“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Each of us knows, that, however well we may do when compared to our own defective standards, when compared to the standard of absolute perfection, we fall woefully and willfully short. And would it not be absurd to suppose that a perfect God would not hold all His creation to a perfect standard? How could He do otherwise? But does that mean that there is no hope for rebellious humanity? Thank God, that is not the case! Instead, He has provided a solution!
Last week we saw the demand God makes of all mankind: perfect righteousness, perfect obedience to His holy law. This demand is hardly surprising, since a perfectly holy God could not be expected to tolerate imperfection in His creatures, much less the high treason that takes place when any human being decides that he knows better than God and chooses to go his own way. The question then follows: does mankind fulfill this demand? Or does he daily, even hourly, break the law of God and act as a law unto himself?
A perfect God can require nothing less from His creatures than perfect obedience. Were they to fail even in the slightest degree, God’s perfection would demand that He punish them! What then, will be the punishment for mankind, who has repeatedly offended God’s majesty to His face? How could God possibly pardon man? How could he reconcile a people to Himself? Is there any solution to this dilemma? In this three part series we will look at the Old Testament, where we see God’s demand set forth as He commands righteousness and justice, man’s dilemma explained as He fails to obey, and God’s solution presented as He calls upon His people to base their trust on Him and His glorious plan.
First of all, God’s demand is set forth.
French toast for breakfast! Who doesn’t love the appetizing aroma and delicious flavor? Of course we need a few ingredients before we can have our pile of steaming goodness in the shape of French toast. Bread, eggs, and milk – later on, butter and syrup – all need to be available for our ideal breakfast, and in the right quantities. When was the last time you were able to create ten slices of French toast out of one slice of bread? For that matter, when was the last time you were able to use one of anything to produce ten of the same? You may not have that kind of power but, surprisingly, there is someone just around the corner who does. When a bank accepts a deposit and then loans it out, it actually creates additional money out of nothing! This practice (which we will explain in more detail in the next paragraph) is called fractional reserve banking. But creating money with a few clicks of a mouse is a power that does not come without strings attached. It has economically undesirable consequences and even moral implications that need to be considered. Sadly, these often go completely under the radar.
“Every year our government adds thousands and thousands of pages of new rules,” John Stossel stated in his TV special, War on the Little Guy. Now a new regulation is scheduled to go into effect – one that FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg says “will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.” Vending machine operators that run more than twenty machines must post calorie counts (when not otherwise visible before purchase) for sale items. This rule, buried in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is to go into full effect July 26th, 2018 – it took the FDA four years just to spell out a regulation that would fulfil the ACA’s provisions. In fact, their final ruling even regulates “type size, color, and contrast requirements for calorie declarations in or on the vending machines.” While this regulation will clearly have costs for the industries it affects, the FDA contends that it will “enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.” It sounds fantastic! Operators spend a little on calorie labels, and now all vending machine consumers can be healthy! Is this the case? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs?
What is the worst state in which a man can be found? Is it a state of material destitution? Or is there something more devastating, more horrible – a state that affects him not only now, but forever? As we know from Scripture, the “light affliction” of this life “is but for a moment” (II Corinthians 4:17). For this reason, we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (ibid 4:18). With this sort of worldview, it is not surprising that the Biblical answer to material destitution – poverty – is far different from all others. While modern humanism elevates poverty and defines it as inequality, the Bible recognizes it as a result of sin – a fundamental brokenness often expressing itself in material need – a view which leads to help that is radically different and truly helpful.
Who are the poor? In Western society today, material goods are often emphasized with little regard to other essential components of a truly happy life. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that poverty has been re-defined to mean those who have less, rather than those who have not. Time was when poor people lived in a one-room house with a dirt floor and were doing good to eat two meals a day; now they can have indoor plumbing and a TV in their living room. What criteria satisfy the modern definition of poverty? Based on those criteria, what is the modern solution? Does it work?
It has been said, “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream.” Yet Voltaire stated, “Ice-cream is exquisite – what a pity it isn’t illegal.” There is some point to that. If something tastes exceptionally good, could people be driven to overeat? Should someone step in to protect the eater? That may sound silly when it comes to ice cream, but what about things like tobacco? Does it not make sense to limit damaging products? As John Stossel said in his book, No, They Can’t, it’s tempting to believe that “Government should outlaw life’s bigger risks.” Is it not the government’s responsibility to make sure companies run tests and keep items up to standard? It makes sense! The government can study a food’s nutritional value, do statistical research, and enforce product standards – who could be better equipped to decide what we should eat?
From the shores of Madagascar to the steppes of Mongolia, from the metropolis of Miami to the oasis of Ziz, the age old question rages – who is your ultimate Lord? To what authority will you bow? To man? Or to God? From the beginning, God has demanded man’s submission to himself, yet ever since the fall man has been in constant rebellion against this command. God gave his law and man broke it. God commissioned prophets and man neglected them. God sent his only begotten Son who witnessed to the Father, but rebellious man rejected the Christ and crucified him. It seemed like man had been victorious.
Then Jesus rose.
What is the importance of this fact? Why is it that so many deny or downplay it? Is it really an unchanging, inflexible message?
It has been said that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Words and ideas are what inspire actions and victories. But words can be used for evil as well as for good. Should we really allow speech to be free?
What does “free speech” mean? It means that I can express my own opinion both on my own property and on public property. On the flip side, however, it also means that you can decline to listen to my opinion by avoiding or boycotting me. Still, with freedom of speech, I may voice offensive opinions. Should we create certain limits?
Once we start setting boundaries to free speech, it is impossible to find a limit that will still leave people free. Without freedom of speech, a society is not free at all.
How bad is this dilemma? And which side of it should we choose? We will look at two examples; first, an example of restricted speech, and second, the way free speech operates in a free society.