Friday, July 25, 2014

A Way That Seems Right

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).
One might be tempted to ask, “Why doesn’t it say, ‘There are ways that seem right to a man’?” After all, if there is only one right way, as Jesus made perfectly clear in John 14:6 and other places, then are there not many wrong ways? Of course there are, but there is no contradiction or problem here. In fact, all of the false “ways” to God can be boiled down to one “way” with a common thread of falsehood running through them all.
If we take a look at the religions, belief systems, and philosophies of this world, they all come back to one simple idea:  “I must do something to earn salvation, reach heaven, appease God, make my life meaningful, or (fill in the blank) whatever else my goal may be.” There are many examples of such false ideas that all come back to this basic, man-centered belief system. Following are just a few.
(1)  "Someday God will judge all people. When I stand before Him, He will weigh my good against my bad, and if my good outweighs my bad, I will get into heaven. If my bad outweighs my good, I will be in trouble."
(2)  "God loves all people, so if I do my best, He will see that and I will be OK. Even if I don’t really do my best, He knows my heart and would never send me to hell."
(3)  "My religion says I must do A, B, C, D, etc. in order to be rewarded with salvation, so as long as I do my best to fill in the blanks and do A, B, C, D, etc., everything will be all right."
(4)  "There is really nothing beyond this life, so the purpose of my time on earth is to find inner peace. I need to do my best to think in the right ways, meditate, and do good to others so I can have this peace. My experience and how I feel are the things that matter."
There are many specific religious beliefs that I could mention, but that is not my purpose here. Rather, I am simply looking at the fact that all false systems of teaching have one thing in common – they are man-centered: "I must do something, and by doing it, I will earn a reward, either in this life or beyond the grave."
There is a reason this man-centered “way” can never be true. That reason is the fact of sin. All humans have sinned and are in a condition of rebellion against God. The very act of trying to do something to earn salvation is rebellion against God’s simple truth and is the "way" that leads to death. Salvation is not a reward to be earned. If it were, no human would be good enough to please God who is just and holy and righteous.
Romans 3:23 tells us we “fall short” of  the glory of God, but that single verse does not tell us how short we fall. This may be illustrated by a contest to see who could jump from the earth to the moon. Someone who is old and out of shape might jump one foot. Someone who is younger and in shape might jump three or four feet. A world-class athlete might jump six or even seven feet. However, all of them fell short of the moon, and if someone were on the moon looking through a powerful telescope at the contest, they would all appear to be equally unable to make the 240,000 mile jump all the way to the moon. Trying to measure up to the righteousness of God though human effort is even more ludicrous than this fictional contest. Just as the best effort anyone could make to jump to the moon would be futile, so the best efforts of humans to be righteous are also futile, because God's standard is so much higher than sinful humans can ever attain. "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6, NKJV).

God is absolutely holy and righteous. Just like breaking a single link in a chain breaks the chain, so breaking even one of God’s commands breaks His law – His holy standard of perfection. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10, NKJV). God demands perfection, and anything less is unacceptable to Him. No human is perfect. "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NKJV).
“As it is written:  ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. 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, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:10-20, NKJV).
All of this paints a very bleak picture, but as unpopular and politically incorrect as the idea of sin is today, it is truth and is a real issue that must be dealt with if there is to be any hope for any human. Sin has separated humans from God, and no amount of human effort can fix the problem. The only remedy is found in God Himself. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).
The Gospel of Christ is not man-centered. It is God-centered, as it must be if it is to be of any effect. … I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV).
There always has been, is now, and always will be only one way to God, and that is through God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).
The other "way" leads to death. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).

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