By James Fire
A Divine Diagnosis
Just as with any visit to the doctor’s office, before the necessity of treatment can be ascertained, there must be a proper diagnosis to determine what is wrong. Likewise before one perceives the need for salvation, there must first be evidenced the deficiency of righteousness and holiness, both of which God requires of all of us:
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. "
1 Peter 1:16
"Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
The Ten Commandments (found in Exodus, chapter 20), as well as the Law in general, found throughout the Old Testament, is God’s righteous standard, a yard stick so to speak, to see how we all measure up. Even a superficial overview of the Ten Commandments will snag every one of us, yours truly included, in at least one point.
Failure to obey God’s command is generally known as ‘sin’. One may endeavor in all sincerity to obey God’s law, but never quite obtain a perfect performance. We “fall short of the mark” much like a contestant at a carnival, who, with hammer in hand, tries to strike the bell high above, but as he strikes, the iron ball rises, only to fall back down, without sounding the bell. He has fallen short of the mark, he has failed.
A different kind of offense is one in which a person knowingly disregards the Law of God, and in a spirit of rebellion, disobeys His Holy command. This is known as ‘transgression’. For such an example in our every day world: 55 m.p.h. Enough said!
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, any sin committed by a living soul will reap the judgment of God and due punishment:
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
The justice of God is inescapable and we will all one day come Face to face with our Maker!
We are all diagnosed with sin. If we look into the Law of God - - this Law (i.e., as in the Word of God) is very much like a mirror (“But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and immediately forgetteth what manner of man he was.” James 1:22-24); it reveals our sinful condition and our need for a remedy.
Even the most religious and ceremonious leaders in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, were convicted of their own imperfections and sins:
"And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, (4)They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (5)Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
John 8:7, 9
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (9)"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
Jesus shocked His hearers when He declared this, in regards to the ‘professional law-keepers’ and ‘religious leaders’:
"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
The Pharisees deluded themselves into thinking they were pleasing God, that they were in obedience to the LORD; they in fact believed they could be saved by the Law; yet the LORD Jesus rebuked them for their outward religious show, and formalism (a superficial observance and adherence to a religious belief system w/o having any inward effect on spiritual purity and moral integrity, known also as “legalism”) as in Matthew 23: 25-33.
The LORD raised the standard regarding the intent of the Law, in his preaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 43-44), thus rightly using the Law for its Divinely appointed purpose – to reveal what’s in our hearts:
Matthew 15:18, 19
"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:"
It is our hearts, much more than our actions that God will judge!
This leads to a verse found in the book of James that many have misunderstood and think that this passage is terribly unfair:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
Why would God find someone guilty of breaking all the Law, if in fact they kept it all, but failed in one point?
When one commits a sin, this reveals a spiritual truth – that this person is a sinner. Without the sin nature one would not be compelled to commit sins, yet this nature so drives the human race!
You can’t expect a dog not to bark, or a fish not to swim, or a bird not to fly, or for a sinner to not sin. Each will act according to their nature; to do otherwise would be unnatural.
Thus, having a sinful nature, all one requires is time and availability to have such lusts manifested in one’s heart which God will judge; it’s the nature of a sinful heart, more than sinful actions committed that is being addressed here by James.
Right now, you could be thinking, “If that’s the case, then God is asking for the impossible! I can’t be expected to live such a holy, sinless life!”
Exactly right! Romans 3: 20 makes it quite clear:
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
What hope then do any of us have to obtain God’s favor and acceptance, and to earn the right of passage into heaven? Excellent questions we will address in the following section of this article entitled "The Salvation Solution" where we will find hope, forgiveness, mercy and grace.