Know Your Bible
Does Moral Goodness Make One A Christian?
Many honest and sincere souls have been deceived into believing that if a person is morally good, then he is a Christian. No one can be a true follower of Christ without being on a high moral plane. However, Christianity is more than simply being good.
Acts 10 tells about a man named Cornelius whose living standard, from a moral standpoint, was above reproach. The moral life of this man would put many Christians to shame. He is described (Acts 10) as a "devout man," "a just man," and one "which gave much alms to the people." Yet, in spite of these good traits, he was not a child of God.
Peter came to Cornelius' house and told him what he needed to do to be saved. Prior to this, it is clear that Cornelius was a unsaved person. In Acts 11, Peter had to defend himself to the Jewish brethren for what he did in going to preach to the Gentiles. In doing so, Peter cited what the angel had said to Cornelius which was, "...Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved (vs. 13-14)." Thus, prior to the arrival of Peter (who preached God's Word there) Cornelius, a very moral man, was not saved.
Further, Cornelius' prayers and good deeds did not save him, nor was he saved as a result of hearing an angel. Instead, he was saved by hearing and believing (Acts 15:7), repenting, (Acts 17:30-31), and by being baptized (Acts 10:48, 2:38).
If moral goodness could save someone, surely Cornelius, a cut above most, would have been saved. Moral goodness alone could not save him, and it cannot save us today. We must not get the wrong idea, however. A Christian must be a good moral person, but it takes more than simply being a good moral person to be a Christian and to be saved.
Gunshot Or Backfire?
Many are the misinformed who parrot Satan's little chant, "It really doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are honest and sincere in your belief," so why be overly concerned about religious matters? Let us test this declaration to see if it is the truth or a lie. Does it really matter whether you believe that a sudden, sharp, cracking sound is an auto backfire or a gunshot aimed at you? If this does really matter, that means the statement we are considering is a lie and not the truth.
How can we determine whether believing such a sound is a gunshot or backfire really matters? The news from strife torn Northern Ireland has in recent days provided us with the answer. Saturday, August 7th it was reported by radio that one man was dead as a result of British troops returning fire, after they had been fired upon from a passing vehicle. However, the next newscast report of the incident was quite different. The later report was that the British soldiers opened fire thinking a gunshot had been fired at them when a passing vehicle backfired. With tensions in Northern Ireland what they are, it is not surprising that a backfire was mistaken for a gunshot. those British soldiers who fired into that passing vehicle honestly and sincerely believed that a gunshot had been fired at them. Did believing error make a difference? Certainly it did! Honestly and sincerely believing error resulted in tragedy. Belief of error took from a man his life and left him dead. Belief of error took from a wife her husband and left her a widow. Belief of error took from six children their father and left them orphans.
We should be able to see that being honest and sincere in what we believe does not make a change in the facts. If we honestly and sincerely believe a lie, our honesty and our sincerity does not change the lie into truth. Often, when we try to point out religious error, the one deceived by it will tell us, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are honest and sincere in your belief." The next time someone tells me that I will be tempted to say, "Tell that to the dead man in Northern Ireland killed by British soldiers because they believed an error. Tell that to his grieving widow. Tell that to his six fatherless children. When you have told them, I will be more likely to believe that you honestly and sincerely believe what you are saying."
Is Sin A Reality To You?
I believe the reason a great majority of people refuse to surrender their lives to Christ when they hear the gospel is that they are not fully conscious of sin and its outcome. Maybe we as preachers of the gospel have failed in this respect--to call sin by its right name and expose it for what it is. When the prophets of old came preaching to Israel they didn't pull any punches. When they left the Hebrew stage the people were conscious of their lost state. They knew exactly what their end would be if they obeyed not the commands of God.
It has been said that the saddest story of man was the Garden of Eden and the saddest story of God of God was Calvary. There are several thousand years from one to the other, yet in a strong sense they are intimately related. In Eden we find the cause and effect; in Calvary we find the remedy.
Sin is the world's most terrible reality. Yet, what we need to do is make people face this reality--make them realize that if they are not "born again," then the Bible says thery are "children of wrath." I have been at the bedside of a cancer stricken body. I have seen the remains of a man whose structure was infested by the dread of each of us--CANCER. I have also been in the death room with mothers and fathers brothers and sisters, and heard them weep bitterly for the passing of their loved ones. And yet, what we fail to realize is this: the soul of the man infected by sin is in even a more terrible state. Yes, sin is like a cancer. It gnaws at our homes, society, and civilization. It cripples and warps the man until he falls under it, doomed, condemned to a LOST ETERNITY.
Who among us today can reject the reality of sin? Oh yes, it's true, sin doesn't always present itself in an ugly manner. It can come to you decked in the most attractive and startling attire. We see sin active throughout the Bible. It caused Adam and Eve to deny God's commands. It caused the blood of Abel to call up from the ground to his brother Cain. It destroyed the first world and caused God to say, "It repenteth me that I have made man." Gen. 6:7. It demolished the cities of the Plain. It filled the Israelites with forty years of rebellion against God. Sin caused the reality of the Promised Land to fade from the eyes of Moses. And above all, it crucified YOUR Christ and MINE. On the basis of this, can anyone deny that sin is real?
People generally have three conceptions of sin. First, we have the person who says that sin does not exist at all. To be truthful, I don't think he actually believes this. Do you mean to tell me that the Bible warns us against something which DOES NOT EXIST? And, to make the matter all the more important, are you asking me to make little of the sacrifice which the Son of God made at Calvary? To say there is no sin is to say that Jesus died in vain and that His whole ordeal was imaginary.
Paul says, "All have sinned, and come short..." Rom. 3:23. John tells us that if we say we have no sin, "The truth is not in us." 1 Jn. 1:8. Jesus, when confronted with the woman taken in adultery, said, "Let him that hath no sin cast the first stone." Jn. 8:7. Mark my words, friend, that was one day when there weren't any stones thrown!
Then there is the person who is fully aware of sin, but he declines to think about it. Realizing that his admission would only enlarge his guilt, he shuns the very suggestion of sin in his life. He puts it to the corner of his mind and tries to convince himself that sin doesn't really control him. He thinks that by refusing to think about his condition, he will have great peace of mind. Actually such people lack courage to face the real issues of life. Look at Felix. What did he say to Paul? "Some other convenient season." Acts 24:25. Festus added, "Much learning doth make thee mad." Acts 26:24. And, Agrippa jeered at the suggestion of his becoming a Christian. Acts 26:28. Sin was in the lives of these men. They realized it, but shunned to think about it. Dear friend, when you hear God's message preached to you and it brings sin to light in your life, do you say, "Some more convenient season?" One day that opportunity will not be there for you to grasp. Then there is the man who is fully conscious of sin and is doing all he can to sever himself from it. Paul told the Roman Christians they had been severed from sin. Rom. 6:17. Sin can captivate your life, but it does not have to. You can release yourself from it by obeying Christ's gospel and doing His commands.
---Nat Cooper, Adapted
Back To Know Your Bible Home Page