And Such Were Some Of You

1Corinthians 6:9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sometimes I feel quite done with this world.  I hear about the atrocities that men commit and must admit I’d rather stop my ears.  People’s hearts in this world are so cold, hard and impartial to others that it is shocking.  More and more often I hear news reports that verify what the Bible has taught us from the beginning: that mankind is radically evil.  We needn’t be nearly as afraid of bears and lions, tsunamis and earthquakes, as of the evil that is in people’s hearts.

Sometimes, if you’re like me you feel a sense of despair and you just want Jesus to come back now.  How can He be so patient?  As wrong as I know it is, there are times I feel like Jonah.  “Lord, they continue to do evil and why do you let it go on?  Come at last in your fury and let all vengeance belong to you.  Wipe the wicked from the face of the earth.”

It is not necessarily sinful to anticipate, long for, and even pray for the Lord to hasten His judgement.  David, after worshipping God in awe that God would so love and care for Him, suddenly turns from intimate and heartfelt praise to say “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!  O men of blood depart from me (Psalm 139:19)!”  I confess I find it unfortunate that so few people talk about verses 19-24 of Psalm 139.

However, I think that whenever we come face to face with a foul mouthed God hating sinner, a news report about the latest child pornography ring, or the headline about the latest thief who bludgeoned an elderly person- we need stop and think through these words: “And such were some of you.  But…”

I used to have this resolution of Jonathan Edward’s taped up beside my bed.  I find it mightily convicting, humbling, and effective:

“Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.”

Does my own heart contribute any pure goodness that would prevent me from committing the same crimes as others if I were given the same opportunity and circumstances?  No.  As Christians I think it is possible (but wrong!) to slip into an attitude of moral superiority, with disgust and disdain towards the people of the world, instead of recognizing that it is only because of God’s grace we have been kept from certain sins.  I see nothing wrong with feeling disgusted by sin and in fact we are probably not disturbed enough by it.  However, there is something wrong when we stop identifying ourselves as a part of the same fallen race, capable of the same level of depravity apart from the grace of God.  We should never look down our noses at other sinful people as if we had something on them.

I have heard people complain, also very much like Jonah, that God should not forgive certain kinds of people.  If we think this way, we have too high a view of self, and too low a view of the mercy of God poured through the cross of Christ.  Is there a point at which God will give people up to their debased mind with no further chance of hope?  Yes there is (Romans 1:21-32, Hebrews 6:1-6).  But can finite humans know when or whether God should do that?  No.

The potential for a person to come to Christ has nothing to do with how many good things they think they have done, nor how many unspeakable sins they might have committed.  Jesus simply said “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44),” and that “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail (John 6:63).”  God says “’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills (Romans 9:15-16,18).”

Without getting too deep into theology and to put it plainly, He can have mercy on whomever He wants to, whether it is little-goody-two-shoes or a mass murderer.  If we are Christians this should provoke gratitude towards God in our hearts for the gift of salvation, as well as a strong desire for all people everywhere to be given the gift of repentance and faith.  God is a great saviour; His arm is never too short to save!  Jesus Christ has paid the debt in full for whoever would cry out to Him.  If Jesus Christ was willing to bare the wrath of God that was headed for rapists and thieves, then why would I not desire that all people be saved?  Why should I lose hope for anyone?  And if I needed that same saviour to shed the same blood for my crimes, why should I sneer at other sinners who need the very same thing?

“There is a fountain filled with blood

That flows from Emmanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoice to see

That fountain in his day

And there may I though

Vile as he

Wash all my sins away!”

I want to get personal for a moment as I close.  There is no certain “type of person” that Jesus saves, other than that He came for sinners who would confess that they were sinners.  I think sometimes our view of His love and ability to save people wherever they are at is too low.  I was a foul person with a crude mouth, a thief with a strong taste for rebellion, acting in pride and ignorance every day of my life.  Sometimes that’s all we see of a person on the outside.

I have no interest in excusing sin or making people the victim of their own sin.  No, we are willing participants in sin with no excuse.  But people would have never thought that I laid awake guilty at night, that I feared there was a God who would send me to Hell if I died, and that I hated myself more and more for my sin each day.  You might know people, or simply see them on the street making a scene, but you have no idea what God might be doing in their heart.  It’s not our place to judge unbelievers, but to tell them the gospel that can save their soul and change their life.  God can redeem anyone, and He is all the hope we need in this dark world.  He will either save the wretched sinner, or in the end He will rid the earth of all who remain in their wickedness- but either way, justice will have been dealt and He will receive all glory due to His name.  And we, the redeemed, will cover our mouths, bow the knee, and thank the God who loved and spared us.

So may our attitude be this:  Lord come and bring both your Justice and your Peace to this world.  But until you come, have mercy on sinners Lord, to whatever extent may glorify you as Most High, Gracious, Forgiving, and Merciful God.  Thank you Lord for forgiving me of many shameful acts, and sparing me from those I could have easily committed.  All credit goes to You.  May we be merciful, who have been shown so much mercy.  Put the gospel on our lips and let the light of Christ shine from our hearts.  Amen.

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