of who His is and what He wants from us. This revelation is called the "Bible". We, here at Berean Bible Church, believe that the Bible is the very Word of God. God has revealed himself to us, and if you imagine God to be other than the truth He has revealed to us in the Bible, then you have invented a false God.
We might say that believing the wrong thing about God is idolatry. When we think of idolatry, we think of somebody in a mud hut with a little god on his table that he bows down to. Or we think of a pagan temple, very elaborate and ornate with a lot of people burning incense. But idolatry is much broader than that. Idolatry is simply thinking something about God that is untrue of Him. It is postulating anything about God that is not right. In its fullest stage, it is creating a god. In its secondary stage, it is making the God who is into something that He isn't. And maybe in its third level, which even Christians are guilty of, it is thinking thoughts about God that are untrue of Him.
Psalms 50:21 (NKJV) These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.
God says, "You thought I was like you." And that's precisely what men have done, for the most part, they have made God into their own likeness, or into imaginations that belong to their own minds. The essence of idolatry is entertaining thoughts about God that are unworthy of God. And it can come in a lot of forms.
For example, I think that most people who do believe in God believe that His is very tolerant and forgiving of all our sins. Often God's reputation gets confused with the "great grandfather-god in the sky." People like to think of God as a white-bearded, old gentleman who would not harm a flee. This is a comfortable idea, it allows us to sin and not worry about consequences. It allows us to live as we wish with no accountability. But this is not the God of Scripture! God is a consuming fire; if he is re-designed to fit our notions of nothing but an "all-accepting" god, we distort the teaching of Scripture and only fool ourselves. God is not like clay that can be mushed into whatever form we desire.
One of the most ignored attributes of God is his justice. God is just! Justice is likely the least favorite attribute of God. If a survey was taken, I'm quite confident that the aspect of God that would be least popular would be the justice of God. People do not like the idea that God might judge them with justice. I guess you could say that our society suffers from justophobia. But it is widely and consistently taught in Scripture that God is just:
Deuteronomy 32:4 (NKJV) He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
Job 37:23 (NKJV) As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, In judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress.
The Psalmist praises God as dwelling in justice:
Psalms 89:14 (NKJV) Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.
It may help to have a working definition of justice. Here's a simple one: "Justice is giving to everyone his due." Justice may not treat everyone with absolute sameness, but it is treating each person with a standard of what is owed. Watson said, "Injustice lies in two things, either not to punish where there is a fault, or to punish where there is no fault."
Thus Proverbs 24:12 teaches:
Proverbs 24:12 (NKJV) If you say, "Surely we did not know this," Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
God will render to each man according to his deeds. That seems to be God's standard for justice, and to begin with such definition would be helpful.
If we view God as a tolerant old man who puts up with all our sinfulness, we do greatly error. As we look in the Bible, God's revelation of Himself, we clearly see that God is a just God that hates and judges sin:
2 Samuel 6:1-7 (NKJV) Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. 3 So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. 5 Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
What happened here? Uzzah touched the ark of the covenant and God killed him. Listen to me, Uzzah didn't kill anybody, he didn't commit adultery, he wasn't involved in idol worship, all he did was to try to keep the Ark of God from falling. All he did was touch the Ark, and God killed him. Why?
Here's what you need to understand: God gave Israel specific directions on the creation and handling of His Ark. Uzzah disobeyed these directions, and died because of it. Look at:
Exodus 25:14-15 (NKJV) "You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15 "The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.
When God had the Ark built, He specifically ordered that rings be placed on the sides of the Ark, and "staves" or poles placed in these rings so the Ark could be carried about as Israel moved. The Ark was to be carried by hand, not by cart.
The Ark of God was a very special symbol to the Nation Israel. The Ark was a rectangular, acacia wood box covered with gold, measuring 4 feet x 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet. The Ark contained the tables of the Law that God gave Moses, Aaron's rod that budded, and a golden pot filled with Manna.
The Ark was a symbol of the presence of God (2 Samuel 6:2). According to God's instructions, it was to be transported by the Kohathites, who carried it by holding onto poles inserted through its attached rings (see Exodus 25:10-22; Numbers 4:1-20). No one was to touch or look into the ark, or they would die.
Uzzah died because he disobeyed God's instructions. Disobedience is a dangerous condition - even when our motives are sincere, and we are trying to do what we think is right. We must constantly be mindful of the holiness of God and maintain a reverence for Him manifested by our obedience to His instructions and commands.
Now, someone is bound to say, "Well, that's the Old Testament; in the New Testament we see a God of love and not judgement." Oh really, tell that to Ananias and Sapphira.
Acts 5:1-11 (NKJV) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." 9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a familiar one to most Christians. In the early days of the church, there was a great concern for the poor. When needs arose, saints would sell some of their possessions and lay the proceeds at the feet of the apostles for them to distribute (see Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-37). Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property but kept back a part of the proceeds for themselves. They gave the remainder of the money to the apostles as though it were the whole amount. When their sin was exposed to Peter, he confronted them, and both of them died. Great fear came upon the entire church, not to mention the rest of the community
Romans 1:18 (NKJV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
This verse speaks about the "wrath" of God. For some reason, people don't seem to see or like this affirmation. The wrath of God is part of an outflowing of his justice. Here in the New Testament, Paul says that the wrath of God is a present tense factor in the world. This justice of God is present, continuing, and manifest.
God's justice should cause us to tremble, because the Bible not only teaches that God is just, it also teaches that all men are sinners and thus deserving of His wrath:
Romans 3:10 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;
Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Every human being born is born separated from God, dead in sin. All men are born dead in sin, because Adam's personal sin is put to the account of every individual. When Adam sinned, he sinned as our Federal or representative head. Adam's sin applies to and affects every individual that he was representing. His act was a representative act. You and I, as being represented by our Federal head, participated in Adam's act.
Now, since God is a just judge and since we are all sinners and therefore guilty, is there any hope of escaping His judgement? Yes, Romans says that Jesus Christ died:
Romans 3:26 (NKJV) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
God can be just and also forgive you. How? If a judge is just, he can't let criminals go free. God didn't, he punished their sins at Calvary. There is nothing in history which in any way demonstrates God's justice like Calvary. God must punish sin, and he did so in the death of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the sin debt of all who believe in him, all who trust in his death as the punishment for their sins. You cannot earn your forgiveness with God, you must trust in the work of Jesus Christ for your forgiveness.
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
This means we have to abandon the notion that "all religions lead to the same place," and "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere." Jesus said specifically:
John 10:9 (NKJV) "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
By the "door", he is saying he is the only way to heaven. And apart from trusting in Christ, you will spend eternity in Hell.
John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 11:25-27 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
In verse 26, Jesus asks, "Do you believe this?" What is this? It is the statement about Jesus himself that he gives in verse 25. He tells Mary that He is the resurrection and life. But that's not all he asks her to believe. Jesus is saying, "I guarantee resurrection and life to everyone who believes in me." To believe that Jesus is the Christ is, in essence, to believe that he is the guarantor of eternal life to everyone who trusts in Him.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Christ died for US! Jesus did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free, but it wasn't cheep.
When Jesus died on the cross, all the sins of the elect were placed on his shoulders. Every sin we ever committed - sins of the past, sins of the present, sins of the future - were all placed upon Jesus. The Bible says:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for your sin, and he paid it all. There's nothing left for you to pay. There's nothing left for you to do...except receive his forgiveness.
The majority of church goers do not understand that our salvation is not based upon what we do but upon what Christ did. They think that their relationship with God is based upon their performance. They think that as long as they live "right" that God will not condemn them. This is a "works" system. To attempt to live the Christian life by works is to live under constant guilt and condemnation. But to understand that salvation is by grace through faith, and that we are absolutely secure because of Christ's work will bring great peace to your soul.
If you were convicted of a crime which carried a large fine, and you had no money to pay it, you would have to go to jail, unless someone else paid your fine. Well, let's say that I went down and paid your fine in full. As the bailiff releases you, he says, "You are free to go because David Curtis paid your fine in full." Do you see the choice with which you are left? You can say, "I won't accept charity from David Curtis, I'll stay in jail until I can work off my own debt." You can reject my gift, or you may say "I accept your gift". If you accept Jesus Christ's gift by faith, you will have everlasting life. If you reject His gift, you must suffer the wrath of God in Hell.
Judgement is certain:
John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
God must punish sin, you can accept Christ 's payment for you, or you can pay it yourself by spending eternity in Hell.
How can we escape God's justice and receive His gift of eternal life?
1. We must see ourselves as sinners, we deserve judgement. We have sinned against a holy God and deserve to spend eternity in the lake of fire because of our sin.
2. We must put our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Nothing we can do will ever save us. We must abandon all trust in ourselves and trust totally in what Christ has done for us.
If you were to die today and stand before God, and he asked you, "Why should I let you into heaven?" What would you say? Would you say, "I was a good person" or "I went to church" or "I was baptized." These answers will land you in Hell. The only correct answer is, "I am a sinner, and I deserve hell. But I am trusting in Jesus Christ, and him alone, to get me into heaven." No other answer will do.
In the book, The Teaching of Elementary Science and Mathematics, Dr. Alexander Calandra writes:
Some time ago I received a call from a colleague who asked if I would be the referee on the grading of an exam question. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question. This was the final test and the student claimed he should receive a perfect score and he would if the system were not set up against the student.
The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbitrator and I was selected. I went to my colleague's office and read the exam question. This is the question: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.
The student had answered, 'Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower the barometer to the street. Then bring it up measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.'
I pointed out that the student really had a strong case for full credit since he had answered the question correctly and completely. On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade for the student in his physics course, and a high grade is supposed to certify competence in physics but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student had another try at answering the question and was not surprised that my colleague agreed but I was surprised when the student agreed.
I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with a warning that his answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, he said, 'No, he had many answers to the problem, he was just thinking of the best one.' I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the next minute he dashed off his answer which read: 'Take the barometer to the top of the building, lean over the edge of the roof, drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stop watch. Then using the formula S=1/2 at second power calculate the height of the building.' At this point I asked my colleague if he wanted to give up? He conceded and gave the student almost full credit. In leaving my colleague's office, I recalled that the student had said he had other answers to the problem. So I asked him what they were. 'Oh, yes', said the student, 'There are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the length of its shadow and the length of the shadow of the building and by the use of simple proportion determine the height of the building. 'Fine', I said, 'and the other answers?' 'Yes', said the student, 'there is a very basic measurement method you would like. In this method you take the barometer and you begin to walk up the stairs, as you climb the stairs you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. When you have reached the top story you simply return and count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.' 'This', suggested the student, 'is a very direct method.'
'Finally', he concluded, 'there are many other ways of solving the problem, but unquestionably the best is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent"s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows, 'Mr. Superintendent here I have a fine barometer. If you tell me how tall this building is, I'll give it to you.'
People, please listen, there may be more ways than one to answer many of the questions in life, but that is not true when it comes to eternal life. The student was very cleaver and came up with several answers to the physics question and passed the test. But there is only one answer that is correct before God when it comes to eternity. What must we do to have eternal life? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone!
Are you ready to meet your Judge? Have you trusted in the work of Jesus Christ? Judgement is certain, the cross of Jesus Christ stands as a reminder to the severity of God's judgement; and also a reminder of His love and forgiveness to all who trust in Him.