- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

The following is excerpted from a sermon given yesterday by Pastor Kevin McGhee of Bethany Community Church in Laurel.

The story of Jesus intersects the story of your life. And when that intersection is truly made, you get a new life. The title of today's message is "Good News for Your Heart."
I was with a bunch of pastors the other day, and they were all whining about their cholesterol count. We all have this thing about heart disease and so on, but the real heart disease isn't cholesterol, it's selfishness, and what God calls sin.
Your story is much like [the apostle] Paul's story, much like my story. You see, in every one of our stories, life starts out unrighteously good. You see, most of us see ourselves as being pretty good people, because our standard is each other. Quite honestly, it's pretty easy to be better than you, pretty easy to be better than me. But we're not the standard.
Paul said in Romans 2, "You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else. For at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the very same things." We realize we don't even live up to our own standards, much less God's standards.
Let me give you an important definition to an important theological concept: "total depravity." Doesn't that sound fun? Total depravity means this: It's not that I'm as bad as I can be, but the bad, the selfishness that's in me, touches every area of my life. It touches my relationship with my kids, it touches my relationship with my wife, it touches my relationship with our staff, it touches my relationship with all of you. The badness in me touches every area of my life.
Spiritual interest grows from an honest look inside, and the way God often provokes that honest look is to show us what He's done all around us. The whole first section of Romans teaches this one truth: Men ought to seek God. We know He's there, we know we need Him. We know there's something missing. We know we can never get right with God by just trying to be nice.
Spiritual interest grows when we take an honest look inside and see there's an emptiness inside. But we're afraid to do that unless we have a sense that somebody might love me anyway. When I look inside and I see my own selfishness, it then becomes stunning to me that somebody would love me in spite of that, not because of that. Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What's the difference between Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Mother Teresa and Billy Graham? They're all leaders, they've all influenced history. But two understood the kindness of God, and two didn't. So two become leaders for evil, and two become leaders for God.
Paul said when we accept the truth that God loves us anyway, when we declare that because He loved us, He deserves to be the boss, the text says we're justified, we're made right. It means God, who is holy, looks down at us, who are not holy, and sees us as His son.
Those of us who have already accepted all that, why do we hide our Bibles? "Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so" is one of the most powerful truths on the planet. Let me give you one very unoriginal application. I wonder who you can invite to church this Christmas season. See, Paul says, "They won't hear unless someone goes and talks to them." I read a book this week that says that most people who two years ago were totally unchurched and who are now following Jesus got that way because a family member or close friend invited to church, particularly during holiday season. It seems like the holidays, when many people become depressed, are also a time when people become spiritually aware.

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Lee P. Washington of Reid Temple AME Church in Lanham.

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