[I have been reading Greg's column for years and this article is his best by far - read it twice!]
I have never understood why people spend so much time building sandcastles. There are even contests where the sandcastles become quite elaborate. I look at those gigantic, detailed structures and think:That probably will be gone by tomorrow.(Maybe even sooner, because some little child will go stomping through it – probably one of my grandkids, as a matter of fact.) My sandcastles, on the other hand, are very primitive. They are basically lumps of sand with the token moat. The first wave that comes along usually takes them out.
Spiritually speaking, some people build their entire lives on sand. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:16–27 NKJV).
I thought: That is the whole problem. We have ignored the Bible. The Bible is never out of date. The news is quickly outdated, but the Bible never is. The question is whether we will put it into practice. If we do, then we will grow spiritually.Even as culture changes, the Bible never does. I saw a pastor being interviewed recently, and the interviewer was pressing him on what the Bible says about some issues that are not popular in today’s culture. The interviewer asked, “Don’t you think it’s time for us to drag the Bible, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century?”
I read an interesting article about a woman who decided to kill her son, Kenneth. She fired a shotgun at him at close range, but the bullet hit the Bible he had been carrying. Later, the deputy who arrested Kenneth’s mother said the Bible saved Kenneth’s life.
The Bible will save your life as well. But it is not enough to simply read it; you have to do what it says. You see, there are some things that only God can do and some things only I can do. Yes, God can do anything, but He doesn’t do everything. For example, God does not sin. So He can do anything, but there are some things He will not do.
And here is something else God will not do: He will not violate human will. Sometimes we wish He would, because we know people who are doing the wrong thing with their lives, and we feel that God ought to grab them and drag them to where they need to be. But He actually will let them do the things they choose to do. He will let their lives run their course. Sure, He will give them warnings. Sure, He will speak to them. But He honors human will.
So it comes down to this: There are some things only God can do and some things only I can do. Only God can save us. Only God can forgive our sins. Only God can change a human heart. That is what God does.
At the same time, only we can believe. God will not believe for us. He will give us the ability to believe. He will urge us to believe. He will tell us to believe. But ultimately it is our choice.
God says, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live …” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 NKJV).
That is sort of like a teacher saying, “Today, I am going to test you on who is buried in Grant’s Tomb.” The teacher has already revealed what the answer is, but you still have to write it down.
God is saying, “Here is life and death. Here is good. Here is evil. You choose. Oh, by the way, choose life. I just want to let you know that is the right answer.” But it is still your choice. Ultimately, you have to choose.
So it is not enough to just read the Bible. Think about it. Contemplate it. Ponder it. Let it sink in. As one man said, “Conversion turns us to the Word of God, which is our touchstone.” A touchstone originally was a special rock that was used to measure precious metals. It was a point of reference. In the same way, the Bible is our touchstone in life.
If you believe that people are basically good, and the only reason they do bad things is because of their environment, then things probably aren’t making sense to you right now. When we look at the so-called government solutions that are supposed to improve our way of life, we see they have really done no good at all. That is because changing an environment does not change the heart.
The Bible doesn’t teach that people are basically good and do bad things because of bad influences. Rather, the Bible teaches that people are basically sinful, and they are born sinful. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It comes naturally to all of us. That is how we are prewired.
If you believe that we can bring about a utopia on earth through man-made solutions, then you must be very disappointed – because, despite all of our advances in technology, we can’t change the human heart. But if you believe what the Bible says, then things will make a lot more sense to you.
When Joshua was preparing to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, God told him, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV).
It’s all there for us in a relationship with God. And we can be sure it will stand the test of time.