No. 01 – Our Great Need
The very first place that we must begin our studies is in the consideration of our great need. When Jesus walked upon this earth, He found that the world could be divided into two separate classes – those who felt their need of Him and His grace, and those who did not think that they needed it. He said in Mark 2:17:
They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
In a moment, we will read a verse in the Bible that tells us that everyone in this world is sick – a sinner. We are all sinners. The “whole” or “righteous” that Christ is referring to is those who DO NOT REALIZE that they are sinners.
Sin is like a cancer and we are all infected by it. It is part of our humanity. But if you do not know that you have cancer, will you go to the doctor for treatment? Absolutely not! Why would you? And so, unless we realize that we are sinners, and will die in our sins if we do not receive help from the Great Physician Jesus Christ, we will not go to Him.
The truth is this. Jesus Christ can leave the heavenly courts above, come to this earth, be born as a baby, walk through this earth with all of its trials for 33 years, and then suffer and die upon the cross, BUT if you do not FEEL that you need His sacrifice, then it is of no use to you.
What Jesus has done for us depends entirely on our SENSE OF NEED.
But we all have a problem. We are like sailors in a boat on the ocean. When life is easy, and the sea is calm, we forget about Jesus. But when the storm blows and the waves threaten to drown us, then we cry out to God to save us. And when the sea becomes calm again, and we are safely on dry land, we forget all about Him and go about our own lives again. One day we are with Jesus, the next day we are not.
Would you agree that this is our problem? Do you find it frustrating? Then listen carefully. God wants to give us a solution, but first, we must understand the problem.
Jesus is coming very soon, and we have no time for this to be our experience any more. And there is a terrible time of trouble just before Jesus comes, and so if we do not have Jesus with us ALWAYS, we will not survive.
The only way that we will have Him with us ALWAYS is if we ALWAYS have a sense of need. Now, you might ask, how is this possible? Its actually quite simple. By recognizing that we have a CONDITION, and by that I mean a permanent reality in our nature.
Let’s start with this description here:
5| Why should ye be stricken anymore? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6| From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
Wow. That’s ugly, isn’t it? I would like to ask you a question: When you looked in the mirror this morning, did you see this? According to the Bible, this is our condition. Wounds and bruises and putrefying sores with this puss oozing out of us and contaminating everything that we touch. Hard to believe? Come to Isaiah 64:6:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
This word “righteousnesses” is more clearly translated in other versions as “right-acts” or “right-doings”. All our right-doings are as filthy rags. The filthy rag that this verse refers to is a piece of cloth that women used to put between their legs during their period to soak up their menstrual blood. It represents two things – death, and vanity. The woman’s body produces the egg, but not having been fertilized, it dies. And so our good works, our right-works, are like that egg that is produced – useless. There is no good that comes of it. In fact, all that results from it is death.
YES. I am speaking of our right works – the things that we do right. Not the things that are directly in opposition to the law of God, but OUR OWN law-keeping – even our obedience to the law, or our imitation of God’s own perfect example. Our own works, no matter how perfect they are, are not good enough. They are not acceptable.
Many people think that if they are a converted person, then their works will be acceptable. Or if they are being obedient out of a heart motived by love. Most of us think that if God gives us the strength, our works will be acceptable. But this is all false theology. Apostle Paul was a converted man, his heart was motivated by love, yet after being in the service of Christ for many years, He wrote this to the church in Rome:
10| As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11| There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12| They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
How many are there that are righteous? NOT ONE. Not even Paul. How many are there that do good? NOT ONE. Not even Paul. They are become, what? Like the egg a woman produces – unprofitable. All our good-works are as filthy rags…
There is a simple, but clear statement here in the writings of Ellen White:
Christ’s Object Lessons 311
Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin.
As we saw in the description in Isaiah chapter 1, we are covered with wounds and bruises and putrefying sores so that everything that WE touch, everything that WE do, is contaminated with our sinfulness.
This is our condition. There is NOTHING that we can do right. Our own works, no matter how perfect they are, are NOT good enough.
This is something that I wish someone told me a long time ago. I thought that I had to keep on practicing, trying and trying and trying to do things right and one day, I will be perfect! But I never seemed to get anywhere, no matter how hard I tried.
I must admit that there were some areas where I thought I was doing pretty well, and I would look at others and think, hey, what’s your problem? If I can do it, you have no excuse, and so I became a hypocritical pharisee. But it was all an ILLUSION.
I was looking in the wrong place for my good works, and this is a mistake that most of us have been making.
YES! Absolutely, we must have good works in our lives, but NOT our own.
Is this something that you have never heard before? Keep listening. Come to Matthew 7:21-23:
21| Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22| Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23| And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
These people call Christ their Lord. They are Christians. And they have prophesied in His name, and in His name have cast out devils. Now that requires strength from God, right? And they have done many wonderful works. They went to church each week, they went to the prayer meeting, they changed their diet to something more wholesome, they changed how they dressed to something more modest… And yet He calls them sinners and tells them to go away. Why? How is this possible? They did everything right, didn’t they? They did what He wanted them to do! So what is the problem?
I want to share with you a statement that Alonzo Jones shared with the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist church at their 1893 General Conference Session:
AT Jones 1893 General Conference Bulletins 416, and the compilation of Jones’ presentations at this Conference are also known as the Third Angel’s Messages, 1893.
AT Jones 1893 General Conference Bulletins 416
And in that day there are going to be two parties there. There are going to be some there when the door is shut, and they will want to go in, and they say, “Lord, open to us. We want to come in.” And someone comes and asks, “What have you done that you should come in? What right have you to enter the inheritance here? What claim have you upon that?” “Oh, we are acquainted with you. We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. Yes, besides that we have prophesied in thy name. In thy name we have cast out devils and in thy name we have done many wonderful works. Why, we have done many wonderful things. Lord, is not that evidence enough? Open the door.”
What is the answer? “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” What did they say?” We have done many wonderful works. We have done them. We are all right. We are righteous. We are just. Exactly right… Open the door.” But “we” does not count there.
What was the problem? THEY DID THE WORKS! It was they themselves who were doing the works. WE did this and WE did that. But Christ called it – INIQUITY. SIN.
THIS, we MUST understand. If it is we ourselves doing the works, it is sin. Because of our sinful condition, if we, ourselves are doing the good works, it is contaminated by sin.
We think that if God gives us the strength, our good works are acceptable.
We think that if we are a converted person, our good works are acceptable.
And we think that if our heart is motivated by love, our good works are acceptable.
This is WRONG! We have tried and tried and tried to do things right, thinking that with enough practice, ONE DAY, we will get it right, but we’re still trying and still we don’t see that we will ever be perfect. Why not? Because WE are the one doing the works.
When I was a child my mother used to read to me the story of a small engine at the rear of a train. And one day that train was traveling through the countryside and suddenly the big strong engine at the front of the train broke down and stopped working, just before they had to climb a big hill. And everyone turned to the little engine to help them get up the hill, but he was such a little engine, he thought that there was no way he could ever push the train up that big mountain. But everyone was looking at him and shouting that he can do it, and so he began to tell himself, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can and choo choo choo etc and he pushed that train all the way to the top of the hill. And everyone yelled, “Hooray!” and clapped their hands. And they all said, “Well done, little train. Well done!”
It sounds like a lovely story, but is it really?
Growing up, I was very spiritual, and at the age of 12, I was asked to prepare a sermon to preach in my church. I never did. That one expression of confidence in my own abilities filled me with so much pride, that I actually lost my spirituality for many years.
Another statement here from Ellen White:
Faith & Works 18
There is not a point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently, or established more firmly in the minds of all than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his own best good works. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Meriting anything by what, our own BEST GOOD works! They’re useless – they can’t do a thing to save us. And there is no other point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently or established more firmly in our minds.
In Greek mythology there is a story told of a king whose name was Midas, who asked the gods to give him the ability to turn anything he touched into gold. They granted his request. And so he spent the day eagerly walking through his castle touching everything that he could find. But when the evening meal came, he found that when he went to eat a bunch of grapes, they turned into gold! And when he tried to drink his wine, that turned into gold also. The blessing became a curse. He would have died of starvation and so he begged the gods to take away the blessing.
There are many people with this “Midas touch”. They are good at everything that they do. I am definitely not one of them. When I was in my twenties I spent several years working for a farmer on his farm, working with sheep and cows, planting crops and driving trucks and other heavy machinery. One year at harvest time, I was driving his truck and trailer up a short, but steep, winding hill, and I ran out of power. The truck had 16 gears, and unfortunately I did not realise that I was in the wrong ratio. And so the gear that I was in did not have enough power to get the truck up the hill with its heavy load. And so I came to a halt halfway up. But the brakes did not hold the truck there and it began to roll backward. And because the road was steep and very winding, I jack-knifed the truck with the trailer and the trailer flipped onto its side and it was totally destroyed. All in front of the farmer – he saw the whole thing. And he came running up to me and in his very emphatic verbal expressions of how he felt about what I had just done, he summarised my entire time working for him: “Are you going to destroy everything that I own?!”
I am grateful for my experiences on the farm. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to do things right, many times things went wrong. God was teaching me that I cannot do anything right. By letting me make the mistakes that I made, either through ignorance, or lack of carefulness, or just plain old pure accident, God was helping me to understand who I am without Him. I am a proud person. If I was one of those people with the “Midas touch” I would never feel a need for God. And so I stopped being envious of all those people around me who are always so good at what they do. I now know why the elect of God cry day and night unto Him. They do not trust themselves.
And so this is the very first thing that we must learn.
We cannot do anything right. Because of our sinful condition, all of our best, good works are contaminated. If it is we ourselves doing the works, it is not acceptable. It is sin.
This is our situation. This is our CONDITION.
It does not matter how hard you try, you cannot keep the law of God.
But this is NOT a message of doom and gloom. God has the perfect solution. But we must understand our problem before we can appreciate the solution.
And I can tell you that God’s solution is absolutely awesome.
And I want to tell you something else – the law of God doesn’t even want your obedience anyway.
If you are having difficulties believing or understanding what you have heard so far, please remember this is just the beginning of our studies. Things will get clearer as we proceed. Each presentation is just a little piece of the overall picture.
Join me in our next presentation for an introduction to God’s solution, and to see what His law REALLY wants.