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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 5 What Is the Real Problem?

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Your Quest for God — Chapter 5

What Is the Real Problem?

In a deep sense [awareness] of moral evil, more perhaps than anything else, abides a saving knowledge of God.

—Dr. Arnold (Headmaster: Rugby Public School)

At the beginning of the twentieth century many people were very optimistic about the future of this world. They believed that it was about to enter a golden age of peace and prosperity. Many thought that the blessings of this new era would be seen in every country, even the countries where despair, disease and extreme poverty had inflicted indescribable suffering. But in 1914 the sirens of war sounded throughout Europe.

And today, as the twenty-first century unfolds, in spite of the incredible scientific breakthroughs that we have witnessed, people no longer seem to talk about a bright tomorrow. Instead, millions worry about the overkill capabilities of the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. The complexity of both international terrorism and national problems cause many thoughtful observers to conclude that we live in the most critical and potentially dangerous years of human history. We have already considered the polarization of people in today’s world. The very fiber of a civilized society is under attack. What went wrong?

In an effort to answer this question, notable world leaders meet and talk. As they air the issues and listen to each other’s theories and proposals, the world moves on from one crisis to another. Regardless of the amount of energy and money invested, nobody seems able to change the direction that the world is heading. Distinguished statesmen and politicians, brilliant scientists and scholars, shrewd businessmen and world bankers, revered doctors and sociologists all contribute their particular expertise. Still, no answer is found.

And from these learned men, there is seldom, if ever, a reference made to what God declares to be the real problem of man—the basic problem that must be identified before a solution can be found. Only God can make us aware of our real problem. And it is at this point that we often recognize the difference between those who really search for God and those who only have a religious curiosity.

God said: Let Us make man in Our own image (Genesis 1:26 NASB). You may ask: “In what way was man created in God’s image?” Certainly not in physical likeness, for the Lord Jesus said: God is Spirit (John 4:24 NASB). God does not have arms and legs and eyes as we do. And this God dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16 NASB). An invisible man has never existed. Therefore there must be something more valuable about people than the bodies they live in! It is this real person that lives on when the body gives up—the ‘person’ that was created after God’s likeness.

The Bible reveals that God has a mind, emotions and a will. And it is in these three areas that man was created in God’s image. Because He is God, however, His intellect, emotions and volition are infinite; in other words, without any limit. Such is His nature. By contrast, however, man is finite. Even the brilliant Einstein had a finite mind. No man can know everything, no man can love without limit, and certainly the will of man is not sovereign in the universe. He is not the master of his fate, nor is he the captain of his destiny.

Man’s personality, on the other hand, has a spiritual capacity in order that he may know and have fellowship with God. That is why the Bible makes it clear that man is spirit and soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB).

Through his spirit, man has the God-given potential to be intimately related to his Creator. Through his body, man’s personality (or soul i.e., or his capacity to think, choose and love) is related to the material world.

As long as we note the Biblical record of priorities which places the spirit first, the soul second and the body third, all is well!

But something went wrong. As a result, for many people, the order is reversed: the body becomes priority number one; the soul priority number two; and the spirit number three. Unfortunately in today’s world, many people’s physical, material and sensual interests dominate their thinking, their decisions and their affections, while their spiritual capacity lies dormant and dead. So, instead of God being permitted to restore spiritual life and control the very person He created, He is subordinated, or even dismissed, to the extent that there can be no communication between these misguided people and their Creator.

The person to whom God is distant and unreal is actually dead spiritually. On the other hand, the person who enjoys fellowship with God is truly and completely alive.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB).

The problems of this world all began in the will of man. God did not create people to be like puppets, which are unable to move without the will of another. By pulling the strings, the puppeteer controls every movement the puppet makes. God, on the other hand, has given us a free will to behave as we choose. But with the gift of that will, we also become morally responsible for the decisions we make. (That is hardly what you will hear from many psychiatrists who ignore Bible truth.)

A tragedy of the first order happened in the human race after man was created. Among the trees in the Garden of Eden there were two special ones. One was called The Tree of Life; the other, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9 NASB). Adam and Eve were told by God that they could eat from all the trees except from the The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By giving them this choice, a choice between obedience and disobedience, God made it very clear that He had created man—man and woman—with a free will. It was up to them whether they wanted to obey God or not. This was their own, personal decision.

Sadly, Adam and Eve rebelled against the very best that God had made available to mankind. God knew ahead of time that their decision to be disobedient would bring to Himself indescribable suffering, and that it would bring pain to all mankind. But, in His love for His creation and knowing the glory that would later be available to those who would make the right choice, God has given to every person the freedom to choose.

Satan, the liar, used his persuasive influence to tempt Adam and Eve to make the wrong choice. He glamorized the forbidden fruit by suggesting that if they were to eat it they would be like God. (Satan still suggests that man can be his own god. But just as God is God and can never be less than God, so man is man and can never be more than man). However, Satan seduced Adam and Eve into exerting their will against the will of God. As a result, each new generation of people is cut off from a vital, personal and intimate fellowship with the Creator, for all are the descendants of Adam. And: just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12 NASB).

Every cemetery, every hospital, every army and every prison that the world has ever known is the result of man’s wrong choice at the beginning of creation. This deadly evil in the human race, which we call sin, is an inborn disease affecting all mankind. Not only has sin severed man’s true fellowship with God, but it has also separated him from his fellow man.

But, you and I are not only sinners by birth; we are also sinners by deed.

As far as our birth is concerned, the Psalmist spoke for us all when he said: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalm 51:5 KJV). But that sin-inherited condition does not provide an excuse for the acts of sin that we all have committed. The Bible also states that we are—the children of disobedience…fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:2-3 KJV).

Yes, we are guilty before God because of our own disobedience. No one else can be blamed—not a wife nor a friend nor a parent. Even the background we come from and the environment in which we live cannot be faulted. You are responsible for your own sin, even as I am for mine.

The real reason that we see so much hostility and division between people is that sin is the common denominator of us all. Sin ties an atheist to a believer and an Arab to a Jew. Sin ties people in the Third World to people in the industrial world. Sin ties a communist to a capitalist, a policeman to a criminal, and a feminist to a male chauvinist. Whether people are prostitutes or preachers, whether they live in the height of luxury or the depth of poverty, whether they are educated or illiterate all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 NASB). And sin is the basic cause of all the tensions that exist among men.

But Jesus is the sinner’s hope! He said: I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13 KJV). Whether by a short or great distance, you and I have missed the mark of God’s holiness. The word ‘sin’ simply means ‘to miss the mark.’ By ourselves we can do nothing to correct that. It is a vain hope to think that we can find peace with God either by being good or doing good. It is: not as a result of works, that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:9 NASB). That is why when talking of salvation, Jesus said: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13 KJV).

A true understanding of the mercy of God brings overwhelming relief to people gripped by the seriousness of their personal sin.

Because God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4 NASB), all that He asks is that you receive salvation as His free gift. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8 KJV). Jesus himself paid the supreme sacrifice to open the door for a sinner to enter God’s holy presence.

The God of mercy has now made abundant life freely available through the Lord Jesus Christ. But, because He has given you a will, God will not compel you to partake of that life. How you respond to God’s offer of His free gift is a matter of great urgency. God says: now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 NASB). Now—not sometime in the future after you have tried to straighten out your life by yourself. Remember that Jesus said: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13 NASB).

To be honest about your real problem, the problem of sin, is the first step towards its solution. The arms of Jesus are open to receive you today, wherever you are and in whatever condition or state you are in. All He wants to hear from you is: God, be merciful to me, the sinner (Luke 18:13 NASB).

Pause to Consider

  1. Do you perceive that today there is something tragically wrong with society?
  2. When you are ill, is it vital that your doctor correctly diagnoses your sickness before giving you medicine?
  3. How does the Bible: Diagnose your problem? Prescribe the remedy for your problem? What is the real problem?
Chapter 4 What Really Divides People? ← Prior Section
Chapter 6 Why Are People so Misguided? Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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