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Fulton County Gospel News

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Without Excuse Part 3

By Lee Moses

God seeks to reconcile the sinful world to Himself that all mankind might have eternal life, yet not all the world will be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; John 5:40). Sadly, many perpetuate their failures to be reconciled to Him by conjuring up excuses, perhaps even believing that those excuses will carry them through on the Day of Judgment. However, excuses for failing to know and obey God do not excuse and will not stand.

“Everybody else is doing it” is not an excuse. This is an attempted excuse that children learn at a fairly young age: “All the other kids’ parents let them stay up until ten o’clock”; “All the other kids’ parents let them watch R-rated movies”; “All the other girls are wearing short shorts”; “All the other kids are going to this dance/drinking party.” This continues into adulthood, as people continue to make excuses to themselves and to God: “Everybody else fudges a little on their taxes”; “Everybody else drives at least 10 m.p.h. over the legally mandated speed limit”; “Everybody else drinks at office parties”; “Everybody else is shacking up before getting married”; “Everybody else sleeps in on Sunday mornings instead of going to Bible class.” Church leaders attempt this excuse to justify introducing religious practices of human origin: “All the denominations use instrumental music and drama to make worship services more exciting”; “So many brethren are building gymnasiums and dividing assemblies for ‘children’s church,’ why can’t we?”

However, is the legitimacy of an action established by the number of people who do that action? If a little girl falls into a river, and a large crowd standing by does nothing, are they all right to do nothing? What if another man finally walks up, observes the situation, and jumps in and saves the girl—did he do wrong? After all, he did not do what everyone else was doing—or not doing, as the case may be.

The Lord told Israel, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment” (Exodus 23:2). This implies that the “multitude” can very well be on the side of evil, and that the “many” can be in favor of perverting justice. But we are not to stand where they stand, or to do what they do. We are exhorted time and again to be holy—set apart, distinct, and consecrated to God (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:14-16; et al.). God admonishes us, “You’re not supposed to do what everybody else is doing.” As Jesus warned,

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 (Matthew 7:13-14).

It is not the people doing an action, or the number of people doing an action, that makes that action right or wrong. The action is right or wrong based on what God has said about the action (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “If a thing is wrong, it is still wrong even if everybody does do it. If it is right, it is still right even if nobody does it.”i

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged (Romans 3:3-4).

God is right. His word is right (Psalm 33:4). Anybody who suggests that one should follow the crowd rather than God is a liar. And anyone who “loveth” or “maketh” the lies of the multitude rather than the truth of God will be excluded from His heavenly city (Revelation 22:15).

“Everybody else is doing worse” is not an excuse. Others, some well aware that the way of the multitude is the way of destruction, find assurance of their salvation simply because they are not as wicked as others are. They view themselves as good, decent people, and thus believe that heaven is theirs. They often contrast their own goodness with the worst of humanity, such as Hitler, Stalin, or Osama bin Laden. They may even be able to correctly esteem their own morality and generosity above that of many professed Christians they know. However, no human being other than Jesus Christ will ever enter final glory on the basis of his own moral goodness, as “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

To consider oneself pleasing to God based upon his moral superiority to others is to manifest the haughty spirit and flawed understanding of a certain Pharisee: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). The claims he made for himself were evidently true. His morality exceeded all those others he named, at least regarding those particular matters. Nonetheless, Jesus said that this Pharisee returned from his prayer unjustified, with his future expectation being a deserved humbling at the hand of a displeased God (verse 14). This is not to diminish the importance of righteous living (Ephesians 4:22-32; Titus 2:12-14; 1 Peter 2:11-12), but true righteousness is never measured relative to the unrighteousness of others.

To consider oneself pleasing to God based upon his moral superiority to others is to use a flawed standard. God’s word is the only correct standard of righteousness (Psalm 119:172; John 12:48; Romans 10:3-4). And it is only by obeying that standard that one can be found in Jesus Christ, and thereby set right with God (Romans 6:17; Galatians 3:26-27; 6:15-16; Hebrews 5:8-9).

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).

To Be Continued

 


i Albert Gardner, “Not Who but What.” The Beacon, Bellview Church of Christ, Pensacola, FL. Nov 18, 1982.

 

 

 

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