Greg Laurie - Everybody Needs Jesus
Is mankind, men, women, people everywhere, are we all deep down inside basically good? This is a very commonly held belief. Fact, even as a young man I used to think people were basically good and the problem was my life experiences did not support that view because I saw so many bad people doing bad things. So, is it true that people are basically good? Well, a majority of Americans believe the answer is yes. George Barna, in his book, What Americans Believe, points out that 87% of non-Christians believe that people are basically good. Okay, but here's where it gets more interesting. 77% of self described Christians believe that mankind is basically good, as well. So, now let's address that for a minute. Are we basically good?
Now, you might be surprised by my answer. The answer is yes and no. I mean, there are good people. Now, when I say good, understand what I mean. I don't mean good as far as right before God but let's just say that some people are nicer than other people. I mean, for instance, there are people that don't break laws and they try to be good citizens and they're good neighbors. So, we have to acknowledge there are good people. Hey, I'll take it a step further. I've met non-believers that are nicer than some Christians I know. Am I right about that? And the only conciliation is they think well, think how much worse that Christian would be if they weren't a Christian. I mean, maybe this... And they're a work in progress just like I am, right? So, this is not about other good people, generally. Yes, there are good people that do good things, there are people that do heroic things, sacrificial things. So, in a broad sense, yes there are good people but that's not what we're talking about when we ask the question, is mankind basically good.
Here's the real question. Are we good enough to get to heaven? Now, that narrows it down. Now the answer is clearly no. No one is good enough to get to heaven. Why? Because none of us reach the very high standards of God. Oh sure, the prostitute and the murderer fall short but so do you and I. You know, perhaps some stand at the bottom of a mine and another, relatively speaking, stands at the top of the Alps, but no one's closer to touching the stars, right? So, some are better than others in a broad sense but none is even remotely close to reaching God. And we're not talking about touching the stars, we're talking about touching the creator of the stars. So, the reality is even the best of us is sinful and if we will learn nothing else from Romans 1, and really the whole book, but especially the first few chapters, is all of us are sinful. Immoral people are sinful. Even moral people, without God, are sinful. Everybody is separated from God by their sin. Paul is really making a very clear case for this.
Now, let's remind ourselves of who Paul's addressing. He's talking to believers in Rome. Rome was a wicked place. It was a godless place. In Rome, immorality was rampant. In fact in Roman cities, like Corinth, where Paul happened to write this letter from to the people in Rome, prostitutes openly walk the streets, idolatry, spiritism, demon worship were all openly practiced and anyone who dared to rebel against the power of Rome was put to death. Add to this the fact that the Caesars now thought they were gods and so they were requiring Caesar worship. So, if you would not say Caesar is lord you could be put to death. And many Christians were, who refused to say that. So, here is now the church in Rome, that Paul is writing to, and he commends them. He says, people know about your faith around the world. In this godless place, here's group of very godly people. And what they did, in relative short order, is nothing short of amazing. Within 30 years the original 120 of the Christians and their converts changed the world. Tertullian wrote around 200 A.D. these words, quote, speaking to Rome about the spread of the faith. He says, "We have filled every place among you, cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very camp, tribes, companies, palaces, the Senate, the forum, we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods". End quote.
We permeated every part of Roman culture. Every part of your empire. We are everywhere. The church defeated Rome without even unsheathing her sword. The church outlived Rome, they out-prayed Rome, and they outlasted Rome. That's the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that's why Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ". So, what was their secret? Well, again. They lived by this principle that Paul gives. I'm not ashamed. Let's read it, verse 16 of Romans 1. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. First to the Jew then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Salvation is not earned, but it's give to us as a gift from God. Again, salvation, it's not earned. It's given to us as a gift from God. Verse 17, the just shall live by faith. This word, the just, or the righteous, means we've been made right with God. Not on the basis of what you or I have done but solely on the basis of what Christ did for us on the cross. So, I'm just, I'm right before God. Justified, and we'll talk about that later. Now, as a believer, here are my marching orders. I am to live by faith. The just shall live by faith. Notice, that does not say the just shall live by feeling. Oh, be careful. Emotions come and go. It can be like a rollercoaster, one day you're feeling good, the next day you're not feeling so good. And, don't ever base your faith on how you're feeling in a given moment. Base it on what God says in his word. The just shall live by faith. Really, being a Christian is just putting one foot in front of the other and walking by faith each and every day.
As I've said before, a good definition of being a Christian is long obedience in the same direction. But I think some people, you know, they wanna have the big emotional encounter with God and so they come to church and perhaps during worship they just think, if I can just break through, if I can have this emotional connection, if I can just get that shiver down the backbone like I got two weeks ago, I'm looking for the shiver. Forget about the shiver. Forget about the quiver. Forget about the emotion, just worship God because he's worthy. And if you feel it, awesome. If you don't feel it, that's okay too. It's all good. I mean, you know, when I first met Cathy, my wife, I was very nervous when I went out with her. I had butterflies in my stomach, right? And that's because I ate them earlier that day and it was alive, as a matter of fact. No, I... but it's an expression, in case you don't know. But you know, I was nervous about what I said.
And now we've been married 44 years. If I went this morning, if I said to her, Cathy, I'm really nervous talking to you. I have butterflies in my stomach. She might think I'm having a heart attack or something... I mean, let's get realistic. We don't expect in our marriage to have an emotional feeling every moment, every day but we love each other, we make a commitment. The same is true of our relationship with God. I'm wearing a Apple watch right now. And this is not a commercial for Apple watches I just wanna tell you something about it. This watch tells me what to do and it kind of irritates me if I'm honest with you. Like, I'll be sitting, watching TV and all of a sudden it just bings, stand. What, who are you, telling me to stand? Stand right now, stand. And then it even gets worse. It says breathe. Well, I was breathing. It tells me to breathe. And then when I'm out and about it tells me, you reached your goal today, or you surpassed your goal, or you fail miserably short of your goal. And every now and then it just bings and says loser. It's like, who programmed this thing? But I mean, the idea is it's telling me to do thing that are for my own benefit. Walk, breathe, you know, get moving in some way, shape, or form.
We need an app like that for our Christian life. It's like, read your Bible. Right now, read your Bible. How about this one? Pray, wow. Pray, I would probably like that, you know? Just little reminders to walk by faith. So, that's point number one. That we should understand this is a gift from God and we should walk by faith. Number two, this salvation is given to us because God loves us. This salvation is given to us because God loves us. Look at verse 18, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Some of you are asking, okay, how did you get that point that God loved me after reading that his wrath is revealed? We have to understand the attributes of God. The Bible tells us, for instance, that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Omnipresent means he's present everywhere. Omnipotent means he's all-powerful. Omniscient means that he knows all things. The Bible also teaches, of course, that God is loving, he's gracious, he's kind, he's forgiving, but don't miss this. The Bible also teaches that God is just, righteous, holy, and wrathful. Now, we don't like that last one. Wrathful? God has wrath, oh yes. God has wrath.
Now, I think many of us would like to view God as sort of a benevolent grandfather, right? And hopefully, maybe even a little bit senile. He just, oh really, what's going on? It's okay, here, it's fine. Everything's good. But that's not the picture that we have of our father in heaven in the Bible. Yes, God is a God of love but let's understand what that means. Because he's a God of love, listen, that means he hates as much as he perfectly loves. Let me explain. A God of love must hate anything that harms those he loves. A God of love must mean business when he tells his kids something is off limits. If I'm with my grandkids and they go running in the street and I yell stop is that because I don't love them? No, it's because I do love them and they don't pay attention. Cars are moving around. When I'm in a parking lot with them I hold their hands, I'm looking around, I'm watching everything because I'm caring for them. I'm watching out for their safety. So, when God says don't do that it's because he loves you he tells you not to do that.
Point number three. There's no excuse for living in rebellion against the God who loves you. There's no excuse for living in rebellion against the God who loves you. Verse 19, I'm reading from the New Living translation. They knew the truth about God because he made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and the sky. Through everything God made, they can see his invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for knowing God. We'll stop there. You know, all around us are the reminders in God's creation that he exists and God will reveal himself to the true seeker. When someone says, I'm seeking God, if they're being honest, they'll find their way to Jesus Christ because the Lord says in Proverbs 8:17 among other places, those that seek me will find me.
Have you ever heard of Helen Keller? Helen Keller, because of a disease in her childhood, was left without sight, hearing, or speech. I mean, imagine that. She did not have sight, hearing, or speech. She was effectively sealed off from the world. But there was a woman named Anne Sullivan that made her life's purpose to reach Helen. And Anne taught Helen to communicate through touch and Helen Keller even learned how to talk. And one day Anne decided it was time to tell Helen about God and Helen's response was, well, she already knew him she just didn't know his name. So, even though she was sealed off without the ability to communicate, God made himself known to her, you see. And God will make himself known to the person who really wants to know him. Number four, when you're out of fellowship with God, you have conflict not only with God, but with people. Verse 18, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness against all ungodliness and unrighteousness who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Listen, ungodliness is sin against God. Unrighteousness is sin against your fellow man. Let me say that again. Ungodliness is your sin against God. Unrighteousness is you sin against your fellow man. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he had two tablets, right? Ten Commandments. They weren't five and five, they were six and four. On the first tablet were four commandments about our relationship with God. You shall take the Lord's name in vain. And not worship any other God before him. The first four about God. Those, ungodliness to break those. Then the second six, or the last part of the commandments, were about your relationship with your fellow man. You shall not lie, you shall not steal, etcetera. So, here it is. So, when we're living ungodly we're breaking commandments toward God and righteousness. That's breaking commandments toward one another.
Now, this is very interesting because he says, in verse 28, God gave them over to a depraved mind. He gave them over. And basically what that is saying is God gave them what they want. Careful what you ask for, you might get it. Oh, I want this. Really, are you sure? The prodigal son came to his father and said, dad, loose paraphrase, I'm sick of waiting for you to kick the bucket. I want my inheritance and I want it now. How easily the father could've said, boy, you're crazy. You don't know what you're asking for. No, but amazingly the father gave the boy his portion of the inheritance and the boy ran off to a distant country, lived a crazy life, did horrible things. One day came to his senses and returned to his father. But the father allowed the boy to follow his own course. Sometimes the Lord will say, you really want that? I'm gonna let you go for it. Tell me how that works out. And then we go and do it and we go, oh that was bad. I told you it's bad. I don't wanna do that any more. Good, come on back here and now I love you. Never stopped loving you. So, he gave them over. He allows these people to do these things. And when the prodigal came to his senses the father received him.
And so, this is the way people go. Later on, verse 28 to 32, Paul really describes what this leads to. And I'm reading now from a modern translation, here's what happens. When you don't acknowledge God and you wander from him, here's what follows. Since they didn't bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them. I like that translation. He let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose. Rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, and viscous backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with all their want and killing, bickering, and cheating. They kept inventing new way of wrecking lives. It's not as if they didn't know better. They know perfectly well they're spitting in God's face. And they just don't care. Wow. If that's not a commentary on contemporary culture, I don't know what is. That sounds like a typical day in Washington D.C. And notice, in verse 18 they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This is speaking of a determined action to not only go one's own way, but to try to get others to follow.
Here's what I've discovered. The people who talk the most about tolerance are often the most intolerant people I've ever seen. You know, people that say of Christians, you're intolerant. No, I think Christians, real Christians, Bible believing Christians are incredible tolerant. Meaning, we don't agree with the person's view, perhaps, but we still show kindness toward them. We don't try to silence them. And in fact, we try to reason with them and change their mind. But even if they don't change their mind, we'll still be civil toward them. But there are people today that will say, if you don't believe what I believe I will attack you, I will destroy you, I will do everything I can to silence you. That's what it means when it says suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
And there are people that wanna do this today and folks, this is one of the reasons that every Christian should register and vote. This matters right now. When you reject God ruin follows. When you reject God ruin follows. Verse 21, though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God. Nor were they thankful, they became futile in their minds, and their foolish hearts were darkened. By the way, this verse reminds us why we're on this earth. Why am I here? Why do I exist? The answer is right there. They did not glorify God. I'm here to glorify God. But these folks in Romans 1 start by not acknowledging God. Then they try to suppress the truth in their life and in the lives of others and then all kinds of problems follow. As that one translation said, all hell breaks loose. Look at verse 22, claiming to be wise, they became utter fools. Instead of worshiping the glorious everliving God they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
Now, we would look at this today and say, well, that's ridiculous, I'd never worship an animal. Okay, well, what about the Bears and the Seahawks? And the Lions and the Falcons? I'm just kinda kidding, really, but let me make a point though. You know, if you have your team, you love your team, that's fine. You're maybe waring your team colors, that's cool, right? But you know, you see people at games, football games, and they're dressed up, you know, they paint their faces and they're screaming and yelling. They get in fights after the game and then you see someone at church lift their hands up and they say, that's fanaticism. Wow, we need a little more fanaticism, I think, right? We need to be passionate about God. Not just as passionate as you are about your team but more passionate about our relationship with God. But you know, another interesting thing is they worshiped animals.
There is a growing trend in our culture that some experts have described as pet worship. Pet worship. People are treating their dogs like their children. So, yes we can put animals in the place of God, we can put people in the place of God, but more often, we put ourselves in the place of God. And that's really what this is all about. When you get down to what Romans 1 is really saying it's effectively saying you removed God and you put something in his place, and when you really get down to it, that something was most likely you, in some way, shape, or form. God will not force you to believe but will let you go your own way. Verse 24, he abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired and as a result they did violent degrading things with each other's bodies.
Paul goes on to identify a number of sins, including homosexuality. Same-sex relationships in verses 26 to 27. He also focuses on greed, envy, murders, strive, slander, and much more. And immorality of every kind is wrong. But you're not defined by what you're tempted by. You know, if you have same-sex attraction, to illustrate, that does not mean you are a homosexual. That means you have same-sex attraction. You don't have to act on that attraction, you see. Just because you're tempted by something that does not identify you as anything. It just might mean that is a particular area that you have to deal with in life. But the point that Paul is making very clearly is all immorality is wrong. Cause one person, you know, might be living with their boyfriend. You go, well that's wrong.
Well what do you mean that's wrong? What you're doing is wrong. And another person that's, you know, looking at porno all the time saying, well I, well, what are you doing? See, heres what Paul's trying to do and I think people miss this sometimes. He's trying to systematically show that every kind of sinful expression is wrong. And there's a lot of kinds of sinful expression. There's moral sin, there's religious sin, there's every kind of sin imaginable. So, he's making this case. Now we get to chapter two. You may think you can condemn such people, Paul says, but you're just as bad. You have no excuse, now he's talking to moral people, by the way at this point. You have no excuse.
When you say others are wicked and should be punished. You're condemning yourself, for you who judge others did the same things. And we know that God and his justice will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others who are doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God's judgment and do the same things? Don't you see how wonderfully kind and tolerant and patient God is with you? Does this not mean anything to you? Can't you see his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Bottom line, everybody needs Jesus. That's why I gave that title to this message. The immoral person needs Jesus. The seemingly moral person needs Jesus. Don't fixate on the sin. Fixate on the person who needs Jesus because everybody needs Jesus and everyone can be changed by Jesus Christ. No matter what they're doing.