Dear Friend,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I was a boy I was taught by well meaning people that in order to go to Heaven I would have to be good. I was taught that good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell. In order to be good I would have to be baptized in water, go to church on a regular basis and keep all the commandments of God. To me this sounded very logical, after all, God is good and surely He would only receive good people. The problem that I encountered very quickly was trying to be good. I failed miserably in my attempt.

Being baptized in water was easy, my parents had me baptized in a Lutheran church when I was eight years old. I don't recall making a decision in that process, I may have, but I don't remember. Going to church regularly worked out fine until I found more interesting things to do, like playing football, baseball, watching TV, etc. In other words, I went to church when I felt like it or when my parents insisted that I go. When I did go I was putting in a good appearance but my heart wasn't in it.

The real difficulty came when I began to learn the commandments of God. I didn't have any false gods (Ex. 20:3), nor did I have any images (Ex. 20:4-6). Our family was not Roman Catholic. I had broken the 3rd commandment (Ex. 20.7) many times by the time I was eight years old. That is, I had taken the name of God in vain frequently. Remember the Sabbath day (Ex. 20:8-11) was never kept in our house even when we thought it meant going to church on Sunday. Honour thy father and mother(Ex. 20:12)? Are you kidding? In America? I was a rebel from a very young age. I loved my parents dearly and was willing to obey them when they were watching, but when they weren't looking, well, that was a different matter. I hadn't killed anyone (Ex. 20.13) nor had I committed adultery (Ex. 20:14).Stealing (Ex. 20:15) was quite another matter. With great shame I confess that I stole just for the fun of it. The thrill of it. I think my companions in crime and I put a couple of stores out of business. Bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16)? Lying came naturally to me. Thou shalt not covet (Ex. 20:17)? I really didn't want my neighbors junk, I wanted my own. Actually, I did want all that the store owner had on display and I helped myself quite a few times.

If keeping the commandments of God was the key to getting to Heaven, it became very evident to me that I wasn't going to make it. I ceased all attempts to make it to Heaven. I didn't stop believing in God, the very thought of Him scared me. I refused to play church. I had many Catholic friends who thought themselves O.K. because they went to church once a week for an hour. In fact, I almost became a Catholic because they could check in and out in one hour and our family's church services (Lutheran and Baptist)always lasted for at least two hours if not more! Plus they insisted we go twice on Sunday. This was just too much for me.

I was in a quandary, I had to be good in order to go to Heaven, yet I wasn't good at all. I'm not sure that I even gave an honest attempt at trying. Once I saw that I broke half of the ten commandments before I was 15 years old, I just gave up all hope of being saved. I was left with just two options, I could "pretend" that I was good (I wasn't) or I could give up on my attempt at trying to be good. I elected the later.

It was some years later when a friend suggested that I read the Bible. I immediately resisted as the thought of exposing my sins to God's word again only brought shivers up and down my spine. But after admitting that I wasn't good enough to get to Heaven, I heard something that I had never heard before: Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. With my interest sufficiently heightened I began reading some very interesting things in the Bible (KJV). I was correct in my assumption that I could not keep the commandments of God. In fact, God's law was given for the purpose of exposing my sin.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 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.

Romans 3:19,20

I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Romans 7:7

If keeping the commandments of God was the ticket, God demanded that all of them be kept. After all, the 10 commandments were not 10 suggestions.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

James 2:10-11

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Galatians 3:10,11

Not in all my wildest imaginations did I ever dream of reading:

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10-12

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Mark 10:18

How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?

Job 25:4-6

What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?

Job 15:14-16

God's description of me was not comforting at all. These types of verses do not inspire thoughts of the basic "goodness of man" in general. A reflection upon the genocide that went on here in Poland just 50 years ago along with the killings in Bosnia, Africa, Russia, China, and around the world will forever squelch the thought of the basic goodness of man. Man is not basically good. He is in his very core, evil.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

Romans 3.23

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Romans 7:18

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Romans 5:12

Of course I already knew many of these things by experience. All my attempts to be good had failed because there was no good in me. I was evil and a sinner from birth. How could I therefore ever be good? All my efforts were destined to failure. No amount of painting, perfuming, renaming my sin(Ex: drunkard - alcoholic, fornicator - lover) or pretending would ever change the glaring fact that I was a wicked sinner in God's eyes.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Matthew 23:27

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isa 64:6

As if this wasn't bad enough the glaring reality of Hell set in with all its' weight and power.

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

Ps 9:17

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

I Corinthians 6:9-10

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Revelations 21.8

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 23:33

But alas, Jesus came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance! This was so foreign to my concept of God and His word. God was interested in saving sinners? Sinners like me?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotton Son, that whoseoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

I Timothy 2:4-6

They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2.17

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

On December 23, 1974, I called upon the Lord. I asked God to have mercy upon me and to save me. I believe He saved my soul. I know that I am not worthy, I know that I cannot ever merit the mercy of God. I know that I have truly found grace in the eyes of the Lord. I thank Jesus Christ for saving my wretched soul.

My friend do you realize that you are a sinner? Perhaps you lived and are living a better life than I. Perhaps you find it easy to be faithful, perhaps you believe yourself to be righteous. What can I say? If you compare yourself to me, then I must agree, you are better than I. I will be the first to admit that. However, when He who dwells in light judges your soul, His judgement will be based upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How do you match up with the Lord of lords? Remember, sin does not have to be committed overtly for you to be declared a sinner.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 7:20-23

Ye have heard that is was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28

My advice to you my sinner friend is to repent. Acknowledge your helpless condition and call upon the Lord Jesus asking for mercy.

Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:3-5

May God have mercy upon your soul.

In Jesus Name,

 

 Brent Riggs

            


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