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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
We talked in our Psalm 12 devotional how it can sometimes feel like everyone has turned against God. Like we, and maybe our little band of friends or church members, are all that’s left who are still faithful. The psalmist returns to this familiar theme again in Psalm 14.
These verses may sound familiar to you, as they are quoted in Romans 3:9-12 when Paul sets up his argument for our need for the gospel. In Psalm 14, the finger is pointing out from the psalmist to the wicked in the world. In Romans 3, Paul points the finger at himself and at all of us. Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin (Romans 3:9). That’s all of us. Romans 3:10-18 quotes a selection of passages from Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 59:7-8, and Psalm 36:1 to show that we are all sinners. One of the classic gospel memory verses naturally follows just a breath later:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRomans 3:23
While Jews and Gentiles feuded for superiority in the early Church, Paul makes it very clear that we are all in the same boat.
The psalmist is afraid of the many villains that devour people, ignore God, and frustrate the poor. In Romans, Paul says we are the villains that devour people, ignore God, and frustrate the poor. And he adds quite a few more charges to our criminal record: poison of vipers on our lips, deceitful tongues, throats that are open graves, feet that are swift to shed blood, and so on.
No one can stand righteous before God by their own merit. No one can be good enough to earn or match God’s standard of glory.
You might say to yourself, “Well I haven’t devoured anyone… I don’t ignore God… my feet haven’t shed any blood…” Or, we may look at the list in Romans as our to-do list. Oh, I’d better watch my language. Oh, I better be more honest.
Paul’s point is not to try to get us to measure up in these areas, it’s to show us that we can never measure up in these areas. Romans 3:1-31 is one of the most powerful chapters in the whole Bible. Take a moment to read it now. Paul is using Romans 3:1-23 to make the profound point that we are desperately lost in our sin and that we desperately need a Savior.
This is because God is holy. There’s no competition or comparison game of sin when standing in God’s holy presence. All fall incredibly short of God’s perfect standard. His holiness puts everything else into perspective.
Even in Psalm 14, the psalmist concludes his lament in verse 7 by looking to God for salvation (Psalm 14:7). Like Paul, he’s saying, “We are so bad off, sin is so rampant…God you must save us.”
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
The wise person gets on their knees before a holy God, repents of their sin, and seeks the free gift of salvation that God offers through Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:24-31 goes on to tell us that Jesus came as a sacrifice of atonement for us. He took our place. He took the punishment we deserve for our sins, dying in our place, so that we can live. He brought God’s justice to our sins that we could never bring.
This is the gospel. This is salvation. It is a storehouse of grace and mercy that has no bottom to it. Those who put their faith in this gospel are saved.
But it’s important to remember that Romans 3 wasn’t written as an evangelism pitch. It was written to people who were already saved! It was written to Christians who were bickering about their cultural and ethnic differences. Who were jockeying for positions of privilege and power in the Church and before God.
Paul lays out the gift of the gospel that each has received in order to humble and unify them. We are all in the same boat! Jew, Gentile, black, white, brown, Republican, Democrat. We are all sinners, a wreck before God. We are all saved by Jesus! None of us deserve it. We all get to have it.
One of the most healthy spiritual disciplines for me is to regularly sit before a holy God during my prayer time. I use Exodus 9:9-25 and visualize myself sitting on the holy mountain as one of those original Israelites. I try to feel the emotion that comes with trying to comprehend the vast chasm between God’s holiness and my sinfulness. Then I turn my prayer and meditation time toward Colossians 1:22, Romans 8:15-17, and Matthew 3:16-17. The chasm of separation between me and God gets filled as the floodgates of Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy open. I can only unlock the riches of this gift if I first walk the path of understanding how much I don’t deserve it. When I begin to comprehend that I don’t deserve it, I can begin to experience how beautiful and amazing it is that I get to have it.
When things feel like they can’t get any worse, use that to turn us toward how much we need God…and how much grace, love, and mercy God gives us!
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