Many who come to Christ these days do so not to escape God’s wrath but to access His “wonderful plan” for their lives. In this eye-opening message, Ray Comfort examines this unscriptural approach and explains how the moral law is used to drive sinners to Christ.
In God’s Word, James 5, verses 1 through 6, it says, “Come now you rich man, weep and wail for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you. It’ll eat your flesh as if it were fire. You have heaped up treasure together for the last days. Behold the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries. And the cries of them who have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived in pleasure on earth and have been wanton. You have nourished your hearts as in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed the just, and he does not resist you.”
We Cannot Serve God and Money
Obviously here, James is not condemning riches. He’s not condemning money, because we know that Abraham was rich. Zacchaeus gave away half his goods, and he was rich, so he was still half rich. There’s nothing wrong with riches. The Bible condemns the love of money, which we know. The Bible says we cannot serve God and mammon. If we love money, it will be our God. Money, not God, will be our sense of security. It will supply all our needs. It will give us a sense of peace and joy.
We often hear the phrase when someone’s going to die, “Well, you can’t take your riches with you.” If you’re a Christian, you don’t need to take them with you. We have an inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, reserved in Heaven. And the Bible tells us to set our affections on things above, not on things of the earth. The Scriptures say, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
“The Scriptures say, ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’”
On Monday, I was in a store and the guy who was serving me said, “How’s the world treating you?” Well, I felt like saying, “It hates me, it abuses me, and spits on me regularly. How’s it treating you?” A Christian doesn’t find security in the world system, but in God. Listen to what Jesus said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust is corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The Natural Progression of the Love of Money
There’s a natural progression with the love of money. In verse 6, James says, “You have condemned and killed the just, and he does not resist you.” The love of money will lead to oppression, injustice, and even to murder. In fact, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said if you love money, you will hate God, and therefore you’ll hate those who represent Him. So, what should the Christian attitude be to those that love money and therefore bring about oppression, injustice, and murder? Well, verses 7, 8, and 9 give us a clue. “Be patient therefore, brethren, for the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and has long patience for it until he receives the early and the latter rain. Be also patient, establish your hearts, for the coming for the Lord draws near. Murmur not against one another, brethren, lest you be judged. Behold, the judge stands at the door.”
Look at those phrases: “Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord,” verse 7. Verse 8, “For the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Verse 9, “Behold the judge is standing at the door.” So, what’s James saying? He’s saying there’s a law involved here. If you sow, you reap. That’s the law of God. Whatever you sow, that you should also reap. And if you sow sin, you will eventually reap judgment, and justice will receive retribution. “The coming of the Lord is near.” This is what James reminds us when there’s oppression. “The coming of the Lord is near, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Behold, the judge is standing at the door.” I don’t know how anyone can deny the justice of God. I don’t know how anyone can deny the fact that there’s going to be a Day of Judgment. To say that God has no sense of justice is to create an idol, a horrible idol, an unjust idol; a god that is so full of love he has no sense of right or wrong.
The Wickedness of Man
I was watching the History Channel, and I saw something that horrified me. It was looking at our history as a nation. In 1915, in the southern states, a 14-year old boy was being picked on or beaten by a white gentleman. The mother intervened to help her son, when a mob got hold of that mother and that son and hung them by the neck until they were dead. Now as I looked at the black and white picture and noticed that mob standing around, kind of like fishermen standing around with their fish, holding them up as a trophy, horror gripped my heart as I looked at the body of that dear mother and her beloved son, hanging by the neck.
Now I’m not exaggerating, but my heart is deceitfully wicked. I get people who call up and say, “I’m having such a battle with sin, would you pray for me?” And I say, “Why not just swap brains with me for an hour, and you’ll be pleased to get yours back?” My heart is desperately wicked, that’s not an exaggeration. I know that in me dwells no good thing. I have a constant battle with sin that comes from my own heart. And yet, when I looked at that picture, I was horrified with a sense of injustice. How much more is almighty God outraged by injustice?
Just today I saw on the television a news item where some woman in Sacramento had been murdered. Her body was hacked up with a chain saw, dismembered, and thrown into a river. All around us are horrific things, and all that’s happening is that sinners are storing up wrath that will be revealed on the Day of wrath. The Bible calls it the great and terrible Day of the Lord. The Scripture warns, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” L.E. Maxwell, the principal of Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada, wrote of students, “Who came to a knowledge of salvation, who were moved by fear and those who were moved by love.” So he had a survey among 2,507 students that came to his Bible college between 1931 and 1949, and asked them, “Were you moved by fear or by love when you came to Christ?” He found that 65 percent who came to Christ came by fear, and six percent were moved by love. The other 29 percent came with some other motive, or couldn’t remember why they came to the Savior, which is interesting.
Fear Is Necessary
This side of Judgment Day, I can only surmise how those not moved by fear found a place of repentance, because this is the thought that provokes me. When these people who came to Christ understood that they had sinned against God, didn’t they fear at all? How do they flee from that which was to come without fear? If they were moved by the love of God, which they saw on the cross, didn’t they fear the extreme God went to? He gave His Son who spilled His life’s blood; He became a curse for us on the cross.
As Christians, have they come to a point of fearing God yet? What do they think of when they read in Acts that God killed a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, because they told one lie? Did they think the psalmist was misguided when he said, “My flesh trembles for fear of you; I’m afraid of your judgments?” Have they obeyed the command of Jesus, “I will forewarn you of whom you should fear. Fear him who after he has killed has power to cast the soul into Hell. Yea I tell you, I say to you, fear him?”
If we had no sin, we should still fear God; we should tremble in His presence. The Bible says, “Jesus, who had no sin, was heard in that He feared.” Psalm 28 begins with the word, “Blessed is everyone that fears the Lord.” And then it gives the fruit of fearing God by saying, “Behold, that thus shall a man be blessed that fears the Lord.” Psalm 2 says, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” And the early church did just that. The Bible says they walked in the fear of the Lord. So, understandably, Maxwell’s conclusion was not a concern that so many had fled to Christ in fear, but that some hadn’t. When Bible teacher F.B. Meyer questioned 400 Christian workers as to why they came to Christ, he said this: “An overwhelming number testified that it was because of some message or influence of the terror of the Lord.” And then he said, “Oh, this is more than interesting, and astonishing. Especially in these days when we are rebuked often for not preaching more of the love of God.”
The Promise of Christianity Is Not One of Happiness
R.C. Sproul said, “There’s probably no concept in theology more repugnant to modern America than the idea of divine wrath.” We’ve had people call our ministry and leave messages saying, “You shouldn’t preach fear, there’s no such thing.” Obviously they don’t know their Scriptures. In verse 10, we see James say these words: “Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, affliction, and of patience.” What is he saying? “Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, affliction.” To spite the claims of modern evangelism, the promise of Christianity is not one of happiness.
“R.C. Sproul said, ‘There’s probably no concept in theology more repugnant to modern America than the idea of divine wrath.’”
I have preached in hundreds of churches, and what I’m going to share with you is an exaggeration to make a point; it’s called a hyperbole. But I know this does happen, I’ve heard it from experience. Someone gets to the pulpit at a service and says something like this, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants you to have true happiness and to give you what you’ve been trying to find in sex, drugs, alcohol, and money. True happiness. Jesus said, ‘I’ve come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.’ So come forward now and give your heart to Jesus so that you can experience this wonderful new life in Christ.”
Then in the next breath you hear from the pulpit, “While they’re coming, let’s pray for the Smith family who lost their two children in a car accident this week. Brother Jones has been diagnosed with cancer, remember to uphold the whole family. His wife had another miscarriage on Tuesday, and both of their other children are chronic asthmatics. Sister Bryant fell and broke her hip; she’s such a dear old saint. She had trial after trial in her life, especially since the death of her husband, Ernie. Elder Chambers lost his job this week, that’ll make things difficult for the Chambers family, especially with his upcoming triple bypass operation. Sister Lansing died of kidney failure on Monday night; keep the Lansing family in prayer because it’s their third tragedy they’ve had this year. How many of you here this morning need prayer for sickness, and have problems with depression? Oh, that many. You’d better stay in your seats, and we’ll have corporate prayer.”
Suffering is Expected
Folks, let me tell you about a few of my Christian friends that live in the real world. One brother and his wife, his name is Trevor and her name is Jan, have a number of children, I think three. They left to go to a meeting with their eldest son, a teenage boy they loved very much, to go to a meeting. On the way back from the meeting, they came back in separate cars. Trevor noticed a car had an accident. So as a Christian, he decided to stop and see what he could do to help. He got out of his car. As he looked in the car that had the accident, he found his teenage son dead, impaled on the steering wheel.
My senior pastor at the church I was at got up at 3 a.m. in the morning to counsel someone in the living room. As he stepped in the living room, he was attacked by a 14-inch blade machete and was so cut up that it brought him to a point very close to death and left him scarred for life, both physically and mentally, to where he had to give up his pulpit.
Other friends I have, Dave and Jane. Jane is a young mother, with I think three or four young boys. She got multiple sclerosis and became totally debilitated. Her husband, Dave, took over the duties. Unfortunately, he got cancer.
Another friend of mine who was a cartoonist for me, one of our graphic artists, married a woman whose husband, a Christian, had died of cancer, leaving her with five children to raise. He married her, and they were happily married for some time until she ran off with another guy. She took her five kids, leaving him with one he had made with her. Someone broke into his house a short time later and beat him to such a pulp that he had to be hospitalized.
Another friend of mine, his name is Murray, just before Christmas last year, lost his wife in death, in a tragedy so horrific, so sad, I’m not at liberty to share the details with you.
On June 19th, 2000, five trainees from the New Tribes Mission pitched a tent in a violent storm in Mississippi. One of the girls, a 20-year old, a sweet young girl who was a missionary named Jenny Knapp, grabbed the tent pole that was sagging as to support the roof, because it was caving in with the rain. As she held on to the tent pole and lifted it, a bolt of lightning struck that pole and sent lightning down her arm, burning her back, arm, and face. It stopped her heartbeat. They resuscitated her and took her to the hospital. She recovered, but she has secondary burns on her face, arm, and back and is terribly scarred and partially blind.
Now it’s a sad fact of life, but in the real-world lightning falls upon the just and the unjust. One church I hear of recently noticed the paradox in modern Christendom. They were called The Happy Church. They recently changed their name, for some reason. Could you imagine having “one of those days” and belonging to The Happy Church? Imagine that you’re like the apostle Paul, depressed beyond measure to a point where you want to die, and you belong to The Happy Church. I think if we want to cling to the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” message, we’ve got to hide Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Ever read that? It’s fine bedtime reading for your children.
Persecution Has Always Been a Portion of the Godly
Speaking of martyrdom, have you ever thought about what it would be like to be martyred for your faith? Have you ever considered what it would be like to be thrown into an arena full of lions, like a Roman arena? I’ve thought of it, I’ve got this fertile imagination. What would you do with the lions running toward you? Hold out your arm for the lion to chew first, or put your head down to get it over with? I’ve thought about it. I think I would run at a wall at 90 miles an hour and knock myself out. Could you imagine what it would be like to be huddled together as a family in a Roman arena, and you had got decisions from your children using the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” hook, as you look into your child’s eyes as he’s attacked by that lion?
These are terrible thoughts, but they’re not merely my fantasies. Multitudes of martyrs have suffered unspeakable torture for the name of Jesus Christ. It was no surprise to the early church when persecution hit them. Listen to what Jesus warned them as He said these words in Matthew 10:21: “Brother shall deliver brother to death, and the father the child, and the child shall raise up against their parents, or the children, and cause them to be put to death. And you shall be hated by all men for My name’s sake.”
History tells us the fate of the apostles. Philip was stoned to death in Phrygia, A.D. 54. Barnabas burned to death, Cyprus, A.D. 64. Peter crucified, Rome, A.D. 69. Paul beheaded, Rome, A.D. 69. Andrew crucified, Achaia, A.D. 70. Matthew beheaded, Ethiopia, A.D. 70. Luke hanged, Greece, A.D. 93. Thomas speared to death, Caminino, A.D. 70. Mark dragged to death, Alexandria, A.D. 64. James the Less clubbed to death, Jerusalem, A.D. 63. John abandoned on the Isle of Patmos, A.D. 63.
“Persecution has always been a portion of the godly.”
Persecution has always been a portion of the godly. Listen to what Scripture says: “They were tortured, had the trial of cruel markings and scourgings. Moreover of bonds and imprisonment they were stoned, they were torn asunder, they were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskin, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and in mountains and in dens and in caves of the earth.” Now perhaps some may argue that the Christian life is a wonderful life because God works all things out together for the good, to those that love God and those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), which is a wonderful promise. God promises no matter what comes to the godly, He will work to the good of those that love Him. That’s an incredible promise.
Martyrdom Marks the Messiah’s Messengers
In 1995 in mainland China, a young man named Lee was arrested for his faith. He no doubt claimed Romans 8:28. He knew that God was at work to will and to work for his good pleasure. And when he was beaten with a heavy club, kicked in the groin and stomach until he vomited blood, then beaten in the face with his Bible and left bleeding on the floor, the promise of God remained steadfast to him. In the year 1413 when John Huss was summoned to appear before the Roman Church council in Constance, when he was thrown in prison for 19 months, awaiting trial for his faith, he no doubt knew that God would work things out for his good. And when he was burned alive at the stake and his charred, lifeless body fell among the ashes, the wonderful promise that God would work such an unspeakable horror out for his good remained unwavering.
In a study in the Regent University in 1998, there were approximately 156,000 Christian martyrs throughout the world, and the promise of God remained true for every single one of them, all those that were children of God. When Muslims burst into churches in Rwanda in the late 1990s and hacked men, women, and children to death with sharp machetes, the many who bled to death who loved God and were called according to his purpose could too claim an incredible promise. It is wonderful that our creator would work all things out together for good. So why then shouldn’t we use that truth as bait when fishing for men? Simply because it is not scriptural to do so. You can search the Scriptures high and low or read the book of Acts and you will never find any of the disciples saying, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” You won’t find it there; it’s totally modern tradition.
Instead, the heroes were guilty criminals, enemies of God, who desperately needed righteousness before the Day of wrath. To a sinner, the word wonderful has positive, not negative connotations of machetes, hatred, persecution, beatings, and martyrdom. If they respond to that message to improve their lives, it won’t be long until persecution sorts them out. They’ll be disillusioned and fall away from their faith. Remember how Jesus didn’t shield Saul of Tarsus from the truth? This is what he said in Acts 9 verse 16: “For I will show him how many great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Perhaps the “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” message applies only to the United States. Well that may have been the case up until the shooting death of Cassie Bernall on April 20th, 1999. She was shot in the head in Littleton, Colorado, when she responded “Yes” to the question, “Do you believe in God?”
Why Would Anyone Become a Christian?
If this is the truth about the Christian life, who in his right mind would choose to become a Christian? What would bring anyone to the Savior if it’s not the promise of a wonderful new life in Christ? Well, here is the answer in a nutshell. I couldn’t put it any more plainly than this—Hell is a good reason. That’s why sinners should come to Christ, because God’s wrath abides on them. Without the righteousness of Christ, they’ll perish on the Day of wrath. They need to repent or they will perish. Why should we come to the Savior? Because the Judge stands at the door. We’re guilty criminals, transgressors of the modern law who desperately need the righteousness of God, which is alone in Jesus Christ. Those that come through that door understand that the Lord is very compassionate and tender of mercy.
Listen to verse 11: “Behold, we count men happy who endure. You’ve heard of the patience of Job and have seen the end of the law, that the Lord is very compassionate and tender of mercy.” Mercy is only mercy to those that truly see their guilt, and if there’s anything that dilutes the mercy of God, it’s the modern message. Some of you know that I take a team each Friday night to Santa Monica and preach. We had a rather eventful night there some nights ago. We take Lazarus, our mannequin, our dummy that we lay down, and put a sheet over him. People gather around. It’s a good talking point to remind people they have an appointment to keep, and that they’re going to die. It reminds them of death.
That night, three young ladies came up to the heckler’s microphone and said, “We’re witches.” Now a few years ago I would have smiled and dismissed it, but I felt to take seriously what they were saying. A little time later, another man got ahold of the microphone and revealed his Christian understanding. He said he had a pet hamster that died for our sins. If we would give our hearts to Jesus we would find peace and joy, so if we give our hearts to his hamster we would find peace and joy. Another young gentleman got ahold of the microphone, and after some time of speaking, began calling out, “Praise you Jesus, praise you Jesus,” revealing sometime later he also was a product of modern evangelism, a so-called back slider, or a false convert.
Then a young man came and began doing lewd sexual acts on Lazarus. The crowd became very angry, began spitting, and there was lots of blasphemy. A young lady kept pointing and screaming out, “You’re Satan, you’re Satan,” and began bearing her breasts to try to take my mind off preaching. I looked the other way.
As I was standing there speaking, suddenly a gentleman, a young man in his teens, came rushing from my left and hit Lazarus with his foot with such violence, the head of the mannequin actually exploded. I jumped down off my soap box, grabbed this guy by the shirt, and said, “That mannequin cost me a lot of money. You have just destroyed my property. You owe me $80. Give it to me now.” His eyes widened, as I guess he didn’t expect a Christian to react like that, and he got his wallet out and emptied it. I got the money and passed it to a friend. The friend counted it and said, “There’s only $28 here.” I turned to the guy and said, “There’s only $28, I said $80. You got any credit cards?” He says, “No.” I said, “You’re in big trouble.”
The crowd was listening. I had my microphone, and it thickened—nothing like that to thicken a crowd—and I said, “This young man has destroyed my property; he has broken the law. I am holding him on citizen’s arrest because he has no means of payment.” I said to the crowd, “You’re being held under arrest because you have transgressed God’s Law, and you’ll be held under arrest until death seizes upon you and sentence is given.” I said, “This is proof you have violated the Law.” And I went through the Ten Commandments and spoke of lust being the same as adultery in God’s sight, hatred the same as murder, if they had lied or stolen they were lying thieves, and God has seen every transgression of His Law.
Even though we’re guilty, the Bible tells us God is rich in mercy, and sent His Son, born of a woman, to die on the cross for us. He took our punishment; He was bruised for our iniquities. God commanded His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God can extend His mercy to us. He can say to us, “You’re free to go. You can have your soul back. I give you your life,” if you repent and trust in him. I turned to my friend and said, “Give me that money.” I was still holding that guy by the shirt sleeve. I said, “Here you are, here’s your money back. You can go.” His eyes widened because he didn’t expect it. It was a demonstration of mercy in the truest sense of the word.
This young man had been caught with a smoking gun. He had been caught in the act of violating the law. He had no means of payment, no means of atonement, and I had offered him mercy. Not because he deserved it; there was nothing in him that drew mercy out of my heart. It simply felt like showing him mercy. That’s exactly what God did for you and I. We were caught in the act. God saw every transgression of His Law, and we were in debt to eternal justice. We had no means of payment and no means of atonement, but God paid the fine for us, and now He says, “You can have your soul back.” Those who come to Christ and make a commitment not understanding that, how deep and how in debt we are to God’s Law, will never understand the mercy of God and Jesus Christ. It dilutes that message.
The Moral Law
In verse 12 we read, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath. But let your yes be yes, and your no be no, lest you fall into condemnation.” Never trust anyone, any human being, that makes you a promise. People who promise are usually liars. Their yes is not good enough. The Scripture here says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” If someone says to me, “I’ll bring that book around to you, I promise I’ll bring it around,” that means the yes is not enough and they have to back it up with an oath. They’re normally transgressors of the Ninth Commandment; they’re liars by nature. That’s why it’s so important as a Christian to keep your word. God forgive me if I never keep my word.
Psalm 15 says, “If you say something, swear to your own hurt.” In other words, if you say you’ll do something, do it exactly when you’ll do it. Even if it hurts you to do so, swear to your own hurt. Look at Matthew 5, verse 17. Jesus said these words: “Think not that I’ve come to destroy the Law nor the prophets, but to fulfill. For verily I say to you till Heaven and Earth pass, one jot or one tittle of the Law shall in no wise pass. It shall all be fulfilled.” Well Heaven and Earth hasn’t passed; that Law is still here.
In verse 21 of Matthew 5, Jesus begins expounding the Law. “Isaiah says he shall magnify the Law and make it honorable.” All the Sermon on the Mount is, the greatest sermon ever preached, is expounding on that moral Law of the Ten Commandments, “You have heard that it was said by them of old, thou shalt not kill. And whoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment.” Now Jesus is not correcting the Law, but expounding it. “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of judgment. And whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council. But whosoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be in danger of hellfire.”
You see, God requires truth on the inward parts. Paul speaks of the spirituality of the Law. He says, “The Law is spiritual.” You see, even civil law is spiritual. If you conspire within your mind to assassinate the President of the United States you can go away to prison for a long time, even though you didn’t do it, just because you conspire in your mind and it is found out. You write it on paper or something, it manifests so a man can see it. God sees the thoughts and he says, “You conspire to do it. You desire to do it, and you’ve done it.”
In verse 27, He’s opened up the Sixth Commandment, and now He opens up the Seventh. “You have heard it was said by them involved, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’” the Seventh Commandment. He doesn’t correct the Law; he expounds the Law and brings out the spiritual nature. “But I say to you that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” Then in verse 33, “You have heard that it had been said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not purge thyself, but shall perform unto the Law of thine oaths.’” This is a general reference to the Ninth Commandment. Then Jesus says the same thing as James: “But I say to you, swear not at all, neither by Heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is a city of the great king. Neither shall they swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your yes be yes and your no be no, for whatever is more than these comes of evil.”
The Law Must Be Used Lawfully
That moral Law that Jesus expounded brings us the knowledge of sin; it reveals to us the holy standard of God. It is the righteousness which is of the Law; it is the righteousness that God will judge with on the Day of Judgment. God will judge the world in righteousness, and it is the righteousness which is manifest in that Law. Timothy said in 1 Timothy 1:8, “The Law is good if it is used lawfully.” God’s Law is good if it’s used lawfully.
Probably about three months ago, there was a massive thunderstorm in Southern California. It was like an Oklahoma or Texas thunderstorm with big claps of thunder. We went to Santa Monica in faith, hoping it wouldn’t rain. It did. Just as I began preaching, it started to pour. Man, it poured. So our team decided we would find refuge, probably about 30 of us, under the theater veranda at Santa Monica. We went out and bought a couple of huge pizzas and sliced up little slices. It was about 8:00, so some of us were hungry. We began eating pizza and I noticed there was a homeless woman amongst us, and she had picked up a piece of pizza. Someone had encouraged her to, which was great.
I stood back and I watched her fighting with that pizza; it was a quite the battle. She had about two teeth in the front and a huge rubber band, about 18 inches long. I went up to her as she was trying to bite that pizza and said, “Do you want some scissors?” She smiled, and I said, “Would you like another piece? Just go and help yourself.” She said, “Oh no, no, no.” About five minutes later, I noticed this elderly woman, this homeless woman, had gone across and helped herself to another piece of pizza. It was heartwarming to see that.
Around that time, I noticed the manager of the theater had come in our midst, and he was looking all around over the hedge. And I thought to myself, “He wants to get rid of us, but he doesn’t know who are customers and who is part of our team.” I thought, “What’s he keep looking for?” After about five or ten minutes, two police officers arrived. I couldn’t believe what I saw. That manager looked at the policemen, looked at the homeless woman, and said, “Get her out.” I heard the policemen protest and say, “You can’t send an elderly woman out into the rain.” He again said, “Get her out.”
So they put their hand on her shoulder. I went up to her and I had a hand full of one dollar bills, probably 15 or 20. I give them away on Friday nights as a crowd drawer, just to illustrate about faith without works being dead. So I went up behind the elderly woman and grabbed her by the hand. She thought I was arresting her, so she pulled her hand back. But I turned her over and slapped that bundle of one dollar bills in her hand. Suddenly her mourning turned to joy, and she went off into the rain with a smile on her face.
That was an unlawful use of the law. Civil law was never designed to turn an elderly, homeless woman out into the rain. And God’s Law is good if it’s used lawfully for the purpose for which it was designed. God’s Law was never designed for justification, never. Nowhere in Scripture will you find anyone getting right with God purely by the Law. The Law cannot justify; it wasn’t given for that purpose. A mirror doesn’t wash those that behold themselves in it; that’s not its purpose. The mirror shows yourself in truth. And God’s Law reveals what we are in truth, and reflects our true self. Nor was the Law used or given for legalism, where people say, “Touch not, taste not, handle not, you can’t do this as a Christian, you can’t do that.” No, that’s not a lawful use of the Law.
The Necessity of the Law
The Law is good if it is used lawfully for the purpose for which it was designed. And it was designed to bring the knowledge of sin and to drive sinners to the Savior. And when you drop that Law, then you have to use other hooks, like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” something unscriptural. But that Law will drive sinners to Christ, bring the knowledge of sin, show them the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ alone, and put such a burning gratitude in the heart of those that tasted that mercy because they’ve seen their guilt and that they deserve nothing but Hell, and yet God gave them Heaven.
John Wesley, in speaking of the Christian’s attitude of the Law, said some interesting things. God’s Law not only brings us to the Savior, evangelistically, but it keeps us at His feet, trusting in His blood. Let me show you what I mean. This is what Wesley says is the Christian’s attitude of the Law: “While he cries out, ‘Oh what love I have for thy Law, all the day long is my study in it,’ he sees daily, in that divine mirror, more and more of his own simpleness.” As a Christian, it’s my knowledge of that Law that keeps me away from loving money more than God. “You shall have no other gods before me;” that Law doesn’t condemn it, it just gives me a knowledge of sin. I know what sin is.
And another: we’re commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as thyself. So I dare not set my affection on money. It’s so easy to look at money as your sense of security, for money to be your peace, for money to be your joy. But Jesus said, “You cannot.” That’s a word of ability, not a word of permission. “You cannot serve God and mammon. You’ll either love the one and hate the other, or cleave to one, despise the other. You shall not make yourself a graven image.”
When I look at that Law, it doesn’t condemn it, but it shows me what sin is and I know it’s wrong to create a god to suit my sins, like when I say, “Oh, God doesn’t mind this and God doesn’t mind that,” something totally contrary to what I know is revealed in God’s Word. It’s so easy to create an idol, to create a god to suit yourself. “You shall not use God’s name in vain.” How many Christians say, “My God,” and don’t mean it? Or use words like, “Geez;” we know where that comes from. We should fear and tremble. Godly Jews won’t even speak God’s name, let alone use it as some kind of word of vanity.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” I’m not in bondage to the Law, but I know that I should rest my body one day a week, and it makes sense, too. “Honor your father and mother.” My parents are elderly, and I know that I should honor them in every way I can and take care of them. The Bible says, “Respect your parents.” Sixth, “You shall not kill.” But if I get angry, that cause is in danger of judgment. And driving the freeways, I can feel murder rise in my heart real easy. If someone doesn’t signal, I lose my mind. I have to say, “Lord, please forgive me.” “You shall not steal, you shall not lie, you shall not covet.” It’s so easy in this materialistic world to become greedy and want things all the time, but that Law is a divine mirror. Wesley says, “The Christian sees more and more clearly that he is the fullness, a sinner in all things. That neither his heart nor his ways are right before God, but at every moment sins unto Christ. Therefore I cannot spare the Law one moment no more than I can spare Christ.”
We Cannot Spare the Law
Listen to what Wesley’s saying; what a statement! “Therefore I cannot spare the Law one moment no more than I can spare Christ, seeing I now want it as much to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to Him. Otherwise this evil heart of unbelief would immediately depart from the living God. Indeed, each is continually sending me to the other. The Law to Christ, and Christ to the Law.”
That is basically what James is saying in verse 12: “But above all things my brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by Earth, neither by any other oath. But let your yes be yes and your no be no, lest you fall into condemnation.”
Father, we thank you for your Word. Without it, we wouldn’t have a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We would be in the blackness of ignorance. We thank you for your Law that reveals your righteousness. We thank you that it, too, is a light. The Commandment is a lamp, and the Law is light. Lead us and guide us, help us to walk in holiness, and to walk in the fear of God. To tremble at the fear of you, to tremble at your Word. To live lives free of sin, for your Word says, “Through the fear of the Lord men depart from sin.” In Jesus’ name, amen.