The Preacher Says....  
  A World Full of Good Men  
  Matthew 19. 16 – 19

Consider the proposition that I—me, that is—am a good man. I work hard, am a good provider, love my family, keep regular habits, and wouldn’t even think of blatant stealing, nor practice the more subtle forms of thievery, like cheating on my income tax or overcharging clients. I am sober, reasonably given to charity, and will often win the battle that goes on within me to do my duty as a man and that which is proper in society.

Now consider a second proposition. Although I am good, it’s possible—even probable—that each one of you is better than I am. To conclude, you and I ought to be proud of the fact that we are good. You ought to love yourselves, and I ought to love myself, because we are good.

Temper these conclusions with the following observations. Within a 5 mile radius of this building, there are probably 5 times as many good men as in this room. The world is full of good men and women better than we are. Although I’m a good man now, I may not be as good as I was prior to June 1, 1952, almost twenty years ago.

These words seem pompous—in tune with the times—but very much out of tune with the Holy Scriptures. Consider this sentence, “I’m a good man”. Strange as it may seem the trouble doesn’t lie with the adjective “good”, but the subject “man”. I am good, you are good, but we are men. What’s the inference here? Speaking empirically, not scripturally, it means that I like the environment in which I find myself, and I’ve learned to cope with it just like everybody else. Limited by time and space I’m subject to the same hazards that confront all living creatures. I know I’m part of an imperfect world—imperfection that manifests itself in cholera epidemics, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, monsoons, and the various medical defects that affect mankind. And for all these things and others like them, I deny responsibility. I further deny that I was conceived in sin as we use that word. This statement is no more than an affirmation that we are all born of sinful flesh. I’m not ashamed of having been born, nor do I feel guilty for the conflict of impulses within myself. I am not responsible for any of those things, any more than I am responsible for being 5’9” tall, bald, and weigh in at 160 pounds. Actually, this is a sad commentary on my religious training—or my reaction to it—that I should have to make this disclaimer. I must confess that even now I feel guilty for this denial. There was a time—and it affects me even now—when I thought the only way to think of myself was as a worthless human being. If you have been or are similarly affected, it’s time you re-examined your view of yourself, your nature and the meaning of sin.

If we are all such good men, why is the Bible so full of language about sin? Let’s review. The Bible was, by and large, written by and for people who had a very direct responsibility to God, either as Israelites under the Mosaic Law, or Christians, under the Law of Christ, who in the larger sense are called spiritual Israel. The Bible uses the word sin in two ways:

(1) To describe the consequences of Adam’s sin: mortality and imperfection.

(2) To describe the transgressions of God’s law by those responsible to it.

Paul illustrates;

Just as sin entered the world Through one man, and death through sin, In this way death came to all men Because all have sinned. (Romans 5. 12).

In short, sin may be called a synonym for human nature. But God has provided an ‘out’ for mankind, an escape in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

Since by man came death, By man came also the resurrection of the dead, For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ Shall all be made alive. (1Cor 15. 21, 22).

The Bible comes down hard on sin, because sins are being committed by people who are supposed to be new creatures. In an earlier reference to people within 5 miles of this place who are better than we are, who have concluded with Solomon that all is vanity—today’s existentialists--they yearn along with Job for answers to the mysteries of life and death, and they pray to be remembered. Reconciled to their fate in life, they love their children, are faithful to their families, and try to do good to their fellowman. In fact, they are like the Gentiles described by Paul in Romans, who have not the law, but do by nature the things contained in the law. However, omitting the weightier matter of the Law, they have not put themselves under Christ’s Law. In his last words to his disciples after the resurrection, he admonished them to: Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you: and lo. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt 28. 19, 20). Many persons, even though the law of right and duty is written on their hearts, have not cast their lot with Christ. I know such people. Perhaps they feel worthless, and refuse to take the step; or perhaps they fear they will become worthless because they cannot live up to Christ’s ideals. They are men with much less to hope for than we, yet unwittingly honor their God far more, by their works among men.

If we consider ourselves very good, however, what is the problem? The problem lies in the comparison we make with those not responsible under the law with ourselves who are committed to Christ in baptism. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, (2Cor 5. 17), and we are very poor new creatures. This is the problem that confronted me in the days after June 1, 1952, the date I was baptized. If you have to feel guilty about something, don’t feel guilty about being a man. Feel guilty about not living up to the fact that you are a new creature. But don’t feel too guilty, in spite of what Jesus said about no man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is not fit for the kingdom of God. You haven’t looked back. You just aren’t pushing the plow hard enough. God will forgive you for this if you don’t give up and continue to keep trying.

Our God is not a God of fear; He is a God of love and mercy. Indeed, He is our Father. So don’t hate yourself. You can’t be humble in a way that is pleasing to God unless you have some confidence in yourself, as in the attitude of one recent convert, who did not view himself as ‘sinking in sin’, but rather one who recognized his mortality and had the determination to do something about it. He purposed to develop the mind of Christ, who walked a humble road, serene and strong. That’s what I want to do, too, and with God’s help, I can. I want to be like Jesus. I want to walk the humble road, serene and strong—surely, a good way to go.