Greg Laurie - The Dark Side of the Moon
Sometimes people try to encourage us and they end up discouraging us. Has that ever happened to you? Someone wants to offer you some helpful words and you're like, "Could you just stop right now"? It's called a backhanded compliment. Someone has come up with the phrase: it's a compinsult. It's a compliment insult. Here is an example. I actually had fun with you today. You actually had fun meaning that other days you don't have as much fun. I love this one. No matter what anyone says, I like you. Seriously? That's your version of a compliment?
So as we read these first chapters of Romans, it sounds not even like compinsult: it sounds like an insult. Here's a sumMary of what Paul is saying. You're all sinners. There are no exceptions. Why is he doing this? Because before he can tell us the truth, he has to show us what the problem is. We need to know the truth about ourselves. It's not unlike a doctor diagnosing your condition. You'll go in with an ache or a pain or a concern and he runs some tests and he checks you out and maybe he prescribes some medication. Maybe he recommends a surgery. But whatever it is, the doctor has to tell you the truth about yourself. So Paul is systematically eliminating any excuses that people may offer about their lives. He says you're all sinners.
Now, you may find a creative way to hide it, but you're still a sinner. There's different kinds of sinners, of course. In chapter 1 of Romans we have what I would call garden-variety sinners. These are just the basic person who doesn't want God in their life. They ultimately turn to other Gods and even turn to immorality. Garden-variety sinner: basically you're an unrighteous person. You're an immoral person. But then in chapter 2 we have self-righteous sinners, moral sinners: but sinners nonetheless who sort of stand behind their morality. Now as we come to chapter 3, we're coming to a religious Jewish person who is saying, "Because I'm one of the chosen people, I'm the exception "To the rule".
Let me just say a word about the Jewish people. We love the Jewish people because they are God's chosen people. That's very clear in scripture. So much has come to us through the Jews. The Jews gave us our scripture. It is through the Jewish race that our Messiah came. We who are gentiles, most of us are not Jews, we owe them a great debt. We've been grafted into the promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the problem is among some religious Jews is there can be a pride on their part saying, "Well I'm Jewish so I'm good". And Paul who is a Jew himself, in fact, he was a very dedicated Jewish leader and a member of the sanhedrin and much more is saying, "Hey, I'm calling you guys out on this. Everybody needs Jesus".
So we come to Romans 3. So what advantage is there of being a Jew? "Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. True some of them were unfaithful but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the scriptures say about him, he will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court. But, some might say, 'our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn't it unfair, then, for him to punish us?' (this is merely a human point of view.) of course not"! Paul says.
Now drop down to verse 8. "And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, 'the more we sin, the better it is!' those who say such things deserve to be condemned". We'll stop there. So if you're taking notes, here's point number 1. Reading and knowing God's word does not save you. As important and vital as the Bible is, you must do more than simply read it. Now if you are saved, you should know it. You should read it. You should study it. But knowing that alone will not save you. God chose the Jewish race to deliver the scripture to. Verse 3 says, "First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God". That's no small thing. Yes, there were benefits to being a Jew - that's what Paul is saying. God gave to them his very word.
This word "Oracles" is an interesting word because it means the very words of God. You see the Jewish scholars and scribes painstakingly wrote the words of scripture out on scrolls. If they made a mistake they didn't edit it in a word doc, nor did they use white out. In fact, if they were writing a very long scroll and had spent days, hours, even days writing that out and they made a mistake they would go and start over again. It had to be perfect. It had to be flawless. When they came to the name of the Lord they would stop, they would go, they would bathe themselves, they would change their clothes, they would take out a fresh brush and write the holy name of God, Yahweh, so that's how much attention they gave to detail.
Now look, there are three ways you can look at the Bible:
1. You may see that it's a book filled with good ideas, moral lessons, just a general guide to life.
2. You might acknowledge the book. The Bible is a book from God, but it was written by man. It may have contradictions, but it has a lot of good things to say.
3. You believe the Bible is the very word of God which is inspired by God and is indeed given to us by God, and it is total truth.
Well that is the position I hold: that's the position Paul held: that's the position effectively the Bible holds. Scripture tells us the word of God is alive and powerful and it's sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword. Or as another translation puts it, "His powerful word is as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel cutting through everything whether doubts or defense laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's word. We can't get away from it no matter what". A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that 50% of them thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. Now that's a couple I would not want to hang around with. Hey Sodom, make sure you bring Gomorrah with you for dinner tomorrow night. So that just shows the ignorance of the scripture. So many own a copy of the Bible, they have respect for the Bible, but they don't read the Bible.
And you know, the number one reason people give (and I would probably call this an excuse) as to why they do not read the Bible is they don't prioritize it. Let me ask you, how many of you, now, you're in church. I want you to be honest. First of all, how many of you brought a Bible to church? Let me see your Bible. Hold your Bible up. Hold it up. I see a few screens. We're going to let that pass today. It's okay, really. But I have to tell you that the sound of Bible pages turning is one of the sweetest sounds I know. I love that sound. Don't you? It's not the same when you're swiping a screen is it? Just not quite the same. So now, how many of you - be honest, you're in church - read your Bible every day? Raise your hand up if you read your Bible. God bless you, but not all of you. How many of you read your Bible at least a few times a week? Raise up your hand. Okay.
So it's great to obviously read the Bible. We should read the Bible, but honestly, some people read the Bible without any comprehension. You might be bragging to someone, "I read 10 chapters from scripture today". That's amazing. What were they about? "I have no idea, but I read 10 chapters". Listen, you'd be better off reading 10 verses from the Bible with comprehension. The Bible uses the word meditate quite often. It has nothing to do with the eastern version of meditation which is to clear the mind. The biblical meaning of the word meditation is to ponder and consider. One way we could put it is sort of like chewing your food. So when I meditate on scripture that's something that will help me internalize it more deeply. Think about it. Consider it. Contemplate it. Take your time. Don't rush through it.
So it's a good thing to read your Bible every day, but honestly you could take it to the next level and read your Bible multiple times a day. Get the word of God in you many times through the day. Listen. It's not enough to go through the word of God. The word of God needs to go through you. It's not how you Mark your Bible. It's how your Bible Marks you. And being baptized.
2. Or doing other outward things does not save you. For the Jews it was the act of circumcision. This was a very important rite to Jewish people commanded by God for the Jewish males to be circumcised. So they thought, "I've been circumcised. I'm right with God". Paul calls them out in Romans 2:27 and he says, "Uncircumcised gentiles who keep God's law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God's law, but you don't obey it". So when he says an uncircumcised gentile that's a nonbeliever effectively who has believed. Hey, if they're doing what the word of God says, they're better off than you that have been circumcised but you're not doing what the word says.
Now, in our day, we might say, "Well I was baptized," or "I was raised in the church," or "My parents were Christians," or "My father is a preacher," like that's supposed to trump everything. Look, if your father was a preacher, I'm going to pray for you because that means you're a pk and pk's are among the most notorious sinners out there. I'm glad your father was a preacher. I'm glad your parents were Christians. I'm glad you were raised in the church, but that doesn't make you a Christian. See the religious Jews were turning to legalism. They were thinking, "Because we do these things, we are right with God". It's never about the things we do that makes us right with God. It's the thing he has done for us: and that thing is sending his son to die on the cross in our place and make us acceptable to God. Not through what we've done, but through what he did.
3. Being raised in a Christian home doesn't necessarily mean you are saved. The Jewish people were thinking, "Hey, I'm one of the chosen people, so if I sin it actually shows God's glory because God will forgive me and then people will see how gracious God is". Look at verse 5. "Some might say, 'our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn't it unfair then, for him to punish us?' (this is merely a human point of view.) of course not"! Paul says. First of all let me say yes it is true that God forgives sin. And thank God for that. Yes it is true that God gives second chances. But that does not mean we should intentionally sin. You might say, "Well I was saved at a harvest crusade," or "I was baptized," or "I received communion recently so now I can do whatever the heck I want to do because I've offered my penance to God. I've earned up some credit with God.
Now I can go have some fun". Do you realize how warped that thinking is? But trust me, it enters even into the church. We think we've done these things now, and now I can do whatever I want. Some will even say, "You know what? I believe once saved, always saved. So I can go out and sin". If that's your attitude I have to question the once saved of the always saved part because that is not the way a true child of God thinks. A true Christian doesn't walk around saying, "How much can I get away with and still be a Christian"? A true follower of Jesus says, "Because I'm a Christian, because God has saved me from my sin and done so much for me, how much more can I become like him? How much closer can I be to him"? It's a big difference.
So they're basically saying, "It shows God's grace when we sin and he forgives us". Paul is saying, "Yeah, but that doesn't mean you should go out and keep sinning". Now Paul is clearly showing us that religion doesn't save us because we're all guilty. Garden-variety sinner, self-righteous sinner, religious sinner. Mark twain said, "Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows anybody". That's why I called this message the dark side of the moon. It's an expression basically to describe something mysterious and unknown. The side of the moon we can't see so to speak. No one knows better how dark our hearts are than we. The only one who knows it better is God, but we know too don't we? We know how we can think a godly thought and an ungodly in a nanosecond. We know our nature and how we're drawn to the wrong things. We know that when we're being bad, we're being bad: but then sometimes we'll be good and then we'll feel so good about being good, we're bad again because we're being prideful. It's like an endless cycle that goes around and around.
4. You have to see you're lost in order to be found. That's Paul's whole objective: to show you that you're lost, you're sinful. Everyone. Immoral people, self-righteous people, religious people. Everybody is separated from God and you have to admit this. Now I have no navigational skills whatsoever. I am so dysfunctional when it comes to getting somewhere. My friend franklin graham, he's a pilot so he has amazing navigational skills. I get lost going home. Right. I get lost with GPS and that seems hard, but sometimes GPS messes with you. Have you noticed that?
I was going to L.A. Recently. Cathe and I, we're just driving along. All of a sudden GPS says, "Turn right on the next off ramp". Okay. GPS told us. Let's do it. I know that place is right up the 405 but GPS just told me to turn right. So we turn right. Turn left on the next street. Turn right on the next street. Okay, go in a circle. Get out of your car and scream. Get in it. And then it takes me back on the freeway and I went, "What was that all about"? Someone hacked my GPS. It made no sense. Frankly, I don't know why that happens sometimes. You think you're going around something, maybe a detour. There was nothing to go around. So we follow our GPS, but it gets us in trouble on occasion.
So here is what it comes down to. If you don't know how to get somewhere, I finally call the person. Look, I can't find your house. You have to guide me. They say, "Well where are you"? Well, I'm at this intersection. "Okay, here's what you do". This is what God is doing. We have to admit where we are without Christ before we can find him because verse 10 says, "No one is righteous, not even one". You might say, "Greg, I know some pretty righteous people". Understand what the word "Righteous" means when the Bible uses it. It means one who is such as he ought to be. No one is righteous enough. No one is good enough because everyone falls short.
5. What you say reveals a lot about who you are. In verses 13-17 of Romans 3, Paul gives us an x-ray study of the sinner head to foot. Verse 13, "Their throat is an open tomb: with their tongues they have practice deceit. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave". There's a visual. "Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them". Wow. Tell me what you really think, Paul. I mean that's so direct. This is speaking of people that continuously deceive and manipulate and lie in order to hurt others. We could update that today because we don't just say these things now. We use social media. We could say their tweets are filled with lies. Their posts are cursing in bitterness.
People will engage in what is called cyber-bullying today. Harassing people. Saying things about people that are not true. And sadly, many young people have been so affected by this, they've taken their own lives. Every day you go online you're going to read lies and you're going to see venom and vitriol and much more. Socrates once said to a young student, "Speak, friend, that I may see you". Now today people can be anonymous online, and have a pseudonym or another name that they hide behind and say things that are so harsh and destructive. I think political rhetoric has been weaponized of late where we demonize one another. Can't we learn how to disagree agreeably? We need a big giant Kumbaya moment in America today.
You know just stop for a minute. Remember how America was affected after 9/11 when the twin towers of the world trade center were attacked and they collapsed in a heap of rubble and all those lives were lost? The whole country was traumatized collectively. Remember how there would be prayers vigils on street corners? Some of you aren't old enough to remember this, but that's what was happening. I remember one moment when congress, both republicans and democrats were there on the steps of the u.S. Congress and they spontaneously broke into a chorus of God bless America . We need to dial down the rhetoric and start talking to each other again in America.
6. There's no hope apart from Jesus. There's no hope apart from Jesus. Moral living, good works, even attempting to keep the 10 commandments because no one really does. Sometimes people say, "I live by the 10 commandments. That's all th religion I need". Really? What are the 10 commandments? "Umm... John, Paul, George and ringo". No. Those are the beatles. Knowing the names of the beatles is not going to help you. You need to know those commandments. See, even of those who know them, they don't keep them.
No one keeps all of them. Don't tell me you do. How could you? Jesus said, "You've heard it has been said 'you shall not murder,' but I say to you if you have hatred in your heart toward your brother it's the same thing". Who of us has not had hatred in our heart at one time or another? "You've heard that it has been said," Jesus says, "'you shall not commit adultery,' but I say unto you 'if you look on a woman with lust in your heart it's the same thing'". Who has not broken that commandment?
But listen, the commandments were not given to make you holy. The commandments were given to show you that you're not holy. The commandments are like a moral mirror. I see myself as I am. I don't know about you, but I don't really love looking in mirrors that much these days. Some people love mirrors almost as much as they love selfies. But you know, you might be walking along and you notice everyone is smiling at you and you're thinking, "Hey, I'm looking good today. Right. Everyone is smiling at me". Then you go and you wash your hands in the bathroom and see yourself in the mirror and realize an entire piece of pizza is encrusted on your shirt. You wondered where that piece of pizza went. They're laughing at you. The mirror revealed the truth. It wasn't a happy thing but it was a necessary thing.
That is the law. The law, the commandments, condemn us but they don't convert us. They challenge us, but they don't change us. The law was given to open our eyes and to shut our mouths. Look at verse 19 of chapter 3, "Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be guilty before God". You're saying, "Greg, this is the most depressing message ever". Okay, now I'm getting to the good news. Are you ready for it? This is my last point.
7. God has shown us the way to know him through Jesus. Look at verse 21. "But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for everyone who believes, no matter who they are". This is the keyword, "But". Underline that word "But". "But now God has shown us a way". Grace. Verse 23 of Romans 3, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus". The word grace means God's unmerited favor. There's nothing you will ever do, or nothing you have ever done to merit the grace of God. But it's by grace, the Bible reminds us in Ephesians, "By grace you've been saved through faith. Not of works lest any man should boast". God has extended his grace towards us.