Summary: No matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to balance out the scales of good and evil in our lives. We need help.
“Between the Lines: Balancing the Books”
It never fails. I get the checkbook balanced and then it doesn’t agree with my computer budget program. Or I get the computer totals balanced and it doesn’t agree with the bank statement or my checkbook. It is so important to balance the books – but it can be so frustrating. I imagine I’m not the only one here today who has, more than once, thrown up hands and said, “I quit!” Sometimes we’d like to do the very same thing with the balance in the book of our lives. No matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to balance out the scales of good and evil in our lives. As we throw up our hands in frustration we agree with Paul (verse 23): “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” We need help to balance our books.
To begin with, we are in AN UNSOLVABLE SITUATION. Let’s review what we have learned from Paul in the last few weeks. The most succinct summary is to say that the world is in chaos because non-Christians have refused to acknowledge God, but Christians are guilty as well as they have refused to live up to the standards God has set in His law. There is no difference – all have sinned and come up short of God’s glory. We stand naked before Him as he declares us guilty because of our sin.
So the reality is that WE NEED TO BE SAVED FROM GOD. Salvation does not mean, primarily, we are saved from sin, from the devil, from the world, or from the flesh. To be saved means that God has saved us from Himself. Through our sin, God has become our enemy. The worst scenario, the most painful situation anyone can ever experience is to face the wrath of God’s judgment. Who, in his right mind, wants to stand naked before the throne of an almighty, holy God? What would that be like?
Chapter one gives us a slight glimpse. There we discover that GOD’S WRATH HAS BEEN REVEALED. As part of God’s judgment in this life God gives people up to their own lusts and desires; it is not a pretty picture: “…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore…he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” And this is just a glimpse, a hint of the full extent of God’s wrath. This represents only God removing Himself from the world and letting people experience the results of their own actions. Can you imagine what it will be like when God actively issues forth his punishment? And as Paul said, we are all guilty!
The problem is we are so accustomed to sin we do not recognize it’s gravity. I once read the news account of the two Lake Worth, Florida, high school boys. They were suspended from school because they ate so much garlic that no one could stand to have them around. They had read that garlic has properties for cleansing blood and lowering blood pressure. So they each ate half a head of garlic. The next morning for breakfast both students consumed three or four more heads of garlic. When the teachers and students complained about their odor, the boys simply laughed and went on eating garlic. When confronted by school officials, one of the boys stated that it couldn’t be all that bad because, “We’re blowing in each other’s face, and we couldn’t smell garlic.” They were so accustomed to the garlic, they were desensitized to the smell. Similarly, we become so accustomed to a world and a heart of sin, that we fail to grasp the depth, the stench, of our sin. As A. W. Tozer put it, “UNTIL WE BELIEVE THAT WE ARE AS BAD AS GOD SAYS WE ARE, WE CAN NEVER BELIEVE THAT HE WILL DO FOR US WHAT HE SAYS HE WILL DO.”
Because we are as bad as God says we are, God has established a day in which he is going to judge the world. His holiness demands it. To be holy, God must judge sin. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED. And if we have never contemplated the wrath of God, we can never fully experience the grace of God. We cannot appreciate light until we have been enveloped by darkness. If we are wrapped in garlic, we are, according to Paul, treasuring up wrath for the day of wrath! We are all obligated to bend our knees to Jesus Christ. Every moment we spend outside of total submission to Jesus we are treasuring up wrath. The Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 12) reminds us that “…God requires that divine justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of this justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or by another.”