Summary: Warren Buffett believed his donation of $37 billion dollars to the Gates Foundation would buy him a place in heaven? Is that possible? Can we buy our way into heaven? Can we work our way in? Or is there another way?
OPEN: A man and wife were sitting in their living room when they noticed their neighbor across the street pull up in to his drive. He stepped out of the car with flowers in his hand, met his wife at the door and laid a passionate kiss on her.
As they watched all this play out across the street, the woman turned to her husband and wistfully said, “Why don’t you do that?”
The man looked at his wife and replied, “Well, Honey, I hardly know the woman.”
APPLY: That wife was looking for a special kind of love. She was looking for a love that said she was worth something… that she was valuable.
That’s the kind of love Scripture says God has for us.
And that’s the kind of love the Bible says we can learn to practice when we follow God.
1st John tells us:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
In other words: REAL love comes from God because God is the real thing: He is love. Thus, as it says in I John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” We know how to love, because we’ve learned from the Master. We love best when we learn to copy God’s kind of love.
Now, Psalm 85 tells us about God’s kind of love.
But it starts out telling us we aren’t worthy of His love.
Because God is righteous… and we’re not.
We’ve all sinned. We’ve all failed.
We don’t deserve His love.
In verse 5 the Psalmist acknowledges that when he asks God “Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? (Ps. 85:5). And a couple verse before in vs. 3, this Psalm talks about the fact that God had “fury”… He had “wrath” towards us
Ephesians 2 explains why God would have this anger:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Ephesians 2:1-3
God is righteous, but we chose to be unrighteous. As Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Thus we became “objects of God’s wrath.”
Now, people try to duck that truth.
They don’t like the idea of being called “sinners.
So in order to avoid that label, they do one of at least 3 things. They either
1. Redefine the terms: They don’t sin… they make mistakes, they fall short.
Or, they’ll say that’s just the way they are. Are they angry people? That’s just how they’ve always been. Or they’ve always been bitter, lustful, or whatever. But don’t dare call it sin.
Years ago, a famous psychiatrist named Dr. Carl Menninger wrote a book called “Whatever Became of Sin”. He maintained that for decades people had talked about sin in their lives. But as Psychiatry became more prominent, sin was removed from people’s vocabulary… and society has drifted away from personal responsibility and the need to change.
So, people either redefine their terms so they don’t have the label of “sinners.”
2. Or they Lower their standards so that sin is always something below how they live. These people tend to look at their lives like Bette Midler does:
“I have my standards. They may be low, but I have them."
ILLUS: Everybody has their standards. They might be low standards… but most people rigidly try to keep them.
I first encountered this approach to life at a church I served years ago. It was an old congregation and about a third of the church were glorified pagans. These people belonged to the church because their parents or grandparents had… but they really didn’t belong to Jesus. Many in this group would engage in gossip and backstabbing if they didn’t like you. Frankly there were some in this group I wouldn’t have trusted with my dog (if I had one).
In this group of pagan church members were a couple of men who had promised to donate a sizable portion of money to an upcoming building project. But while they had promised that donation, they really didn’t want to part with the money… so they did everything they could to scuttle the project.
I noticed that while these men engaged in all sorts of shady tactics to derail the building project, they did so because they had given their word they would give the money. It would never have occurred to them to renege on their pledge… because they’d given their word. BUT, if the project didn’t go forward, they didn’t have to “sin” by going back on their promise. That was their standard. It was a low one, but they held to it religiously.