The Tale Of Two Men*
I have a story for you to think about concerning two different men who were identical in many ways, except that first one, a wealthy man, learned one day that he would be receiving a gift of ten million dollars. He was pleasantly surprised and happy about his good fortune, but the news was not life changing for him.
The other man was not only poverty stricken, he was blind. He couldn’t work to earn a living. He wondered every day where his next meal was coming from and where he would be sleeping that night. This man was also told that he would be receiving ten million dollars. As you might imagine, this news would completely alter his life.
Both of these men received identical news. So which do you think was happiest? There is, of course, a catch. I said earlier that these two men were identical, and in a spiritual sense all men are identical in their condition before God. However, some men do not see their spiritual need, or understand their standing before a holy and righteous God. But the scriptures are clear regarding our spiritual state. All men are blind naked and poor and are in need of a redeemer. 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 you who fits the description above of being poor, blind when it comes to righteousness and your ability to grasp the extent to which you have fallen short. And then there is God, who is holy, righteous, perfect and just. The Gospel is all about reconciling you to Him.
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 the Christian culture that you will be living in. This culture loves the grace part of the Gospel. He loves the promise of his sins being forgiven. He loves the saved-from-Hell part. But, like the rich man, his life will not be impacted much by the free gift of salvation because he never fully grasped his own condition before God. He therefore never fully grasped what a great salvation his salvation actually was, if in fact he was ever truly saved at all. And because his view of himself is distorted, his view of God is distorted. And because his view of God is distorted, his view of the Gospel is distorted.
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 depths of our true despair before God. It may well even be beyond our ability to grasp it. While we all probably have a trace of the first man in us, to the extent that we realize that we are really the second man, that we really are wretched, blind and poor, to that same extent we will fall in love with the Gospel. But to the extent that we cannot grasp our true condition before God as fallen, again to that same extent we are likely to pervert the Gospel, or even become ashamed of it. This has become evident in your day. The Gospel has become “God loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life”. This is like telling a rich man that he’s getting some extra cash. The rich man says “Oh, that’s very nice, thank you.” I promise you this, dear children, this is not how one who understands his true situation before God responds to the true Gospel. The proper response is that of Paul, 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)
And here is another truth about the other half of the Gospel the attributes of God. He is holy, righteous, perfect and just. Because of these attributes, and because of the condition of man, it is right that God’s wrath would abide on man. And that is the sore point in the Gospel. Man uses a different standard to judge righteousness than God does. Man uses himself as the standard. But God uses perfection, which is Himself, and God wins. Man must judge himself according to God’s standards, which is 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 condition in the light of the glory of God, the whole Gospel is foolishness and repulsive to him. The response by the man who truly understands the Gospel is praise in reckless abandon.
You live in a material world dear children. Every minute of every day of your life will not be lived in this 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, to die 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. It is a beautiful metaphor that highlights man’s condition and God’s providence of placing man in the cleft of that rock which symbolizes Jesus. It is a prayer put to song, which, as you know, I love. But consider the doctrine of the Gospel in this song. The writer understood two things about the Gospel: 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