April 3, 2022

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Mar 10:18

We have all heard the song America the Beautiful.  We sang:

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

We sang about the aspirational goodness of America.  We sang about the virtue of a nation that we loved.  But is America good?  That is debatable today.  You may remember when you were little and thought you had the best dad in town. Nobody was like your dad. And your dad could beat up anybody that challenged him.  Then you got older and you began to question the decisions of that same man.  Why shouldn’t you buy that two seat sports car? Why shouldn’t you sit out two years before starting college? Why shouldn’t you just make a career of football and skip college?  What seemed perfectly rational to you, your father disagreed with.  When you go to college, you might find out some things your father said may not have been all true.  You begin to learn outside his knowledge.  Is he still the greatest?  Your perspective has changed or maybe you see something now that you could not see before.  He is still the same man but now he is not so invincible to you. 

Life is like that.  Our perspective changes over time.  America is still America but your view of her might be different now based on your experiences.  Just like your parents, you don’t throw them away when they get old but your perspective is different now.  They have had a major influence on your life, but now you get to decide the value and virtue of things based on a matured mind and truth. 

Was America ever that good? We aspired to be a great nation but our nation started out with brutality toward the Native Americans and then went on to make slaves of Africans and brutalized them.  That was not good!  After Great Britain gave up on slavery (1807) through moral conviction, America continued it. British evangelists traveled to America and preached against slavery but it continued the practice.  The nation went to war over whether or not to keep slavery intact and the North won over the South to outlaw slavery in 1865.  About 620,000 deaths resulted from the war, but the racial bias did not end there. Jim Crow laws replaced slavery and discriminatory practices against blacks continued up to the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and beyond. The Republican Party is currently enacting legislation to turn back the clock on equal rights for black people.  Is that good?  If a man is good half the year and bad the rest of the time, do we call him a good man?  Should we describe him based on aspiration or reality?

Our nation is what it is, but let’s not be in denial.  American standards and culture are exported world-wide and have a powerful influence on the world’s people.  We can aspire, strive and work to make our nation better, but we cannot do it by being in denial.  We called our nation a godly nation from the beginning, but that was aspirational, not truth.  The golden rule was the same then as it is now:  to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:37-39).  Loving our neighbor certainly does not entail enslaving him.  That does not compute no matter how you examine it.  And it is not that complicated.  Love does not willingly harm, and slavery was always hatred toward dark-skinned people that caused death for many of them.  Is there any justification for people of power, particularly those in Congress, who still want to keep people in bondage? Can we be a just people if our leaders are not?

Today many people have settled on the statement that America is not a Christian nation, but we once thought it was.  Because it has become hard to live up to it, some people want to throw out the aspiration to do good.  In John 15, Jesus explained how we learn to love.  

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Joh 15:5 

Jesus said without me you can do nothing. We are a people that claimed to be a good nation and a good people.  Others outside America repeated our affirmation.  We claimed to be a people that loved God. It is easy to say that you love God but is there any fruit of love on that tree?  Do you love your neighbor that Jesus pointed to as proof of our discipleship?  It is not enough to claim to be good but God wants us to be good.  Jesus told the rich young man that called Him good master and inquired about eternal life that there is none good but one; that is God.  Jesus was often quite blunt with people, but he spoke the truth they needed to hear. Our ministers would do well to imitate Jesus’ practice of truth telling. A lot of people want an easy way to get to heaven but Jesus never said it was easy.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.  Mat 7:12-14

Notice Jesus said “few there be that find it.”  He said few but He did not say “none.”  It is possible to walk the right way, but it will not be easy.  Enoch did it in the Old Testament days, as did Abraham, David and Elijah.  To us Jesus has said:

… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Joh 14:6-7

There are people that claim they know God but Jesus seems to dispute that.  He states you cannot know the Father without knowing Jesus first.  He said no man can approach the Father but by Jesus.  Therein lay the problem for many people who claim they love God or know God but have never met Jesus.  Jesus is the way to God and eternal life. 

To be saved, to have eternal life, to be good; we have to have Jesus.  Receiving Jesus as Lord may seem difficult, but it is not impossible.  Receiving Jesus is more than just repeating some words like “I accept Jesus in my heart.”  You must believe, but what do you believe? James taught us that the devils believe and tremble but he went on to speak of the need for faith with our work (Jas 2:19).  You must believe the gospel message: the good news of the birth, death, resurrection and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before acknowledging the Lord, Jesus said you must be drawn by God and respond to His call:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  Joh 6:44 

In the Old Testament, Israel was repeatedly compelled by God and the prophets to hear God’s voice and harden not their heart, but they did so over and over.  Harden hearts led them to bondage and eventual loss of God’s favor.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.  Heb 3:15

There is a time when God is working in our life to draw us to salvation.  It is important to respond while God is drawing us because we do not know when He may cease the drawing or calling.  Biblical Israel lost out because God kept drawing them and they kept hardening their heart, refusing Him.  God draws us to a time of repentance for our sin.  The religious leaders tried to enter without true repentance but John called them out. John the Baptist said: “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance…( Mt. 3:8).”  

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Mk 1:4 

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mk.2:17

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Act 2:36-41 

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  Joh 3:5 

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:10-17

I do not believe there is a formula we use to get saved because we have to have an experience with the Lord and we all respond differently .  God knows what it will take to bring the heart into obedience and works on each individual heart according to the need.  Saul had to be knocked off his horse and blinded.  Some people yield more easily.  But when our heart is made tender toward the Lord and we are brought to obedience, we will do what He asks.  It is the Holy Spirit that begins the process and who will finish it as we yield. 

Notice that a submitted heart must be available for the Holy Spirit to work His will.  Salvation requires a repented heart.  I believe that is the hardest part of coming to Christ. God knows how to work out situations in our life to make our heart tender as He does the drawing, but we still have to be willing to submit to His voice.  Pride in the heart is not easily overcome, but the Lord worked it out for Saul and can do it for all of us. God is still good and Christianity still works but a proud heart may refuse to obey the best preaching like the rich young man below:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?  Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Mat 19:16-22 

The bible gives us several reasons why people say no to the invitation of Christ and everyone has his or her own reason, but we have to say yes to the Lord to become saved.  Being too busy, too young, too old or too rich are not good reasons for missing out on salvation but people do it anyway. 

We cannot be good without Christ; we are all miserable sinners without Christ.   Our nation cannot be good without Christ. Our leaders are not perfect by virtue of their position. Because we are not perfect is no reason to give up on trying to be pleasing to God or give up on being a Christian.  Being perfect is not easy; Moses’ Law proved that fact.  It is impossible to be perfect without Christ.  Christ lived the law perfectly for us and in our place.  Many of us have gotten it wrong even though we tried hard to get it right.  But don’t give up!  If you can just get to Jesus, life gets easier.  How difficult is it to yield to the Perfect One, named Jesus?  Jesus already did the hard part by dying on the cross for us and living a perfect life pleasing to the Father.  We gain the benefit of His goodness by accepting Christ as our Lord.

Too many Americans have been told all you have to do is confess Christ and you are saved.  That’s not what Jesus said.  He walked out the example for us to follow. He obeyed the Father’s call to submit, be baptized, be spirit-filled and follow in obedience the Spirit of God. No one can come to the Father but by Christ.  We have to repent of our sins. We must accept Christ and we must be born of the water and of the spirit, as was Christ.  When we are yielded and submitted, the Spirit of God leads the way into all the truth step by step.  I am a witness that He will do it!  Our job is to keep searching until we find Him.  Salvation only comes through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

There is none good but God.  If we want to see our lives improve, if we want to see our family, community and nation improve; we need to get truly saved and settle for nothing less.  Twelve saved disciples changed the world and so can we if we give our life to the Lord.  The settlers that came to America did not have readily available all the information we have today.  Some may not have made Christ their Lord but we can do it and that will make a world of difference in our getting along with our brethren. .. be they red, yellow, black or white.  Only Christ, through a born again experience, can cause us to love each other as we should.  That is the answer to the pandemic, the gun violence, the poverty, the hatred, the poor economy and every ailment.  God made this world and He is well able to fix it.  He sent Christ to help us restore it to its former beauty.  We have the opportunity and ability as a nation to affect our world for good through our knowledge of Christ if we live it out before the world.  People believed America was good because America kept striving to do good and God kept working with us, blessing our efforts.  Now it is time to actually mature and be good through living in Christ.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Php 4:13 

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