“THE GREATEST EVIL”
When the angel spoke to Joseph in a dream about the Virgin Mary, he said,
20 . . . Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
If a study was conducted to discover what most people claiming to be Christians felt about the matter, I am convinced they would say that the Lord Jesus Christ’s primary mission was to deliver His people from afflictions, to deliver His people from discomforts, or to deliver His people from feeling bad, or to help His people feel good about themselves, rather than saving His people from their sins. This is revealed by the choices people make. What choices do you make? Do you choose to avoid sins or do you choose to avoid afflictions? When faced with alternatives, which do you opt for? Will you choose greater back pain at church or lesser back pain in a recliner in front of the television set on Sunday? When it comes to seeking the forgiveness of your sins, do you choose to engage in a hobby on Sunday afternoon or do you choose to prepare your heart to seek the LORD? When it comes to faithfully giving tithes and offerings, which do you opt for? Does God get His tithes and offerings before the rent is paid or after, before the phone bill is paid or after, before the car payment is mailed or after? If there is not enough money to cover everything, who is left out, AT&T or God? How about your position as a husband or wife, as a father or mother? You certainly enjoy doing the things you like doing, coaching Pop Warner football, taking your daughter to a softball game, spending time with your spouse doing the things you like doing. However, what about the worship of God and the consideration of God’s Word that would result in you actually being a good dad, becoming a wonderful mom, or a successful husband or wife? How many moms and dads, husbands and wives, really like to think of themselves as good moms, loving dads, etc., but they completely ignore the spiritual component that would enable them to actually be of benefit to their spouse or their kids? How important in eternity is teaching your kid how to play football? So you see, in their scheme of things, many place themselves first and God is of no consideration at all.
Turn in your Bible at this time to Job 36.21. While you are turning to that verse, allow me to make a couple of statements: First, we know that Job was terribly afflicted by Satan, and that it was God’s idea for him to suffer that affliction. Second, we know that Job’s suffering was truly terrible because of his afflictions. Third, we know that Job was not afflicted because he had sinned, but that he eventually did sin because he was afflicted. Fourth, and finally, we know that although Job’s friends said some things to him that were definitely wrong, some of the things they said to Job were profitable for him and also for us. The verse before us, Job 36.21, records a statement made by one of Job’s friends, a man named Elihu. Read it along with me while I read it aloud:
“Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.”
Elihu is accusing Job of choosing iniquity, or sin, over affliction. Keep that in mind as you close your Bible. Here is where Elihu was on target, though he was off the mark on many things. He knew that affliction is to be preferred to sin, and in that he was correct. However, he accused Job of the terrible wrong of choosing to commit sin rather than suffering affliction. In that he was judgmental and wrong about Job.
Perhaps 1,600 years after Job, and a thousand years after King David lived and died, the angel told Joseph that Jesus, the child born to the Virgin Mary, would save His people from their sins. However, there is great disparity, a wide variation of opinions, between what the angel meant by the word sins and what lost people typically think about sins. Most of you have heard me say on other occasions, the greatest affliction is to be preferred to the least sin. Why so? Because of what a sin is. Do you know what a sin is? If you are a little child, perhaps you can get away with the simplistic definition of sin being disobeying God. Sin is disobeying God, though that definition does not carry the weight, does not properly convey the impact, of what sin really is in all its implications and ramifications. First John 3.4 informs us that “sin is the transgression of the law.” This is a better definition of sin. However, most of the time this definition does not fully inform us about sin because our understanding of God and His law is pretty meager. The mere mention of God should arrest anyone’s attention, and it would if a person had an informed understanding of God. The same thing goes for God’s law.
If you had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai with Moses to see the lightning flashes amidst the smoke that covered the peak, and heard and felt the claps of thunder, you would have a very different concept of God than you presently do. As well, sin as the transgression of the Law that was given to Moses on that mountain would definitely arrest your attention, though I am persuaded the Apostle John is not referring to the Law of Moses in his epistle, but to the Law of Christ, which is not exactly the same thing. You see, when a sinner is justified in the sight of God he is liberated from the Law of Moses, Romans 7.1-6. Because your experiences are different than the children of Israel who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, I suggest that we come at this subject from another direction. Understand sin as not only the transgression of the law, but also as the greatest evil. Have you ever thought of sin as not just evil, but as the greatest evil? Yet, sin is the greatest evil. Any sin is the greatest evil. Every sin is the greatest evil. How so?
Is not the greatest evil that which deprives you of the greatest good? Whatever deprives you of the greatest good must be the greatest evil, because it is an evil that has deprived you of the greatest good. Therefore, summing up what the entire Bible teaches concerning sin as the greatest evil, because it deprives you of the greatest good, is a perfectly valid and an entirely accurate definition of sin. Such a definition is consistent with God’s Word in every respect. With that definition of sin planted firmly in your thinking, let me bring an extremely simple message from God’s Word to convince you that you need Jesus Christ as your Savior.
First, CONSIDER THAT THE GREATEST GOOD IS GOD
If you are not convinced that God is the greatest good, then you are seriously misinformed about Him and you have severe misapprehensions about His goodness:
Consider God’s glorious attributes. An attribute is that which makes someone who and what he actually is. When it comes to God’s attributes, because He is terrible in majesty and incomprehensibly glorious to the nth degree, God is the greatest good because each of His attributes considered separately, as well as all of His attributes considered together, show Him to be wonderfully glorious. Consider His attributes in terms of them being communicable or incommunicable. Incommunicable attributes are those that are God’s and no one else’s, attributes such as omnipotence, being all powerful, such as omniscience, being all knowing, and such as omnipresence, being everywhere present. No one but God possesses such attributes. However, there are other attributes that originate in God and are communicated to His creatures in a gracious way. Such attributes as love, long-suffering, goodness, kindness, joy and peace are attributes that God possesses, but which God can extend by various means to the character of His creatures. His attributes can also be considered in terms of them being moral attributes or not. God’s bigness is not a moral attribute. His immutability, that since He is perfect he cannot change, is not a moral attribute. Neither is His power, His knowledge, or His vast presence everywhere in creation and beyond. However, His holiness, His righteousness, His love, and His mercy are definitely moral qualities. Do these attributes of God, and I have mentioned only a few of them, show Him to be not only good, but to be the greatest good? Of course, they do. Now consider along with those attributes God’s personality. By personality, I refer to the fact that God is personal and that He has chosen to interact with His intelligent creatures, be they angels or human beings. Imagine, if you can, interacting on a personal level with Almighty God. Since you and God are certainly not equals by any measure, what would that interaction be like? Have you ever pondered such a thing or even considered it possible? As well, who do you think would control the terms of such an interaction? You, or God?
Consider, next, God’s wondrous blessings. We know that God’s blessings are all undeserved, meaning that they are gracious bestowals. Thus, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Notice that James referred in that verse I just quoted to the blessings God bestows upon His creatures as gifts that are good and perfect, with the emphasis on them being gifts. God does not have to give them to us. He has no obligation to give us what He has given to us all. Supreme among all the things God gives to His creatures is the blessing of Himself. What could possibly be more beneficial, more important, and more fulfilling than God’s gift of Himself to someone, especially in light of God being personal as we are personal? Yet, it is in the person of Jesus Christ that we are said to be partakers of the divine nature, Second Peter 1.4. A personal being who is God makes it possible for personal beings He has created to benefit from His divine nature, in part by an interaction, a communion if you will, that is set forth in great and precious promises. Does that not further show God to not only be good, but to be the greatest good?
Third, consider God’s grand purpose. We understand that God did not have to create this universe, or to create us. He was perfectly happy and content in the throne room of heaven enjoying the communion of the three Persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, we are now caught up in the outworking of God’s great and grand purpose, and we exist to fulfill our individual roles in His great overarching purpose. The Apostle Paul makes reference to God’s purpose in Romans 8.28, where he writes, “to them who are the called according to his purpose,” and Ephesians 1.11, where he writes about “the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” I submit to you that God Himself is the greatest good. Because of His glorious attributes, there exists no being or cause that is more good than God. Because of His wondrous blessings, there is no being or cause that is more good than God. And because of His grand purpose, which must be a good purpose because it is His purpose, and there can be no being or cause that seeks to fulfill a greater purpose. The greatest good is God. Thus, you cannot do more good or engage in a higher good than the worship of and service to God.
Next, CONSIDER THE DEPRIVATION OF GOD
Have you ever pondered and meditated on the result of being completely and utterly deprived of God?
What would existence be like for a being to be robbed of all the benefits of God’s attributes? Before answering that question, it is well to first recognize that there would be no existence at all but for God, since by Christ all things were both created and do continue to consist, Colossians 1.16-17:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Because we have been created in God’s image and after His likeness, we benefit from His attributes in ways we cannot possibly completely figure out. However, it is obvious that our capacity to know truth, to recognize right and wrong, and to make personal choices for which we alone are responsible spring from being created in God’s image and after His likeness. Consider, also, that the sun shines on the unjust as well as the just at present. Thus, air to breath and personal opportunities come to those who those who believe in as well as those who deny God. However, what if that changed? What if the sun no longer shined on you? What if the oxygen in the air no longer satisfied your longing for breath? What if there was no longer water to quench your thirst?
Have you ever given thought to being denied the pleasure of God’s blessings? In the United States, we still enjoy some of the aftereffects of the astounding moves of God known in history as the First and Second Great Awakenings. Those epic works of God in great measure established the personality of our nation. As a result, we in the United States are still the most generous people on earth to charities, as a result of the graciousness of the gospel’s influence on our culture and ethic. However, what if all that good will was gone? What if your appetite for friendship and the enjoyment of others was unsatisfied? What if you were denied any sense of community and you were all alone? Ever given any thought to being surrounded by vicious takers instead of kind givers, brutal betrayers instead of tender and loyal friends?
Of course, the most obvious deprivation of God results in suffering His inestimable and eternal wrath.
In Revelation 22.15, it is described as without:
“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
In Jude 7, it is described as the vengeance of eternal fire:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
In Jude 13, it is described as the blackness of darkness for ever:
“Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
In Revelation 21.8, it is described as the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death:
“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.”
In three places in Matthew’s gospel account our Lord describes it as outer darkness.
Matthew 8.12: “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 22.13: “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 25.30: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We know it from God’s Word to be an eternity of weeping, an eternity of thirst, an eternity of pain from the gnashing of teeth and the torment of the flames, an eternity of darkness, an eternity of falling, an eternity of loneliness, an eternity without the blessings that are typically taken for granted, because it will be an eternity entirely separated from God. Oh, the loneliness and horror of isolated suffering throughout eternity, with no one to speak to, and no one to listen to your cries. Be mindful of this, my unsaved friend. At present, no matter how opposed to the plan and purpose of God you presently are, you are not entirely separated at present from the blessings of God. You are still warmed by His sunshine and enjoy the refreshment of His air. You live in and enjoy a culture greatly affected by His impact on people’s lives in days gone by. And you reap many of God’s benefits from the Christians who lived and died before you, and who presently surround you. Therefore, you are not entirely separated from God’s graces, not completely disassociated from His benefits, not utterly deprived of His many gifts. Not yet, anyway. However, that day will come. You will finally be judged. You will then be cast out. As bad as hellfire for more than a thousand years will be to the lost, the lake of fire that follows the Great White Throne judgment will be far, far worse and of infinitely longer duration, for it will be eternity completely without God and all traces of His benefits and blessings.
Finally, CONSIDER THE GREATEST EVIL
The greatest evil is that, whatever it happens to be, which deprives you of the greatest good. Since God is the greatest good, sin is the greatest evil, any sin. It was the single taste of a forbidden fruit that cost Adam his God and plunged our entire race into the darkness of depravity, where men kill their brothers and women murder their babies. So, what is the greatest evil?
Transgression, of any kind or degree, is the greatest evil. Transgression is doing something that is forbidden, stepping over a line, crossing a barrier. To lie, cheat, steal, or mistreat another in any way is a transgression. To engage in any activity God has forbidden is a transgression. However, do not think the greatest evil is restricted to those transgressions which seem to us the most serious. The greatest evil is that which deprives you of the greatest good, and any and every transgression falls short of the glory of God.
As well, omission, of any kind or degree, is the greatest evil. Omission is not doing something you should have done, something that loving your brother as yourself would have prompted you to do for him. It is also the failure to react and respond correctly when someone else has wronged you, sinning by not doing righteously when you are sinned against. Please do not think that the greatest evil is restricted to that omission which seems to us to be profound and of great personal sacrifice. Perhaps a life could have been saved by a kind word or a gentle smile that was selfishly withheld. Such is wrong, is wickedness, and deprives you of the greatest good, for it deprives you of God.
Finally, there is also to be included inclination, which is attitude or nature, as the greatest evil. Do not so deceive yourself that you are persuaded that the greatest evil is sinful deeds or omissions alone, for that is not the case. At the root of all evil deeds is an evil nature. At the bottom of all the verbs of sinning is the noun of sin. Sin gives rise to sins. Just as dogs do not become dogs by barking, but bark because they are dogs and their barks are illustrations and examples of their nature, so it is with sinning. Men and women commit sins because it is mankind’s nature to commit sins, because mankind’s nature is sinful, an attitude and an inclination against God, away from God, and contrary to God.
Therefore, having established that God is the greatest good, and that sin is the greatest evil because it deprives you of the greatest good, allow me to summarize your personal problem. Your personal problem is that you have been deprived of God by your sin. While it is true that you presently enjoy some of the benefits and blessings that come from God, you have nothing to do with God directly, on a personal level.
Someday you will pass into eternity and you will then lose even the secondary benefits and blessings of God that you enjoy at present. Someday the sun will not shine on you, because God will by then have segregated the saved from the lost. Neither will you enjoy comfort nor consolation of any kind, for you will have been completely deprived of the greatest good, which is God. This will not happen to you only because of the sins you have committed, the bad things you have done or the good things you have not done, but also because of your sin, your nature. You see, the problem is not only what you do or do not do, but what you are. This is the greatest evil because it deprives you of the greatest good, which is God.
What you need to remedy this greatest evil is beyond your capacity, beyond your ability, and quite beyond your imagination. What is needed is not atonement, for that is only a covering for sins described in the Old Testament, and then for only a year. What you need is remission, which is cleansing, to wash your sins and your sin so far as the East is from the West, so that God will remember your sins and iniquities no more. What is needed is Christ’s blood. Only the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can remedy the greatest evil that deprives you of the greatest good, for the blood of Jesus Christ reconciles the sinner like you to God.
You need Jesus Christ, for no one else will do. You need Jesus Christ, for it is only His blood that washes away sin. Won’t you trust Him as your own? Trust Him now.
 Matthew 1.20-21
 Gay, David H. J., Sanctification in Romans (Brachus Sanctification Series: 2013-06-14), Kindle Locations 383-384.
 James 1.17
 Matthew 5.45
 Hebrews 8.12; 10.17
 Romans 3.25; 5.9; Ephesians 1.7; Colossians 1.14
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