The Tale Of Two Men
I have a story for you to think about. It concerns two men who, by happenstance, received an unearned and undeserved fortune. The men were identical in many ways except that one was extremely wealthy and the other was extremely poor.
When the wealthy man learned of his good fortune, he was, as you might imagine, pleasantly surprised and happy. But, as you also might imagine, the news was not a life-changing event for him.
The poor man, on the other hand, was not only poverty-stricken, he was blind. He couldn’t work to earn a living and he wondered every day where his next meal would come from and where he would be sleeping that night. Understandably, the news of such good fortune would radically alter this man’s life.
It seems rather obvious which of these two men would be the happiest upon hearing of such news. There is, of course, a catch. I said earlier that these two men were identical in many ways. But in a spiritual sense this is not true. No, from a spiritual perspective, all men are like the poor man. They, indeed we, are all poverty-stricken and blind in our condition before God. However, some men do not see their spiritual poverty, nor do they grasp their standing before a holy and righteous God. But the scriptures are clear regarding this condition of ours. We are all blind, naked and poor and are in desperate need of some good news. To the extent that a person realizes this, that person can also receive with great joy the Gospel, and his life will forever be changed.
I draw this comparison from Revelations 3:
Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. (Rev 3:17-20 NASU)
The Gospel involves two parts. There is the “you,” who fits the description of being poor and blind when it comes to righteousness and your ability to grasp the extent to which you have fallen short of it. And then there is God, who is holy, righteous, perfect, and just. The Gospel is all about reconciling that sort of man to God.
You will be living your lives in a culture that has rejected God, yes, this is true. But, if you continue in your faith, you will also be living your lives among a Christian subculture that is no longer aware of half of the Gospel. The first man represents much of that Christian subculture. This culture loves the grace part of the Gospel. It loves the promise of our sins being forgiven. It loves the saved-from-Hell part. But, like the rich man, the life of this man is not impacted much by the free gift of salvation. In this culture, there seems to be a general sense that God owes us His salvation because we are intrinsically worth saving.
But here is the truth about the half of the Gospel that the modern affluent Christian downplays. Man is depraved. I am convinced that we have no idea the actual depths of our true despair before God. It may well even be beyond our ability to grasp. Yet, while we all probably have a trace of the wealthy man in us, to the extent that we realize that we are really the poor man, that we really are wretched and blind, to that same extent we will fall in love with the Gospel. But to the extent that we cannot grasp our true condition, to that same extent we are likely to pervert the Gospel, or even become ashamed of it. Such a man has become evident in your day. The Gospel has become, “God loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life.” A message like that is akin to telling a rich man that he’s getting some extra cash. The rich man says, “Oh, that’s very nice, thank you.” But that’s not how one who understands his true standing before God responds to the true Gospel. The proper response is more like that of Paul’s, who exclaimed “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25)
Compounding the reality of our own condition, there’s another truth about the Gospel that concerns the attributes of God. He is holy, righteous, perfect, and just. Such words deserve meditation. And because of these attributes, and because of the condition of Man, it is right, true, and just that God’s wrath would abide on Man, which, as it turns out, is the sore point with the Gospel. Man uses a different standard to judge his own righteousness than does God. Man tends to use himself as the standard. But God uses a different standard than corrupt Man, He uses Himself for the standard, and that standard is perfection. Man must, therefore, judge himself according to God’s standards if he is to have any chance of getting a glimpse of his true condition. And again, therein lies the problem. When Man adopts God’s standards of righteousness, he must accept that he is not only condemned, his condemnation is the only holy, righteous, perfect and just verdict that can be given. Man must accept that he is poor and blind. Before Man’s eyes are opened to his own condition in the light of the glory of God, the whole Gospel is foolishness and repulsive to him. On the other hand, the response of the man who truly understands the Gospel is praise in reckless abandon.
You live in a material world dear children. It goes without saying, therefore, that every minute of every day of your life will not be lived in an exuberant thanksgiving for the Gospel. But never let yourself stray very far from the reality of it. Spend time meditating on the significance of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Consider who He is and that He came into this sinful and rebellious world to reconcile Man, who was dead in his sins, by dying on the cross. Meditate on the holiness and righteousness of God, and His love for those who have been reconciled to himself. Never forget the eternity that you were saved from, nor the eternity that you were saved into. Examine yourself often.
I will close this letter by including the lyrics to a song written a couple hundred years ago in an age in which the Gospel had not yet been so perverted. It is drawn from Exodus 33 wherein God protects Moses from himself as a type and shadow of the coming Savior. It is a beautiful metaphor that highlights Man’s condition and God’s providence through hiding Man in the cleft of Jesus which is symbolized by the rock. It is a prayer put to song, which, as you know, I love. But consider the doctrine of the Gospel presented in this song. The writer understood two things: his condition, and God’s holiness.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee
I pray that you would rush to cross and cling with all your might. I pray that the good news of the Gospel would fill your every heart with gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. With prayer and love,