What Constitutes “Wickedness”?

Dr. Chuck McCullough, my long-time friend, JBU Graduate, and writing partner in New Mexico, gave me permission to reprint an article he wrote for his Bible Answers column as a spring-board for discussion. Chuck wrote:


 “Does God have it in for wicked people? Does He want to damn them to hell for all the bad they have done?”—Brian

The Bible makes it clear God is not happy about “wickedness”. He issued specific commands to keep it in check (Ex. 20:1ff). The writer of Proverbs told his readers what God abhors (Prov. 6:16-19). There were some pretty severe judgments upon wickedness in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 19; Josh. 7)

The New Testament provides several lists of serious infractions (I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9).  This sort of behavior is clearly not what God intended for His highest creatures. He “hoped” for better, in a manner of speaking.

But hear two other pertinent thoughts:

First, God doesn’t relish the destruction of the “wicked people.” The Book says as much (Ezek. 18:23, 32). God has gone to unimaginable lengths to reach all people (the “world” of Jn. 3:16) in our brokenness, to rescue us from an eternity apart from Him (Rom. 1:17; 5:6-10; Eph. 2:4-10; I Tim. 2:4). He does not want any to perish (II Pet. 3:9). Indeed, Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved (Jn. 3:17-21).

Second, the Scripture presents a cautionary message to those who wish to identify the “real” sinners and condemn them to hell. Before we draw the line, attempting to spell out who is worthy of grace and who is not, we should remember that “all are sinners and fall short of God’s perfection” (Rom. 3:23).

Thus, from God’s standpoint, all of us may be considered “wicked” and desperately in need of rescue by His grace (Eph. 2:1-9). God’s great desire is that all people will come to faith in Him (I Tim. 1:12-15; I Thess. 5:23; II Thess. 3:3-5; Titus 3:1-7; I Jn. 1:5-10).

Dr. Chuck McCullough, former pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, Los Alamos, NM; published in The Los Alamos Monitor, Los Alamos, NM on March 28, 2014


Well said, my friend. Thank you for permission to reprint your article because people have asked me, “What constitutes wickedness? What makes a person wicked”?

One of our grandsons said, “A wicked person is someone who kidnaps a kid and is mean to him.” An adult in New Mexico said, “Wickedness is doing things like dropping atomic bombs on Japan!” When I asked him if Japan’s prior attack on Pearl Harbor was wicked, he said, “That wasn’t as bad as dropping those bombs!”

Hmmmmm…. I suppose people judge wickedness on a sliding scale, but God doesn’t have a sliding scale. We either pass or fail. We are either wicked or we are righteous. So, what are the criteria?

 Wicked is spelled out in the Scripture listed in Chuck’s article, but is briefly defined as evil or sinful. Evil is the absence of good; sin is the attitude or act of violating God’s will; and a righteous person is one who does what is right. But since Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous; no, not one!”, and since Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, “There is no one good, but God.”, how can Matthew 13:49 tell us the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous?

That’s easy: Romans 5:19 tells us if we repent (turn away) from our sins, accept Jesus into our lives, and live for Him, Jesus will declare us righteous. Jesus can do that because He, as God, took our place when He received judgment for our sin on the cross.

Conclusion: anyone who has ever broken any of God’s laws is wicked and worthy of judgment. But God doesn’t want to damn us; that’s why Jesus came to rescue us, and the remedy is given in Scripture. “Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved” (John. 3:17-21).

Also, Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to save those who are lost. So, what should we do?

When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).  That’s the answer. You will no longer be wicked, but declared to be righteous.

If you have not responded to Jesus, please read the blogs for the past two weeks. Jesus loves you and wants you in his family.

Passover

This year, 2019, Passover begins at sunset on April 19, and ends at sunset on the 27th.

I know most calendars mention Easter but I prefer to call the event by the correct historical term: Pascha, derived from Pesach: which is Passover.

The eight-day festival is a celebration which dates back roughly to 1450 BC when the Israelites were set free in Egypt and left in that famous mass-exodus. And by following the customs or traditions of Passover, the Jewish church has the ability to relive and experience the freedom that their ancestors gained.

But as you read through Scripture, you find that the Passover, in which innocent lambsDSCN4172 were sacrificed, foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus; for Jesus, the Christ, was ultimately the true innocent Passover Lamb – not just for one nation, but for the world. Let’s briefly recap the history that led to the Passover Celebration.

Ten of Jacob’s sons were jealous of young Joseph because Jacob had given Joseph the coat of many colors – the robe of authority denoting family leadership. Eight of the brothers sold Joseph to a trade caravan and Joseph was taken to Egypt.

Rising in authority in Potiphar’s household, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison – probably under Potiphar’s jurisdiction. Joseph interpreted dreams and was taken to the reigning Pharaoh – probably of the Hyksos people who were not native to Africa.

After Joseph died, the native Africans (probably Cushites and Nubians) defeated the Hyksos and regained control of Egypt. But because the descendants of Jacob ethnically resembled the Hyksos, the Egyptians thought the Israelites would rise up and fight for the Hyksos. Therefore, the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” ordered them enslaved.

Eventually, Moses was born, placed in the Nile, rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the Egyptian court. He was schooled in every phase of Egyptian aristocracy, could speak several languages, and traveled throughout the kingdom.

However, although becoming a general in the Egyptian army, Moses never forgot his roots and killed an Egyptian task-master who was brutalizing an Israeli. But killing an Egyptian officer without the Pharaoh’s permission was a capital offence – even for the esteemed Moses – and he fled for his life.

PICT0061Deprived of his royal background, he became a lowly shepherd for forty years; but God never abandoned Moses, and commissioned him to return to Egypt to be the human element in setting the Israelis free.

It was understandable why the Pharaoh refused to free his subjects: by now, economics prevailed. So God began to apply leverage to force Pharaoh’s hand. The last straw was the tenth plague. God set the day when this would take place.

God gave Moses specific instructions about how to prepare the last meal in Egypt, for each item and its preparatory procedure would reflect, in some way or other, on the death of the final Sacrificial Lamb. So Moses gave the order to put blood on three places outside the door, and eat the meal with their traveling clothes on. After the meal, they would head out.

The tenth plague that Egypt experienced was death of the first-born male. Cows, mules, and horses also suffered this fate. The term passover derives from pesach which essentially means to pass over something; and in the Land of Egypt, the death angel passed over the houses which had the blood applied to the doorposts. The people who were covered with the blood of the lamb were spared.

Pharaoh’s son died, so Pharaoh finally submitted to Moses, allowing Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into freedom. (Many tumultuous years were in store for the Israelis, but that’s another story.)

In Israeli history, Moses became their servant-ruler, which reflects on our Savior, our Redeemer.

The Temple Sacrifice was instituted to reveal the severity of sin (disobeying God), and also pointed to the final Sacrifice – Jesus, the Messiah.

But there is a significant difference between the traditional sacrificial lambs and our final Sacrificial Lamb. Where the yearly lamb died to gain forgiveness of sin for a year, Jesus died and raised from the dead to grant us forgiveness forever, and inherit eternal life.

dscn0185[1]Passover is a picture of the sinless Lamb of God – Jesus – Who suffered the penalty of sin for us (death), raised Himself back to life, and set us free. All we need to do is to accept Jesus into our lives, ask Him to forgive us for our self-centered lifestyle, then purposely live for Him. We will be covered with the blood of the Lamb and forgiven.

Passover points to Calvary.

Next time we’ll get a glimpse of happened during that famous Passover Week leading to Jesus crucifixion.

Forgive, and … What?

I overheard Clarence give the following advice to a mutual friend in Tulsa, “Forgive and forget, then forget what you forgave – otherwise you have not forgiven.” (A colleague had lied to the boss about Richard’s ability to do the job.) Later I told Clarence, “If the Bible says that, I will believe it.” Within a day or so he came up with the following verses:

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am the One who forgives all your sins, for my sake; I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 25:7 – Do not remember the sins and wrong things I did when I was young. But remember to love me always because you are good, Lord.

Hebrews 8:12 – I will forgive them for the wicked things they did, and I will not remember their sins anymore.

However, according to my studies, they did not verify Clarence’s statement, so the discussion turned to God’s character and the word “remember” in these verses. Agreeing that God is perfectIMG_1799B in every way, which includes His memory, Clarence asked if God can choose to forget. I suggested that we not confuse the issue, but stick to what the Bible says.

The word “remember” means “to be mindful or cognizant of” and “to hold in continual remembrance.” So, if God “remembers my sin no more” it means, based on my repentance, God forgives me and does not keep thinking about my error. Another way of saying it is: He does not hold that sin against me. I’ve been pardoned.

We then moved to the word “forgive.”

 “To forgive” means “to remove the blemish on the record resulting from the wrongdoing” or “to pardon.” The act of forgiving does not erase the offense or the event in real time because we cannot erase the past; but it is focused on purging the legal record related to the offense.

When President Obama pardoned seventeen people, he “… granted these individuals clemency because they have demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities.” Obama did not eradicate what they did, but removed legal liability. That’s what God does for us, and is what we are supposed to do for those who offend us. The offense or event in real time is not erased, but the judicial verdict or sentence related to the event is expunged from our record.

When we allow the Lord to heal us from hurts caused by others, the memory of the offense may actually become clearer and the details of the offense take on sharper focus; yet the pain will be substantially lessened – and possibly erased. Nevertheless, although the offense often IS forgotten, forgiving does not necessarily include forgetting.

Forgiveness is a decision based on our attitude towards God and relationship with Him. One woman in California fabricated a rumor about someone she was jealous of in church. With the intent of damaging the woman’s reputation, the rumor made its predictable circuit and grew substantially in the process. Not yet knowing the outcome of the rumor, the perpetrator’s conscience began to bother her so she went to her victim, confessed, and asked to be forgiven.

The victim said, “I will forgive you, but first let me tell you what you did.” As she recounted the repercussions (which included the breakup of her marriage) of the rumor, both women were deeply sobbing with their arms around each other and the two women became life-long friends.

Personal forgiveness does not always set people free from legal mandates or from physical consequences on the human level. For these two women, repentance was deep, forgiveness was genuine, reconciliation was complete, but the memory remained for life.

In the later 1960s a man in Southern California was arrested for murder. The family of the victim showed up in court and in Christian love truthfully told the judge, “We forgive this man and would like to set him free.”DSCN5212

The presiding judge wisely said, “It is good for you to forgive him, and both God and I honor you for it. Your forgiveness clears the record between you and God. However, this man has also offended the United States of America and justice must be dispensed.”

dscn0464[1]Forgiveness is not about letting the offender off the hook, but returning the right to dispense justice back to God and to the appropriate human authorities. Forgiving others, and asking to be forgiven when we err, keeps our consciences clear.

Clarence and I cleared up the allegations about Richard’s abilities, and the slander backfired on the perpetrator. But the memories remain; so along with the Apostle Paul, we are to humbly forgive others, and use those memories as stepping stones for personal and spiritual growth.