The Gospel And Entitlement: What Do We Really Deserve?
January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
This is a message about the Gospel and entitlement.
It is no stretch to say that we live in an age and culture of entitlement. We are living in an age where many people, especially the young, believe they are owed so many different things. People expect to be given certain privileges, certain comforts, certain goods, certain standards of living that perhaps for centuries human beings lived without. This is especially true in America, where the idea of unalienable rights, such as “Life Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are the foundation of our country. But what happens when the attitude of entitlement goes beyond than this? What happens when men and women live with an attitude of entitlement toward God? What happens when men and women look at their circumstances in life and think that they deserve better?
Before continuing, I want to state that between men, there are certain things which I believe we are entitled to, certain things which Scripture promotes. I believe that Life and Liberty are among those. I also believe that men and women are given the right to pursue happiness. In fact, this is what God created us for and what he desires most in us. God wants us to pursue our happiness and joy in him! But unfortunately, this God-given right has been hijacked and perverted by the human race as we have pursued pleasure in the created and not the Creator.
But what about the relationship between God and man? What, in relation to God, are we entitled to? This is more of what I want to talk about here. The question is this: what does God owe us? The answer to this question is simple: nothing. God does not owe man anything. He never has, and he never will. There is nothing in all of creation that we can claim from God. As creator, the universe belongs to him, all created things living or inanimate, all things are his and he owns the right to use them as he chooses. He is sovereign over them.
Additionally, the issue of entitlement goes deeper than this. In one sense, God owes us nothing. He owes us nothing of material value. Everything that we have, our possessions and even the life itself on this earth is given freely and graciously by God. However, in another sense, there is something that we are owed by God. We might come to find what this is by asking this question: what have we earned in the sight of God? The answer to this: death. One might ask how can this be so. How can we go from God owing us nothing to God owing us death? I believe that for the answer to this question, we must look to the Gospel.
The Gospel says this about our condition: at the beginning of time, God created mankind to have eternal fellowship with him in, starting in the Garden of Eden. However, God gave man one condition to this fellowship: that he not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
What we see is that God created man to live in perfect communion with him, enjoying his presence forever on the condition that he not eat from just one tree. In addition, God clearly states the penalty, or the punishment deserved for disobeying his one command: death. God says that man will die. Many of you know how this story unfolds; Adam and Eve, the very first two humans to walk the earth violate this command of God, committing the first human sin, and earning death for all of humanity.
Therefore, we can state this: since Adam and Eve sinned, men and women are entitled to one thing: eternal punishment away from the presence of God in a place called hell. This point is made very clear in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which he states “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). This teaches that the consequence of sin is death. Paul is making it clear that sin against the eternal and infinitely holy God is deserving of death. The death that Paul is referring to is both physical and spiritual in a place that the Bible commonly calls hell. It is a place away from the glorious presence of God (2 Thess. 1:9), it is fiery, it is lonely, and it is a place of unceasing anguish. It is described as being filled with people who are constantly weeping and gnashing their teeth. After looking at the biblical description (there is much more than what I have given here),we see that hell is far worse than anything the human mind can imagine. Yet, this is the only thing that we are entitled to.
However, the Gospel does not end here. No, it is from here that the Gospel begins to shatter our sense of entitlement. Scripture reveals to us that from the beginning of time, God had decided to give us what we don’t deserve: a way back into a right relationship with him for all eternity. God’s plan to save mankind was fully realized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Jesus died as a substitution for those who would come to faith in him. Jesus then, took the punishment of death that we were entitled to. Jesus did this to satisfy the wrath of God that burned against our sin, the sin that had earned us death. As a result, God made a way through Jesus for those who have faith and pursue their joy in him to get everything they don’t deserve: eternal life in communion with the God of the universe!
Therefore, the Gospel of Jesus is everything we do not deserve. It is the superlative of unfairness! The Gospel gives wretched sinners life though they deserve death. The Gospel of Jesus comes to us as a result of the innocent dying for the guilty. The Gospel tells the story of grace. It is a reminder of what we deserve and what we are given. If anything, the Gospel should humble us and sober our sense of entitlement. The Gospel reveals that we are sinners deserving of hell, yet the God of grace sent his only Son to die and give us life. In doing this the Gospel dismantles our claims of entitlement by demonstrating that all we have is of grace. Let us not presume of God, but be thankful that we do not always get what we deserve.