Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Sin Above the Rest

I am borrowing a bit today from a devotional my wife and I read last night.  It makes a tremendously important point that I think really gets lost in today's way of thinking.  Many people believe that people like Gandhi are in heaven.  Others believe people like the Dali Lama will also be in heaven.  Sure, they did not receive Jesus, but people will say they lived very good lives.  The Bible, however, says something entirely different.
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. ut I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."   Matthew 11:20-24 NKJV
Being that they are more familiar names, I am going to focus on attention on the latter comparison of Capernaum and Sodom.  Both comparisons Jesus gives are parallel to one another.   First let's talk about Capernaum.  Capernaum was a city that acted kind of as a base of operations of Jesus.  He performed many great works in that city and everyone probably would have been familiar with Jesus and His work.  In other words, there is no corner of that city that did not receive some kind of witness of Jesus Christ.  Next we see Sodom, a city that is so infamous for its sin that we use it as the root for sodomy even to this day.  Sodom was known for sin and it was so bad that is was burned to the ground with fire and brimstone cast upon the city by angels acting on God's behalf.  Those would be the same angels that the entire city of Sodom wanted to gang rape and threatened to do even worse to Lot should he not let them.  Yes, it was that kind of bad.  Capernaum was not know for sin.  Don't get me wrong, it was a city of sinners but not nearly to the extent that Sodom was known for it.  It would have only had "normal" sin and perhaps many "good" people.

What we have, then, is a tale of two cities.  One city had no witness of the miracles and Jesus and was worse than just about any other city that ever existed when it came to sin.  The other city had merely "average" sin and witnessed many great miracles of Jesus.  You have one city that we can equate with someone who is the worst of the worst.  A person known for his wickedness.  This person never went to church, never did anything good for anyone, would not know a Bible other than something heavy to hit someone with, and someone that we would see completely irredeemable.  The other city we can equate with the average person.  This person keeps out of trouble, probably owns a Bible and maybe knows a verse or two, goes to church a few times a year, gives to charity, helps other people, tries to do the right thing, and is an all-round nice guy.  If we were thinking the same way that many of us think, which of the two would have a worse time in Hell? 

I am sure that many, if not most, would think that the average person would receive a much lighter sentence.  I am sure that many in today's world would think that the average person would not be in Hell at all, but that God would somehow give that person a pass.  However, the Bible tells a much different story.   Jesus says very plainly that not only will both be judged, but that it will be much more tolerable for Sodom.  Think about that for a moment, that is like saying that Genghis Khan will receive a lighter judgement than the nice guy down the street who shows up to church every so often.  

Can that really be right?  Are we not judged by whose sins are worse?  Should not someone with the worse sins receive the worse judgement if God is just?  Before you think that God is unjust, you have to consider what the worst sin is to God. 
"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy [against] the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the [age] to come. " Matthew 12:31-32 NKJV
In comparing this Scripture with other Scripture and putting it in its context, it is clear that Jesus is telling us that the one single unpardonable sin is to reject Jesus Christ.  If you deny the Holy Spirit, you deny the Word of God. If you deny the Word of God, you deny Jesus Christ.  Whatever it is you do in life is pardonable under the blood of Jesus with the one single exception being a rejection of His blood for your sins.  This rejection is compounded the more you know the Gospel.  Sodom never saw Jesus or His work.  Capernaum did see His work.  That is why their judgement is worse.  Sodom was horrible, but Capernaem rejected the Lord.  There is nothing worse, no greater sin, and therefore no greater judgement than for one who rejects Jesus. 

In the end, that is what is comes down to.  You can not point to a person and talk about how nice they are or how many goods deeds they have done.  You can not talk about how much you loved that person, even if that person was your own mother.  It does not matter if this person went to church, gave to the poor, and even dedicated their lives to the poor.  None of that will matter when standing before God without Jesus Christ as your savior.  The one question that will matter is how many chances you had to accept Jesus Christ and what you did with those chances.  The more knowledge of the gospel and the more chances you had to accept the free gift of salvation, the worse your judgement will be.  If you have not accepted Jesus, what will you do with this chance?
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Hebrews 10:29-31 NKJV

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