The Bible teaches that "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). We are all born into the slavery of sin and are under the wrath of God until we are set free by Jesus Christ. That certainly isn't a message the world wants to hear.
The world wants to celebrate the righteousness of man: They want to believe that we are all basically good. But Romans 3:10 tells us God's perspective from heaven: "There is none righteous, no, not one." The world thinks if you are really religious and work really hard doing good things, then you earn your way to heaven. But the Bible says those who realize that they are sinners and place their faith in Jesus Christ (like the thief on the cross) are the ones who will be with Him in paradise (see Luke 23:39-43).
God's attitude toward sin has never changed. Romans 3:19 tells us that the whole world is guilty before God. "Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin ... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (vv. 20, 23-24).
Paul points to Abraham as our example. "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3). On the other hand are those who "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:2-4).
Man is incurably addicted to working for his own salvation. I don't know what it is about us. We can't just say, "I am not good enough, I accept Your gift." No, we say, "I am going to be good. I am going to pull up my boot straps and earn salvation." The problem is ignorance; it's "not according to knowledge." In other words, we don't have a correct understanding of the revealed will of God in the Scriptures.
Paul said this: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). Here are two essential articles of faith: acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus -- that He is God in human flesh -- and that He rose physically from the dead.
And it goes on: "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame ... whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (vv. 11, 13). It's the gospel of grace, not through works, not through religion, not through moralistic behavior, but through faith.
We all have sinned; there is none righteous in His sight -- not one. People aren't basically good. All people are basically wicked and must be redeemed. Unless we understand that, we will never understand the meaning of the gospel. The good news is what Jesus is willing to do for each one of us -- to forgive us and to declare us righteous.
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