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How Good is Good Enough?

Richard: We’ve been talking about knowledge and God’s truth and the importance of this. We looked at Hosea 4:6, where God says, “My people are destroyed.” Some translations say, “My people perish because of a lack of knowledge.” And then we looked at Second Timothy 2:15, where it speaks of the importance of accurately handling the word of truth. And the reason Paul says is, it’s so easy to mishandle it. And so what we’ve been doing is looking at questions that I receive often in the work that I do, that people wrestle with, is they consider the Christian faith as they’re maybe seeking, seeking to understand. For instance I was meeting with a guy yesterday, going through their investigative study and we’re going through part 3 and we finished and everything’s been good. And all of a sudden he asks this question, “Why is there evil in the world? Why do babies die innocently from accidents?” It kind of caught me off guard, but I share that because that’s what happened. As people are thinking through and wrestling through, they have questions. It’s important to answer them. What I find so often, there are questions that come my way that really challenge the orthodox teaching of the bible.

Two weeks ago we looked at the exclusivity of Christianity. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” And we spent a lot of time looking at that; talking about the various religions of the world, which by the way all claim to be exclusive. They all claim to be the truth. And before I go back to last week’s lesson, I want to look at some verses to kind of introduce today’s lesson. And if you would, turn to Luke 1: 76-77. This is the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah and it’s a prophecy, because John has just been born and he makes some interesting remarks about the role that John the Baptist will play, in preparing the way for Jesus. In verse 77, he talks about giving them the knowledge of salvation. And the question is why would he need to bring to the Jews, a knowledge of salvation. Or some translations say, “The true knowledge of salvation.” And the reason is because the Jews had clearly lost their way. Jesus refers to them in Matthew 10:6 and Matthew 15:24 as the lost sheep of Israel. You see what happened; they lost their way as far as having a knowledge of salvation, because when sin entered the world, God immediately implemented the means for us to be saved; the means for the forgiveness of sins. He gives us the law, which points out our sin. And then he provided the means to the various sacrifices.

Now you have Passover. Most significantly you have the Day of Atonement. And they believed that a Messiah would come, as it says in Isaiah, who would redeem them, from their sins, referring to Jesus. But when you arrive to the New Testament, what you see is this teaching that you follow the law in order to find salvation. And so John’s coming along before Jesus, basically to lead them to a true knowledge of salvation. So it’s crucial and this is really kind of what our work is all about here. It is crucial that people have a true knowledge of salvation. And I say that because many people hearing the Bible, don’t. And because I encounter it, I can’t tell you the number of times going through the basic Gospel, where the man and he looks at me says, “I have never heard that before. This is kind of all new to me.” I had one guy, who grew up in the church, and I shared this to him and you know he said to me, “I never heard this.” He says, “I’m kind of mad, nobody’s ever told me this.” So this is kind of what this series is about is, making sure we have a true knowledge and understanding of the Gospel to have a true knowledge of salvation.

And before we really launch into this, this morning I want you turn to Galatians chapter one. Those are pretty firm words. And what Paul is saying here is he’s astonished that these Christians in these Galatians churches would abandon the Gospel. But notice what he says. They don’t only just abandon the Gospel; they abandon it for a different Gospel. A Gospel teaching that is contrary to that which is the true Gospel. And again he’s very serious about this because if you look at the strong language that he uses. And the reason clearly is that he saw that this could cause him to be in great danger. And this shouldn’t be surprising because Jesus continually warns the people in his teachings, warns us in his teaching, the great danger of believing what is spiritually false, because it is deadly to have false assumptions in your spiritual life. Now that being said, I think there are two primary ways that the Gospel is perverted.

And last week we talked about universalism. Universalism is the belief that in the end, God is going to pardon everybody. Just going to open his arms wide and just bring us all in. Everybody goes to heaven. And the reason they believe it because of Jesus’ death on the cross. And God’s great love for humanity will override everything else. His love and his mercy will override it all. And as we talked last week, all people that believe this do believe it for subjective reasonings. Their feelings. In fact, do you remember, we read CS Lewis last week and he said, “Subjectively, I would love to be able to say, everyone is going to heaven.” But he says, “When I objectively look at the Scriptures, and look at the teachings of Jesus,” he said, “That is clearly not the case.” I think J.P. Moreland explain how universalists come to their conclusion. I think he nailed it. When he said, “People today tend to care only about the softer virtues like love and tenderness, while they forgotten the hard virtues of holiness, righteousness and justice.” And today we’re going to look at a second way people pervert the gospel. And I want to ask each of you, if you were to turn one book over to Ephesians and go to chapter 2; Ephesians chapter 2. On this side we talked about the first way that people pervert the Gospel, the universalism, all are saved by Christ’s death. Nothing required by me. And then there’s a second way that we pervert the Gospel, which is over here, which I’m going to talk about in just a minute, but this is the true Gospel. And it’s rooted in a lot of different Scripture, but I’m going to let Charlie Debardelebeen, would you read Ephesians 2.8:9

Guest 1: Sure. “For by grace you have been saved in faith — and this is not your own doing, it is a gift of God. Not a result of works so that no one may boast.“

Richard: Three crucial points. We were saved by grace. Now if universalism was true, it would just stop there. But it says…What does it say? We are saved by grace through what? Through faith and belief. And then it says very clearly, “Not as a result of good works.” I don’t know if it could be any clearer. We’re saved by grace through faith, not as a result of good works. And yet over here, there are many who really do believe, that salvation comes by faith, you definitely have to have faith, but you have to contribute to your salvation through your works. Or as one man put it to me, you have to maintain your salvation by good works. And this is really if you think through it is a form of self-lack or self-salvation. That you play a role, your works play a role in getting you into heaven.

Now I know in my conversations you see this with Catholics and then with Protestants. That self-salvation is a part of the Christian life. It’s a part of being a Christian. And it seems to me that on this side of the ledger over here, it’s all grace. But this side over here, there’s almost like no grace because there is merit involved. You deserve it because of your works. And over here you see it’s grace through faith, in Christ. Not as a result of good works. It’s easy to say, “Well, gosh. I’m saved by grace. My works have nothing to do with it. I kind of live the way I want to live.” I’m going to come back to that. Yes, as far as, one of the big, I guess you could call it, points of departure, between Protestantism and Catholicism is authority. For Protestants, the authority is in the Scripture. In Catholicism, the authority is the Scripture. But then the church, i.e. the Pope, that can override pretty much anything. That’s a major point of departure.

Guest 2: [Inaudible 00:12:10.08]

Richard: That’s an excellent point. That’s one of my very favorite verses, Galatians 1:10. Because it speaks into our lives that asking, “Are we seeking the favor of men? Am I seeking the favor of God as I live my life?” And by the way this is one of the reasons what we’re talking about, one of the primary reasons if you read Galatians is the Galatians church, readily receive the Gospel by faith. But then they started going, erring by going and saying, but we got to continue to follow the law in order to maintain our salvation, which Paul was saying is not right. In fact we’re going to look at a few verses right now, that I think clearly point out, how work really have nothing to do with our salvation. Thank you. What does he say? “He saved us. We don’t save ourselves. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but according to his mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” I think this is very significant where he says, he’s talking about those who have a zeal for God, but their zeal for God is not in accordance with true knowledge. And so what they do, he says, “Not knowing about God’s righteousness through faith in Christ,” what does it say, “They seek to establish their own righteousness and they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God, which is found of course in Christ.”

Then if you to 11, Romans 11, verse 6, he’s talking about being saved by grace, and he says, “If it’s by grace, it is no longer on the basis of words, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Galatians 2:16, he says, “Nevertheless knowing, a man is not justified, by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Yes, I think this is very clear. One other, Philippians three, verses eight and nine. He says, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value, of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish, so that I might gain Christ and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” Guys, I don’t think this could be any clearer. But the question that comes up is what Jim just raised a minute ago, and that is, “Since I’m saved by grace through faith, can’t I just do what I want to do?” It seems to me that it opens up the door, I don’t even have to worry about the law. What do you say to that?

Guest 3: Tell you what, Charles Spurgeon said, “The grace does not change your life, cannot save your soul.”

Richard: Say that again. That’s good.

Guest 3: “The grace that does not change your life cannot save your soul.”

Richard: That’s pretty good.

Guest 3: Yeah. It says it all.

Richard: I need to write that down when we’re done. That’s good. Anybody else? He’s right. And Paul addresses this; he clearly addresses this in his letters. In fact, if you’re in Romans or if you’re not in Romans, go back to Romans three, and go down to 31. Paul says, “Do we then nullify the law through faith?” In other words, “Okay, I’ve got faith in Christ. Can I just kind of dispense with the law?” What does he say, “May it never be.” Then he says, “On the contrary, we as Christians, we establish the law.” In the amplified puts it this way, “It is Christian’s God’s children, we confirm, establish and uphold the law.

We honor the law because it’s been given to us by our Heavenly Father. And then he addresses it again three chapters later, in Romans six, versus one to four. He says, “What shall we say? Are we to continue in sin, so that grace may increase?” He says, “May it never be. How shall we who’ve died of sins, still live in it.” And as you keep reading he says, as Christians, and the end of verse 4 he says, “We are to walk in the newness of life.” Guys, what Paul is saying that good work result when a person has true faith. It’s a fruit of your faith. Good works flow out of a transformed heart. Or as one commentator put it, “Faith brings us salvation. Active obedience demonstrates that our faith is genuine.” So ultimately obedience and good works flow out of our repentance, our surrender. This is what John the Baptist, in Luke Chapter three, verse eight says, “Our lives should bear fruit that is consistent with true repentance.

Speaker 1: What did you say? Ultimately our obedience and what flows?

Richard: Our obedience and good works flow out of our repentance. When we come to Christ; out of our surrender. It’s interesting in Acts chapter 26, verse 20, Paul tells King Agrippa. He says, I quote, “I preach that people should repent, and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” In James 2:17, he says, faith without works, is what? It’s a dead faith. You’re faith is dead, if there are no works that are coming. I remember, there’s a guy that comes to Bible study, and one day he asked me, he said, you know, he’s probably in his 50’s right now. He said, “Back when I was in college, I prayed this prayer of faith, but he said nothing happened to my life. I mean I just stayed the same.” And he said, “Several years later, I prayed that prayer again and nothing happened. I was the same old me.” And then he said about 10 years ago, “I went through the investigative study,” and he said, “and I prayed a prayer.” And he said, “It’s stuck, my life was transformed. My life was changed and I’m no longer the man that I was” And then he asked this question, “So what happened to those first two times I prayed?” And I said, “Well, I think it’s pretty clear. You didn’t repent. You didn’t surrender.” And I said that’s a key part of, that’s what basically when you do that’s when the spirit comes in and begins to do a work in your life. Let me stop here. Comments or questions anybody?

Okay. I want to end our time today talking about this third position, over here. That my good works, contribute to my salvation. There’s a real problem if you embrace that view. Anybody want to guess what that problem is? How good I have to be, to make sure that I make it in? How good do I have to be to make sure I make it? What is the metric? What is the standard? Do we have anything specific in Scripture to go on?. I don’t how many of you read the blog that I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the title “How good is good enough.” And I shared the story about Jack Welch. The famous CEO that transformed GE, and he was on Larry King, and they were just having a friendly conversation and King says, “Would you look back on your career,” because most people felt like Welch was pretty ruthless when he turned GE around, he fired a bunch of people, sold a bunch of divisions off. And he said, “What’s the most difficult question you’ve ever had to take in an interview?” And if you would recall he said, “One journalist asked me one day is,” “Jack, do you think you can go to heaven?” And King was really interested to know, “What was your response?” And he said, “All I can say was, well I’ve given it my best shot.” Now what was Welch really saying? When he says I’ve given it my best shot, he says, “You know, I really don’t know if it’s good enough because I have no idea what the standard is.” All I can say is, when I stand before God, “Hey listen, I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve done the best I can.” Does that make sense that if our good works play a role in salvation, how much of a contribution, do I really have to make, because the Bible says nothing about this?

Andy Stanley puts it this way, I think these are pretty good words, he says, “If God allows good people into heaven, but he does not bother to specify what he means by good, it leaves me to wonder just how good God is.” He says, “Let me illustrate.” Pretend for a moment that you signed up to participate in a race. You’re standing at the starting line with all the other runners. Up ahead you noticed that the road forks of in three directions. You also note the total absence of signs, flags or markers. So you ask a race official for a map and they inform that there are no maps. And your eyes haven’t deceived you, there are no markers of any kind signifying the boundaries of the course. And so you ask one of the officials, “What’s the distance” The race official just shrugs his shoulders and replies, “Well, you just run. We’ll tell you when you crossed the finish line. Assuming you’ve found it.” He says, “With no warnings, the starting gun is fired and the runners take off in half a dozen different directions.” He says, “Would you call that a good race? Would you sign up for next year’s event? Would you recommend this race to friends?” He goes on to say, “Consider this. It’s the first day of school and your professor informs you that your class grade will be based entirely on how well you do on the final exam.” She then announces that class is dismissed and there will be no further class meetings until the end of the term. Panicked she threw up your hand and asked, “Well, is there a syllabus or a reading list? Are you going to assign us a text book?” The professor smiles and says, none of that’s necessary just be ready for the final.” And out she goes. Is that a good teacher? You see very clearly the Bible does not outline in any way, give us any specifics on how good you have to be to make sure you get in, that you contribute to your salvation. And this leads to a second problem. And this to me is a big problem. As we think through this third position, as you get older and facing death, what problem does it create? Anybody?

Speaker 2: Talked about major forgiveness.

Richard: Yeah, that and, am I going to make it in? There’s no assurance that I’m going to heaven. There’s no assurance of salvation. You have no idea if you have measured up. You’re like Jack Welch, “I’ve just given my best shot. I hope its good enough.” I remember talking to a man who believes that faith plus works equals salvation. So I said, “So you going to heaven?” He said, “I sure hope so. I don’t know but I sure hope so”

Speaker 3: Bloomberg had the assurance, didn’t he?

Richard: If you read the blog, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, you know he’s a billionaire. He gave 50 million dollars to gun control and he said, “If there’s a god in heaven, I’m going straight in because of my gift.”

Speaker 4: Which is this part where you’re going, I’m actually thinking John 3:16 and of course Romans 3:23 and 6:23 and 8:1, you know right there that…

Richard: You’re right. Turn to John 5:24 as we think about this. Anybody have any comments or questions as we’re turning to John.

Speaker 5: Rick?

Richard: Yes

Speaker 5: Kind of built it on your thought about the knowledge if you truly understand where we stand in our relationship with God; I’ll think it right now if we can get there

Richard: That’s exactly right, Joe. That’s exactly right. When you see your sin and see how sinful you really are and see how sinful I really am, you realized, “I sure hope I don’t get what I deserve because if I do I’m in trouble.” That’s where grace comes in; undeserved, unmerited, favor of God. Thank goodness. John 5:24, Lauren can you read that?

Speaker 6: “Truly, truly I say to you whoever hears my word and believes him, who sent me has eternal life, he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.”

Richard: When you read a verse like that, does that speak of a certainty? And the key of course and this came up yesterday, because a couple of guys missed the previous week. It’s crucial that you have true belief, that you have true faith and there’s more than just meaningless sent. The true belief “Pisteu” means, you’ve truly entrusted your life and your eternal well-being to Christ. But it speaks of a certainty. And as Charlie pointed out, and the verses that he mentioned, “There is a certainty he hear.” And so I would just say this to any of you, because I encounter this, people sometimes surprise me. And I had a guy say that, “One of their relatives died. Boy! I’ll tell you this person was a saint. If they don’t get in, nobody’s getting in.” I’m sitting there thinking, “Whoa, whoa what are you saying there? You’re saying this person’s works contributed to their salvation.” And so if you have any notion, that you’re good works are going to contribute to your salvation, you got to basically grasp guys, the true gospel, which is, “You are saved by grace through faith and not a result of good works.” And you have to get rid of that notion. Because what happens is, this is crucial, I’m convinced that it’s crucial to live the Christian life to experience the joy that God wants for us. A major part of it is your assurance of salvation. And so what it all boils down to is this. When it comes to the kingdom of God, this is what the Bible teaches. “Everyone is welcome, everyone. And everyone gets in the same way. They’re not different paths that get you there.” And this is crucial. I don’t care who you are, everyone can meet the requirement, everyone. And as Charlie pointed out, you see this in John 3:16. What does it say? For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that, what?

Speaker 7: Whosoever

Richard: Whosoever. Whosoever. Everyone who is willing to come. And believing in him is the only requirement. And as we said, true belief is to entrust your life and your eternal well-being to Christ, the son of God whose death enabled us to do that which we can’t do ourselves. And Tim Keller, I think gives a brilliant contrast of these last two views over here. He said, “Those who believe in faith plus works, he says, “What you end up doing, is you try to develop a good record and then we present that record to God, and then we have this belief that he owes me. He owes me.” But to be saved by God’s faith he says, “Jesus has the perfect record. And he gives it to us. And the way he gives it to us, and the way of a picture this. He credits it to our account. He credits His righteousness to us, so that we are clothed in His righteousness, and we stand before God. God sees Christ’s righteousness in us. And Keller says, “Therefore because of that, we owe Him our allegiance, out of a grateful heart. So I’m going to close with a story that I think is a good ending for our time together. And I shared this story before. I know I did it at the club. But it’s a true story. And take me a couple of minutes to read it. This is Tony Campolo’s book.

Let me tell you a story. And he shares about a good friend of his, a minister, who was leaving Victoria Station in London. He said, “Sitting across from him in a little train compartment were two men in their late 30’s. About 10 minutes, out of the station, one of the men had an epileptic seizure. His eyes rolled back and his body trembled. The man rolled off the seat onto the floor and shook uncontrollably. It was a shocking thing to see. But the friend who was with him, lifted the stricken man up, put him back onto the seat, took off his overcoat, put it around him as a blanket. He rolled up a newspaper and put it in his mouth, let’s the man bite his tongue. Then with great compassion, he lovingly blotted the beads of perspiration on the epileptic man’s forehead. After a few minutes the seizure ended with the same abruptness with which it began and the stricken man dropped into a deep sleep. It was then that his friend turned to the preacher and said, “You’ll have to forgive us. He doesn’t have this seizures very often, but we never know, when they’re going to strike him.” And then he shared there his story. He said, “We were in Vietnam together.” He says, “We were both wounded.” He said, “I lost my leg,” and he pointed to his right leg and he said, “This is an artificial leg and I just learned to walk on it very well.” He said, “My friend here, he had half of his chest blown away by a hand grenade. There were shrapnel all through his chest and every time he moved, he experienced great pain.” He said, “The helicopter that was supposed to rescue us was blown out of the sky by an enemy rocket. With that explosion, we knew that all hope for rescue was gone. It was then that my friend somehow picked himself up. He screamed in pain with every move that he made. But somehow he stood to his feet. Then he reached down and grabbed hold of my shirt, and started pulling me through the jungle.” He said, “I tried to tell him, to give up on me. I pleaded with him, to save himself if he could. And I kept telling him, that there was no way that he was going to get us both out of this jungle.” He said, “I’ll never forget him saying, “Jack if you die in this jungle, I’m going to die here with you.” I don’t know how he did it. Mr. But step by step, scream by scream he pulled me out of that mess. He saved my life.”

Then, of course the man says, “I went back to the United States, my friend lived here in London.” But a year ago he said, ”I found out, that he had this condition and somebody had to come and be with him all the time.” He says, “So I closed down my condo in New York, I sold my car and everything else and came over here to take care of him. And he says and that’s our story.” The minister responded by saying, “Listen you don’t need to apologize. I’m a minister. When I come upon a good story, I’m thrilled. And this is one of the best stories, I’ve ever heard.” His new friend on the other side of the compartment said, “Hey man, don’t be impressed. You see after what he did for me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.” Campolo says, “The Christian is someone who recognizes what Jesus did on the cross to accomplish salvation.” And in response says to Christ, “After what you did for me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t be willing to do for you.”

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