How Great A Sinner Are You?
Although it occurred about thirty-six years ago, not long after I first arrived from Ireland, I remember the conversation as if it happened yesterday. I had been "volunteered" to be a part of an evangelistic team whose task it was to visit every home in Toronto with the message of the Gospel. We were representing first and foremost the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and secondly Jarvis Street Baptist Church, a well known historic evangelical church near the city centre.
I had made several calls that evening but only one stands out in my memory. The house was an older well kept, ivy covered brick home in a respectable and affluent area of the city.
The man who opened the door in response to my knock was well groomed and very polite. He had the kind of confidence which is born of success. I introduced myself and explained the purpose of my visit. He smiled indulgently,
"My dear fellow", he said, "This is a respectable neighbourhood. We are all good people around here."
He paused for a moment and then went on. "I’m quite religious and I’m not really a great sinner. The message you have is for great sinners."
For a second or two, I prayed quietly. "How shall I answer this man?" I felt a little intimidated for a moment, but I composed myself quickly.
"Sir," I said, "If a man broke the greatest of all of God’s commandments, would that make him a great sinner?"
He looked a little puzzled and then the air of confidence returned. "Yes, I’d say so." He replied. "But I’d never do anything like that."
I quickly opened my New Testament at Matthew 22 and requested him to read aloud verses 35 to 40 inclusive.
He took my New Testament and began reading with a look that said, "Oh, I’ll indulge him for a few minutes."
He read the words clearly...at first:
"Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
By the time he got to verse thirty-eight, his look of confidence had begun to ebb and so had the colour in his cheeks.
When he finished reading, his eyes were toward the paved door step.
"No one keeps those commandments", he almost whispered.
"That is true." I replied. I then went on to quote Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God."
The man nodded his agreement. The Holy Spirit was working through the Word of God convicting him of sin. He listened receptively as I related to him the story of redeeming Grace and of the Saviour who bore the penalty of sin on Calvary. I rejoiced that the good news is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
R. A. Torrey, a famous American preacher of a bygone era, when he was in Australia, was approached by a man who looked like a boxer. He said to Torrey, "I am not a Christian, but I am moral, upright, honorable and blameless, and I’d like to know what you have against me."
Mr. Torrey looked the man straight in the eye and replied, "I charge you, sir, with high treason against Heaven’s King!"
God’s great commandment is that we love Him with all our heart with all our soul and with all our mind. To disobey this great commandment is indeed high treason against the King Eternal. Since Adam transgressed in the garden of Eden no one except the Man Christ Jesus, who is God manifest in the flesh, has kept this the greatest of all commandments. Since we have broken such a weighty commandment as this we have absolutely no hope of earning salvation by our good works.
As we read in Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." And in Romans 3:20, "Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin."
No, there is no justification by good works or keeping the law, but there is justification through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:1, we read these tremendous words, "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
My wife sometimes sings an old hymn which declares the divine principle of salvation by grace alone. Do you agree in your heart with the words it proclaims?